Daniels can run (for president), but he can’t hide (from his record)

DANIELS CAN RUN (FOR PRESIDENT), BUT HE CAN’T HIDE (FROM HIS RECORD)…. In the latest pundit plea for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to run for president, David Brooks gushes that the governor “has spent his whole career preparing for this kind of moment.” The columnist added, “Daniels’s speeches are backed up by his record.”

The “record,” in Brooks’ vision, apparently starts in 2004. As Paul Krugman noted, it’s probably better to go back just a little further.

These days, Mitch Daniels is being held up as an icon of fiscal responsibility. There are a lot of reasons to question his actual stewardship in Indiana; but what I can’t forget is his key role in the squandering of the fiscal surplus Bush inherited. It wasn’t just that he supported the Bush tax cuts; the excuses he made for that irresponsibility were stunningly fraudulent.

So I just can’t take his current pose of deficit hawkishness seriously.

I have the same thought every time Daniels talks about fiscal issues, which is often. It’s an odd signature issue for a guy who led the Bush/Cheney budget office.

It was, after all, 10 years ago when George W. Bush signed his first massive tax-cut bill. At the time, he thanked three people for helping make it happen — Dick Cheney, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and his director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels.

It was that tax-cut package that helped eliminate the massive surplus Bush and Daniels had inherited from the Clinton administration, and began a sea of red ink that, ironically, Daniels is now concerned about.

When asked about this, Daniels tends to blame the end of the dot-com bubble for eliminating Clinton-era surpluses. The argument is utter nonsense, and has been thoroughly debunked.

For a guy who claims to consider the budget his top concern, Daniels doesn’t seem to know much about his signature issue.

In theory, this seems like a deal-breaker for Daniels’ presidential ambitions. The base already doesn’t trust him after his proposed “truce” on social issues, and his credibility on deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility is severely undermined by his Bush administration failures.

Brooks chose not to mention any of this, but for those who take these issues seriously, it’s a record Daniels can’t run away from.