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Monday, February 20, 2017
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Monday, February 20, 2017 10:14 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Hoosier ghosts of 1974

If you’re a Republican member of the Indiana congressional delegation, remember these six names: Dick Lugar, Bill Hudnut, Roger Zion, David Dennis, William Bray and Earl Landgrebe. They all lost in the post-Watergate fallout election of 1974. Beyond all of the crazy stuff emanating from the Trump White House, the coming Campaign16Hack and what we’re hearing about consistent contacts between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign could be explosive in the context of the 2018 mid-terms.

In the past few days, calls from Republicans to investigate the Trump/Kremlin connect have grown. CNN reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee is asking more than a dozen agencies, organizations and individuals to preserve communications related to the panel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon joined the chorus seeking a probe. "It's pretty clear that General Flynn misled the vice president and president. And you can't survive that. You can't have a national security adviser, who for any reason, regardless of what it is, misleading the vice president and president," Bucshon told the Evansville Courier & Press’s Zach Evans.

2. Holcomb hears East Chicago

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and a cadre of administration officials spent a good part of Friday meeting with East Chicago officials and residents about the lead contamination crisis that forced 1,000 Hoosiers from their homes. It is about time. This was a problem the Pence administration never took seriously. The EPA is still probing nearby homes that may have lead in their water.  “We have heard all the comments from this community today.  We will not forget that the region is a powerful engine for the state’s success,” said Holcomb.
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    INDIANAPOLIS – Vice President Mike Pence has always taken the so-called “long view” when it comes to his career. After losing two congressional races in the late 1980s, he settled into a think tank and broadcasting career, then went to Congress in 2001.  In 2011, he mulled a presidential bid for the following year, then focused on becoming Indiana’s 50th governor. There was the potential for a 2016 White House campaign. Some believe that his signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act knocked him out, but others say he knew the crowded field left him only a slender path to the nomination. The clearer path was to get on the presidential ticket, and from May through July 2016, he executed a savvy strategy, wooing Donald Trump when dozens of other Republicans took a pass. When the veep nomination flickered on July 14, he boarded a charter jet and retrieved the prize.
    EVANSVILLE – I remember the moment when Mike Pence’s challenge crystallized for me. In 2012, as he campaigned to succeed Mitch Daniels as governor, Pence traveled the state setting up listening sessions with small business owners, and his campaign team asked me to set one up in Evansville. He opened the discussion with an admission that Daniels already addressed most of the low-hanging fruit to improve Indiana’s business environment, but he asked what he could do to further improve state government. As folks around the table offered comments, everyone had plenty of constructive (and harsh) criticism for the national government, but they each struggled to identify concerns with Indiana. In short, thanks to the preceding eight years of Mitch Daniels’ leadership, Indiana was working well – really well, in fact – and Pence would have to work hard to get out from beneath his shadow. Pence’s place in history as governor, literally and figuratively, will forever be viewed next to Mitch Daniels.
    FORT WAYNE – Earlier this week, I went to the license bureau. Back when mastodons roamed our state, (before Mitch Daniels became governor) it was a miserable experience. Generally, now I do it on-line and even on a crowded Tuesday morning it is about like a grocery store on a Saturday.  When Mitch took over the state government with radical plans to run it like a business, he quickly became “Ditch Mitch.” His popularity dropped to incredibly low levels. The Democrats perceived a bright political future that could recapture Indiana, going back to making it great again. Gov. Daniels brought in people not trained to go slow. They thought “tactful” meant taking people who resisted change and using tacks to pin them on the wall. After suffering through nasty publicity which impacted his strategy somewhere between zero and zero percent, he emerged after eight years as “Saint Mitch.”  When Mike Pence became governor, he was in a difficult position.
    SOUTH BEND – The National Republican Senatorial Committee already has a TV ad aimed at Sen. Joe Donnelly, starting early in efforts to defeat the Indiana Democrat when he runs for reelection in 2018. And President Trump invites Donnelly to lunch at the White House. Conflict in approach? Not at all. Both the Senate GOP strategists and Trump seek to strap Donnelly in a political hot seat in the battle over confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Both seek to put pressure on Democratic senators facing reelection contests in states where Trump won big last fall. Trump carried Indiana by 20 percent. As Trump would say: That’s huge. Both know some Democratic senators are needed now for the 60 votes for confirmation. They want to avoid embarrassment of changing the rules to invoke the “nuclear option” for confirmation by a bare majority. Republicans control 52 seats in the 100-member chamber.
    INDIANAPOLIS – In a world offering little comfort to small towns, joy came this past week to Crothersville, IN. Located just off I-65, south of Seymour, north of Austin, Crothersville now is the proud home of the Tigers, 2017 winners of a girls’ basketball Class A sectional championship. For 103 years, this Jackson County town of 1,600 waited for a sectional championship trophy. Now, only 41 years since the first girls’ team began playing Indiana’s game, that trophy is displayed at the high school on N. Preston Street. From that site of joy, it is only 176 miles north on I-65 to South College Avenue in Rensselaer, Jasper County, where a very different mood prevails. St. Joseph’s College will suspend operations after graduation ceremonies this semester. Continuing students are being offered opportunities at several other Indiana higher education venues. The college is closing. Its buildings will be on caretaker status pending resolution by the board of trustees of the future direction for the institution. Next fall Rensselaer will not welcome approximately 1,000 students and the 200 faculty and staff who serve them.
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  • Through the Trump tumult, Indiana Republicans laying low

