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Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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  • SOUTH BEND –– The focus of the political stethoscope, for so long examining the poor health of Democrats who voted in Congress for Obamacare, shifts now to measuring the prospects for political health of Republicans who voted for Trumpcare. A health care plan, especially if complicated and pushed through without the public or even supporters in Congress really understanding the effects, can cause terrible health problems for those who vote for it. Democrats learned that. Will Republicans now learn the same lesson? There is no doubt that Trumpcare will be a major issue in the 2018 elections. Polls show it is unpopular, just as Obamacare was when Republicans hammered it and Democrats to win congressional elections. Now, ironically, just as Republicans control Congress and the presidency and can repeal it, provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, have become popular. A Gallup poll shows 53% approval of Obamacare, highest favorability ever, for the first time over 50%. So the GOP is having a difficult time figuring out how to dump it without severe health care and political health woes.
  • SOUTH BEND – Two decisions, evaluated together, have been great for Indiana. Donald Trump’s decision to select Mike Pence as his choice for vice president.The decision by Pence, when he was governor, to pick Eric Holcomb for lieutenant governor. Picking Holcomb wouldn’t have meant much if it were not for the later decision by President Trump to take Indiana’s governor as his running mate. With Pence gone from Indiana, Holcomb was elected governor. That thus far is great for Indiana. Holcomb is a better governor than Pence. And Pence is providing some stability and a calmer, more-informed voice for the administration in dealing with Congress and with the real world. He was instrumental in forcing out the dangerous Michael Flynn as national security adviser. He could be doing a better job for President Trump than he did for Indiana. Some readers won’t take kindly to any praise for Pence. There is room for criticism. But fair is fair. He does some things right. He hand-picked Holcomb to fill a lieutenant governor vacancy, putting Holcomb in position to win the Republican nomination for governor, to win the election and to be a good governor, a better governor than Pence, who had sagging approval ratings back when it appeared he would struggle for reelection as governor.
  • SOUTH BEND – What difference does it make? Sen. Joe Donnelly is the center of attention with the Senate drama over confirming Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Most Senate Democrats, but not Donnelly, sought to block Gorsuch. Republicans responded to refusal of enough Democrats to join in providing the required 60 votes for confirmation by blowing up that requirement with the “nuclear option.” What difference did it make that Donnelly was one of only three Democrats to vote for Gorsuch?  Well, it meant that the vote confirming Gorsuch, with one Republican absent, was 54-45 instead of 53-46. Clearly, not enough Democrats would join with the 52-member Republican majority to provide 60 votes to end a filibuster blocking Gorsuch and confirm him. It was clear also that Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell would use that “nuclear option” to end filibusters on Supreme Court nominees and allow confirmation by a simple majority. Gorsuch was going to be on the court, no matter what Donnelly did. He was no difference-maker. But what difference does it make for Donnelly as he faces re-election next year?
  • SOUTH BEND – With all the enthusiasm at South Bend’s baseball stadium and the excitement over related economic development, it will seem strange to many of the fans who so often pack the place that the stadium almost struck out. Naysayers, predicting that a stadium would be a failure, opposed it all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court and even sought criminal charges against city officials who built it. If opponents had prevailed, there would not have been a record regular season attendance of 350,803 for South Bend Cubs games last season. Instead, zero attendance. Nor would team owner Andrew Berlin be pouring millions of dollars into stadium improvements and a major mixed-use residential complex around it. He wouldn’t be here, already investing far more than the city spent to build the stadium in 1986-87. The Chicago Cubs would not have displayed their World Series championship trophy at the site. Without a stadium, the Cubs would have no affiliate here.
  • SOUTH BEND – A group of people most likely to vote for a Democrat for Congress will sponsor a town hall meeting for 2nd District Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski next Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m., at Century Center in downtown South Bend. Let’s consider some questions about this unusual event. Q. Is this a nice bipartisan gesture, what with some Democrats paying for a site for Jackie to meet with her constituents? A. Oh, sure. About as nice a gesture as it would be for President Trump to invite MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on stage at one of his rallies. Q. Well, why would Democrats pay for a town hall for Jackie? A. Wait. The sponsoring group calls itself Northern Indiana Community Coalition for Health Care (NICCHC.) No letters D or E or M or O. So, it is not an official Demo function. That technicality aside, the purpose is to shame Walorski for not holding any town hall meeting for her constituents since 2013. Q. Who cares if Walorski doesn’t hold town hall meetings or news conferences and doesn’t agree to debates? A. Her supporters don’t. Her detractors do.
