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Friday, August 18, 2017
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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.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – On Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman, a mostly unknown political figure, commander in chief for just less than five months, and widely seen as a novice, made a stunning announcement: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.” On Tuesday, President Trump, widely seen as a novice on all things military and diplomatic, reacted to a report that North Korea had attained a miniaturized nuclear warhead with arms folded and clenched to his torso, saying, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  It was a chilling moment, underscoring comments U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young made to me earlier this summer that Americans need to wrap their heads around the notion that we may be at war – nuclear war – in a matter of months. Perhaps it’s just weeks or days now.
        
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - There were two burning questions for Republican Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson: Did Russian government entities or hackers compromise the state’s election system? And does she believe the 2016 election results are accurate? Lawson did not hedge in her responses. “Indiana did not get hacked,” she said flatly. Her office was informed by the FBI late last summer that at least two states had their systems entered, and dozens of states were probed. “We examined 15,500,000 logins from the 92 county clerks’ offices. They were processing candidate filings, absentee ballot requests and petition signatures and all the things that counties do. So we were fine. Those IP addresses had not touched Indiana’s system.” While there have been an array of news reports saying that anywhere from 21 to 30 states had their election systems probed, Lawson explained, “Not one secretary has been notified that their system was endangered in any way. Our systems are scanned multiple times a day, thousands of times a week. Some are by nefarious actors, some just curious who want to rattle the door knobs to see if any doors have been left open. We continue to work with our technology staff to make sure we haven’t left any doors open.”
     
  • FREMONT, Ind. - Can you hear the Gipper’s voice from the wayback machine? “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” It was former California Republican Chairman Gaylord Parkinson who coined the phrase, and it became President Reagan’s mantra. What we’re seeing on an almost hourly basis, from the emerging Indiana U.S. Senate primary between U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita, Luke Messer to the White House, is a complete abrogation of the concept. The Grand Old Party and its “big tent” are being replaced with virulent fratricide. Messer announced this past Wednesday he would enter the Senate race and pose a challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly next year. It came after weeks of needling by Rokita, who conducted a whisper campaign against Messer that he actually lives in an affluent Washington suburb, and took aim his wife’s lucrative legal work for the city of Fishers where she makes about $20,000 a month. The rumor mill spun that Messer might skip the race to stay on a House leadership track where he is fifth in ranking. There was an IndyStar story about how Rokita’s line of attack against Messer had been edited into the latter’s Wikipedia page.

  • KOKOMO – There was President Trump, author of the “Art of the Deal,” dining with Vice President Mike Pence and Republican senators at the White House Monday night. He complained about the grind of the health care reforms, reaffirming his winter quote that “no one knew how tough” such a process could be. He trashed Sen. Rand Paul for his opposition. Pence had spent the previous weekend arm twisting 49 of the nation’s stone-faced governors in Providence (Gov. Eric Holcomb wasn’t there) on the Senate bill, simultaneously discrediting Congressional Budget Office estimates and using other CBO data to make his case. The governors were presented with an Avalere Health study that revealed Indiana’s Medicaid program would lose $4.9 billion in the next nine years, and $36.5 billion - or 32 percent - by 2036. And the Wall Street Journal reported on a CBO estimate of the Senate bill impacts: 32 million Americans would lose coverage, and while the federal deficit would decrease $473 billion, insurance premiums would double by 2026. Saturday night, Pence would intone with one of his “let me be clear” intros that is often followed by fallacy: “We’re on the verge of a historic accomplishment here in our nation’s capital. Because in the coming days, President Trump, working with the Congress that you helped elect, is going to keep our promise to the American people, and we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – U.S. Sen. Todd Young is a former Navy intelligence officer, an intellect in the tradition of Richard Lugar, and a pragmatist. So when he conjures the notion of a potential nuclear war, perhaps just months or weeks away, it makes one sit up straight. The war drums are beating within the administration, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly saying “all options are on the table” when it comes to the rogue North Korean regime of dictator Kim Jong Un. At the G-20 summit last week, Trump promised something “pretty severe” after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile. Trump promises a paradigm shift, and Kim keeps thumbing his nose and lobbing off missiles. “This is an issue that in the coming months could come to a head and the American people need to understand that,” Young said. Essentially, we have two leaders who are confronting each other and neither wants to lose face.

