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Saturday, September 23, 2017
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  • Mike and Hillary
    We’ve watched 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton make the rounds on her new book: “What Happened.” The reaction has been cringes from Democrats hoping to move on, a set-the-record mentality from some journalistic quarters, and taunts from Republicans. Vice President Pence has the best line of all, with this tweet Thursday morning: “The first book that has the question and the answer on the cover.” Good line, Mike, er … Mr. Vice President. It harkens back to those studio days near the Speedway and a retreat to Claude & Annies. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Ari Fleischer's Twitter recounting of 9/11

    Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer recounts his Sept. 11 experience with President George W. Bush in Florida and then aboard Air Force 1 today Twitter. It was his way of recounting the 16th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93: Here are some of his postings:

    When flight 93 crashed in PA, the first report we got is it crashed "near Camp David." It was about 100 miles away. Bush calls Cheney: "We're at war Dick and we're going to find out who did this and we're going to kick their ass.” By then, we had heard media report of a car bomb at State Dept/the mall was on fire.  We were also told there were six hijacked aircraft. POTUS was told of a call that came into the WH switchboard saying, "Angel is next". Angel was the code word for AFOne. Our plan was to return to DC, but the VP/USSS thought that was a terrible idea.  We headed up to 45,000 feet and flew in a random pattern. 10:28  The North Tower collapsed. As the reception would come and go, we could watch TV to get news of what was happening.  It was frustrating. AFOne now has satellite TV. We didn't have satellite TV on AFOne.  When we flew over major cities, the TV reception came in depending on strength of a broadcast tower.

    It turns out the "sniper" was one of ours.  Part of the USSS counter-sniper team.  It was one of many false alarms that day. We took off at an unusually sharp incline and way faster than normal. AFOne Pilot Mark Tillman later told me there was a report of a sniper. "When we find out who did this, they're not going to like me as President.  Somebody's going to pay." Bush turns to the staff with him and says, "We're at war. That's what we're paid for boys. We're going to take care of this." Cheney told Bush there were still 3 aircraft missing.  We knew 3 hit targets and thought there were still more attacks coming. He called VP: "Sounds like we have a minor war going on here. I heard about the Pentagon." 

    The photo above shows President Bush on the phone in his Air Force 1 cabin while aides try to determine where to go and where to land.  - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Congress must do its job on DACA
    President Trump announced via Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that President Obama instituted in 2012 by executive order. It essentially puts 800,000 “dreamers” (including an estimated 9,000 in Indiana) or kids who arrived in the U.S. illegally with their parents at a young age, into legal limbo when it takes effect in six months, which is a cruel turn of events for a demographic group where 90% are either in college or working. But when Obama made his decision, he said he “Sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.”

    And that is a criticism we’ve repeatedly heard from Indiana governors and General Assembly leaders for years as various immigration bills have weaved through the legislature: Congress has consistently punted on its obligation to protect borders and manage immigration.

    Sessions said Tuesday that Obama’s action was an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch. The executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.” U.S. Rep. Jim Banks observed, “Congress must seize this opportunity to pass a solution.” Hoosiers should take to the phones, email and social media and impress this message on Congress, which had a 15% approval rating in a Fox News Poll last week: Do your job. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • An epic and troubling August passes
    We’ve been through a fascinating sequence of events this past August, from the solar eclipse, to Hurricane Harvey and the utter devastation it has wreaked on Texas and Louisiana, to the reckless rhetoric involving North Korea. As I wrote earlier this month, I feel we are on a momentous course that could drastically alter our perceptions and realities.

    The good news is that Americans have stepped up to back up our brave Texas brothers and sisters. Gov. Eric Holcomb has committed Hoosier resources to the search and rescue mission. So has President Trump, who is now seeking $14 billion in relief and will donate $1 million personally. But the hard part is just ahead as we learn the scope of the looming housing crisis and the environmental impacts. On this front, with Hurricane Irma churning toward the East Coast, we perhaps are facing the specter of multiple U.S. cities plunged into chaos, joining Houston and New Orleans. It’s a climate change scenario we’ve been warned about. Experts are saying that a direct impact by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane on Miami or New York City could bring us yet another catastrophic Houston scenario.

