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Friday, February 24, 2017
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  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn’t have the votes to be selected Democratic national chairman. But right now it appears that nobody does. The two chairmanship contenders regarded as frontrunners are in a way still fighting the fight from the Democratic presidential primaries of 2016. They are Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who was a zealot for Bernie Sanders, and Tom Perez, labor secretary in the Obama administration, who is favored by long-time supporters of Hillary Clinton. According to the New York Times analysis of the contest after the final regional faceoff of the contenders in Baltimore last weekend, neither of the frontrunners “has secured the support of anywhere close to a majority” of the 447 Democratic National Committee members who will pick a winner in Atlanta later this week. For an upset win in a crowded field of 10 candidates for chairman, Buttigieg needs to be a widespread second choice, or to come up through the middle, a compromise choice between the Sanders and Clinton primary combatants.
  • 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.
  • 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.
            
  • 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.
  • SOUTH BEND – I hate “the media.” Judging by polls on trust, so do most Americans. They’re really down on “fake news” these days, blaming “the media” for inventing it and spreading it through irresponsibility or bias or a combination thereof. My reasons for hating “the media” differ from most of the irate critics, although they certainly are correct to deplore “fake news.” I hate the term, “the media,” not the news media in general, not the real news media providing real news, not the professional journalists in broadcasting and print who seek as best they can, though not perfect, to provide accurate information. But so often we hear complaints about the vicious falsities spread in this divided nation in a context placing blame on “the media,” a term in general use to include everything that disseminates anything. Everything from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to the scandal tabloids at supermarket check-out counters. Everything from the carefully scrutinized work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to the tweets of a “citizen journalist” who sends an unchecked, unedited and untrue report that goes viral.
  • SOUTH BEND –  Are the odds great or small that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will become the Democratic national chairman? Let’s consider some questions about that.
             
    Q. Is Buttigieg almost sure to be Demo chair, as some politicians already jockeying to replace him as mayor seem to think?
             
    A. No. Nothing is certain. It’s not even certain that the candidate with the most votes will win. There’s nothing like the Electoral College to trump the candidate with the most votes in this contest. But there could be multiple ballots of the 447 Democratic National Committee members in late February. If the top vote getter on the initial ballot doesn’t have a clear majority, that person could lose out in maneuvering in additional balloting.
             
    Q. But does Pete have a chance?
             
    A. Yes. He wouldn’t be a candidate if he had no chance of being competitive.  He is, however, not regarded as a frontrunner.
  • SOUTH BEND  – Quiz time. You’ll need some knowledge of local, state and national affairs and maybe a sense of humor.

    1. What will be the new Secret Service code name after Inauguration for Donald Trump?
         a. Rogue One.
         b. Bigly One.
         c. Hair One.
         d. It’s a secret.

    2. When Mike Pence travels, his plane will be designated:
         a. Air Force Two.
         b. Trump Force Two.
         c. Indy 500.
         d. None of the above.
  • SOUTH BEND – Political analysts told us that President Obama’s legacy was at stake in the 2016 election. He said that himself. If Hillary Clinton won, the conventional political wisdom was, Obama’s legacy would be secure. Obamacare would survive, finally with vital improvements a Republican Congress had refused to provide. His efforts on climate change, immigration and foreign policy, including tough sanctions against Russia, would continue. If Donald Trump won, Clinton and Trump sides agreed, Obamacare would be gone. Promoting coal would be more important than concern about climate change. “Soft” immigration policy would be replaced by deportation. There would be a far different approach to Russia and elsewhere from Iran to Cuba. A Trump victory would constitute voter repudiation of Obama initiatives and Obama himself, it was said, with the outgoing president sinking in historical evaluations. As 2017 begins, with Trump to be inaugurated as president, the expected changes loom, but Obama’s approval rating climbs.
  • SOUTH BEND - When Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller described himself as “a former Republican” in an interview with Brian Howey in Howey Politics Indiana, it was surprising, in a way, but not really startling for an attorney general who often put aside politics for silly little things like the law and the Constitution. It wasn’t something you would expect to hear from a long-time Hoosier Republican who served in the White House as assistant to Vice President Dan Quayle, who was twice elected attorney general on the Republican ticket and who ran last spring for a Republican nomination for Congress. “Those who know me understood,” Zoeller said during a stop in South Bend as he winds down his final weeks in office. He also knows that some younger Republicans entering politics in the no-compromise, hate-the-opposition era probably can’t understand. “I didn’t say I’m going to the other party,” Zoeller said. Nor is he renouncing his long-standing belief in limited federal government, free trade for the betterment of the economy and a positive role for America in global affairs. “That was the Republican Party I signed on for,” Zoeller said.
  • SOUTH BEND – In my journalism classes at Notre Dame, I admonish my students to check their writing for accuracy, to check the facts, even mentioning the storied challenge of the old City News Bureau in Chicago to check everything: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” A background check on Mom goes too far. But accuracy is important. Important for the reputation of the writer. Important for the credibility of the print, broadcast or on-line provider of the news. Important for the readers or viewers searching for information as they make decisions in a democracy. I have no concern about my students. If they go on in journalism, they will seek to get it right.  And, almost every time, they will. My concern is that so many Americans won’t believe them. They will become members of what has recently been vilified as “the lyin’ media.” They will join a profession described as “scum,” “disgusting” and composed of “the lowest form of humanity.”
  • SOUTH BEND - With Thanksgiving here, it’s time to present the annual Turkey of the Year Awards. Recipients may cry fowl. But even if they haven’t been turkeys all year, each winner has done something to merit this prestigious recognition. The awards for 2016: For campaign strategy, the Turkey of the Year Award goes to Hillary Clinton for a rejected plea of “love trumps hate.” Voters instead were deciding that Twitter trumps email as they heard of messages the candidates sent. A turkey for inadequate preparation for a sudden surge in website traffic goes to Canada. It’s website for immigration crashed election night. In the last laugh category, Hoosier Democrats who laughed that Mike Pence was ending his political career by joining the Trump ticket get the award.
        
