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Monday, February 20, 2017
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:35 PM
LOGANSPORT - It is more than slightly ironic that the Indiana State Board of Education is hiring its own consultant to do what it could be doing collaboratively with its state school superintendent – improve education.

It would be nice if board members and a state school superintendent from different parties could be on the same page when it comes to the importance of education in this state, but state education reform has become so politicized that politics takes priority. The irony of the current Tony Bennett controversy involving a grade change for Christel House, the charter school funded by one of Bennett’s biggest campaign contributors, represents one of the worst kinds of academic fraud there is. Forget the NCAA hammering some college for giving a football player a D- in a math class he should have failed. What Bennett and his staff did for Christel House pales in comparison. He violated a public trust for the sake of a private school run by a campaign contributor.

Think about this for a minute: If the Indiana State Board of Education had really been holding Bennett accountable like it is holding Glenda Ritz accountable now, the Christel House controversy may never have happened in the first place. But the board didn’t.
  • 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.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – There was a rapping, rapping at my chamber door and when I peeked out, there was NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. “You’ve got shingles!” Bradshaw said and he started to take off his shirt. I told him how disappointed I was the Chicago Bears didn’t get to draft him in 1969 and then asked him to calm down and leave his shirt on. I learned that I didn’t have shingles, but nearby 79th Street does. So does Dean Road, and Allisonville Road, and Central Avenue and . . . . These are expanding patches of local roads with bumpy dollops of asphalt, filling a multitude of pot holes. Legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko used to write about paying the “victim tax.” In general parlance, it meant getting mugged, having your car stolen or your apartment burglarized. Hoosier motorists have been on a similar trajectory. We pay the “axle tax” or the “rim tax” or the “muffler tax.” It’s the collateral damage your car or truck takes from Indiana’s deteriorating roads. My Subaru Outback has a plastic part dangling in the wheel well after a winter of pot hole dodging. But Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long have a plan. It’s called House Bill 1002 and it will create a 20-year road plan with several new funding mechanisms.
  • MERRILLVILLE – I’ve never had any great love for Portage Mayor James Snyder. He didn’t level with me when he first ran for mayor against incumbent Olga Velasquez. Snyder won, in part because of the misinformation he spread about the police department, leading some to fear for their lives. During the campaign, Snyder said he would consider keeping police Chief Mark Becker and would give him an interview. He never did. Becker was a retired FBI agent when hired by Velasquez. He was about the best any city could hire as a police chief. Portage hired Becker after Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson refused to do so. That probably is the biggest mistake she has made since becoming mayor. Gary’s crime problem is legendary. Becker knew Gary better than any because of his experience heading the Gary Response Investigative Team while still with the FBI. Freeman-Wilson said her police chief had to be a Gary resident. Becker was not. Since her refusal to hire Becker, Gary has gone through a host of police chiefs. Back to Snyder, who is under federal indictment for fraud. Now, I have to defend Snyder. The City Council, which is Democratic, wants Snyder, who is Republican, to resign from office because of the pall hanging over the city because of the federal indictment. Snyder is refusing, and I don’t blame him for not stepping down.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – I wasn’t there, but I hear, and that’s good enough to pass as truth these days, the Indiana Place Name Change Commission (IPNCC) met last week and submitted its recommendations to the General Assembly. The IPNCC wants the Sage Solons either to change the names or eliminate the places now called LaPorte, Pulaski, Versailles, Rome City, Mexico, Chili, Montezuma, Peru, Brazil, Lafayette and too many others to mention here. At the same time, a jolly group wants to bring the joys of gaming to High Ground (currently known as Terre Haute). The State Commission on Emotional Health (SCEH) reports gaming already has people grinning with limitless glee in Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, Michigan City, Evansville, Elizabeth and Lawrenceburg. Less ecstasy is to be found in Anderson and Shelbyville, where gaming at racinos is temporarily more restricted than in the aforementioned places. Not morose, but quaking with anticipation are folks where name changes will rid them of the stigma of alien association (French Lick and Florence).

       
  • SOUTH BEND – Ralph the Republican arrived first at the breakfast place where he and Donald the Democrat meet almost every weekday morning to sip coffee and argue politics. Each enjoys irritating the other, all in fun, of course – sort of. Ralph has been getting there first most times since the election, always eager to talk politics. Donald? Less eager, preferring lately to discuss sports or the weather. But Donald smiled as he walked purposefully rather than reluctantly to their usual table. D: Hi, Ralphie. Suppose you heard all the controversy over what Trump’s done now. Ready to concede the guy’s crazy? Got here an article about whether he suffers from something called malignant narcissism. R: So, now you’re a shrink? Since Trump’s doin’ what he said he’d do, you Democrats claim he must be nuts. Guess keepin’ campaign promises sounds nuts to you.
            