    As for North Korea, President Trump’s rhetoric is troubling, saying in a Wednesday tweet that “Talking is not the answer!" He was quickly contradicted by Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis, who insist that diplomatic efforts continue. The military equation, involving the bombings of Seoul and Tokyo and potentially the deaths of tens of thousands - if not millions of people - is simply horrific and beyond the grasp of many. The fear here is that Trump is painting himself in a corner, and each missile launch by Kim Jong Un will be seen as a personal affront to a president now described as in a dark and brooding mood, while his relationships with his generals - McMaster, Mattis and Kelly - is beginning to fray. These times call for cool heads and cunning diplomacy, not bellicosity. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Pence flips on the press
    Vice President Mike Pence, once a talk radio show host and fierce advocate for the free press when he pushed for media shield laws, has joined President Trump in his anti-media cabal. Since joining the Trump presidential ticket, Pence has flipped on a range of issues, such as free trade and the Muslim ban, which he initially called “unconstitutional and offensive.” As Politico reported from Arizona Tuesday: “Pence thrust a finger at the media pen Tuesday night, coaxing a Phoenix crowd to rain boos on the press, which Pence accused of ‘ignoring and distorting the facts.’ Pence then yielded the stage to Trump – whose leadership, he said, ‘inspires me every single day.’ Trump went on to call reporters ‘really, really dishonest people’ and ‘bad people’ and added, ‘I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that. These are sick people.’”

    So, President Trump and Vice President Pence are essentially calling journalists unpatriotic, sick and dishonest. Which is utterly offensive and dangerous. As a journalist, I have never questioned a politician’s loyalty to nation. But I am moving in that direction. Trump and Pence are revealing loyalty to self and ambition. For almost two and a half centuries, the free American press has helped balance a great nation. We are still a great nation, and an array of institutions from the judiciary, the intelligence community, the Pentagon, and the free press are pushing back at a presidential administration burnishing authoritarian tendencies. The institutions the Founding Fathers formed are holding. Knowing the vice president personally, he would be wise to rethink the kind of vitriol he used to reject after losing his first two congressional races a generation ago. He is clearly under the spell of Trump, and it is unbecoming to his legacy. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Presidents Bush 41, 43 denounce racism
    Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush released a joint statement on Wednesday, denouncing racism, anti-Semitism and hatred after the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.” The statement came a day after President Trump backtracked on a Monday statement where he denounced alt right groups, saying the there were “fine people” in the KKK, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. The Bush statement did not mention President Trump. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Pence addresses Ten Point Coalition, unveils portrait
