By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau
Gov. Mitch Daniels has made headlines — as well as fans and detractors — with some of his sharp-worded speeches on fiscal policy, social issues and education reform. But a new book chronicling some of those words contains one speech he never made: His 2008 “concession” speech.
Daniels’ notes for a speech he would have delivered had he lost his re-election bid were written on one of his “darker days” — when he thought voters might toss him out for pushing through what he liked to call the “freight train of change.”
“Better four years of action and accomplishment than eight years sitting timidly on our hands ...,” Daniels wrote in his notes. “No one had to tell us the risks of making big change in a state not known for change.”
Those notes are contained in “Aiming Higher: Words that Changed a State,” that contain excerpts from speeches Daniels made over 22 years, including eight years of governor.
The book’s forward was written by veteran political journalist Brian Howey, longtime publisher of Howey Politics Indiana. Howey puts Daniels in the small category of governors who’ve interrupted Indiana’s history as a cautious, conservative, change-resistant state.
“Whether you regard him as a hero or adversary,” Howey writes, “few Hoosiers will argue the notion that his eight years at the Indiana Statehouse have been impactful and have altered the trajectory of the state at a time when just about everything is changing on a global scale.”
Proceeds from the book’s sales go to Mitch’s Kids, a program that helps low-income, at-risk children with tutoring and homework help; it was created by Daniels with the Boys & Girls of Indianapolis.
In the book is the expected: Daniels’ two inaugural addresses, his eight State of the State speeches to the Indiana General Assembly, his 2003 campaign kickoff speech and the victory speech he delivered 16 months later when he beat the incumbent Democrat Joe Kernan.
There’s also the February 2011 speech he made to the Conservative Political Action Conference when he was considered a likely presidential candidate. That’s the speech in which he said the “morbidly obese federal government” was in need of bariatric surgery and that the new “red menace” facing the country was its massive debt.
But there’s also some of the unexpected, including commentary from Daniels about what he was thinking as he was delivering speeches from notes he often scribbled to himself in nearly illegible handwriting.
He admits that when he needed help writing a humorous speech to deliver to an audience that included national journalists and President Barack Obama (at the 2011 Gridiron Club annual dinner in Washington, D.C.) he turned to his irreverent and politically incorrect friend Tom Griswold, from radio’s “The Bob & Tom Show.”
In that speech, reprinted in the book, he makes fun of the field of GOP presidential aspirants, including a joke about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s ample girth. But Daniels also makes fun of his own small stature: “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.”
The book was published by IBJ Book Publishing, a division of the same company that owns the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at email@example.com.