An image.
Login | Subscribe
GO
Monday, October 23, 2017
An image.
An image.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Our political system appears dysfunctional and occasionally on the verge of breakdown. But however dire things appear in Washington, I believe we have it within us to set the country back on a productive track. I’ve been reminded recently of the old cowboy song, “Home on the Range.” You know the line, “Where never is heard a discouraging word”? That is not the United States right now. Pretty much everywhere I turn, all I hear is discouragement. Our institutions of government are paralyzed. We face serious national problems with no effective response in sight – or even, in some cases, an acknowledgement that a problem exists. We’re fighting over racism, identity, security and culture. Our political system appears dysfunctional and occasionally on the verge of breakdown. All of this is serious. But the question we have to confront is not, “What’s going wrong?” It’s, “How do we respond?” Or, at the risk of seeming hopelessly out of step with the national mood, “How do we set about making a great country still greater?”
  • BLOOMINGTON – Our nation is in a dark period. Can we pull ourselves out? Keep this in mind: Our institutions are far more durable than any single president or any single historical period. An interesting thing keeps happening to me. Every few days, someone – an acquaintance, a colleague, even a stranger on the street – approaches me. They ask some version of the same question: What can we do to pull ourselves out of this dark period? For the many Americans who respect representative democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law, there’s reason to be concerned. The president is off to a rocky start; he’s unproductive and undignified at home and derided on the world stage. Congress struggles to get its bearings. In the country at large, forces of intolerance and division are at loose on the streets and on the nightly news.
  • BLOOMINGTON – One reason I consider myself fortunate to have led a life in politics is that, over time, I’ve had a chance to work with nine presidents. From Lyndon Johnson through Barack Obama, I’ve talked policy, politics and, sometimes, the trivial details of daily life, with them. I met JFK twice for brief conversations. I don’t know our current president, but I’ve gained valuable perspective from his predecessors. Johnson was a deal-maker, always trying to figure out how to get your vote. He came into office with a clear vision of what he wanted to do, and on the domestic side notched accomplishments unmatched in recent decades. Yet he was brought down by the Vietnam War, a war he could neither win nor quit. Richard Nixon, one of the more complex personalities to inhabit the office, often spoke to me about his mother and her home in Indiana. Highly intelligent, brimming with energy, extremely ambitious, he was also uneasy in social settings and could be vindictive. He focused intently on policy, especially foreign policy, and yet had a flawed moral compass.
  • BLOOMINGTON – The heart of representative democracy rests in the communication between the electorate and elected officials. We should make this conversation more fruitful and effective. Do ordinary citizens still have a voice in Washington and in their state capitals? Despite the cynicism of these times, my answer is, yes, we do – but we have to exercise it. I don’t just mean going to a town hall meeting and yelling, or shooting off a letter or email. I mean making an appointment to sit down with your representative – in his or her office, at a cafe in the district, or wherever else you can meet – and holding a real conversation. We don’t do this often enough, perhaps because most people think it’s impossible to arrange. It’s not, although it might take patience to get an appointment with a busy representative. And to my mind, it’s the most effective way for citizens to communicate with their representatives. This is important because the heart of a representative democracy does not lie in its electorate, or even its elected officials. It rests in the communication between them, in the give and take that allows each to understand the other.
  • BLOOMINGTON – There’s no shortage of threats to our democracy. Russian meddling in elections, the vulnerability of state voting systems to hacking, politicians’ assaults on the media, and political leaders’ growing fondness for policy-making in secret – all of these pose a real challenge to our system’s viability. As worrisome as these are, there’s one problem that may be the greatest threat of all: Americans’ loss of faith in politics and democratic institutions. This has been building for decades, dating back to the Vietnam War and Watergate, and the long-term economic challenges – recession, inflation, widening inequality, the shifting nature of work, a series of financial crises – that grew out of that era. It’s rooted in our system’s apparent inability to overcome deep divisions in the country: Urban and rural, liberal and conservative, the mass of ordinary Americans and the elite, divides over race and ethnicity and gender politics and... well, you know the list as well as I do. The truth is, in the face of this teeming, complicated, diverse society, our political institutions have performed inadequately.