    INDIANAPOLIS – The Republican Indiana congressional delegation in the new age of Trump is, for the most part, lying low during the first month of this turbulent and tumultuous presidency. Last Thursday’s 77-minute rambling press conference by President Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence seated quietly in the front row, allowed Americans to witness a barrage of lies and half truths, a shaky defense of his firing of Michael Flynn as national security adviser for lying to Pence, and a frontal assault against the news media. Trump seemed to blame the media for “fake news” on the Flynn lies, when he could have told Pence the truth 15 days prior. By Friday, Trump had declared the news media an “enemy of the American people.”

  • HPI Analysis: The ups and downs of Gov. Pence's legacy
    INDIANAPOLIS – In politics, first and last impressions are impactful. Through that prism we view the four-year term of Gov. Mike Pence, who arrived on the Hoosier political scene 29 years ago as an aggressive and ambitious partisan. He left in a similar mode, achieving a lifelong dream to serve in the White House. But his departure essentially occurred in July. While he accepted a paycheck from Indiana taxpayers through December, his national ambitions left a festering stew in his wake back home. Unlike undefeated Govs. Doc Bowen, Robert Orr, Frank O’Bannon and Mitch Daniels, his political career began with two congressional losses. He transformed himself from an economic conservative to a social warrior, augmented by his statewide radio and TV shows of the 1990s, positioning himself for a 12-year congressional career that commenced in 2000 in a district tailored for a Republican.
  • POTUS fact check; rattled Repubs; Coats wince; road bill advance
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Politifact and the President: Thursday’s extraordinary and bizarre 77-minute press conference by President Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence and most of the West Wing in attendance, unloaded an amazing amount of information. Politifact, the Pulitizer-Prize-winning truth-seeking website, sorted through what the president said and what was true/false and where he flip-flopped. False: His Electoral College victory was the biggest since Reagan; 9th Circuit not most overturned courtMostly false:  Media has "a lower approval rate than Congress”; Hillary Clinton gave Russia 20 percent of the United States’ uranium. Picking a positive poll: Trump touted results from a recent Rasmussen poll, saying "it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up." The 55 percent approval rating figure is accurate, according to the Rasmussen poll, as reported by Real Clear Politics. However, 10 other polls have Trump’s approval rating falling between 39 percent and 48 percent.

