Mitch Daniels Further Explains Social Issues-Abortion Truce

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 10, 2011   |   6:21PM   |   Washington, DC

Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor and potential presidential candidate, further explained his call for a truce on social issues like abortion in a new interview that has been backing away further from it.

Although Daniels has never fully repudiated the truce talk — only going as far as saying it was also intended for liberals — a new video has Daniels clarifying what he meant. The video has Daniels giving an interview with a webcast organized by the Hoover Institute at Stanford University that will air on Monday.

In the interview, Daniels called his suggestion that potential Republican presidential candidates put social issues on the back burner “a tactical suggestion.”

He said the truce is meant to rally Americans around the notion that the next president must first and foremost address the national debt that greatly affects the nation’s economic future. Daniels also wants that commitment to be something that rallies Americans around the next Republican presidential candidate.

“If you don’t believe that the American republic is mortally threatened, as I do, by this one overriding problem we have built for ourselves [the debt], then of course I’m wrong,” he said.

“But if that is the case, then all I was really saying was: I don’t want to lose one person — you keep talking about how hard it’s going to be [to defeat Obama]  and it is — to make the kind of changes that will restore America’s greatness, and all I was saying was [that] we’re going to need to unify all kinds of people, and freedom is going to need every friend it can get,” he said.

Daniels most recently promoted his abortion-social issues truce call in February when he told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham that the issues should be “muted.”

“Laura, I said this some time ago. It’s still my point of view, and thank you for noticing. You know, ours has been without question the most pro-life administration in our state’s history. We haven’t just talked about it, we have advanced the right-to-life,” Daniels said. My outlook on these questions is the same as some of those who have questioned what I said.”

“I guess two things,” Daniels added. “One is that, first, those remarks were directed as much to the aggressors on the other side of these questions — for instance, the proponents of gay marriage — as much directed to them as anybody with whom I’m in agreement.”

Asked if liberals have called a truce on social issues, Daniels responded, “No, obviously not. I said I was thinking of them as much as my own allies when I said it,” he said about the truce.

“The major point, though, was something different, and it was just this: I believe…. that the arithmetic of our times says we are headed for Niagara Falls, fiscally. You cannot run any kind of enterprise — private or public — on a self-governing basis as deeply in hawk as we now are and are going to be,” Daniels added. “…. to change the whole size and scope of the federal government in a radical way, then we are going to need a very broad constituency in this country to do that…. so that’s all I meant, kind of a priority matter, first things first. Maybe we could just concentrate on that for a little while, because I think that’s the most immediate threat to the republic we’ve known.”

Later in the interview, Daniels returned to the truce issue, saying fiscal issues should take precedence and social issues like abortion should be “muted” for awhile.

“I would like to think that fixing it and saving our kids future could be a unifying moment for our country and we wouldn’t stop our disagreements or our passionate belief in these other questions, we just sort of mute them for a little while, while we try to come together on the thing that menaces us all,” he concluded.

Most recently, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Santorum denounced the Daniels “truce.”

“I think that it’s absolutely critical to get the economy growing without raising taxes or increasing the deficit,” Jindal said. “I’m also proud to belong to a party that stands for the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage. Those values remain important during good and bad economic times.”

Santorum said  Republicans must keep values issues at the forefront in comments that Tom Beaumont, chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register, said sounded like “an indirect shot at fellow prospective Republican presidential candidate Mitch Daniels.”

“I think it shows there are some people who are willing to stand up and fight for the family and others who would rather, to use the comment of one potential candidate, call a truce on these things,” Santorum said during taping of Iowa Press at Iowa Public Television in Johnston. “A truce in this case means ceding ground to the other side.”

That was the second time Santorum has weighed in with a response to Daniels, doing so earlier in February.

Mike Huckabee said recently: “Republicans can certainly walk and chew gum at the same time. I think it’s ridiculous to say we can only touch the economy, we can’t talk about anything else. We have to.”

And Tim Pawlenty said last year, “I’m not sure what Mitch had in mind there but there’s a whole coalition of people and interests and issues that comprise the conservative movement and the conservative perspective. I’m a fiscal conservative as well as a social conservative, so I don’t think it’s an either/or. I think it’s both. And right now the economy is a pressing issue for the nation, and we’re all primarily focused on that and jobs and the like, but that’s not to say there isn’t space to discuss other issues.”

John Thune, a top Senate Republican who recently decided against running for president, added, “I think there are issues that people feel deeply about, and they’re profound issues. The issues of life. The issues of family. And I don’t think we can minimize those in the debate. For any conservative or any Republican to get elected to office, you have to have the support and hopefully the energetic support of people who care passionately about the social issues. So, they’re important. And we shouldn’t trivialize that.”

And Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor, has twice recently said he opposes the notion of a social issues truce.