  • SOUTH BEND – The votes are in. And the winner is . . . Abraham Lincoln. Once again. Barack Obama finished 12th. Now, amid surprisingly high interest in an evaluation by historians of our 43 presidents, some national columnists suggest that there is hope ahead for James Buchanan, last on the list. Once again. This recent evaluation by 91 distinguished historians, presidential biographers and other experts in a diverse panel was conducted for C-SPAN. Why so much attention to a new listing of presidential rankings, not normally a hot topic? It is fueled no doubt by the political divide in America that brings intense interest in and debate over the place Obama will hold in history, and intense interest in and fears and hopes over the place Donald Trump will hold in history. There wasn’t much if any disagreement over Lincoln winning the top spot, just as he did in the prior C-SPAN survey in 2009. One columnist for Real Clear Politics, however, thought George Washington should have been No. 1. But the latest ranking had Washington second and Franklin D. Roosevelt third. That Lincoln-Washington-Roosevelt trio at the top is becoming standard in historical rankings.
  • SOUTH BEND - Jason Critchlow was re-elected without opposition as St. Joseph County Democratic chair. So, why would he want four more years in a job without a salary, where expectations are seemly unrealistically high and where losing candidates often blame the chairman, while winners say they did it all by themselves with their own political skill and personal charm?  Critchlow is coming back for more, even after St. Joseph County, that supposed bastion of Democratic strength, gave the party’s presidential nominee a margin of a mere 288 votes out of nearly 112,000 cast in 2016. He says it’s because of a passionate belief that politics is important. The election of Donald Trump proved that, he says, and gives him more incentive now, not less. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Critchlow says of determination he sees in party ranks and with new volunteers, packed in “elbow to elbow” in meetings at the small Democratic headquarters in downtown South Bend.
        
  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised a half million dollars in six weeks for his campaign for chair of the Democratic Party. He received widespread favorable news coverage. Then he dropped out before the first ballot. Here are some questions about that, with what Buttigieg and others say about his bid to lead the party. Q. Why did he drop out? A. “If either of the others (frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison) was going to come in shy of 200 (votes) on the first ballot, then even with a very modest total, there would be a path for us,” said Buttigieg. “When we saw that wasn’t going to happen, I certainly didn’t want to prolong it, create multiple rounds for my own benefit.” Q. Was he offered a deal? A. “Early on, people would kind of sniff around about what I really wanted, some kind of deal that would convince me to step out,” Buttigieg said. “But I think over time we made clear that I was simply in this because I thought it was the right thing for the party. So, there was no deal at the end. I didn’t do this because I needed a job at the DNC. I have a perfectly good and compelling day job right here in South Bend.”
  • SOUTH BEND – The media told you that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. They lied. So dishonest. Terrible. The alternative fact is that the Cleveland Indians won. The Cubs were disqualified for using an illegal immigrant who paid bribes to get to this once-great country to pitch. Cheating. So unfair. But did the failing New York Times tell you that the Cubs were forced to forfeit? No. So biased. Did you hear on any of those TV networks that nobody listens to anymore that the Cubs still haven’t won the World Series since 1908? No. So untruthful. Did you read in this failing South Bend Tribune that the Cubs really aren’t defending champs? No. So slanted. Did Tribune columnist Bill Moor apologize for all his blabbering about “Cubs win!” and flying a “W” flag? No. So disgraceful.
  • 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.
        
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  • Rokita and Messer's growing 'feud'
    “Messer is attacking me for using my small prop plane to travel Indiana meeting Hoosiers – the same plane I use doing charity work for wounded veterans and sick children. He's questioning my ethics. However, as the reporter notes, I have done nothing unethical and followed all relevant laws.” - U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly on the developing “feud” between he and his potential GOP U.S. Senate rival, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer.
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  • The smirking Russians are laughing at us, literally
    NBC’s Peter Alexander’s report Friday night on NBC Nightly News was enough to get my blood boiling. In the wake of President Trump’s tin optic Oval Office meeting with Russian envoys the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, Trump told the Russians that Comey was a “nut job” and that the “pressure" of the Russian probe has been “taken off.” Alexander panned to a press conference by a “smirking” Russian President Vladimir Putin, who accused the American press and Congress of “political schizophrenia.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Russian diplomats were seen laughing. Folks, the Russians aren’t laughing with us, they are laughing at us. Pathetic. - Brian A. Howey, Publisher
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