Daniels’ elusive credibility

Mitch Daniels is always eager to point the finger in the wrong direction.
Mitch Daniels is always eager to point the finger in the wrong direction.
Associated Press

Paul Ryan isn’t the only one who mistakenly claims to have credibility on fiscal issues. There’s also Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who appears to have a remarkably short memory.

Mitch Daniels’ signature issues has been deficit reduction, and he said that none of the candidates, including the president, have done enough to address it.

“It is time for candidates to, I believe, propose specific remedies or steps to address this very survival-level issue that we’re facing. The president, I’m sorry to say, has gone completely AWOL on this issue,” said Daniels in an interview on Bloomberg TV’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”

Of course, the president is the only who offered congressional Republicans a $4 trillion debt-reduction package that Democrats hated, only to see GOP officials turn it down as insufficiently conservative. “Completely AWOL” doesn’t seem like the appropriate phrase under the circumstances.

But even if we put that aside, the larger issue is why Daniels believes he has credibility on the subject at all.

As Paul Krugman noted a while back, Daniels is “held up as an icon of fiscal responsibility” without having earned it: “[W]hat I can’t forget is his key role in the squandering of the fiscal surplus Bush inherited. It wasn’t just that he supported the Bush tax cuts; the excuses he made for that irresponsibility were stunningly fraudulent.”

It’s just bizarre for a guy who led the Bush/Cheney budget office to pick fiscal responsibility, of all things, as a signature issue.

It was, after all, 10 years ago when George W. Bush signed his first massive tax-cut bill. At the time, he thanked three people for helping make it happen – Dick Cheney, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and his director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels.

It was that tax-cut package that helped eliminate the massive surplus Bush and Daniels had inherited from the Clinton administration, and began a sea of red ink that, ironically, Daniels is now concerned about.

When asked about this, Daniels tends to blame the end of the dot-com bubble for eliminating Clinton-era surpluses. The argument is utter nonsense, and has been thoroughly debunked.

What’s more, Jamelle Bouie reported that Daniels also “badly underestimated the cost of the Iraq War, offering an estimate of $50 to $60 billion for the initial assault, and a forecast of $17 to $45 billion per year of occupation. At best – if we extend those costs to the present – Daniels was off by 2 and a half trillion dollars.”

So, remind me – why is Daniels lecturing others on this?

Mitch Daniels

Daniels' elusive credibility