Sometimes people talk past an issue, meaning they talk it to death. Sometimes they think past an issue, meaning they read too much into coincidence. And sometimes, they can anoint their way past an issue. That sort of happened last week when the Purdue University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Gov. Mitch Daniels their next university president.
Trustees praised his record as governor and his ability to be progressive in leading the state. But they may have anointed their way past some logical questions that Republicans would be asking if a Democratic governor were appointed Purdue president, or questions Purdue trustees themselves would be asking if Daniels had been named Indiana University president last week.
What’s the problem with a sitting governor being hired to lead a state university? There are reasons why Daniels should have considered fully, even though he deferred the conflict-of-interest question at last week’s press conference to a Purdue official, who claimed the matter had already passed muster with legal counsel.
Maybe so, but what Daniels can do legally and what he should do ethically are not necessarily the same thing. What government official would question Daniels or call him on this one is an open-ended question with no answer in a Republican-controlled state government that is as politically incestual as it has been in the past quarter century.
The Indiana Ethics Commission would be the logical place where ethics issues such as this one ought to be addressed. But who appoints the five commission members? Daniels does. Shouldn’t the Indiana General Assembly at least question the ethics of this decision? They’re not in session. Besides, there are Republican majorities in both houses.
What about Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s position on this one? He’s a Republican, too.