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The Daniels apology

I’ve been to just about every Fall briefing and annual dinner held by the Center of the American Experiment — John Hinderaker is past chairman of the center and I am a former board member — but I missed this year’s Fall Briefing earlier this month. The speaker was former Indiana Governor and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels. I thought the speech would be a little — how to put it? — on the dry side.

Bill Bennett was the featured speaker for last year’s Fall Briefing and Jeb Bush was the speaker for the briefing the year before that. Previous briefings I remember off the top of my head featured Newt Gingrich — Newt filled in heroically as the main attraction on about three days’ notice when Peggy Noonan stood us up in November 2001 — Bill Kristol and, just before the mighty storm of the 2010 midterm elections, the omniscient Michael Barone.

The Fall Briefing is a traditionally sedate and uncontroversial affair, but Governor Daniels has apologized for his October 7 Fall Briefing appearance in Minneapolis. This was news to me; I learned of Governor Daniels’s apology yesterday from Peter Wood’s Chronicle of Higher Education column recounting the story of the apology and criticizing him for it.

Was it something he said? No, it’s not. Amazingly, those who called for and elicited Governor Daniels’s apology have no idea what he said. (Check out the links in Wood’s column.) There is no official recording or report of the speech.

So why did Governor Daniels apologize? He promised to avoid partisan politics when he undertook the Purdue presidency, and some Purdue professor thinks the event was political in nature.

I called over to the Center yesterday to ask what Governor Daniels talked about in his speech. I was told he talked about his record as governor and the reforms he instituted in Indiana. As I had anticipated, it sounded a little dry to me.

The speech, incidentally, was advertised as providing a glimpse of what it took to reduce spending and governmental services in Indiana. It sounded to me like the speech lived up to its advance billing. The proposition on offer was that Minnesota might learn something from Governor Daniels’s successes in Indiana. You can catch a glimpse of the forbidden Daniels previewing his speech on the evening in question in the video below, before the storm clouds gathered.

The Center is a nonpartisan think tank advancing conservative policies to promote freedom and free enterprise. It describes itself as bringing “conservative and free market ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing Minnesota and the nation.” Governor Daniels wasn’t engaging in partisan politics in his Fall Briefing speech. It’s a shame he apologized on demand.

UPDATE: Governor Daniels’s letter of apology confirms that his speech was scrupulously nonpartisan but bows to the “perceptions” created by the Purdue professor et al. It is such “perceptions” that liberals create to shut conservatives up on the basis of “perceptions.” The least that can be said is that Governor Daniels let a teachable moment slip.

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