Mitch Daniels: No, seriously, we need a "truce" on social issues

A follow-up to last week’s culture-war extravaganza, but with a twist. This time he’s emphasizing that it’s not just on social issues where he wants a truce. He wants one on every issue that’s unrelated to solving the fiscal crisis (and terrorism).

Good enough?

Daniels called me to say that he’s dead serious about the need for the next president to declare a truce. “It wasn’t something I just blurted out,” he told me. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.”

He’s emphasized the need to focus like a laser beam on the existential threats facing the country — the two big issues he’s previously identified being the war on terror and the country’s precarious fiscal position. “We’re going to need a lot more than 50.1 percent of the country to come together to keep from becoming Greece,” he said.

He did, however, want to clarify that he’s not just singling out controversial social issues. “I’m talking about all divisive issues,” he said. Clear and unified priorities are the only way he sees the country rallying around common purposes.

Still no word on what a “truce” will mean in practical terms but Mark Hemingway insists that MD will have something concrete in mind if/when he finally announces his candidacy. Question: Isn’t this really just a canny way for a dark horse to get some attention among a Republican field that’s dominated by big names like Palin and Romney? He probably figures, and rightly so, that he’ll be a niche figure next year unless he can somehow reshape the debate so that he’s in the middle of it. The “truce” idea does that for him, casting Daniels as the Great Centrist/Libertarian Hope against an array of opponents who, he hopes, will split “values voters” among themselves. How he plans to win with that strategy once the field starts to thin after the first few primaries, I don’t know; presumably he’ll become so reviled by social conservatives that they’ll unite behind whoever emerges from the Palin/Romney/Huckabee/Gingrich scrum. (Maybe he’s counting on big delegate gains in blue states like California?) But then, being a dark horse means not having to think too far ahead: The first, most important challenge is simply to get in the game, and this helps. The more Daniels can get his would-be opponents to take the bait — and mind you, Huckabee’s already fundraising off of this skirmish — the more “in the game” he is.

Speaking of Huck, he’s pushing a line that I expect Daniels himself will end up pushing when the time comes for him to throw social cons a bone: Namely, that you can’t have a sound public fisc without sound public morals. And yes, of course there’s a donation button at the link.