Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels won't seek the Republican nomination — and it's apparently because he didn't want his wife called a bad mother and a bad wife. He came right out with it in his statement Sunday: "Our family constitution gives a veto to the women's caucus, and there is no override provision." Daniels has four daughters.
The Indianapolis Star ran a cartoon that showed a forlorn Daniels in a Superman costume, head hung, telling the elephant at his door, "My family won't let me come out and play." Cheri had told the paper back in March, "It will be a complete family decision. It affects every single one of my daughters and their families, too. So, yes, we'll be in talks."
And yet despite that henpecked or infantilized imagery, no one seriously seemed to blame Daniels for dropping out. Or, put another way, the press that would have made his life miserable as a matter of professional obligation understood why he opted out of their scrutiny.
What were they reluctant to drag through the national consciousness? It was the period in the 1990s when Mitch's wife Cheri, now 61, divorced him and left him for another man, whom she married in California in 1995. In 1997 Mitch and Cheri remarried and have been together since.
This sequence of events led a Wall Street Journal who said he wanted Daniels to run to meditate, with charming distance, on the "curiosity around this story, which we suppose comes down to the question: What does it tell us about the character of a prospective president? Or, to put it more pointedly: If a man would take back a woman after such a betrayal, is he tough enough to lead the country?" It must be terribly difficult to contortedly reconcile "pro-family values" and "pro-marriage" stances with "that emasculating bitch who left him."
Meanwhile, The Washington Post revealed that other candidates were all too happy to exploit the Danielses' marital history: "In exchange for anonymity, an official for another GOP prospect provided contact information for the ex-wife of the man Cheri Daniels married, in the years between her divorce and remarriage to Daniels."
Then there was the "bad mother" issue, which Daniels' statement explicitly acknowledged. Criticism had surrounded the fact that the couple's four daughters had stayed in Indiana with Mitch while Cheri was in California. Mitch had reaped some credit for this, with Ruth Marcus writing in The Washington Post, "Any father who managed to cope single-handedly with four daughters gets credit in my book." Before you hand him a cookie, the Times notes,
"A review of the divorce file in Boone County Court showed that Mrs. Daniels tried to take her daughters, 7 to 13 at the time, to California, but that Mr. Daniels blocked her effort with an emergency appeal to the court. He also tried to block her effort to buy a house, court records show, but a judge overruled his request. She moved back to Indianapolis and had joint custody of the children until the couple remarried."
Those ties having been mended, the statement Sunday said as much and added, "The notion that Cheri ever did or would ‘abandon' her girls or parental duty is the reverse of the truth and absurd to anyone who knows her, as I do, to be the best mother any daughter ever had."
Daniels will go back to being governor of Indiana and the press will move on to the next diversion. In the longer term, the only true "women's caucus" to have taken a hit are the women served by Planned Parenthood in Indiana. At a point when Daniels had to impress Republican primary voters with his social conservative bonafides, he signed a bill denying Medicaid recipients the right to seek care there. More family values, apparently.