It’s nothing new to note that there is division among Republicans these days — between cooler heads whose focus is primarily fiscal, and extreme social conservatives, whose obsession with guns, gays and abortion has eclipsed their need for reasoned policy, whose ideas have found apotheosis in charismatic illiterates like Sarah Palin.
Nowhere is that division more clearly illustrated than right here in Indiana over recent comments made by Governor Mitch Daniels. At issue: a single word among 8,300 in an extensive article about the governor by Andrew Ferguson for the Weekly Standard, published Monday:
[Daniels] says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ-centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” [...] His social-conservative credentials are solid.
But about that truce . . .
“He might be one guy who could get away with it,” said Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, who’s known Daniels since the 1980s. “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk.”
Despite Daniels’ social conservative bona fides, the word “truce” was like blood in the water for some. Former Arkansas Governor and Fox News host-come-lately, Mike Huckabee, was among the first to jump in, accusing Daniels of using the “issue of life and traditional marriage” as “bargaining chips.”
That’s not necessarily surprising, or all that meaningful: Daniels could prove a formidable opponent for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 should he decide to run; so for Huckabee, this is politics as usual. But other social conservatives weren’t long in taking Huckabee’s bait — cementing the controversy while proving themselves gullible and near-sighted. James Antle, at The American Spectator, argued Daniels was “contemplat(ing) … unconditional surrender.” The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has likewise said the”‘truce’ was nothing more than surrender.”
If Huckabee’s criticism feels slightly disingenuous, it probably is. His is a timeless and tiresome tactic: One suspects he’s deliberately missing the real point to manufacture a phony point of contention where, really, there probably isn’t one.
It’s more telling that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the new Tea Party-backed darling of the breathless far right, has waded into this one as well.