  • SOUTH BEND – When pigs flew over my car as I drove home on election night, the sight neither startled nor surprised me. Hey! The Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump won the presidency. So why would aerodynamically skilled porkers be a surprise. Actually, the Cubs were expected to win this time. Trump wasn’t. Not long ago, as Hillary Clinton won the debates and Trump was losing it in a tweeting rage, speculation grew about a political tsunami sweeping away the Republican presidential nominee and helpless Republican candidates all around the nation, bringing a Democratic Senate for sure and maybe – just maybe – even a Democratic House. Could Clinton, surprisingly close back then in an Indiana poll, even carry the Hoosier state the way President Obama did in 2008? Tsunami there was. In Indiana, the waves swept away helpless candidates, just as predicted when a tsunami hits. But some of those mid-October election forecasts were like a South Bend weather forecast in winter that goes wrong as shifting winds off the lake bring something far different than predicted. Tsunami waves hit a different place, a different party.
  • SOUTH BEND – Two things seemed certain last summer as folks around South Bend looked ahead to the fall sports of football and politics: Notre Dame would beat underdog Duke easily in football and Jackie Walorski would beat some guy named Coleman easily for Congress. You could bet on it. Some did, on the football game. What though the odds, Duke won over defenseless Notre Dame. Now, how about that political certainty? That certainty of reelection of Congresswoman Walorski, much better funded, much better known and much better situated in a Republican-flavored district in which she carried nine of the 10 counties last time? Walorski isn’t defenseless, not with all the money she has for TV. She has begun hitting Democratic challenger Lynn Coleman with negative TV ads, no longer acting as though he isn’t there. Coleman, a former South Bend police officer and mayoral assistant, has gained name recognition and more support than might have been expected last summer. But Coleman can’t win. Not on his own. Just as Duke needed help from a bizarre Notre Dame defense, Coleman needs help from a bizarre Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. And Trump is helping. Enough?
  • SOUTH BEND –  Lynn Coleman’s seemingly long-shot candidacy for Congress is “emerging,” described that way by the most important national evaluator of his 2nd District race against Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. The evaluation comes from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC has played a key role in determining the fate of Democratic challengers in the district, going back to when it didn’t give a cent to Sen. Joe Donnelly when he first challenged then-Congressman Chris Chocola – Chocola won big – but then poured resources into the district as Donnelly trounced Chocola on a second try. The attention of the DCCC, while not yet guaranteeing big resources, was a factor in the Cook Political Report’s change of its rating of the district from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican,” meaning that the nationally regarded report now regards the race as competitive, not a sure thing for Walorski. “We can win this election,” Coleman says, confident now that he will have funding to keep running TV spots until election day and that Democrats will have a far superior get-out-the-vote effort.
  • SOUTH BEND – President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big man, 6-foot-4 and heavy-set, very heavy. I know. He once stepped on my foot. Accidental. Not because of anything I wrote. Happened as he toured devastation in Elkhart County from the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes. Secret service agents kept pushing me along right beside the president, either because he wanted the interview or because I provided a nice shield. LBJ was a big man also in presidential accomplishments, especially in civil rights, although he was diminished in stature by the war in Vietnam, one he couldn’t win but couldn’t figure out how to escape without being branded a loser. He didn’t escape and was branded a loser, leaving office with such low voter approval that he declined to seek another term. Last weekend, while in Austin, Texas, for a football game, exciting but featuring a seemingly defenseless Notre Dame team, I toured the LBJ Presidential Library and the nearby LBJ ranch, now a national park. While his foibles and problems with Vietnam weren’t neglected in the presentations, it was the focus on the persuasive power of Johnson to get things done in Congress, including passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, that was of special interest to me.
  • SOUTH BEND – The spring edition of debates over debates is history, distinguished by deliberations over such issues as the size of Donald Trump’s hands, whether to discuss “your damn emails” and which candidates would have to sit at the children’s table rather than be in the big event. Now come debates over debates, fall edition. Locally, there’s the question of whether Congresswoman Jackie Walorski will consent to debate her Democratic opponent, Lynn Coleman, somewhere, anywhere, in a televised format or any format resembling a debate. Nationally, there’s speculation over whether Trump really will appear at all three of the scheduled presidential debates. He already has complained about the timing. And he’s sure to raise questions about whether the events are “rigged.” The vice presidential nominees will debate once, even though most of the nation isn’t paying attention to either of them.
  • SOUTH BEND - Gov. Mike Pence will not be governor of Indiana next year. Nor will Pence be vice president, unless there are monumental events to avert the looming defeat of Donald Trump in the presidential race. Q. So, where would that leave Pence? A. Perhaps closer to his goal than he would have been if he had declined the vice presidential nomination and had run instead for re-election as governor. Q. Really? Losing for vice president, maybe with the GOP ticket trounced, could leave Pence still viable for his goal of president? A. Quite possibly. In fact, it could be argued that the worse the trouncing for Trump, the better politically for Pence. Q. Won’t Pence share blame if the Trump-Pence ticket is demolished? A. No. Pence would get no blame. It wouldn’t be his fault. Pence would get credit from Republican leaders for trying to hold the party together and save Republicans in governor, senator and House races. They would think of how much worse things would have been if Pence wasn’t there to clean up after Trump’s messes. Many Republicans now lament that it’s not Pence leading the ticket. And that’s his goal - someday, preferably in 2020, to lead the ticket, to be the presidential nominee and win.
        