  • Coats latest Hoosier to get tangled in Trump web of deceit

    INDIANAPOLIS - Last week, it was Vice President Mike Pence who found himself wrapped up in President Trump’s web of deceit. Now it appears another Hoosier, former senator Dan Coats, finds himself out on the same precarious limb. Multiple media reports say that President Trump will bring on billionaire Stephen Feinberg to launch a review of U.S. intelligence services. Trump is essentially at war with the U.S. intelligence network, comparing the CIA at one point to Nazi Germany. It comes before Coats is confirmed to be Trump’s Director of National Intelligence. And it comes in an increasingly surreal enviroment, with the Wall Street Journal reporting Thursday that “U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.”  On Thursday morning, angered about news reports based on a multitude of White House and intelligence leaks, Trump launched into what appears to be a coming witch hunt in the U.S. intelligence sector, but also a Twitter tirade: “The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught! Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!”  Both the New York Times and Washington Post are reporting that Coats “is especially angry in what he sees as a move by [Stephen] Bannon and [Jared] Kushner to sideline him before he is even confirmed, according to current and former officials.”
  • Rep. Smith scuttles vote on redistricting
    INDIANAPOLIS  – In front of a packed House chamber, House Elections and Appointments Committee Chair Milo Smith( R-Columbus) denied a vote on redistricting reform Wednesday. Multiple members of the committee moved to vote on the measure but Chairman Smith said that “there is still work to be done and voices heard” and that he “doesn’t know at this time” if the bill will get another hearing. The clock is moving on redistricting reform with the 2020 censure approaching, as well as next week’s session halfway mark. This was the first and only hearing on the bill scheduled for this session and was attended by scores of Hoosier citizens showing support for it, including the League of Woman Voters, Common Cause and even garnered support from Quakers. This year, redistricting reform manifests as House Bill 1014 sponsored by Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel) and includes co-sponsor Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis).
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  • Senate shocker: Votes down appointed school chief bill; House approves
    "As we add on another appointment this will take away another opportunity for voters to participate in the process." - Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville, after the Indiana Senate surprisingly voted down SB 179 by a 26-23 vote Monday afternoon. SB 179 which would create a gubernatorial elected education secretary that would replace the elected superintendent of public instruction. The House voted 68-29 for HB 1005, a similar bill. It is a priority of Gov. Eric Holcomb, Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long and had the backing of Republican Supt. Jennifer McCormick, who upset Supt. Glenda Ritz in 2016. Indiana actually elects more public officials than most other states, with more than 9,000 positions at state and local levels. The Republican leaders favored the appointed position after former Gov. Mike Pence and Ritz sparred frequently over the past four years.
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  • Our response to the press as an 'enemy of the American people'

    Over the past four decades, I have been a committed Hoosier journalist, motivated as a career, but primarily as a steward of our community, state and nation, serving readers with fact, analysis and commentary. My career goal has been to leave a better Indiana and America than when I found it. Eleven of those years I reported and edited for the Elkhart Truth, adding an extra incentive for accuracy. Throughout our state, there are hundreds of committed journalists who strive for the same standards.

    So it is alarming as well as disheartening that President Trump would brand us an “enemy of the American people.” It comes after previous presidential assaults aimed at the very institutions that have made America the greatest nation in history: Our judiciary, our intelligence services, and our political parties. President Trump reveals a staggering dimension of ignorance with this reckless rhetoric, and sets off alarms that his authoritarian bent will fundamentally change this great nation.

    I keep coming back to Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ book, “Keeping the Republic,” echoing a fork in the road assessment of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who was asked what kind of nation will we be? He responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” We now find ourselves at a similar junction. The stewards of the press, three branches of government, an array of civic institutions and our citizens are faced with the arduous task of defending more than two centuries of tradition, now under assault from what appears to be a president who either lacks a fundamental grasp of our guiding concepts and principles, or who seeks to pervert them. - Brian A. Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana

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HPI Video Feed
President Trump's Feb. 16 Press Conference
President Trump's Feb. 16, 2017 White House press conference via Fox News.

Pence kept in dark about Flynn, Russians
NBC News reports on how Vice President Pence was kept out of the loop on Michael Flynn's contacts with the Russians.

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Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


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