  • BLOOMINGTON – A lot of people want what I do from the media and feel they’re not getting it: More facts and fewer opinions; more investigative reporters and fewer pundits; more substance and less fluff; more policy exploration and less politics.  I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to journalism, I’m a traditionalist. Old-fashioned, even. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that even while confidence in the media drops to new lows and Time magazine feels moved to wonder “Is Truth Dead?” on its cover, huge numbers of Americans have come to believe the media is not as authoritative as it once was. Straightforward, responsible journalism is an indispensable public asset, a cornerstone of democratic life. This is threatened by the trends reshaping the media landscape. With less consensus around information and data, the cohesiveness of our society is diminished.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Using the debt ceiling as a means of reining in excessive spending has not worked. Our political efforts should go toward finding long-term solutions that restrain spending and boost tax revenue. Back when I was in Congress, I got a call from a constituent one day. I’d recently voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, and the man was more than irate. “Don’t you understand that we’ve got a serious spending and debt problem in this country?” he asked. “Why did you cast this idiotic vote?” He was right about the problem. But he was wrong about the vote. With Congress fast approaching another debt-ceiling vote and yet one more “fiscal cliff” drama taking shape, I’d like to explain why that is. If you ask members of Congress which regular vote they most dread, this one would probably top the list. It’s hard to explain to constituents why raising the debt ceiling is necessary, as indeed I had trouble explaining to my own constituent.
  • BLOOMINGTON – The decision to send troops overseas requires clear eyes, hard questions and specific answers. The Trump Administration, like its predecessors, has shown an apparent appetite for the use of force overseas. The “mother of all bombs” dropped on Syrian troops, saber-rattling toward North Korea, deployments of U.S. forces in 10 or more countries — all of this suggests a growing comfort with the idea of putting our troops in dangerous places. Politicians on Capitol Hill have noticed this. In particular, senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, and Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, have introduced legislation to authorize the use of military force against ISIS and other terror groups. This is an effort to assert congressional authority and extend Capitol Hill’s oversight over the use of force by the White House, something Congress has long neglected. “It’s our constitutional duty in Congress to authorize military action,” Kaine said at the end of May. All I can say is, Amen! American soldiers are involved in combat situations in countries all over the globe.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Politics can be messy, but not because it’s tainted or morally bankrupt. It’s messy because it often reflects deep-seated disagreements that are hard to resolve, with merit on both sides. I’ve had a number of conversations recently that convince me our country is divided into two political camps separated by a deep and uncomfortably wide gap. No, I’m not talking about liberals and conservatives, or pro- and anti-Trump voters. I’m talking about people who believe in politics and our political system, and people who don’t. I’ve found this latter view expressed most frequently among young people. In lecture halls and in informal conversations, I’ve spent some uncomfortable hours serving as a human pincushion for their pointed barbs about the system they’ve grown up in. Many are uninterested in politics. They do not see politics as a worthy pursuit or even as an honorable vocation. They doubt our political institutions can be made to work, are suspicious of elected officials in general, and don’t believe that our democratic institutions are capable either of solving the problems faced by the country or of helping them as individuals.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Every few months we have to contemplate the very real possibility that the government might close its doors. Is this really the best we can do? Think about this for a moment. Two days away from a federal shutdown, Congress comes up with a stopgap measure to keep the government operating – for a week. A few days later it arrives at a bipartisan budget deal lasting a bit over four months. This, in turn, moves the president to take to Twitter with the following statement: “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” With respect to President Trump, this assertion seems more focused on settling political scores than on the good of the country. There is no such thing as a “good” shutdown. The last time it happened, in 2013, it cost the economy $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor’s at the time. National institutions get shuttered, federal workers are out of a job for an indeterminate period, federal loans and support for veterans are frozen, state and local governments – and all the businesses, non-profits and community organizations that depend on them – face cash shortages, and the country’s most economically vulnerable must shift for themselves. All that and more happens during a shutdown.
  • BLOOMINGTON – I have significant differences with Donald Trump’s political stances, but I want him to enjoy a successful presidency. It’s good for neither the country nor the world when a U.S. president struggles or fails. Yet I also believe that constructive criticism can help a president grow more capable. It’s in this spirit that I want to take a hard look at the Trump presidency so far. President Trump’s personal and stylistic approaches may have served him in business and on the campaign trail, but are problematic in office. He has an unfortunate tendency to dodge blame for things that go wrong. He makes charges with no evidence to support them and refuses to admit he was wrong. He routinely over-inflates his achievements, as when he recently declared that “no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” an assertion that no one familiar with FDR’s and other notable presidents’ first months in office would accept. Crucially, he does not appear to know how to use or coordinate the levers of American power – economic, diplomatic and political. He appreciates military power, but lacks a coherent, comprehensive strategy and the clarity, consistency, and discipline required to apply one.