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Missing Mitch

11:49 AM, Sep 26, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Matthew Continetti writes that Mitch Daniels's new book, Keeping the Republic, is unfortunately "a campaign book with no candidate."

[F]or those of us who remain more than a little disappointed in our options for president, the appearance of Keeping the Republic is nothing less than a provocation: Here, between two covers, is yet another reminder that the nation's most accomplished governor, with experience in the private sector as well as in state and federal government, a man with a sharp mind, a decent character, and knowledge of the drivers of our debt, voluntarily removed himself from contention for our highest office.

The review isn't entirely positive, however. Continetti dismantles Daniels's argument for a "social truce":

The Republican contenders are all decent people with impressive résumés. There's a fair chance one of them will be the next president. And -- this is to their credit -- most of them would be unwilling to accept the "social truce" Daniels proposes. As far back as May 2010, Daniels said that conservatives might have to declare a truce on such issues as abortion in order to unite the country in a fight against the red menace. As he puts it here, "It does not belittle at all the importance of the social issues to point out that, in terms of the survival of the American experiment, they do not rival the Red Menace and the related dangers we face from our overwhelming debt."

But is this really true? There are many people -- millions of them, in fact -- who believe that the human toll of 30-plus years of abortion on demand has been far more damaging to the American character and polity than spending too much money on health care for seniors. At a Republican debate in August, Michele Bachmann got it exactly right when she pointed out that "you can get money wrong, but you can't get life wrong." To disarm unilaterally in the middle of a decades-old fight -- a fight that has coincided, uncoincidentally, with Republican success at the polls -- would be not only wrong but foolish.

Worse still: Such a move would deny conservatives the opportunity to draw a connection between the unmooring of moral principle and America's drift away from the ideas that animated the Founding.

Daniels concedes, for example, that "the breakdown of the traditional family over recent decades is a huge contributor to virtually every heartbreaking social pathology we face, and to economic difficulties." Then is it really far-fetched to assert that the redefinition of the family, the flight from individual responsibility, and the preference for immediate gratification over self-control may be related to government's inability to exercise fiscal restraint?

And might it not be the case that the demand for entitlements will persist so long as Americans believe the purpose of government is to provide them stuff? Convincing voters otherwise will require more than charts and graphs. It will take a moral argument that relies on standards of right and wrong applicable, in Lincoln's words, "to all men and all times": that human beings are created equal, that governments are formed to secure the rights we possess in the state of nature, among them the right to life, liberty, and . . . you know the rest.

So, a social truce will not do. To the contrary: Perhaps it's time to expand the definition of "social issues" to include fiscal and national-security matters that reflect the type of society in which we live. This is something Daniels clearly understands, since his call for the "social truce" hasn't diminished his pro-life stance.

Read the whole review in National Review.

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