    Vice President Mike Pence returned to Indianapolis Friday where he addressed the Ten Point Coalition, calling President Trump a “champion of America’s inner cities.” Pence noted that Trump is prepared to declare a “national emergency” on the opioid crisis that has reached epidemic levels in Indiana, though he seemed to contradict Trump’s call for more law enforcement, saying, “We can’t just arrest our way back to public safety.” And Pence noted that “African American unemployment is at a 17-year low.” It was a great week for the Ten Point Coalition with Attorney General Curtis Hill vowing to fund and replicate the anti-violence program in other Indiana urban areas. Pence then saw his official gubernatorial portrait unveiled at the Statehouse, where he joins Hanover College graduates Govs. Thomas Hendricks and Albert G. Porter. Those two portraits hang in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office, the fourth Hanover grad to hold the post. Presumably Pence’s portrait will join Hendricks and Porter. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Trump's persistent lying taking a toll in the polls
    President Trump’s job approval numbers continue to sag to historic levels across multiple topic lines. The new Quinnipiac Poll puts his approve/disapprove at 33/61%. His approval among Republicans is 76%. Some 54% of Americans say they are “embarrassed rather than proud” that Trump is their president. Another 57% believe he is abusing his power, 60% say he believes he’s “above the law” and 62% say he’s not honest. That last one is likely to grow in future surveys after Trump said he had talked to the president of Mexico and received laudatory phone calls from Boy Scout of America leaders praising what many saw as a bizarre jamboree speech last week. The White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged no such calls actually took place. “It’s hard to pick what is the most alarming number in the troubling trail of new lows for President Donald Trump,” said pollster Tim Malloy. “Profound embarrassment over his performance in office and deepening concern over his level-headedness have to raise the biggest red flags. The daily drip drip of missteps and firings and discord are generating a tidal wave of bad polling numbers. Is there a wall big enough to hold it back?” As the Zen master says, we’ll see. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Trump's support wavers in Northern Indiana's lake country
    I spent the weekend in Steuben County’s lakes region, which is Trump Country. President Trump and Vice President Pence won Steuben with 69.5%, DeKalb with 71.3%, LaGrange with 73.4%, Noble with 71.3, Whitley at 71.2%, Kosciusko at 73.8%, Huntington with 72%, Wells at 75.3%, and Adams at 73%. When I talk with Rep. Jim Banks last spring, he says that Trump’s support remains strong up here in the lakes region. But the Hoosier folks I consorted with in several discussions this weekend reveals that while their support is still with the president, there are significant concerns. Many of the Trump supporters I talked with expressed concern about his erratic behavior, using words like “crazy” and “unhinged” to describe this past week. They all loathe Obamacare, but with the collapse of Republican policy after the Senate disaster last week, the topic of “single payer” frequently came up and was not summarily dismissed. These folks feel the encroachment of health costs and are disturbed that the ruling GOP has bungled the policy course. And there was concern about a potential hot war with North Korea and whether Trump had the proper temperament to deal with that kind of conflict and crisis. A Gallup poll last week revealed Trump’s favorable/unfavorables in Indiana had sunk to 47/48%, less than a year after he carried Indiana with a 20% plurality. Yes, this is still Trump Country, but their support from this president should not be taken for granted. - Brian A. Howey, publisher in Fremont, Ind.

