Commentary and Opinion and Mickey Maurer

MAURER: Reflecting on what could have been for 'Our Man Mitch'

May 28, 2011

There goes my ambassadorship. Giving new meaning to “Midnight Madness,” Gov. Mitch Daniels went from front-runner to footnote with one poke of the send button, washing out my hope of a presidential appointment as ambassador to a scuba diving country. I am an innocent victim of the ebbing of cruel political tides.

Deferring to concerns of his wife and four daughters and their reluctance to endure a bruising campaign, he disappointed a growing army of supporters with his decision to withdraw from the presidential race. In a statement provided to The Indianapolis Star, he said, “I will not be a candidate. What could have been a complicated decision was in the end very simple: on matters affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus and there is no override provision. Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more.”

This is not the first time Daniels made a career decision based on family considerations. In 1988, Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle was elected vice president on George H.W. Bush’s presidential ticket. Quayle agreed to resign his Senate seat so Gov. Robert D. Orr could choose a Republican replacement before governor-elect Evan Bayh took office. Orr offered the seat to Daniels.

According to Daniels, it was a stunning opportunity. He had never held public office. It was the kind of challenge he would normally relish, but he just could not accept. His family had been back in Indiana only a year and a half. He worked regular hours. He felt that all the things were occurring that were supposed to happen at this time in his life. However awesome this possibility was, it came at the wrong time. He would not consider disrupting his family. It was unthinkable. He said, “No.”

The appointment went to Daniel Coats, who was at the time a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Indiana’s 4th Congressional District. Although his service was interrupted, Coats ran for the Senate seat again last year and won.

Voters have a right to thoroughly vet a candidate for elective office—assuredly for president of the United States, and matters of a personal nature are within that purview, particularly if they reflect on the character of the candidate. Remember Gary Hart, who lied and was rousted by capable reporters?

Oftentimes, the responsibility of the media to inform and educate the electorate and the privilege it bestows is abused, subjecting candidates and their families to unnecessary vicious and savage attacks. Witness Rush Limbaugh. It is evident that the national media was warming up on Mitch and Cheri with questions concerning their divorce in 1993. The media gauntlet is one of the reasons we rarely have an opportunity to elect the most qualified of our public servants. Unless this trend is tempered by good sense and sensibility, our choices are less likely to be someone of Daniels’ quality, leaving us to evaluate a slate of clowns like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

Speculation has already arisen that Daniels will be chosen as a vice presidential candidate, but it seems unlikely he would accept that invitation. The pressure and scrutiny on his family would be practically the same. That decision would come a year from now. Attitudes may change. A cabinet position seems more likely—suitable and acceptable to the “Women’s Caucus.” One can only hope Daniels instead will accept an opportunity in our community to apply his intellect, creativity, high ethical standards and downright ability to get things done.

Meanwhile, so long Bora Bora. My dream of toes in the sand, puffing on a cigar, wearing loud shorts and a T-shirt as a fat cat American ambassador on an island in the South Pacific is over. So is the dream of many Hoosiers who wanted to elevate “Our Man Mitch” to the world’s stage.•

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Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.

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