As an army veteran (European front), I get nervous when someone uses the military as the beacon for us to follow. So when the president said last night that “this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world,” I thought, he needs to get out more. Leading off his speech with military and foreign affairs, however, was a brilliant tactical maneuver, for it caught the “it’s-the-economy-stupid” people by off guard and went virtually unnoticed by the pundits. And it allowed Obama to frame the state of the union around his most spectacular moment – the killing of Bin Laden – and to play to the country’s infatuation with the military. Other institutions have let us down, he said, let’s follow the military’s example. Not, I hope, of paying $640 for a toilet seat or urinating on dead Afghans. With his paean to the Hoover Dam, praise of fracking, and insistence that “we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy,” Obama stepped firmly into the past at a time when we desperately need a new vision of environmental justice. And his efforts for social justice brought tepid applause for tax fairness and none for a millionaire’s tax.
Then came Mitch Daniels. Aside from making Bobby Jindal’s 2011 performance look animated, his pedestrian rebuttal contained startling Republican praise for “these proud programs” of social security and Medicare, the usual Europe bashing, and such soaring rhetoric as: “the problems are simply mathematical, and the answers purely practical.”
Good enough for William Kristol, who is leading the “Draft Daniels” movement with an enthusiasm he hasn’t shown since the invasion of Iraq.