In rare political remarks since becoming president of Purdue University, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has voiced sharp disagreement with many fellow Republicans over whether the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration should continue.
Daniels, once director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush, dubbed sequestration a "bad idea" during a press breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
In so doing, the 64-year-old Daniels put himself on the opposite side
of such national conservative leaders as Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who recently told Newsmax "in the short term, it's important to maintain sequestration."
"The sequester is a bad idea," Daniels told Newsmax during the breakfast. "When the president suggested it — and I assume it was his idea — his purpose was to frighten people."
Obama probably never thought the automatic cuts would go into effect, Daniels said.
As to his own view that "the sequester is the wrong way to do business," the Hoosier Republican explained that "it penalizes worthy programs as well as bad programs and it doesn't go to the real root of the problem — namely entitlements."
Noting that the sequester is cutting only discretionary spending and not entitlements, Daniels predicted that unless entitlements were dealt with, "there will be a runaway growth of autopilot spending and it will devour us. Soon, every [agency] from the FBI to the Park Service will have to run on borrowed money.
"I hope they find a way to remove the sequester," he said. "But if they don't, and this leads to a long period under the sequester, that will be unfortunate."
A past head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and White House political director under Ronald Reagan, Daniels was widely touted as a GOP presidential candidate in 2012. He eventually declined to run and instead accepted the presidency at Purdue.
Daniels has since said he now practices "celibacy" when it comes to discussing politics or candidates.
But he came close to breaking his political "vow of celibacy" when, in reply to a question about the Nov. 5 governors races in Virginia and New Jersey, he voiced strong admiration for New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
"His apparent success proves people will reward decisive action and truth-telling," said Daniels. The voters "will look beyond party positions and predispositions in their voting. That's also a very reasonable description of what happened in our state," referring to Indiana, where Daniels was succeeded as governor last year by fellow Republican Mike Pence.
"I think so very much of Gov. Christie," said Daniels, who declined comment on the Virginia race or the Republican nominee, conservative state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Daniels also made clear he stood by his highly controversial remark a few years ago that Republicans should "call a truce on social issues" and focus on the debt crisis.
With the nation facing a threat in the form of record debt, he said, "Republicans should agree to disagree" for a while on issues such as abortion and marriage and focus on answers to the economic crisis "that is a bigger threat to the poor and minorities than it is to wealthier citizens."
"A lot more people agreed with me than disagreed," said Daniels.
Regarding the strong vocal criticism he received at the time from social conservatives, the former governor said, "The decibels don't agree with poll numbers."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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