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Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:28 PM
ANGOLA, Ind. – These past few weeks, we’ve seen yet another example of sclerosis in Washington, this time with the farm bill. On a topic that begged for compromise, everyone dug in, and there was celebration in some quarters even as they were spitting the ashes out of their mouths.
Next up comes the immigration package, with House Republicans overwhelmingly balking Wednesday at the Senate passed bill despite warnings from Speaker John Boehner about the political consequences.
Later this year, we’ll get another debt limit faux crisis.
It is a city of gangs who can’t shoot straight, of rhetoric akin to methane gas seeping out of a melting tundra. Gallup has congressional approval at 10 percent, yet another historic low.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo’s column on page 1 hits a number of points that are resonating. And it underscores a recent piece by conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on what he calls the “power inversion,” the rise of city states and regional governments that fill the void left by the partisan polarization in Washington.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Last Friday night, Gov. Mike Pence’s excellent adventure brought him to Tony Packo’s, a legendary Toledo restautant. His campaign team had promised the traveling press (Pence no longer talks to Indiana media) a photo op with a hotdog bun autographed by his running mate, Donald Trump. And then . . .  breaking news! A 2005 video of Trump in lewd locker room banter with Billy Bush on a Access Hollywood outtake broke. Trump talked about making sexual advances on married women and grabbing them by their genitals. And there was this line: “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.” While just about everyone else saw this kind of story coming, Pence was shell-shocked in Toledo. Multiple sources described him as under siege. After he issued a terse statement saying he couldn’t “condone” or “defend” Trump’s remarks, the speculation was he would drop off the ticket. By Saturday he was back on the campaign trail. On Sunday, Trump threw him under the bus in his second debate with Hillary Clinton. Asked about Pence’s own debate comments on the potential use of U.S. military force in Syria, Trump icily responded, “He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – While the pundits, the intelligentsia and the establishment as we’ve known it for years are grappling with the rise of Donald Trump, trying to make sense of it all, a significant swath of the people know. They see a world changing, where the Caucasian race steadily slips into minority status. Where people of different sexual persuasions unite and seek mainstream treatment. Where mixed race marriages are increasing. Where a troubled world full of jihadists and suicide bombers, hackers and cyber thieves invade their public spaces and their personal bank accounts, creating a world they perceive as increasingly unstable and inherently risky. So when Gov. Mike Pence decides to ban Syrian refugees from resettling in his state, the pundits like myself and the intelligentsia object, but there are few cries from the public. The issue, Democratic sources tell me, polls well for the ban. It prompted 7th Circuit Appellate Judge Richard Posner to write in his decision maintaining a lower court injunction on the Pence order, “The governor of Indiana believes, though without evidence, that some of these persons were sent to Syria by ISIS to engage in terrorism and now wish to infiltrate the United States in order to commit terrorist acts here. No evidence of this belief has been presented, however; it is nightmare speculation.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Evan Bayh has a problem. The $10 Million Man thought he could do an end around Hoosier voters, evade a primary election, grab a U.S. Senate nomination in July for a seat he refused to defend in 2010, then traipse back to Washington where he could sleep in his own bed every night. Instead, he is in a pure dog fight with Republican Todd Young, who has already knocked off two congressmen (former Rep. Mike Sodrel in the 2010 Republican primary, then Rep. Baron Hill that November). This Senate race, which is already nearing the $25 million mark in money, is playing out in perhaps the most unlikely place in the state: East Chicago. As Donald Trump might put it, Steeltown has become “Importantville.” The reason is that last May, the EPA informed about 1,100 residents in the West Calumet Housing Complex that they and their 700 children were living on land severely contaminated by lead and arsenic left behind by a now defunct USS Lead factory. It should have been no secret. The Associated Press reported that in 1985, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management found elevated lead levels in the soil and the Indiana Department of Health found high levels of lead in the blood of children. A 2008 EPA memo described the tract as "an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health, welfare and the environment."