  • Weird White House scenes as Trump poll approval withers in Indiana
    It doesn’t get any weirder than the White House we’ve seen over the past couple of days. President Trump and Vice President Pence are openly antagonizing the president’s most loyal early supporter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions with their “time will tell” job security quotes. It comes at a time when both are seeking Senate GOP votes on the teetering health reforms and many of Sessions’ former colleagues are not amused. There is great fear even in GOP Capitol Hill circles that a Sessions dismissal will set the stage for a Trump attempt to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which would set off a full-blown constitutional crisis. New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is targeting White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Twitter over “leaking” his publicly accessible financial disclosures. He is targeting what he calls “senior leakers,” threatening to clean house. President Trump ousts transgender military personnel, catching the Pentagon and Defense Sec. Jim Mattis (who is on vacation) by surprise. And The Independent and Buzzfeed report that in the nine minute pause between Trump’s transgender tweets Wednesday morning, Pentagon personnel actually fretted he was about to announce military action against North Korea, a nuclear power. How about a political ramification? Gallup posts Trump approve/disapprove numbers from Indiana - 47% approve, 48% disapprove - in a survey of 1,596 likely Hoosier voters. That contrasts with a poll conducted for Luke Messer’s Senate campaign, which reported an 83% job approval, but that poll included only likely Republican voters. Whew. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Expect more White House chaos
     Months ago I speculated on how many Trump cabinet appointees would last a year. Today, President Trump is openly conspiring to terminate Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisory H.R. McMaster appear to be tenuous. So does Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. And new comm director Anthony Scaramucci is threatening a leak purge. All of this comes as “all options are on the table” with regard to North Korea, where the Chinese are now moving military assets at the border. And Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts last night? My reaction as an Eagle Scout is this: About the most unScout performance I’ve ever witnessed. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Volatile meetings of Members, the press, and the Hoosier people
    We give great credit to U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon for conducting a rollicking town hall meeting in Evansville Friday night where he found supporters and detractors. Other Members, notably U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Jim Banks, have held town halls during this GOP health reform sequence. Others, like U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, haven’t. That’s a sad development, that the people’s representatives fear their own constituents. And there’s reason for that, such as the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and the assault on the Republican baseball team earlier this summer that critically wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. We in the press have ventured out into volatile territory and know what it’s like to face a critical public. Throughout 2016, I attended five Donald Trump rallies (until I was banned by the campaign), and he would openly goad his supporters to confront the press, calling us thugs, liars and the worst of humanity. The positive news on this front is that Hoosiers are good folks. When Trump would aim his rhetoric at us in the press pen, people would turn and look. Some would wave and smile. I never heard a single insult or threat. A number of Indiana reporters and photographers had good-natured conversations with Trump supporters as we awaited the candidate. I never felt unsafe. Hoosiers are civic minded and good stewards of the process. - Brian A. Howey, publisher, writing in Nashville, Ind.
  • Indiana's June jobless rate at 3%
    Indiana’s unemployment rate stands at 3.0% for June and remains lower than the national rate of 4.4 percent. This is a jobless rate that is about as low as it can get. Indiana's total labor force continues to stand at more than 3.33 million, and the state’s 64.4 percent labor force participation rate remains above the national rate of 62.8 percent. "We are pleased to see Indiana's unemployment rate go lower this past month and stay at its lowest levels since the mid-1990s. We believe this is an indication of the state's ongoing strong economy," said Indiana Workforce Development Commissioner Steven J. Braun. "We at the Department of Workforce Development remain focused on assisting Hoosiers who are unemployed or underemployed. I encourage them to visit their local WorkOne Career Centers and utilize the free resources and job assistance programs available to them." So there is little doubt that Indiana truly is a state that works. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Godspeed, John McCain
    "I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support - unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!" With that U.S. Sen. John McCain vowed to take on the greatest fight of his life, against glioblastoma brain cancer he was diagnosed this week. If anyone is up to it - and I’ve known two people who have beat the odds - it would be McCain. He followed his vice admiral father and grandfather into the U.S. Navy, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. He became an aviator, survived a fire on the USS Forerestal in 1967, then was shot down on a bombing mission over Hanoi later that year. He was a POW until 1973, facing torture, turning down at least one repatriation. And he was the 2000 Republican presidential nominee. So godspeed, John McCain, an enduring and brave American ready for the next fight. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Time for Sens. Donnelly and Young to step up in bipartisan fashion
    The Trump White House is simply out of its league. President Trump and Vice President Pence were talking yesterday afternoon about passing the Senate health reforms, with Majority Leader McConnell pulling the plug a few hours later after the defections of Sens. Lee and Moran. At the very time President Trump was trying to rally support for the Senate health reforms, his political wing was scheming to find a Republican primary opponent for U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. Do they think the rest of the Senate GOP doesn’t notice? It was a second blunder against a GOP senator, with Pence’s political wing running TV and radio ads against Nevada Sen. Dean Heller last month, which turned into a debacle. Now with the demise of the Senate health reforms, Trump and Vice President Pence are pushing for a straight repeal, which is an idiotic notion. Repeal, and then leave a gaping hole? It is time for Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, working in tandem with a bipartisan group of governors, to LEAD an effort to either infuse Obamacare with market-based principles, or come up with a new set of bipartisan reforms. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.