  • SOUTH BEND - Do you wake up at night frightened that Hillary is coming to take your guns? Do you break out in a cold sweat when you see a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, even if allegedly a Gold Star mother? Are you often depressed, frequently angry and unable now to envision what once was your American dream? You may be suffering from Hillaryitis Aggrevitis, known as H.A. Don’t suffer any longer from H.A. Trump Elixir can make you feel great again. So great. Believe us. Trump Elixir is a cure discovered by Dr. D.J. Trump. Only he knows the formula. Only Dr. Trump can make you feel great again. Rigged medical advertising regulations, enforced by dishonest establishment bureaucrats, require disclosure that Dr. Trump is not a medical doctor. But he knows so much more than those doctors. They’re losers. If they know so much, why didn’t THEY make America feel great again? Such losers. Believe us. Trump Elixir stops those Hillary nightmares. Gives you courage to push that Muslim woman off the street before she detonates a bomb. Restores your faith in the American dream. Believe us.
        
  • SOUTH BEND – Todd Young had it won. Until . . . Young, a Republican congressman from Bloomington, trounced another GOP congressman, Marlin Stutzman, the Tea Party favorite, in the May primary, capturing the party’s nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat at stake in Indiana. Baron Hill, the Democratic nominee, with little name recognition, little funding and little chance, was written off by Democratic fundraisers and political analysts in Indiana and around the nation. Young had that seat won. Until . . .  Until Hill dropped out in July, replaced by Evan Bayh. Young now faces a candidate with high name recognition from Bayh’s two terms as governor and two terms in the Senate, mostly favorable recognition. Young’s fundraising advantage is gone. Bayh has $9.3 million in funds from past campaigning. Analysts now see the race as a “toss-up,” maybe even with advantage to Bayh.
  • SOUTH BEND - Eric Holcomb presents a different and potentially more difficult target for John Gregg in Indiana’s race for governor. If Gregg, the Democratic nominee, is able, however, to convince voters that Holcomb, the new Republican nominee, really isn’t much different than the old target, difficulty lessens and victory prospects brighten. The old target for Gregg was Gov. Mike Pence. Polls showed that Pence was vulnerable, an inviting target with a sagging job approval rating and high negative poll percentages lingering from the dispute over intent of a religious freedom bill and education issues. When Pence became the Republican nominee for vice president, abandoning his quest for reelection as governor, Gregg lost an opponent with high negative ratings. Republicans selected Holcomb, who had been running for lieutenant governor, as their new nominee for governor.
        
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  • White House asked FBI to discredit Kremlin/Trump campaign story
    "We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth.” - Presidential press secretary Sean Spicer, reacting to reports from CNN and Fox News that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked a top FBI official to dispute media reports that President Trump's campaign advisers were in frequent touch with Russian intelligence agents during the 2016 election. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations, both Fox and CNN reported. FBI Director James Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories, according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.

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  • Congress has authority to review Trump tax returns. It should
    Harvard Prof. Mihir Desai and Edward Kleinbard, a former chief of staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, write in the Washington Post that Congress has the authority via the federal tax code to review President Trump’s tax returns. You can read their article by clicking here. Trump broke modern precedent by being the first presidential candidate in modern times to refuse to release his taxes. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius writes today, "We may be missing the forest for the trees in the Russia story: The Kremlin's attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is part of a much bigger tale of Russian covert action — in which Donald Trump's campaign was perhaps a tool, witting or unwitting." With Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential election, a development some in Congress have called an “act of war,” and with reports that the Kremlin and senior Trump campaign officials were in consistent contact, which was a story CNN and Fox News report on today, Members of the Indiana Congressional delegation should join a call for a review of the President’s tax returns. There is too much at stake and too much we don’t know.  - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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WTHR-TV: Syrian refugees come to Indiana
WTHR-TV's Mary Milz talks to a Syrian refugee family who just arrived in Indiana.

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

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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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