  • BLOOMINGTON – The responsibility for making this a better country lies with each of us.  As a country, we make a habit of looking forward, not backward. But I’m going to ask you to turn your attention back a few weeks, to Barack Obama’s Jan. 10 farewell address to the American people. I’ve been reading presidential farewell speeches for many years. Most of them give good advice. This speech, however, was exceptional. It can be read with benefit by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, because it says a lot of things that we need to hear about our system and our country. I hope that for some time to come, this speech will be a topic of conversation in classrooms, at church socials, and around the table at local service clubs. Why? To begin with, the speech is filled with confidence in ordinary people and respect for what workaday Americans can accomplish. This is a founding value of our country – both a promise and a call to civic arms. Our rights, the former president notes, “have never been self-executing.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – There has been a great deal of controversy and legislation to address voter fraud here in Indiana and now nationally in the recent and very recent past. In fact, since 2005, Indiana has had one of the most stringent voter ID laws in the country. Long before the issue of fraud was raised in the recent national election, here Indiana we’ve attempted to legislate even more prescriptive law, even though as U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the Supreme Court’s majority that held up the law’s constitutionality in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, said that “the record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.” OK. We all get that the American political landscape since then has changed significantly, and we struggle to understand how and why.
  • EVANSVILLE – We have reached a great fork in the road in the history of the Republican Party. The party’s bombastic leader and president has a passionate grip on many voters, giving them control of all branches of government. The coattails of success extend beyond Washington and in Indiana helped keep Republican control of every office and body of state government as well as an overwhelming majority of the state’s municipalities. Faced with such success, many of our Republican friends decided to strike a deal with the devil and urge loyalty and unity with Trump. In their minds, a little immaturity on Twitter is a fair price to pay to finally rein in Democratic policies and get things done. Besides, they say, Donald Trump the candidate or Donald Trump the showman is different from the sane man who will actually govern. Nearly two weeks into the Trump presidency, we now know they are wrong. The unprecedented beginning for the administration included purposefully picked battles with the intelligence community, immigrants, and foreign allies; illegal executive orders; elevation of political advisers over military and foreign policy experts; gaslighting and lies; and a general chaotic and bumbling approach to executive organization. This presidency is everything we feared and it will only get much worse.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – With my day job, I just had coffee with an up-and-coming Republican star who was not initially a Trump supporter. While not thrilled with everything our president has done over the first two weeks, he was happy with 85% of what has been accomplished. He was extremely pleased with the selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch as the Supreme Court nominee, as are so many others.  As the 85% statement sank in after our meeting, it struck me that this is going to be a numbers game. If someone who was probably one of the last Republicans to come around to accept Trump is at 85% now and says that he could be a great president if he changes a few things here and there, then I think the numbers will continue to look good for our president.  Other numbers to look at are the thousands of protestors and numbers of protests in parts of the country and what they represent. Will these numbers grow or will they burn out soon enough because of the lack of solutions offered and the unwillingness to engage in a grown- up dialogue? 
  • SOUTH BEND – “The University of Notre Dame confers the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, on the 45th president of the United States ... Donald J. Trump.” Q. Will those words be spoken by the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame president, on May 21 at the university’s 172nd commencement? A. Only if two things happen: Jenkins invites Trump as commencement speaker and Trump accepts the invitation. Q. Are an invitation and acceptance likely? A. We don’t know what could be in the works – negotiations with the White House? – but neither invitation nor acceptance was regarded as either likely or impossible as strong opinions were heard on campus, including differing views in letters to the Observer, the student newspaper. Q. Some students want Trump invited? A. Sure. Some, even if not liking all of the divisive things Trump has said and done, think the university should follow a tradition of inviting presidents to speak at commencement, especially newly elected presidents.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker plans to retire sometime this spring. Rucker, a Gary native, and I met some 37 years ago when he was on the campaign trail. He was bright, good looking and it seemed like his future was going to be bright. But, it didn’t start out too well. Rucker decided to run for judge, Lake Superior Court, County Division, in 1980. I guess they called them small claims court judges back then. His opponent in the Democratic primary was East Chicago native Steven Bielak, who, like Rucker, was an upcoming judicial and political star. It was quite a primary, and in true Lake County tradition, the mud flew freely. Bielak’s handlers insisted on newspaper ads depicting the two candidates, and many of the ads contained photographs of the two candidates. And, because Bielak was white and Rucker was black, it became a very racist campaign. And the unbecoming photo of Rucker seemed to have come from a police lineup. At the time, black candidates didn’t win primary elections for countywide offices in Lake County. And, Rucker didn’t become the exception. Bielak trounced the man who seemed to have a leg up in terms of qualifications.
       