  • RICHMOND -  Gov. Eric Holcomb was riding shotgun in his black state-owned Chevy Tahoe Wednesday afternoon downtown when a pickup truck pulled up beside him at a stoplight. We looked over and the man give him an emphatic thumbs-up. My immediate question for evolving political realities: Has anyone flipped you off? “Not yet,” said Holcomb, though he’s realistic enough to believe that it’s only a matter of time. The affirmation continued in a downtown Richmond McDonald’s, the rookie governor’s fast-food stop of choice. A small parade of folks came over the say hello. One was a Brink’s armored truck guard. Others were just regular joes who wanted to say, “You’re doing a great job.”  Eighteen months ago, the first Republican state chairman to be elected governor was a relatively obscure former staffer to former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, Gov. Mitch Daniels and Sen. Dan Coats. He pursued a U.S. Senate nomination in 2015 and 2016, then was given a more conspicuous station when then-Gov. Mike Pence chose him to replace Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann in February 2016. Six months later, with Pence joining the Donald Trump presidential ticket, Holcomb won a 12-day, 22-vote state committee caucus for the gubernatorial nomination, then waged a 106-day, $7 million campaign in which he saddled on to the Trump/Pence wave to a victory.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – Freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young articulated this month what should be a no-brainer: The looming health care reform legislation should be a bipartisan effort. Young wrote to the 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, “If we are going to achieve lasting results, we need to reach bipartisan conclusions. I firmly believe the best solution possible can be reached by working together. As this debate advances, give me a call; I would be happy to grab a cup of coffee and hear your thoughts and ideas.” He found partial agreement with Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who said on the Senate floor Monday, “Indiana and our country would be better off if we could work together to produce bipartisan legislation rather than a partisan bill drafted in secret and voted on without input or a single Senate hearing." Where Donnelly parts with Young is his belief that President Trump and congressional Republicans purposely blew up Obamacare instead of working over the past seven years to evolve the law.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Attending five Donald Trump campaign rallies in Indiana last year was to witness a fledgling political figure connect with Hoosiers just as Barack Obama had done eight years prior, or as Ronald Reagan did in 1976 and 1980, and Robert F. Kennedy did in 1968. All of these figures drew huge, enthusiastic crowds while igniting American dreams. Trump rallies were streams of consciousness in which he articulated the desires, grievances and hopes for the part of our state bearing witness to the withering of Main Street while Hillary Clinton earned $400,000 paychecks for Wall Street speeches. Just as President George W. Bush defeated John Kerry here in 2004 57-37%, Trump gathered and surfed a 19% plurality here that became the foundation to the greatest upset in presidential history. And with this victory, Trump established the premise for great hopes. He would go to Washington, attack and shatter the congressional inertia, drain the swamp, bring broader and cheaper health coverage to the masses, build great projects unlike we’ve seen since the space program and the interstate highway system, protect the borders, reform the tax code for the first time in a generation, and charge up a second century of American dominance. If you were to script the opening six months to a presidency, you couldn’t have found a more deflating scenario than what we’ve just witnessed. Care Act that passed by one vote in the House and faces an arduous path in the Senate.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - Several years ago I asked a farmer friend of mine in Decatur County if he was seeing the impacts of climate change. “More severe weather events,” he responded. Last month I visited friends at their Colorado cabin about 10,500 feet elevation between Keystone and A-Basin and queried whether they’ve noticed change. “We can grow stuff up here these day,” he said. “We used to never be able to grow anything.” David George Haskell, a professor of biology at the University of the South, notes, “In the latter half of the 20th century, the spring emergence of leaves, frogs, birds and flowers advanced in the Northern Hemisphere by 2.8 days per decade. I’m nearly 50, so springtime has moved, on average, a full two weeks since I was born.” On Thursday, President Trump and Vice President Pence announced in the Rose Garden to announce that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accords, signed by more than 175 nations. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said. “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” The president cast his decision as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” arguing that the climate pact as negotiated under President Barack Obama was grossly unfair to the U.S. workers."

  • INDIANAPOLIS - O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive! That was Scottish novelist Walter Scott with his 1808 poem “Marmion,” not to be mistaken for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz who, on the morning of the 2016 Indiana presidential primary, fumed at an Evansville press conference, “I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump: This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, and in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.” Now, why would Sen. Cruz say such a thing about the future president of the United States? Because earlier that morning on Fox News, citing a discredited National Enquirer report, candidate Trump had linked the senator’s father, Rev. Rafael, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’ll let Trump tell it: “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said on Fox News early election morning. “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS - In the eyes of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the emerging scandal of Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the sprawling investigations peeling off in its wake are as much of a wakeup call as, perhaps, the Russian Revolution that transpired a century ago. “If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it,” Clapper testified before Congress on May 8. In President Trump’s view, the probes are “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump’s outrage at the Russia probe, which challenges the legitimacy of his stunning upset last November, prompted him to impulsively fire FBI Director James Comey last week. Trump told NBC: "When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'."

  • BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - The storm clouds of scandal that had gathered over President Nixon in 1973 appeared to have reached a climax when Vice President Spiro Agnew abruptly resigned, pleading “nolo contendere” to taking bribes as a public servant in Maryland. Leading that investigation had been Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckleshaus. When Agnew resigned, Ruckleshaus, a former state senator from Indianapolis and the 1968 Republican U.S. Senate nominee, headed to Grand Rapids to launch a background check into the newly nominated vice president, U.S. Rep. Gerald Ford. In an interview with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, Ruckleshaus related that Attorney General Eliot Richardson told him, “We've got an even worse problem than the vice president. “That’s not possible,” Ruckleshaus reacted. Richardson responded, “Yes, it is. The White House seems determined to fire Archibald Cox.’” Cox was the Watergate special prosecutor investigating President Nixon. “And I remember saying, ‘Don't worry about it. They'll never do that. There would be too much of a public furor if they tried.’”

  • GOLDEN, Colo. – How is President Donald Trump doing at this early point? While his national approval has consistently hovered between 35 and 42 percent, Trump’s base is still on board. A University of Virginia Center for Politics poll of Trump voters shows his approval rating at 93 percent. Trump won the Indiana primary with 53 percent of the vote and had a 19 percent plurality last November. In tandem with Vice President Mike Pence, Trump remains strong in Indiana. U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R- Shelbyville, explained, “Back home people are excited by Trump’s leadership, they’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and they are waiting to see the results from his promises. They are excited by many of the executive orders that have already come. They almost like the way he’s sparring with the media.” U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Brownsburg, who will likely face a 2018 U.S. Senate race showdown with Messer, adds, “I am all in for President Trump. He has connected to the forgotten man. The Republicans are the party of the working man. We can’t forget that.” I heard this over and over again from Hoosiers last year: Trump “tells it like it is.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS – The gold standards of first General Assembly success for a modern Hoosier rookie governor must be measured against the years 1973, 1981, 1989, 1997, 2005 and 2013. Mining down into that history, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s first foray stacks up well against Gov. Doc Bowen’s tax reforms, Gov. Frank O’Bannon’s Conseco Fieldhouse deal and workers’ compensation reform, and Gov. Mitch Daniels passing Daylight Saving Time along with the creation of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Northwest Indiana’s Regional Development Authority. Holcomb had two Republican super majorities to work with, allowing him to opt into some of the groundwork already forged on his 20-year road and infrastructure plan that had been championed by Speaker Brian Bosma and House Transportation Chairman Ed Soliday last year. Signed into law by Holcomb on Thursday, HEA 1002 will provide $900 million in new annual funding for state roads by 2024 and sees a $300 million increase for local roads during that time span. By year 20 of the plan, investment for state roads will come out to average $1.2 billion, with $775 million for local roads each year.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Where have you gone Jim Jontz, Jill Long, Frank McCloskey, John Brademas, John Hiler, Baron Hill, Mike Sodrel, John Hostettler, and Chris Chocola? These are names on the list of Hoosier members of Congress who ended their political careers in defeat over the past three decades. Unless there are extraordinary political waves, the way Indiana’s electoral process is trending, the congressional upset of the future could become a rare event. Earlier this month, the Cook Political Report issued the 2017 version of the Cook Partisan Index and there are only two Indiana districts in the single digit range. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky’s 1st Congressional District is +8 Democratic, and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks’ 5th CD is +9 Republican. The previous competitive district, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s 2nd CD, went from a +6 Republican in 2014 to a +11 Republican this year. Remember the Bloody 8th? It’s not so bloody anymore. When Cook came out with its first index in 1998, U.S. Rep. Hostettler, who had upset Democrat McCloskey four years prior, sat in a +2.5 Republican district. It was +8 Republican in 2014 and is now a +15 Republican district today.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – If there’s been a curve ball in this waning session of the General Assembly, it’s been the Ricker’s cold beer controversy. And if key players aren’t careful, this could signal a populist uprising in the age of Amazon, Trump and the anti-regulation fervor that has swept Indiana and the nation. There is significant danger for the package liquor store industry and their lobby. As they attempt to defend the status quo, they risk an array of collateral damage. For instance, their attempts to thwart Ricker’s in their legally obtained licenses at two stores in Columbus and Sheridan, they took aim at the Indiana Alcohol Tobacco Commission, and drew in Gov. Eric Holcomb, who up until this past month had been “laser focused” on his five-point agenda that didn’t include cold beer. Instead, he stepped in to defend the conduct of this commission. It created headlines over the past month and drew populist sentiments. Look no further than state Senate candidate Gary Snyder, who will challenge freshman Sen. Andy Zay, when he posted on Facebook, “As your next state senator, I will not vote to regulate the temperature of the beer you buy or what days you can buy it.” That could be the beginning of a 2018 cycle trend as Democrats attempt to claw back into relevance.
        
