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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.
  • ZIONSVILLE - Eric Holcomb was riding the whirlwind in 2016. The day I finally caught up with the incoming 51st governor of Indiana for a road trip began with a cruise up I-65 for a job announcement in Merrillville, and it ended with a 100-mph beeline in an Indiana State Police Chevy Tahoe down U.S. 31 as Kokomo laid in tatters following a rare August tornado. Holcomb began the year as a third-place U.S. Senate candidate followed by a series of right time/right place scenarios that thrust him into the governor’s office. When Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann resigned, Gov. Mike Pence found in Holcomb a former chairman of the Republican Party who could patch the GOP together following the divisive social issues of 2015. By early July, Pence was being courted by Donald Trump for the presidential ticket.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - The brute force of weapons with the potential to wipe out mankind has been balanced by a wide strata of interlocking elements, nuance, perception and predictability over the past half century. There was a reason Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev had a sculpture of a goose on his Kremlin desk, a reminder that such a flock once set off his nation’s early alarm system. It is that system, manned by lieutenant colonel level officers who must make quick decisions on credible threats before passing them up the powerchain, that has flirted with catastrophe on a scale where Hiroshima and Nagasaki are mere drops in the bucket. Mutually Assured Destruction never became the epic chain reaction because with Soviet, then Russian Federation, and American leadership, there was a level of predictability following the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. So it was with significant and general alarm this past week when President-elect Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he thinks a nuclear arms race is a good idea. 
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - In the autumn of 2015, Indiana Republican National Committeeman John Hammond III was the first to broach the idea that Americans were open to electing a “strongman” as president, the observation coming as Donald Trump was rising in the polls. Voters were yearning for an American version of Vladimir Putin. Why? America is becoming browner, older, while the workforce with a huge emphasis of “shareholder profits” is moving toward an era that will not sustain the middle class as we know it. A 2013 Oxford University study shows that some 47 percent of American jobs could be lost due to artificial intelligence and automation. Say goodbye to the branch bank and the grocery checkout clerk. A 2016 study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that 9 percent of jobs would be completely displaced in the next two decades. These are seeds for political unrest on a scale far, far beyond 2016.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – Back in March, when most couldn’t fathom the notion of “President-elect Trump,” I wrote a column comparing the Manhattan mogul to Phineas Taylor Barnum. The Indiana presidential primary was just taking shape but I could sense his potential for a Republican nomination. Comparing Trump to P.T. Barnum was because the two, separated by more than a century in time, had a unique love for “the show.” Wikipedia describes Barnum as an “American politician, showman, and businessman remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He once said, “I am a showman by profession ... and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.” Trump loves the show too. He doesn’t read books and is not interested in intelligence briefings. He gets his news from “the shows” and he loves beauty pageants and starred in his own show, “The Apprentice” with the famous line, “You’re fired!” He turned the 2016 election cycle into the most sensational reality show in history, ending with a stunning presidential upset on Nov. 8. It promises to get exponentially impactful as he brews an administration. On Dec. 1, he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence brought this “show” to Indianapolis to save Carrier jobs.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - For 50 years, from 1963 to 2013, there was either a Bayh or a Lugar representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate. Birch and Evan Bayh won five elections, while Dick Lugar lost a 1974 showdown with the elder Bayh, then rattled off six victories. All told, these two dynasties accrued close to 15 million votes. A good part of their combined successes were prodigious political and state organizations that raised the bucks, stroked allies as well as the media, and dealt swift retribution for anyone who got out of line. There was an obsession for detail. I remember as a political reporter for the Elkhart Truth in 1988 when Evan Bayh was running for governor, my phone rang and there was Bayh’s campaign manager, Joe Hogsett, on the line. “How ya doing’?” he asked. “What are you working on. Anything I can help you with as far as our campaign goes?” The political careers of the two Bayhs and Lugar, all once invincible, ended in defeat.