  • FORT WAYNE – Winning an election is one thing; winning political legitimacy is another. The current debate about crowd sizes, popular versus electoral vote, and fake news all revolve another equally salient point: Elections in America are anchored on Election Day results but that is just the start of a continual battle for “political legitimacy.”  This process will continue during an entire administration, but the first stages are the most important in establishing basic legitimacy: Election Day and debate about the results, transition, and inauguration and the first 100 days. When Trump raised doubts as to whether he’d accept the election results, the media went apoplectic and the Democrats mocked him. Trump won, and then many on the left refused to accept the results, challenging them way past any legitimate concerns about fraud. Fair observers realized that this unwillingness to accept the election totals was a fundamental challenge of the integrity of the voting process.
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We’ve had two presidents of the television age who were serial liars. From 1972 through 1974, President Richard Nixon repeatedly lied about the Watergate scandal. In 1998 it was President Bill Clinton who told us “I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." It didn’t end particularly well for either of them. Clinton was impeached but acquitted and Nixon resigned just before impeachment. There is immense danger when presidents lie. America is now a week into its experiment with the populist President Donald Trump. It comes as the “post-truth” presidential race has morphed into an administration operating on, as senior advisor Kellyanne Conway termed it, “alternative facts.” Trump supporters frequently say he was “telling it like it is,” but that really means he is conveying perceptions as opposed to facts. Conway had advised prior to the inaugural that the media shouldn’t seek the Trumpian truth through his words, but through his heart. So this will be a tough challenge if you’re a reporter, a congressman, a governor or a citizen who needs to believe their president.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – For me, it finally sank in at the inauguration last Friday. It was finally real to me that Donald Trump was our president. It didn’t seem real on election night because it was almost 3 a.m. when he finally gave an acceptance speech, and we had been kicked out of the JW Marriott’s ballroom an hour earlier. Some of us lingered by the televisions in the lobby but I finally made it up to our room and watched his speech with Anita as the kids slept – pretty anti-climactic. The next morning was surreal and the weeks that followed were a flurry of some campaign-related activities while trying to get back to normal work. The holidays hit and we even took a family vacation to try to get away from it all before the start of our Indiana legislative session. So I never really had a chance for it to sink in, but it finally did as I listened to our new president give a powerful speech, where he essentially took the first major step in fulfilling the goals he set forth during the campaign.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana mayors have little power to go with their great responsibilities. They are largely invisible outside their own communities. They are not weak people, but collectively have little statewide clout. A year ago, I set out to interview former Indiana mayors about their experiences. Former mayors who held office in the past 30 years, with “no skin in the game,” I expected to be blunt and objective, knowing they were speaking off the record. Each interview with 18 former mayors was a learning experience for me. First, I learned I was a bad interviewer. I did not draw out my subjects, did not direct them to the issues I wanted to cover, but let them flow on issues they chose. Second, I discovered what conscientious, generous people we elect as mayors. These are our neighbors who want to accomplish good things for their constituents, for their communities. Third, mayors know the barriers they face. But those impediments, mainly creations of the General Assembly, are taken as given and worked with or worked around.

  • KOKOMO – Some people put on their bucket lists big events like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Indianapolis 500 and other similar extravaganzas. You may end up crossing the event off of your list with joy and other times with a shrug that says, “I can’t believe that was ever on my list.”  Attending the inauguration of our 45th president was the fulfillment of one of my personal bucket list items and I was not disappointed. My wife and I arrived in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and packed a week’s worth of activities into three days.  During our time in the nation’s capital I experienced a plethora of interesting sights, sounds and, yes, smells.  Here are just a few of my observations in no particular order of occurrence nor significance: Heading to Washington, we were concerned about security. Reading national publications and watching network news reports pretty much had us convinced that we would be lucky to make it out alive, considering the “millions” of anti-Trump radicals who would be in town to disrupt the inauguration and exact their revenge on the Trump faithful. The reality of inauguration week was much different than the story line hyped by the media.
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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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  • 'Fake news' and a fake president
    President Trump went on another Twitter storm this morning. He’s obsessed with “fake news” after the story broke that his national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence. So President Trump took to his Twitter machine, tweeting: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story - RUSSIA. Fake news!” And . . . “FAKE NEWS media, which makes up stories and "sources," is far more effective than the discredited Democrats - but they are fading fast!” And . . .  “The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!” Aaaaaand . . . “Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!” Doesn’t a president have better things to do? What we’re actually witnessing here is a fake president. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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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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