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - A couple of decades ago, I had a chance to see and hear jazz great Dave Brubeck play the Elco Theater in downtown Elkhart. It was a mesmerizing concert. At one point, Brubeck sat his piano in the spotlight and began a cadence, “The Peace of Jerusalem, the Peace of Jerusalem,” tapping his foot and clicking his fingers. His quartet picked up on the reponsorial and it sent great joy through the crowd. After the concert, many of us crossed Main Street to Flytrap’s, a downtown restaurant, and as we sipped cocktails and awaited dinner, I could see a entourage cross the street. The door swung open, and there was Brubeck himself adorned in a great coat. There was a pregnant pause, one of almost disbelief, and this was followed by an emotional, rousing standing ovation. A great man was in our midst. It was a spectacular display of the art of leadership: The broaching of a grand concept and then its articulation through a cultural media, hitting a chord with those who listened. Politics is quite a different genre, I bring this up as Hoosiers and Americans prepare for one of the most fascinating, and potentially consequential two weeks in the early years of the 21st Century. On Monday, presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will meet for the first of three debates, and the stakes are utterly epic. As Clinton put it earlier this week, “The next 50 days will determine the next 50 years.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Gov. Mike Pence is still being paid by Indiana’s hard working taxpayers even while on his excellent, vice presidential adventure. But Mike Pence is no longer acting like an Indiana governor. Since he was officially selected by Donald Trump on July 16, he’s gone national. He’s come back to Indiana to ride his motorcycle with ABATE, he opened the Indiana State Fair, he’s had several cabinet meetings, campaigned with Eric Holcomb in Columbus, opened a Trump campaign office in Carmel and hosted Trump fundraisers in Evansville and Indianapolis. At none of these events was he willing to field media questions. He hasn’t taken live questions from the media since the vice presidential speculation was growing in early July, with the exception of one interview with WTHR-TV’s Kevin Rader where a seat on his jet cost thousands of dollars. On the public policy front, it’s been June since he took questions. Pence didn’t meet with the press when he accepted his second gubernatorial nomination in early June. During the Republican National Convention, Pence didn’t have time to stop by the Hoosier delegation’s hotel in Cleveland to rub shoulders with the faithful. On the day after his acceptance speech, he spent about 20 minutes with the delegation at a country club, and then he was gone.

  • WEST BADEN, Ind. - When you look at the last generation of Indiana gubernatorial races, almost every time there has been a heavy to nominal favorite. Govs. Doc Bowen and Bob Orr were both heavy favorites, though Orr’s 1984 reelect was closer than expected due to a tough economy. Evan Bayh went from nominal advantage over Lt. Gov. John Mutz to a landslide reelect. Frank O’Bannon had the biggest upset in 1996 over Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, then went on to an easy reelect, with one person telling Republican David McIntosh, “Are you sure you want to challenge grandpa?” Then came the Mitch Daniels era, where his weed-the-garden comeback message prevailed over Gov. Joe Kernan, who had been in and out of the 2004 race. Daniels then he steered through the Obama phenomena to win a reelection with 58 percent of the vote. Mike Pence was a heavy favorite in 2012, but eeked out a narrow win over John Gregg, in part because of the female vote and Richard Mourdock’s epic Senate debate blunder. Pence’s second race as the most polarizing governor in modern history had placed him on tenuous ground before he bolted for the presidential ticket. Today, Hoosiers are on a precipice of electing a new governor.
  • LaPORTE, Ind. -  For reasons that remain murky and muted by remnants of Gov. Mike Pence’s reelection campaign, no further direct money will end up in the coffers of Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb for his bid to keep the office in Republican hands. “You’re not going to see a direct transfer from Mike Pence,” said Holcomb campaign manager Mike O’Brien on Tuesday. But O’Brien was quick to add, “We’ll be fully funded. Normally a candidate for governor spends four years stockpiling funds. We can’t do that. Our cash flow will be raise and spend.” O’Brien also said that many Pence donors are stepping up in his race against Democrat John Gregg, who has raised north of $10 million. “Their response has been fantastic,” O’Brien said. The campaign manager’s comments end speculation as to how much of Pence’s reported $7.4 million campaign war chest at the June 30 mid-year deadline will be transferred to Holcomb. On July 29, the Pence campaign transferred $1.25 million to Holcomb. But the unanswered question is why didn’t the Pence campaign take steps prior to July 19 to move a bulk of those funds, perhaps as much as $6 million, to either the Indiana Republican Party or the Republican Governors Association where they could have then been transferred to the new nominee?