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Our representative democracy depends on voters developing discriminating judgments about policies and politicians. They can’t do that if vital information is withheld from them. For the last few years, I’ve been keeping a file of clippings about the erosion of transparency and candor in government. I’m sorry to report that it’s getting rather full. This is not a good thing. Public officials should feel strongly obliged to do their business in an open and upfront manner. When you hold public office, the presumption ought always to be in favor of the people’s right to know what’s going on. If you don’t want to be open to scrutiny, then the burden surely has to be on you to say specifically why that’s necessary. This doesn’t seem to be a commonly held view in Washington these days, though the precedent for non-disclosure is bipartisan. News conferences have been rare for Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump. During the George W. Bush administration the NSA was wiretapping Americans’ overseas communications based on legal justifications that were withheld from the public. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department pushed to compromise a fundamental principle under which federal agencies made public their rationale for how they interpreted and administered the law.
  • BLOOMINGTON – If we are to rebuild and sustain public faith in our democracy’s integrity, we need an investigation conducted in the light of day, by people who seek the truth and have standing and legitimacy on both sides of the political aisle. The recent announcement by FBI Director James Comey that his agency is investigating links between members of President Trump’s campaign and Russia has upended Washington. Yet there needs to be an even stronger and broader investigation to get to the bottom of what happened. There are really two questions at hand. The first involves Russian meddling in our election and their attempts to manipulate the outcome. They clearly have the ability to affect the public debate and public perceptions, and maybe hack the election itself. And it’s not just us; they appear bent on meddling in elections in other Western democracies as well. This is serious stuff. The Russians are trying to manipulate the very foundation of representative government, free elections and the integrity of our institutions. They want to weaken our system. It’s crucial to understand exactly what they’re up to, the capabilities they possess, and how effective they’ve been.
  • BLOOMINGTON –  The challenge our political leaders face is how to get through the thicket of conflicting principles, interests and dogmas in our sprawling democracy. As you watch the healthcare proceedings on Capitol Hill, imagine what things might be like if we lived in more functional political times. In particular, what if Congress were run by pragmatists? It would not change the issues at hand. On the one side, you’d have the Republican majority in Congress, which for the most part believes that the healthcare system should be left to the private sector. On the other side would be Democrats who, to varying degrees, see an important role for government to play. What would change would be how the two sides reconciled their differences. Rather than maneuver the proceedings for political gain or worry first about their political bases, they’d be dead-set on a healthcare overhaul that improved the system and was politically sustainable.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Many sources of information today cater to a narrow political view, making no pretense of objectivity. Their goal is to incite, not inform. What’s needed is a common base of knowledge we can use to forge agreement. The job of being a citizen, and being a member of Congress, has gotten much harder of late. As sources of information proliferate and “news” not actually grounded in fact grows common on social media, Americans have to work to sort reality from fiction and insight from disinformation. This is a challenge for our representative democracy. And we’ve only begun to grapple with it. Why should too much information be a problem? Let’s start with what I consider to be the most important skill in a representative democracy – not just in government, but within private organizations as well – building consensus. Without forging agreement among people who see the world differently, it’s difficult to move governments and organizations forward.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Public confidence in government can be regained only through exemplary performance. With so much turmoil in Washington and around the country these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the crises of the moment. These are, indeed, worth our attention, but so are longer-running developments that threaten the health of our representative democracy. I want to lay them out in one place, so that the most serious problems confronting our system don’t slip from our attention. First, it has become very hard to make our system work. Our country is so large, so complex – and, at the moment, so polarized and divided – that it’s tough to make progress on the challenges that beset us.
  • 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.”
  • BLOOMINGTON – The problem is not just the politicians. It’s us, too. There are a lot of dire predictions about our representative democracy out there. We’re just past a presidential election campaign in which candidates complained about a rigged political system. Now, commentators worry about the imminent failure of the American experiment. I don’t agree with these predictions of calamity. Our representative democracy is not on the verge of collapse. But I do see stresses and tensions that should concern anyone who cares about our system of self-government. Our representative democracy has been remarkably stable and successful for over two hundred years, but that is no guarantee it will survive and prosper.
       
