Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor and current Purdue University president, got himself in hot water back in October for giving a speech to a Minnesota think tank. Not that anyone objects to Daniels making speeches in general; indeed, it comes with being a university president. In this case, however, the venue for the speech was the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative organization. And in the eyes of Indiana’s cultural elites, that made all the difference.
The Lafayette Journal and Courier blasted Daniels for addressing the Center. Though the editors conceded that they didn’t know “the particulars of the speech,” they voiced concern that Daniels may have discussed what he had done as governor to “cut taxes and preserve state finances”—perhaps fearing that such talk would incite further outbreaks of fiscal responsibility. As it happens, the speech focused on nonpartisan themes such as “how to deliver basic services effectively, how to bring people together across political lines, the importance of civility in public discourse, and the centrality of social mobility,” according to Daniels. Not exactly red meat for the Tea Party. Even after Daniels issued an apology for accepting the engagement, his critics weren’t appeased. According to Bill Mullen, a hard-left professor of English and American studies at Purdue, it was inexcusable for Daniels to use the “platform” of a public university to talk about such incendiary topics as “lowering taxes”—clearly a partisan endeavor.