  • INDIANAPOLIS – For a former senator and governor who used to win campaigns in landslide fashion, this past week for Evan Bayh was a wake-up call at how peculiar the 2016 cycle is shaping up. Bayh reentered Indiana politics in July just as suddenly as he left it in 2010. In a stunning switcheroo, the nominee Hoosier Democrats chose in last May’s primary, Baron Hill, quit and Bayh with his $10 million war chest that he’s sat on for six years was back! Since then it’s been reported that the state of Indiana has classified him as an “inactive voter.” It prompted him to tell WLFI-TV, “I voted in every primary and every general election for the last 25 to 30 years. I am an active voter in Indiana.” Bayh’s return in July was the bookend to his February 2010 bombshell just before filing deadline that he wouldn’t seek a third term.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - Early in the evening of July 19 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, newly minted Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb stepped into the national limelight and nominated his boss, Gov. Mike Pence, for vice president. This was a point of immense pride for Hoosier Republicans, as Holcomb intoned, “Tonight I have the privilege to nominate a man I have known for decades and a man America is just getting to know. In Indiana some know Mike Pence as congressman. Others know him as governor. But back home most know him as Mike.” Minutes later, Pence was nominated by acclamation to join Donald Trump’s ticket, and he crossed the threshold as a federal candidate. At that very moment, something else happened. The gubernatorial campaign of Pence which had reported $7.4 million on June 30, came under Federal Election Commission guidelines. Had Pence and his campaign finance director Marty Obst transferred a good chunk of that money not already committed to the Indiana Republican Party, the Republican Governors Association, or Holcomb, who Pence would endorse to replace him as gubernatorial nominee on July 22, Holcomb would be running TV ads these days introducing himself to voters, most who don’t have any idea who he is. Those funds weren’t transferred, setting up what could be one of the most crucial elements in Holcomb’s race against Democrat John Gregg.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Unless you’re Forrest Gump, there are certain dates in American history one lives through that are seared in our minds. Like Nov. 22, 1963, or April 4, 1968 or June 5, 1968. Some will remember May 15, 1972 or March 30, 1981. These were the days that President John F. Kennedy, Rev. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in motorcades, on hotel balconies and in kitchens. These were the days that bullets ripped the flesh of Gov. George Wallace and President Ronald Reagan. They were presidents, candidates for the White House or civil rights activists. These were the days where time stopped, our parents wept, schools were closed, cities were set afire and the great American political experiment was placed under extreme duress. They impacted us as if a family member had been murdered. These were the days that changed the course of history. This is why on Tuesday, it was unconscionable for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to raise the specter of the assassination of an American political opponent, in this case Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
  • CLEVELAND – Perhaps the most surreal year in Hoosier politics came to a head on the shores of Lake Erie when Mike Pence brought his career into a Trumpian twilight zone. Plucked by the mercurial billionaire Donald Trump from a gubernatorial reelection campaign in which even his most fervent stalwarts weren’t convinced he would win, Gov. Pence did what he is apt to do, which is to double down. In Trump, he found a political figure whom he compared to his political hero, Ronald Reagan. “To be around our nominee, as I had the privilege to be, not only the campaign trail, but out among his associates, people that he’s employed for years, and among his family, I have a sense of this man,” Pence would say from Westfield to Cleveland. “I have a sense of his heart. I have a sense of his hands-on style of leadership, and for all the world, he reminds me of Ronald Reagan.” Pence is in lonely company when it comes to equating the billionaire to President Reagan. This is where Rod Serling emerges behind the misty Cuyahoga silhouette that Trump presented on Monday night when he introduced his wife Melania. “Is Donald Trump the incarnation of Reagan?” Serling might begin. “This is a portrait of an exposed governor named Mike Pence, who feeds off his self delusion, who finds himself perpetually hungry for greatness in his diet. He searches for something which explains his hunger and why the world passes him by without saluting. It is something he looks for and finds at a national convention, in his twisted and distorted lexicon he calls it faith, strength and truth. But in just a moment Mike Pence will ply his trade on another kind of corner, at the strange intersection we call the twilight zone.