  • BEAN BLOSSOM, Ind. - Here’s a holiday trivia quiz: Name a Hoosier running for executive office who didn’t poll a majority of the popular vote even though this person won both times. That would be Vice President-elect Mike Pence.  The Donald Trump/Mike Pence ticket now trails Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2 million votes out of 126.4 million cast. In 2012, the governor won with just 49 percent of the vote here in Indiana in a three-way gubernatorial race. To the victor go the spoils, as the old saying goes. But simply winning an election doesn’t mean a mandate. Grasping the helm of a roiled nation requires a different type of leadership. What happened to Gov. Pence after his 2012 win is instructive. He governed in mandate style, signing several pieces of socially divisive legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, while polls showed public sentiment going in the opposite direction. In the four polls conducted this cycle by WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana, we found Gov. Pence to be one of the most polarizing figures in modern Hoosier politics.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – “Do you want to see something really cool?” Sure. I was with Liz Murphy, an aide to Vice President Dan Quayle and we were in his ornate office at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House. We walked into an office similar in size and scope to the Indiana governor’s office at the Statehouse. We ended up before an antique colonial revival-style double-pedestal desk Theodore Roosevelt brought to the White House in 1903. It was one of six desks to once occupy the Oval Office. Murphy pulled open the desk drawer, which was empty, save for the signatures of vice presidents. There were Nixon’s, Truman’s, George H.W. Bush, and of course Dan Quayle. I looked for Thomas R. Marshall’s, but the signature tradition didn’t begin until the 1940s. Marshall served as Indiana governor a century before Mike Pence took over his old second floor Statehouse office.
  • ATLANTA - We Hoosiers here in our bicentennial year have lived at the center of the political universe. So many fates and futures passed through the crossroads of America that Donald Trump even called us “Importantville” on the eve of our May 3 primary. It revealed the double edged blade to Trump in what has essentially become a “post-truth election.” He clasped our better angels, saying, “Now Indiana is becoming very important .. .you folks belong where you belong; it's called Importantville right? I love it.” The following morning, he was accusing Sen. Ted Cruz’s father of complicity in the assassination of President Kennedy.  Gov. Mike Pence endorsed, campaigned and even snapped my photo with Sen. Ted Cruz at the Republican Spring Dinner. It earned him a Twitter swipe from Trump. By late summer, Pence had shunned Indiana media. Trump would go on to clinch the Republican presidential nomination in Indiana after he had been exhorted to victory by our sports pantheon of Bobby Knight, Gene Keady and Lou Holtz. He would find his vice president, Mike Pence, here, though it appears that  our governor, fearing a reelection defeat to John Gregg, literally flew out to New Jersey in mid-July to box the nominee into that decision.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – Anthony Weiner, meet Rex Early, who will not be your sexting partner. But the joke’s on you. The explosive saga of 650,000 emails on Weiner’s laptop, including some apparently between Hillary Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin was a gift for Early, who chairs the Donald Trump Indiana presidential campaign. Last Friday, FBI Director James Comey alerted the world to the Weiner trove, even if it was ambiguous in its meaning and content. Early, the legendary Hoosier jokester, can hardly contain himself. “What concerns me is we might have lost that Weiner voter,” Early cracked. HPI responded that perhaps a trip to Fort Wayne’s Coney Island Weiner Stand or, perhaps, Mr. Weenie in Peru might be in order. Clearly, Rex Early’s buns are not steamed. For Early, it translates into momentum, a message that Gov. Mike Pence has been enunciating as he crisscrosses the nation.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - Hoosier voters face not only a compelling vote for president that will have a national impact, but their decision on who becomes the next U.S. senator could determine which party controls that chamber. The choice between Democrat Evan Bayh and Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Young merits considerable thought. Bayh is the former two-term governor and senator who, along with Mitch Daniels, has done more than just about anyone else to shape the modern political contours of our state. He opened his political career in Indiana with the sting of defeat, managing his father’s last Senate campaign for this very seat. It was a two-term congressman, Dan Quayle, who ended Birch Bayh’s political career in the Reagan revolution year of 1980. Evan Bayh emerged four years later as secretary of state, then commenced a 16-year Democratic dominance in the governor’s office by defeating Lt. Gov. John Mutz in 1988.

  • 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.
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  • Conway cites 'alternative facts' over inaugural attendance
    "You're saying it's a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” - Kellyanne Conway, advisor to President Trump, to NBC’s Meet The Press when pressed by host Chuck Todd on press secretary Sean Spicer’s assertion that Friday’s inauguration had the “largest audience ever.” Spicer had scolded reporters for trying to “lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration.” Aerial photos show fewer people on the mall on Friday than President Obama’s 2009 inaugural. But there are also reports that about three million more people watched the inauguration on TV and internet platforms.
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President Trump's Inaugural Address
President Trump's inaugural address.

Trump walks Inaugural parade route
President Trump walks the inaugural parade route with his wife and son.

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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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