Mitch Daniels: Fleeing Democrats Totally Unacceptable (UPDATED)

From The Daily Caller :

A day after offering a laid-back message on Democratic lawmakers fleeing his state to avoid a vote on union legislation, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels toughened up his talk this morning.

Many conservatives faulted the Indiana governor and 2012 hopeful Tuesday for seeming to encourage Republicans to drop a right-to-work bill Democrats are protesting while offering little in the way of admonishment for lawmakers who fled the state and their duties to avoid the topic. Specifically at issue was whether Daniels had called the fleeing Democrats’ actions a “perfectly legitimate part of the process.”

Daniels clarified his statement in an interview with an Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully Wednesday, calling the actions of fleeing Democrats “totally unacceptable,” and adding that his praise for the process Tuesday was meant for protesters at the state house, not AWOL lawmakers. Tully had written that Daniels’ behavior Tuesday was uncharacteristic, asking “Could someone please page the real Mitch Daniels?”

It was nice of the Governor to clarify his statement.  Mark Levin and others made a big deal out of this, so hopefully they will understand where he was coming from, because Mitch Daniels has a good chance of being the GOP nominee.  Though he’s not well known, the rest of the GOP field is so completely underwhelming that anyone could win at this point (except Sarah Palin).
UPDATE: Poltico’s Ben Smith has a statement from Gov. Daniels’ spokesman:
As I noted earlier, one reason Mitch Daniels didn’t want a fight over labor law is because he’s already taken, by executive order when he took office, much of what Walker wants.

Daniels spokesman Jacob Oakman sends a detailed statement on the topic:

Been there, done that, six years ago.

There’s been a lot of mixing up what’s going on in Indiana with what’s happening in Wisconsin. Gov. Mitch Daniels ended collective bargaining for state employees in Indiana six years ago. He issued Executive Order 05-14 on his first day in office. Now, the governor is working on codifying in state law what’s been practiced here since then: that it takes legislative action for a state to allow its employees to bargain rather than the stroke of a governor’s pen, that state employees may choose to deduct union dues directly from their paychecks but can’t be forced to do so (our practice now, and 95 percent of our state employees choose not to pay union dues today) and that current due process for employees continues. This proposal does not extend beyond state employees.

Other states are catching up with what Gov. Daniels has already done, and we’re continuing to aim higher with actions that are designed to create and attract jobs, give children a better education, and continue to reform outdated practices in this state. With the measures the governor has put in place, Indiana has been able to restrain spending, reduce employees, create departments as needed to better serve Hoosiers, hire employees or use private sector contractors where it’s made sense, and put in place a pay for performance system with annual performance evaluations. Indiana has been able to move quickly to make decisions, adjustments, and reductions where needed without collective bargaining slowing the process. Indiana now has the lowest state government employment per capita of any state and the fewest state employees since 1978. Total state payroll, not adjusted for inflation, was $75 million lower in 2010 than 2004.

Gov. Daniels worked to elect a Republican majority in the Indiana House last year to push for education reform, local government reform, a balanced budget and a host of other measures, and that’s where his focus is this year. He simply believes the right to work debate about private sector employment is best for another day.

And Mark Levin isn’t backing down, still calling this the “Daniels implosion.” He posted a link on his Facebook page to this, from the blog Riehl World View:

Mitch Daniels Says Jump, NRO Says How High

To be fair, Jim Geraghty did pomptly go after Mitch Daniels at NRO for his ridiculous comments regarding the Democrat walk-outs in Indiana and Wisconsin, though that link is buried in the middle of today’s we need to understand Mitch Daniels item from Avik Roy. Roy’s piece totally ignores the national political reality playing out on the ground.

Many conservatives are displeased that Mitch Daniels has not supported his legislature’s attempt to pass right-to-work legislation. Given the passions engendered by the Wisconsin situation, it’s understandable that many conservatives are upset with what they see as an unnecessary punt on an important issue. There is, however, a fair amount of Indiana-specific context that they should consider.

Below is how what Daniels said played at the time – via Byron York, formerly of NRO and doing excellent work at The Examiner: Mitch Daniels ‘salutes’ Dem lawmakers who fled IN to avoid labor vote.

There are significant problems with it assuming Daniels believes he’s ready to run for President. As I pointed out last night on Twitter, coupled with his remarks on Social Conservatism, Daniels is developing a pattern of saying things that require detailed explaination later. Add to that, the explanations do not fully address the problematic aspects of his initial comments.

This critical issue is now playing out nationally. If Daniels can’t appreciate that, while commenting upon it, even within his own state, he’s not ready for national prime time. He also, in effect, endorses the walk-out currently going on in Wisconsin by saying they are part of the process. That’s hardly playing team ball in terms of the GOP and it sanctions irresponsible behavior by paid public servants. One wonders if Daniels is interested in leading on anything, or simply trying to be liked by everyone. America does not need leadership like that, especially from the GOP right now. We already endured a bit too much of it under Bush. It contributed in good measure to our getting into the economic trouble we’re in as a nation.

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