Interview with Mitch Daniels: What would “small government” look like?

He says he avoids using the phrase “waste, fraud and abuse” because “it’s too glib — there’s no wand you can wave.” He says military spending should be cut. He called the Republicans’ recent attacks on Democratic efforts to slow Medicare’s cost growth “not a proud moment for our party.” He had kind words for the Tea Party but pointed out that it did not have a solution.

“Nobody that I know got up in front of those rallies and said ‘You’re right, you’re right, now here’s what we have to do,’ ” he told me. “ ‘There’s going to have to be a different kind of Medicare in the future, and there’s going to have to be a different kind of Social Security.’ We really are going to have to re-examine a whole host of these things.”…

Mr. Daniels says the government must be aggressive at doing things the private sector cannot, like improving schools and building roads. “The nation really needs to rebuild,” he said. As a good Whig would, he has pushed all of Indiana onto daylight saving time — so that the time no longer maddeningly changes as you drive around the state — and he’s consolidated some unwieldy local governments.

How well has the program worked? If you read the conservative hagiographies, you may come away believing that Mr. Daniels has found the secret to prosperity. But that’s not the case.