Thursday, April 07, 2011

Mitch Has More Charisma Than Expected

Almost a month old, but I was out of town--and it suggests Daniels might be more "streetable" than I thought. Of course, Gridiron Club remarks are off the record, so this is the Governor's script:

MARCH 12, 2011

I bring greetings from my beloved Indiana, a land of surprises where, as we say, South Bend is in the North, North Vernon’s in the South, and French Lick is not what you hoped it was.

Thanks to the organizers, and the staff. It's been a perfect evening so far. Well, almost perfect. I asked for cream in my coffee and the waiter said "Sorry, you'll need a waiver from Secretary Sebelius."

Again, the Gridiron brings us together in all our diversity, united only by our patriotism and our passionate love of America. We all express that passion in different ways: I in mine, Secretary Sebelius in hers, Newt Gingrich in his. But that's what's special about tonight.

I never expected to be here making this speech, but then, life's so accidental. I wouldn't ever have been governor to start with, but a group back home decided the state needed to elect a small businessman, and I was the smallest one they could think of. I guess the Gridiron Committee was equally hard up.

I overheard someone at the reception saying "Daniels? Sebelius? Who did the vetting, John McCain?" But they'll think differently after tonight. Daniels versus Sebelius -- it’s a classic matchup. Will be remembered always, like Lincoln versus Douglas on slavery, Nixon versus Kennedy on the missile gap, Romney versus Romney on healthcare. That was a damn good line until Judy Woodruff stepped all over it.

In the end, it was Vice President Biden who talked me into this: He told me it was a momentous, monumental matter. I'm paraphrasing slightly.

Still, it's scary. Me, in front of all these celebrities, and in white tie, for Pete's sake! No way I was paying top-dollar for something I'll never wear again. I went to see the bearded guy at Men's Wearhouse. Has anyone else noticed, you never see him and Wolf Blitzer in the same place at the same time?

Nancy Pelosi is here, still so intimidating, even back in the minority. I just knew that Speaker role was never going to work out. A high pressure, high-stress job like Speaker of the House, it's just no place for a woman. They’re so fragile, emotional, prone to break down crying. It was never going to work.

But the scariest part is, no matter how well I do, there'll be no way to top the President. You watch, he’s gonna steal the show. I know this because I read his speech Tuesday on Wikileaks.

I suppose I’m the first Gridiron presenter ever to show up in a sling, and I need to start by coming clean about it. Rotator cuff surgery was really a cover story. Truth is, I broke a rib traveling to last month's Governors’ conference. I drew a middle seat between Haley Barbour and Chris Christie.

But that wasn’t the really embarrassing part. I couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom. Their tummies were stuck in the full upright and locked position.

I can't wait to heal up, because this is frightening, too. Mr. President, until this thing comes off, I can cling to my gun or my Bible but not both.

Mr. President, we often disagree but sometimes I think you get a bum rap. For instance, after watching our Indiana House Democrats hide out in your home state for the last three weeks, people who vote "present" are starting to look like very statesmen-like to me.

Actually, it’s a little hard to feel humorous with the economy still so tough. As if our state budget wasn't tight enough, now after the Chicago mayor's race we have to build a missile defense system against F-bombs.

But again, I’ve got to stick up for the President. His policies ARE starting to create a lot of high-paying job openings: Senator from Virginia, Senator from New Mexico, Senator from Hawaii. . . I see the secretary got together that death panel she was trying to start.

And I know the President agrees that our top priority has to be to get every American back to work. Except Larry King. That was a Charlie Sheen joke, but Judy stomped on that one, too.

I love this event; I'm a traditionalist. But it's a new media world, and you’ve got to change with the times. When you think about it, today’s bloggers are walking in the shoes of the giants of journalism. They’re today’s Edward R. Murrows. That is, if Edward R. Murrow had gone to work in his pajamas and hadn’t talked to a woman in thirty years.

And all right, I confess: I miss Keith Olbermann. We Hoosiers have a tolerance for people who curse, throw things, and generally trash anyone who disagrees with them. Remember, we had Coach Bobby Knight. The analogy's not perfect: Coach Knight actually beat his competition most of the time.

But I'm glad Mr. Olbermann landed on his feet. If you hadn't heard, he debuts next week as the perky weekend weatherman on Al Jazeera.

Mr. President, you’re not laughing. (Turning to Chairman) Come on, Susan, we went over this. Who forgot to put "Ha, ha, ha" on his teleprompter?

OK, I know I have to confront it. All this Presidential speculation. It’s always best to face things head on. Unless you’re Michelle Bachmann, then you’re better off facing them sideways.

Honestly, I never had any idea of running for President. After governor, my plan's been to go spend some time in a quiet place where no one can find me. First choice is Al Gore’s cable network.

But I have to admit, all this favorable press I’ve been getting, it’s hard not to let it go to your head. Just listen to a quick sample: "Small, stiff, short, pale, unimposing, unassuming, uninspiring, understated, uncharismatic. . .accountant-like, non-telegenic, boring, balding. . .blunt, nerdy, wooden, wonky, puny, and pint-sized" . . . really, it all points to one inescapable conclusion: It’s destiny!

So, I’m thinking about it. This is the point in the presidential process where candidates are hinting, and exploring and jockeying for position, and seriously, I like my chances. If anyone is built for jockeying, it’s me.

But it's awkward watching you admire bicker with each other. Mike Huckabee mistakenly says the President is from Kenya and right away Sarah Palin pounces: "Wrong, Mike, he's never even been to Europe!"

It hasn’t been completely smooth so far. I caused some stir saying that maybe we should have a truce on those controversial, divisive, secondary issues which might get in the way of solving the nation’s biggest problems. I still think it’s a good idea. So if my potential primary opponents promise not to talk about either height or hair, I promise I won’t either. Unless Donald Trump is serious, and then all bets are off.

The field is starting to thin out. Within the last month, my friends Mike Pence and John Thune have both declared they are not running for President. Tonight, in the same spirit of realism, I choose tonight to announce that I will not. . . be entering the NBA draft.

But I probably won’t run for President, either. So much of life is timing, and I think I missed my best chance already. I really thought my shot at national office was 2008. I got all excited when I heard that Sen. McCain’s criteria in a running mate were a first-term governor, from a modest-sized state, smart, and good-looking. Damn, John, if three out of four was good enough, why not me?

May I say in leaving how truly thrilled I was at this opportunity, and hope I did it justice. In the week the nation lost David Broder, might we hope that the spirit of this evening he loved could grow.

To me, "Singe, not burn" means to tease but not ridicule or demean those who must find answers that serve the interests of us all. It's the humor I encounter all the time among the regulars in Indiana coffee shops: the humor of common struggles, common purpose, and genuine, if carefully concealed, affection. The humor of the needle, never the dagger.

It is not for a visitor to say, but maybe this event should be shared more openly with our fellow Americans. Because it would be a fine thing for us all if the spirit of the Gridiron spread widely across this great but troubled land. Thanks for having me.
Wonderful, but can this experienced executive with a reputation for fiscal probity win votes?

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