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In a chaotic year of anti-establishment populism and charges of rigged systems, through the smoke and dust churned by great anxiety, fear and loathing, in walks Evan Bayh. In a stunning turn of events that matched Bayh’s February 2010 bombshell that prompted him to retire from the Senate just as the Tea Party embers were flaring and an Obamacare vote stood just over the horizon, Democratic Senate nominee Baron Hill bolted the ticket on Monday, setting the stage for Bayh and his $10 million war chest to return to Hoosier electoral politics. Hill told WTHR-TV’s Kevin Rader, “This was something I decided. I hold the cards here. I’ve got the nomination. I don’t have to leave this race. I did this on my own. Nobody pressured me to do this.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Hillary Clinton will not face criminal charges over her private server email controversy. But in announcing that prosecution won’t happen, FBI Director James Comey couldn’t have been more damning of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. If anything took a hit, it was confidence in the system that Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump calls “rigged.” So what we now have are two presidential nominees who in routine fashion play fast and loose with the truth. “Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey announced on Tuesday morning in yet another surreal moment in the 2016 presidential race. It was an unusual press conference to begin with, coming, literally, at the time that Hillary Clinton was boarding Air Force 1 with President Obama for their first joint campaign appearance. The lead-up to that recommendation is enough fodder to fuel Trump and Super PAC TV ads against Clinton for the rest of the cycle. Comey noted that 113 emails were classified, and eight were top secret.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – The official word from Gov. Mike Pence’s embattled reelection campaign whenever Donald Trump says something outrageous, like accepting “congrats” in the wake of the Orlando massacre or suggesting that President Obama has committed treason, or saying that a Hoosier with an IU law degree is really a “Mexican” is to say that he is “laser focused” on the Indiana economy and job creation, where he is having considerable success. But this laser focus was briefly obscured at the Indiana Republican Convention when in his booming voice just a few second after starting, Pence urged delegates to ensure that Indiana becomes “the first state on the board to make Donald Trump the president of the United States.” It was an emphatic endorsement. He spoke these words after conservative House Speaker Paul Ryan cited Trumps “textbook racism” on the Judge Gonzalo Curiel controversy. It came after conservative Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Trump “doesn’t know a lot about the issues and had not displayed the requisite “seriousness of purpose” to be president. The 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney warned, Republicans that a “President Trump” could normalize racism, misogyny and bigotry in the national conscience. Why would Gov. Pence attach his dingy to what appears to be the political equivalent to the RMS Titanic? He sees that Trump 53 percent Indiana primary victory last month that came despite his own endorsement of Ted Cruz.
  • MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Americans and Hoosiers are angry. They are seeking political retribution. Some are resorting to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump  and Democrat Bernie Sanders, both having framed powerful indictments of the political and economic status quo. Why are We the People so ticked? Appearing in Elkhart earlier this month, President Barack Obama laid out the template for the sizzling anger that is fueling one of the most unpredictable political climates in modern times. And Prof. Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern University, a macroeconomist and economic historian, supplies an array of data that helps understand why the political contours of 2016 are being framed in the current troubled context.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – On May 17, 1860, the Republican convention campaign team of native son Abraham Lincoln met with the Indiana and Pennsylvania delegations in Chicago. What emerged hours later was that the Hoosier delegation would vote as a solid bloc for the president who would go on to become the Great Emancipator, a worldwide statesman of biblical proportions. It is a proud chapter that began with the Indiana Republican Party in its nascent form. The party was only six years old and it played a decisive, early role in Lincoln’s improbable 1860 presidential nomination and subsequent victory that autumn. After that election, in a shrewd deal, the former nominee of the nativist but anti-slavery Know Nothing Party, Lt. Gov. Oliver P. Morton, ascended to the governor’s office, appointing the elected governor Henry Lane to a U.S. Senate seat. Gov. Morton would forge a strong relationship with President Lincoln. He was an emphatic backer of the Emancipation Proclamation. And he shrewdly kept Indiana in the Union by establishing a state arsenal, negotiating private loans to fund the war effort, and suspending what had become a Copperhead General Assembly after the 1862 elections.
  • MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Indiana voters on May 3 to the tune of 53 percent voted for both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders. And the response from Hoosier political leaders? Many have brandished their 10-foot poles. By winning 335,069 votes, Sanders won 44 delegates to 39 for Hillary Clinton. But Indiana has nine Democratic super delegates. Of those, Dean Boerste, Cordelia Lewis Burks, Joe Andrew, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, David Frye, Lacy Johnson and Elkhart County Democratic Chair Shari Mellin are still in the Clinton camp. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody have not declared a preference. Former Indiana Democrat chairman Dan Parker, who helped coordinate the Clinton campaign here, said that the seven “have been on board from Day One” and added, “No one is moving away from Hillary.” Several Democratic sources say that super delegates have been contacted by email and phone calls from what have been described as “angry” Sanders activists.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - The tickets are set. Democrat John Gregg brought rising star State Rep. Christina Hale into the fore as his lieutenant governor nominee three months after Gov. Mike Pence replaced Sue Ellspermann with Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb. So what do Hale and Holcomb mean to the Pence/Gregg rematch between now and November? The modern LG nominee is more like salt and pepper, as opposed to a key ingredient in the political stew which is going to be a referendum on Pence. They are selected to stoke a particular demographic group, whether it is with the broader electorate or to soothe part of the political base. With Holcomb, Pence reached out to a former aide to Gov. Mitch Daniels and U.S. Sen. Dan Coats as well as a past state Republican chairman under both governors. After Pence ignited a simmering feud between the GOP’s social conservative wing and the economic “Daniels wing” with the disastrous Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year, Holcomb was seen as a bridge between the two spheres.

  • INDIANAPOLIS  –  Good policy makes good politics, right? So if you’re Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke or Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese or even South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, finding your city on Gov. Mike Pence’s itinerary over the past couple of weeks is a good omen. Thanks to Gov. Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative, he has been showing up in three regions of the state, attending ribbon cuttings for local project as part of a $126 million financial package designed to encourage cities and counties to work together on common goals. On May 11 he was in South Bend to begin the $165.7 million Renaissance project at the former Studebaker Factory campus. In Elkhart, it will mean improvements to the city’s Market District. In Evansville the regional airport terminal will be renovated. There was a political aspect to this. The original Regional Cities legislation provided for two regions of the state to land $42 million raised by a second tax amnesty program. When that program brought in more than $120 million, Pence added a third region.
  • SPEEDWAY – If you are a Hoosier Republican like Gov. Mike Pence or U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski or Larry Bucshon or even young Joseph Albert Hollingsworth III who could end up in competitive races this fall, mental dexterity drills or a brain game fitness test would be a good idea. Keeping up on the issues with presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump will require deep thought, cunning scope and adroit maneuvering. Take Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He made it last December after jihadist terror attacks in Paris and California, calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” It was something he reiterated in March with NBC’s Lester Holt, saying, “They’re destroying Europe, I’m not going to let that happen to the United States.” In the wake of winning the Indiana primary and the rest of the field fading away, Hoosier Republicans began lining up behind the Trump standard.  Gov. Pence said in Terre Haute on Thursday, “I’m going to campaign hard for the Republican nominee because Indiana needs a partner in the White House. I look forward to supporting our presumptive nominee. I think Donald Trump will do very well in the Hoosier State.”
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  • Brooding Trump ponders 'If I lose . . . ' election
    “What a waste of time if we don’t pull this off. You know, these guys have said: ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. There’s never been a movement like this in the history of this country.’ I say, it matters to me if we win or lose. So I’ll have over $100 million of my own money in this campaign. So, if I lose, if I lose, I will consider this ….” - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speaking in Fletcher, N.C. on Friday. Trump didn’t indicate what he meant to say when he didn’t complete the final sentence. The Washington Post said the Trump/Pence campaign has settled into a “dark funk.”

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Trump, Clinton at the Al Smith Dinner
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trade jokes and barbs at the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York on Thursday.

Pence claims election is rigged
Gov. Mike Pence is echoing Donald Trump saying in Mason, Ohio the Nov. 8 election will be "rigged."

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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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