From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the last of the possible Republican presidential candidates to address CPAC on Friday, strode to the podium at tonight’s Ronald Reagan Banquet and turned back the clock to the 1980s: the thing we have to fear, he said, is the growing Red Threat.
“In our nation, in our time, the friends of freedom have an assignment, as great as those of the 1860s, or the 1940s, or the long twilight of the Cold War,” he said. “As in those days, the American project is menaced by a survival-level threat.”
“I refer, of course, to the debts our nation has amassed for itself over decades of indulgence,” he added. “It is the new Red Menace, this time consisting of ink.”
And then Daniels — who was President Bush’s budget director — launched into a dense speech about the ways America’s finances, unless cleaned up soon, will crush the nation into oblivion.
Daniels is perhaps best known as the candidate who social conservatives love to hate — attacks on Daniels plan for a short-term truce on social issues (so America can put aside its differences and focus on that Red Menace he mentioned) can be heard all across CPAC. Other possible contenders have been having fun needling him about it, too.
The same can’t be said of the Reagan-friendly older crowd at the CPAC banquet. They ate up his speech, giving Daniels a big round of applause and laughing at Daniels’ many puns.
Daniels made his case that the country was in deep, serious trouble with its debt, even calling for cuts to defense spending (something that would have been big news had he said it while running the Bush budget).
Daniels’ other solutions were pretty straight-line Republican: limit the EPA, drill, cut, eliminate taxes on, privatize, etc.
A few things didn’t get mentioned: Egypt, those aforementioned social issues. But there was one thing Daniels speech included that the other 2012 contender speeches at CPAC didn’t have: an appeal to reason over partisanship.
“We should distinguish careful skepticism about Big Government from contempt for all government,” he said. “After all, it is a new government we hope to form, a government we will ask our fellow citizens to trust to make huge changes.”
At the tea party-fueled, Libertarian-heavy CPAC 2011 even that slight praise of the concept of government was radical stuff.