  • BLOOMINGTON – There is a controversial bill which, based on kooky science (or lack thereof) that claims that chemical abortions could be reversed. The press positioned this bill as the first divisive social issue confronting fledgling Gov. Eric Holcomb. Would he sign it? Veto? Then last week, the Senate and House committee chairs announced the bill wouldn’t be heard, citing a lack of time. Powerful governors in the past would let it be known that mongrel legislation should never come close to their desk. It was a stinging lesson that Gov. Mike Pence had to endure when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that wasn’t on his agenda, gathered his signature and ignited an embarrassing controversy. I sat down with Holcomb at Nick’s English Hut over strombolis last week. I mentioned the “powerful governor” scenario and asked him if it applied here. Did the order go out to kill this bill? A wry smile crossed his face and he answered, “I have stressed at how focused I am on our economy, on our workforce/education, on our infrastructure, on our getting control of this drug epidemic, and being able to provide good government service at a great taxpayer value. I have been laser-focused on those areas. I’m not going to be distracted.”
  • Brian Howey: Will Syrian atrocity change Trump/Pence worldview?
    INDIANAPOLIS – After two years of President Trump and Vice President Pence demonizing and vilifying Syrian refugees, seeking to ban them from Indiana and the nation, trying to thwart their resettlement here in a state that boasts its “Hoosier hospitality,” the past two days became a watershed. It came a day after the Syrian Assad regime gassed its citizens – again – killing dozens. The world was treated of visions of gasping, foaming children being sprayed down with water from garden hoses on the beds of pickup trucks, stripped of their chemically soaked clothing. And the world recoiled.  This occurred four years after the Kremlin had said it had removed all chemical weapons from the Assad regime, prompting President Obama to back off his “red line.” And it came a week after Hanover College faculty and alums chastised fellow graduate Pence, saying in a letter signed by some 400, “We write to you to ask how, as an obviously devout Christian, and after four years of the enlightening liberal arts education we all received at Hanover College, you can participate in the discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and antipathy toward the poor that we see in the actions of the Trump administration.”
            
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – It took one of the most brilliant humans, theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, to place in proper context the definition of “insanity.” It is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  A week ago Friday, a true mongrel piece of congressional legislation, the American Health Care Act, also known as “RyanCare” or “TrumpCare,” died a conspicuous death. President Trump, Vice President Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan framed and foisted such a bad bill that they couldn’t even muster 216 Republican votes in the U.S. House. They spent a mere 17 days on this folly, and at the end the American people detected a festering rat in the policy punch bowl. So discredited was the ACHA that in a Quinnipiac Poll, only 17 percent supported a bill that according to Congressional Budget Office estimates would have deprived up to 24 million Americans of health insurance. We watched President Trump, an alleged epic dealmaker, who was reduced to persistent questions to top aides, “This is a good bill, isn’t it?” and then confessed, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” We squirmed as Pence and every Republican in the Indiana congressional delegation signed on to this mess in rote, party-line fashion.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Years ago my late journalist colleague Harrison J. Ullmann of NUVO Newsweekly used to chide the Indiana General Assembly by frequently calling it “America’s worst legislature.” But I have to tell ya, after watching the three-ring circus in Washington, in institutions we call the White House, the House and the Senate over the past two months, when it comes to truthful, adult leadership, where prioritized legislation is based on sound research, datasets and metrics, I’ll take the Indiana General Assembly any day. When it comes to civility, transparency and earnest policy-making, the Indiana Statehouse comes off as a haven of mature leadership compared with the so-called “big leagues” inside the Washington beltway. Can you imagine Gov. Eric Holcomb making fun of a disabled reporter or calling out “Lyin’ John Gregg?” Can you imagine Senate President David Long swearing on the chamber floor, or saying he could go shoot someone on Meridian Street and win more votes? Can you imagine Speaker Brian Bosma suggesting an opponent’s father played a role in a presidential assassination, or making fun of overweight people from the well of the Indiana House?
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  • Sen. Corker says Trump lacks 'stability and competence'; U.S. faces 'great peril'
    “We’re at a point where there needs to be radical changes take place at the White House itself. It has to happen. I think the president needs to take stock of the role that he plays in our nation and move beyond himself - move way beyond himself - and move to a place where daily he’s waking up thinking about what is best for the nation. The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. And we need for him to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great. Without the things that I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.” - U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, to Tennessee news media about President Trump. The comments come as Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his trip to South American, returning to the U.S. tonight. But Pence said in Panama Thursday, “In President Donald Trump, I think the United States once again has a president whose vision, energy and can-do spirit is reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt.”

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  • Presidents Bush 41, 43 denounce racism
    Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush released a joint statement on Wednesday, denouncing racism, anti-Semitism and hatred after the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.” The statement came a day after President Trump backtracked on a Monday statement where he denounced alt right groups, saying the there were “fine people” in the KKK, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. The Bush statement did not mention President Trump. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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