There's a lot of dirt in Mitch Daniels' closet, something Charles Krauthammer glides over when he tries to sell conservatives on Daniels by claiming that his record is totally awesome even if he's dull as dirt. Ross Douthat describes his bald head, but Mitch has some other real problems.
A race to pre-define the prospective presidential candidacy of Republican Mitch Daniels took off in haste on Thursday, as Democrats heaped praise on the Indiana governor for his implementation of the president's health care law.
It's low-hanging fruit, as far as political attacks go. The Affordable Care Act is toxic among Republican voters -- something that those attacking Daniels are implicitly acknowledging. While the Indiana governor has called for ObamaCare's repeal, his acceptance of the ACA money does set him apart from some of his GOP colleagues.
It also underscores that extent to which Daniel is vulnerable on the health care front. Like nearly every other candidate in the GOP field, his record contains several potential points of friction among conservative voters. The most obvious one would be his previous support for the notion that the government could mandate individuals to purchase insurance. Below, for instance, is an October 23, 2003, South Bend Tribune article about Daniels on the gubernatorial campaign trail.
The candidate said he favors a universal health care system that would move away from employee-based health policies and make it mandatory for all Americans to have health insurance.
Daniels envisioned one scenario in which residents could certify their coverage when paying income taxes and receive a tax exemption that would cover the cost.
"We really have to have universal coverage," Daniels said.
Culled from a lengthy search of the governor's various statements on health care policy, that article was the one prominent instance in which Daniels appeared to endorse the type of mandate that Republicans now claim is unconstitutional.
Supporting universal health care should be considered a good thing, except if you're a Republican. When Gingrich attacked Ryan's Medicare plan it actually was the politically right thing to do, but conservatives have a purity test and Ryan is their new golden boy, so Newt got slapped down and outside of the odious Dick Morris, most conservatives think he's done as a candidate.
Mitch Daniels was also tied to the hip of George Bush's Iraq war as director of the OMB and and tried to discredit Lawrence Lindsey.
In any event, most estimates put forward by White House officials in 2002 and 2003 were relatively low compared with the nation's gross domestic product, the size of the federal budget or the cost of past wars.
White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was the exception to the rule, offering an "upper bound" estimate of $100 billion to $200 billion in a September 2002 interview with The Wall Street Journal. That figure raised eyebrows at the time, although Lindsey argued the cost was small, adding, "The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”
U.S. direct spending on the war in Iraq already has surpassed the upper bound of Lindsey's upper bound, and most economists attribute billions more in indirect costs to the war effort. Even if the U.S. exits Iraq within another three years, total direct and indirect costs to U.S. taxpayers will likely by more than $400 billion, and one estimate puts the total economic impact at up to $2 trillion.
Back in 2002, the White House was quick to distance itself from Lindsey's view. Mitch Daniels, director of the White House budget office, quickly called the estimate "very, very high." Lindsey himself was dismissed in a shake-up of the White House economic team later that year, and in January 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the budget office had come up with "a number that's something under $50 billion." He and other officials expressed optimism that Iraq itself would help shoulder the cost once the world market was reopened to its rich supply of oil.
The costs are still mounting today because of Iraq and Daniels not only has a health-care problem, he has a George Bush problem. Good luck with that. And about his Healthy Indiana Program:
The problem: It didn't really work. The benefits provided under the Healthy Indiana Plan were particularly skimpy and the costs were more expensive than expected. "Enrollment was always much smaller" than the plan's supporters had expected, said Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. "150,000 was the estimate, enrollment was a third of that."