Mitch Daniels: A Foreign Policy Enigma

There are many things about the current GOP Presidential campaign that I find odd. One of them is that some take Mitch Daniels, former [correction: current] Governor of Indiana, seriously as a candidate.
Daniels is a terrific administrator with a fine record as a budget hawk, but he has not demonstrated anything like the sort of leadership that one expects from a presidential candidate. I’m still not sure I could pick him out of a lineup; he is completely unknown to the general public, and when voters get to know him, there is reason to fear that their first impression will be that he is boring.
Jennifer Rubin adds that on foreign policy, Daniels is not ready for prime time. He lacks not only experience but also, seemingly, any coherent worldview. Worse, his instincts may be out of line with those of the Republican base:

Daniels also was not asked about his receipt of an award by the Arab American Institute. I went to the group’s Web site and found its president, James Zogby (who follows the Walt-Mearsheimer school of foreign policy), speaking fondly of the proposed merger of Fatah and Hamas. (Zogby has, among other things, decried the Iraq war, defended the Ground Zero mosque and attacked the hearings on Islamic recruitment chaired by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).
I e-mailed Daniels’s spokesman asking if Daniels supported AAI’s views and received no response.
All of this raises the question: Is Daniels ready for prime time? And really, what are his foreign policy views?
UPDATE (5:21 p.m.): This summary of Daniels’s comments from a meeting with journalists suggests he really has no ideas of his own on foreign policy: “Daniels said that ‘it cannot be illegitimate to ask’ if some of the country’s military commitments should be unwound, but he has not yet reached any conclusions about which should be–or, at least, any he is willing to share. On Afghanistan he refuses to second-guess the decisions of the president, to whose greater access to information he defers. On Libya he says only that he has not seen the case for intervention made. One gets the impression of someone who is much more cautious about foreign intervention than Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, but also cautious about saying so. He was asked if he were ready to debate President Obama on foreign policy. ‘Probably not.’ (He is candid.)” Really he doesn’t think there’s a case for removing Moammar Gaddafi? I suppose if you don’t think being commander in chief is critical to the presidency this won’t concern you. For those expecting presidential candidates display some level of understanding and show an effort to define positions of critical issues, this is, to be blunt, an embarrassing display.

The Republican Party is not hurting for budget hawks. Tim Pawlenty’s record as a conservative governor is as good as Daniels’, and was achieved in a tougher environment. Pawlenty has also worked hard to develop his foreign policy credentials. Chris Christie has a shorter record as a fiscal conservative, but has far more charisma than Daniels. Nearly all of the other GOP contenders also have credible fiscal credentials.
This assessment may sound overly harsh. Mitch Daniels is a very smart, extraordinarily competent guy. He might make an excellent cabinet appointee. But there is, at this point, no reason to think that he is ready for the big leagues in terms of foreign policy, nor is there evidence that he has the sort of broad political appeal that the party needs to have a good chance of taking the White House in 2012. Republicans should focus their attention on the relatively small number of candidates who have a serious chance of dethroning Barack Obama next year. And, while the economy will be the biggest issue by far in 2012, adequate foreign policy credentials cannot be ignored.
UPDATE: Dan Mitchell writes:

Good post on Daniels, but you may have been too easy on him.
Given that he was Bush’s budget director (far too much wasteful spending) and tried to hike tax rates in his first year as Gov of Indiana and has said sympathetic things about a VAT, I have no idea why people say he’s a budget hawk.


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