In his new book, Keeping the Republic (Sentinel HC), Indiana governor Mitch Daniels argues that the United States thrives most when the government cuts taxes and empowers people. On a more private level, Daniels, who serves as an elder at Tabernacle Presbyterian (USA) Church in Indianapolis, acknowledges that his faith is quieter. On a public level, he was involved in helping found the Oaks Academy, an inner-city Christian school. "As a believer, I always felt that the God I know was larger than politics," Daniels said before the 2008 election. "I'm always happy when people of faith decide that they want to be involved in public activity, but it should never distract us from what's primary, from the mission of saving souls." Online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Daniels about fiscal responsibility, whether he had a conversion experience, and how faith played a role in his decision not to run for president.

What drives you to focus on fiscal responsibility?

Much bigger, longer, more scholarly books have been written about debt and how it can ruin a country. That is the immediate threat to the America we've known; it's the symptom of other problems. The book tries to say that other things are involved in repairing our standard of living or even restoring what is shaky right now, and that is the American sense of optimism that tomorrow will be better than today, which has always driven progress in this country. Our free institutions and self-governance are being tested. Erskine Bowles, who co-chaired that debt commission a year ago [with Alan Simpson], has been going around saying this is the most predictable crisis we've ever faced. He means that if you just look at the arithmetic and if we don't do something significant, ...

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