  • BLOOMINGTON – Cooperation between the President and Congress should be far more assured than in the last six years. But the commitments and promises made during the campaign will be very hard to carry out. As hard as the campaign might have been and the transition is proving to be, Donald Trump’s challenges are really just beginning. Governing after a toxic election in which the results awarded him an ambiguous national mandate – his opponent, after all, got more votes – will require finesse, a clear-eyed view of his role in the world, and no small amount of luck. There is no question that, come January, President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress will be in firm control of the government. They will be able to call the shots on policy, and cooperation between the president and Congress should be far more assured than it has been for the last six years. He will soon find, even under these circumstances, that the commitments and promises made during the campaign are going to be very hard to carry out.
  • BLOOMINGTON – We’re faced with a fundamental disagreement among state governments as to how they should treat Americans’ most basic right. One of the more intriguing aspects of this unusual election year is the extent to which the underpinning of the election itself — voting — has become an issue in its own right. An act that we used to take for granted is increasingly being called into question. Just look at the headlines from the past few months. Russia, it seems clear, was trying to meddle in the process, sowing confusion and distrust about the integrity of the vote and about the vibrancy and fairness of our democracy. There have been questions about the cyber-security of voting infrastructure across the country — “States Unprepared for Election Day Cyber Attack,” ran the headline on a Politico story 10 days before the election. There are worries about the fragility of our voting system in general, what with its patchwork of procedures, obsolete machinery, and increasingly complex training requirements for poll workers. And, of course, you’ve got the cries from one of the presidential candidates that the entire system is rigged against him.
123
Looking for something older? Try our archive search
An image.
  • McCain rebukes Trump on draft deferments
    “One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.” - U.S. Sen. John McCain, in a not-so-subtle rebuke of President Trump, who received five Vietnam War era draft deferments for bone spurs on his heel. Trump, who will need McCain’s vote on the budget and tax reform, threatened the ailing war hero last week saying, “I will fight back and it won’t be pretty.” As for the deferments, Trump said in 2016, “I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels.” He said the condition was temporary and that it was “not a big problem, but it was enough of a problem.” 
An image.
  • Hoosier deficit hawks turning into doves
    For years, no, make that decades, we’ve heard Hoosier Republicans from Mike Pence to Luke Messer and Todd Rokita decry the national debt and budget deficits. We’ve gone from a balanced budget when President Clinton left office in 2001 to a deficit of over $1 trillion when President George W. Bush left office in 2009. That’s deficits with a T rather than a B.

    On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a budget plan that will add $1.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade. There was nary a peep of criticism from the entire Indiana Republican delegation. So all these years, the deficit hawk stuff was just BS. Back in 2012, Rokita traveled with a power point presentation on the evils of deficits. "The debt hole is too great now that you can't just grow your way out," Rokita told the NWI Times. 

    In 2016, Pence explained, “I think the fact that under this past administration was of which Clinton was a part, we've almost doubled the national debt is atrocious. Indiana has balanced budgets. We cut taxes, we've made record investments in education and in infrastructure, and I still finish my term with $2 billion in the bank.”

    Last March, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham asked Vice President Pence, "Have you gone from a deficit hawk to a deficit dove?" Pence responded, "No, not in the least. Let me say the President's full budget will be out in a few weeks. The budget outline that was sent to Capitol Hill earlier this week is deficit neutral."

    This is where the “alternative facts” come into play and all the hawks become doves, charging up the federal credit card for the kids and grandkids to grapple with. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
An image.
HPI Video Feed
An image.
An image.
Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


 




The HPI Breaking News App
is now available for iOS & Android!










An image.
Home | Login | Subscribe | About | Contact
© 2017 Howey Politics, All Rights Reserved • Software © 1998 - 2017 1up!