SO MUCH FOR MR. SERIOUS…. About a month ago, Time‘s Joe Klein noted his disgust with the Republican presidential field, lamenting the fact that the candidates are “a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers.” The whole lot looks like a “dim-witted freak show.”
But, Klein said, the field may not be set. The columnist pleaded with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to run. “I may not agree with you on most things, but I respect you,” Klein said. He added that Daniels seems to respect himself enough not to behave like a “public clown.”
This is an extremely common sentiment. Daniels, the former Bush budget director who helped create today’s fiscal mess, is supposed to be The Serious Republican Candidate For Serious People. He has no use for culture wars — Daniels famously called for a “truce” on these hot-button social issues — and despite his humiliating record, the governor at least pretends to care about fiscal sanity, earning unrestrained praise from the likes of David Brooks.
Perhaps now would be a good time for the political establishment to reevaluate their opinion of Mitch Daniels.
Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said Friday that he would sign a bill cutting off Medicaid financing for Planned Parenthood, a move that lawmakers in several states have begun pondering as a new approach in the battle over abortion. Indiana becomes the first state to go forward.
Abortion rights supporters condemned the decision, saying it would leave 22,000 poor residents of Indiana, who use Planned Parenthood’s 28 health facilities in the state, with nowhere to go for a range of women’s services, from breast cancer screening to birth control.
Daniels, who apparently no longer has any use for his own rhetoric about a culture-war “truce,” said his decision was dictated by the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, adding that the health organization can resume its state funding by refusing to help women terminate their unwanted pregnancies.
That only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s operations deal with abortions, and that public funding of abortions is already legally prohibited, apparently didn’t matter.
What’s especially striking about this is how cruel and unnecessary it is. Daniels has been governor of Indiana for more than six years, and he’s never had a problem with Planned Parenthood funding. He was Bush’s budget director for more than two years, and he never had a problem with Planned Parenthood funding.
But now that he’s thinking about running for president, and has hysterical right-wing activists to impress, now Mitch Daniels has suddenly discovered Planned Parenthood funding — which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades — is no longer acceptable to him.
It’s not as if Planned Parenthood, its mission, or its menu of health services has changed. The only thing that’s changed is the radicalism of new Republican Party and those who hope to lead it. The real-world effect of Daniels’ cruelty is unmistakable: fewer working-class families will have access to contraception, family planning services, pap smears, cancer screenings, and tests for sexually-transmitted diseases. Indiana has 28 Planned Parenthood centers in the state, and most of its patients live in poverty.
Also note that this was as clear a test of Daniels’ purported principles as we’ve seen to date — he had to choose between fiscal considerations (millions of dollars in federal health care funding) and culture-war considerations (cutting off a public health organization to satisfy rabid conservatives). As of late yesterday — Daniels made the announcement late on a Friday afternoon, probably out of embarrassment — the governor prioritized the latter over the former. To prove his right-wing bona fides, Daniels decided to put politics ahead of women’s health.
Ironically, the Republican who claims to oppose abortions is going to make it more likely more women will have unwanted pregnancies.
It’s indefensible. Daniels should be ashamed of himself and the pundits who praised Daniels’ “seriousness” should feel awfully foolish right about now.