The "Will Mitch run for President?" shit started here about as soon as he'd won reelection, an interesting contrast to what the man himself was up to, which was hiding from the public for three months as the crappy economy he'd been taking credit for since the primaries backed up the toilet, ran across the floor, and ruined the carpet. God knows how much money the man had to slosh around during the campaign; if you watched local news, as I do for some reason, you saw at least one ad, every goddam break, from March thru November. It didn't seem to matter that he had no primary opponent, nor afterwards that the Democratic contender had apparently lapsed into a vegetative state before Midsummer. That's how much money he had. The spots--I hate to keep bringing this up, but then every last thing about the man is stage managed, and every last bit of business is instructive--consisted of hammer blows to the solar plexus, delivered in what had, twenty years earlier, been referred to as "the MTV style": flash cuts touting his Outstanding Economic Record at near subliminal speed. The exact ratio of Outright Lies to Misstatements of Fact is not precisely known, because the damned stuff flew so fast, but the ratio of Bullshit to Truth can be extrapolated as "Nine Months" to "Zero".
And the instructive part is this: Daniels' handlers knew that the Corndog Eaters at Home weren't going to freeze-frame his claims and step through them, but hear sonic booms and see flashing lights and believe whatever they were told; this much had been proven in the early days of the Iraq war Mitch financed for us. And they sure knew that "journalists" weren't going to question the ads' claims, not when they were the difference between profit and loss for the year.
It's actually been enjoyable to watch with jaundiced eye, as they try to fit the same Tinseltown PR BS Reagan wore to a guy with the physical stature of Alan Ladd and the personal charm of Lawrence Tierney. Sure, sure, we're taking about Republicans, and politicians, and public relations, so they're liars three times over, but tailoring's in the details. The opening Let Daniels Be Daniels Era lasted for the first twenty minutes, when he proposed a temporary tax increase to balance the budget (such, reader, was the fixation on that little bit of business--the key to his future office-seeking--that he was willing to raise taxes to try to balance his stint at OMB); he did manage to roam free for the rest of that spring, snarling and nipping at anyone who disagreed with him in public, especially over the big Toll Road scam, before they realized they had to get him under control as much as possible. Between summer 2005 and Election Day 2008 he mostly cut ribbons on any and every hardware store that opened, and thanked the brave entrepreneur for recognizing Indiana's "pro-business" environment, and employing 2500 Hoosiers.
And so it has gone, a never-ceasing tale of the contrast between facts, even reasonable disagreement over facts, and what gets reported instead. Through 2008, Indiana residents joined the habitués of financial news television as the only people in the nation being pummeled into believing how great everything was going; afterwards, and safely after Daniels' reelection, they were informed that, bad as things were, it was much, much worse in Michigan or Illinois. They were told this despite the fact that a large percentage of Hoosiers can actually identify "Michigan" as "the place where cars used to be made", and so might have understood the problem. They were told this even after it demonstrably was no longer true.
So yesterday, in the rapidly escalating pace of Mitch Daniels talks to media outlets about how he hasn't decided whether to run yet but people are urging him to, Mitch talked to Politico, just before the traditional Explaining What He Really Meant to someone else, this time Mary Beth Schneider at the Indianapolis Star. (This time the "confusion" concerned his gush about the "unbelievable letterhead" he'd have if he decided to run):
Daniels later explained his remarks by saying, "I was just reporting to them that an awful lot of very impressive people are still urging (his candidacy). That's all."
Now, I don't think we should ever make too much of someone's ability to speak extemporaneously. And in Daniels' case it's theoretically impossible to make too little of his ability. It is true that most of us, in that situation, might have conveyed the Number of Very Impressive People who would be backing us by referencing that, not office supplies. Still, not everyone's sharp on his feet. But the matter does tend to come up along the Presidential trail, and they'd best be figuring out now how to keep him away from anyone who contradicts him, and that includes potential debate opponents. And it's certainly fair to ask, not about flubs or flusters, but the mentality behind them: "unbelievable letterhead"? He's talking about Republican donors, not astrophysicists, Nobel chemists, or military veterans. Y'know, there's a difference between believing in unfettered Capitalism and having to do your own laundry every time you meet another CFO because you don't want the maid to see your underwear.
That Star article is here, at least for the next ten minutes, before they expect you to pay for it, just in case you'd like to see Daniels turn the coy routine from "I'm being urged to run" over to "Gee, I haven't even thought about whether I'd continue as Governor, since I'm not really planning to run yet."
Now, on the one hand, this is precisely the sort of infuriating codswallop Reagan got away with routinely, and that Daniels has coasted on while safely ensconced in Indiana, where nobody who counts asks embarrassing questions, and no one at all can remember 18 months ago, when he was still insisting he'd run his last campaign. On the other, though, this is a fine example of why Politics and Golf are so closely allied. It's the thin veneer of banality placed artfully (or artfully enough, for the audience) over a solid core of utter dishonesty. It's a wedge shot pitched just inches short of the cup, saving a quadruple bogie.
(This, of course, follows the Daniels Not Campaign giving "Indiana Lt. Governor" Becky Skillman an incurable but only-debilitating-enough-that-she-has-to-step-aside-for-a-Pence-for-Governor-campaign mystery illness. Which, we're guessing, the plucky night-school student will find the wherewithal to overcome for two years if called upon, before collapsing at the finish line.)
Of course the real story was the one that everybody missed:
Daniels suggested three things could keep him from plunging in: his wife’s concerns, the calculation that his party or the country aren’t ready for his tough-love message or the emergence of another capable candidate. People close to the governor say his wife, Cheri, is very cool to a run. It “would be safe to say” she is uneasy with a campaign, he said.
Now, as much as I'm looking forward to Daniels trying that "You people are too stupid to understand the brilliance of my plan" routine on a national level, the way he did here with the Toll Road and Daylight Savings edicts, it's the future of Indiana First Lady Cheri "Another Margarita, Manolo, And Why Don't You Try To Find The Goddam Tequila Bottle Before You Make This One?" Daniels, who was also dead-set against his runs for governor, which really interests me. Cheri's been spotted four times since 2004, unless I missed a couple, mostly at the State Fair. She was "rumored" to be the driving force behind Daniels' embarrassing refusal to live in the Governor's Mansion, or "Dump", and to remain in his gated reservoirshore community in violation of state law, while building a grander McMansion more in keeping with his stature (sorry), but no closer to Marion county. The old money Meridian-Kessler neighborhood where the actual Mansion is located gets a lot darker at night than Geist does, if you catch my drift. Has anyone ever run a major Presidential campaign while keeping his spouse a secret?
Damn, I'd love to take this woman's side, too, and not just because I agree her husband shouldn't have run for Governor. If only I didn't remember the night in October, 2001, when Mitch Daniels' Indiana home became the site of the only anthrax bomb mailed to a Bush administration official, anywhere. an "hysterical" Cheri was the only one there that night; she lived in alabaster Hamilton county while Mitch was saving us from prosperity in darkest D.C., which must've been what confused SPECTRE. It turned out the envelope was stuffed with a comic amount of talcum powder. And the rest, as they say, isn't history, and may not even still be a police report someone could find. She would, at least, reverse the trend, and be the nations' first First Lady with a Stepford husband, even if he really is the bride of the Cato Institute. Let's just put it this way: Mitch may be concerned about Cheri on the campaign trail, but history tells us it's not her feelings about it that concern him.