  • Post-Kenley Senate finance power takes shape as Mishler ascends

    The post-Luke Kenley Senate finance power structure began to take shape Monday when Senate President Pro Tem David Long appointed Sen. Ryan Mishler of Bremen to serve as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Mishler becomes just the third Republican in almost half a century to hold this portfolio. Prior to Sen. Kenley taking the reins, Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst had the job until his Republican primary defeat in 2004. Borst was first elected to the Senate in 1968 and took the finance helm during his freshman term. Then President Pro Tem Robert Garton split the portfolio beginning with the 2005 session with Borst’s finance chair divided into the appropriations and tax and fiscal policy, with Sen. Brandt Hershman holding the latter.

    “Ryan’s excellent work on the school funding formula in the last several state budgets has proven he has the acumen, skills and temperament required to handle this challenging position,” Long said. “I am pleased that he will be taking on this new role. He has big shoes to fill, but I am confident he will continue to provide the strong leadership Sen. Kenley has displayed during his many years of service as chairman.” Kenley added, It’s been a privilege to work with so many outstanding colleagues over the years to help position our state for economic success. Ryan has been a big part of those efforts. I have enjoyed working with him as a member of the committee, and I know he will do a great job as chairman.”

    Mishler reacted to the appointment, saying, “I am grateful for the opportunity to take on this new role. Over the last decade, Indiana has worked hard to build a national reputation for common-sense fiscal responsibility that protects taxpayers, and I look forward to continuing to build on that reputation in the years to come.” - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Sens. Donnelly, Young polling approvals are high
    A Morning Consult Poll showing approve and disapprove ratings of all 100 U.S. Senators gives Indiana U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly a 53/25% approve/disapprove. Donnelly is the top Republican target in the 2018 mid-term elections. Some 23% have no opinion. U.S. Sen. Todd Young stands at 48/28% eight months after he defeated former senator Evan Bayh. More than half of all senators saw negative swings in net approval outside of the surveys’ margins of error in their respective states. By comparison, over 20 senators saw their net approval rating decrease in the first quarter of the year from the 2016 pre-election rankings. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Kobach bails on Secretaries of State convention

    The clown show that we call the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity got a little stranger here in Indianapolis when Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was a no-show at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in Indianapolis this weekend. Kobach, who co-chairs the commission with Vice President Mike Pence, set off a firestorm when he asked states to send sensitive voter file information. It collided with disclosure laws in more than 40 states and pitted another commission member, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson against Pence and Kobach when she said that Indiana Code prevented the disclosure. So Kobach is missing in action when there was a real need for leadership.

    Former U.S. Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff observed, “One issue has barely been part of the public discussion: national security. If this sensitive data is to be collected and aggregated by the federal government, then the administration should honor its own recent cybersecurity executive order and ensure that the data is not stolen by hackers or insiders. As data-security experts will tell you, widespread distribution of individual data elements in multiple separate repositories is one way to reduce the vulnerability of the overall database. That’s why the commission’s call to assemble all this voter data in federal hands raises the question: What is the plan to protect it?” Do Pence and Kobach have a plan? My bet is they don't.

    Of course the real reason for this commission’s existence is President Trump’s loss of the popular vote last November and his unsubstantiated claims that there was widespread vote fraud. Lawson, meanwhile, is being pressed by State Rep. Ryan Dvorak on whether Russian hackers tried to penetrate Indiana’s election systems, which Hoosier voters need to know. Kobach skipping the SOS convention is just another weird twist in the Trump/Barnum Circus. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.

  • The Pence touch
    As if Vice President Mike Pence didn’t have a bad enough week after more than 40 states rejected the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity’s request for voter file data, his trip to NASA Thursday tripped off a wild set of Twitter memes. Pence was shown some critical space flight hardware at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, including a piece covered by a sheet of paper with the instruction “DO NOT TOUCH.” But as this snap by Reuters photographer Mike Brown shows, he totally ignored warning. It set off a Twitter frenzy. The presidential commission, which Pence chairs, requested state data and became yet another example of bad staff work on behalf of the vice president. It was a problem that plagued his governorship in Indiana. Competent staff should have known that the commission’s request for data would have been prevented by dozens of state laws. It had a commission member, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, rejecting the request. We assume Pence and his staff still has Lawson’s phone number. Back to NASA, the panned the visit: “Pence made it very clear in his speech that the US would ‘once again lead in space,’ but didn’t say what that actually meant. He didn’t mention any new additions to NASA’s leadership team either, which means the space agency is still left without a permanent administrator and no clear direction for its future under President Trump. ‘Usually you have a leader visit, tour, and give a speech to roll out a detail-oriented policy after it’s been developed,’ Phil Larson, assistant dean at the University of Colorado’s college of engineering, tells The Verge. ‘This is backwards.’” It harkens back to Star Trek, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Or where no vice president has gone (or touched) before. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Good timing for Indiana gas tax hike
    The new 10 cent a gallon gasoline tax began on July 1 and the scenario couldn’t have been any better for Gov. Eric Holcomb and General Assembly Republicans. The app GasBuddy said this week that the average price this weekend is $2.21 per gallon, the lowest price since the 2005 average of $2.20. It's also below the 10-year average price of $3.14 per gallon. Many pumps in Central Indiana ranged from $1.90 to $2.10 a gallon, giving Hoosier consumers little reason to protest the impact of the tax hike. That will come later when $1.3 billion annually is raised for road maintenance and infrastructure improvements. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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  • Pence presses Donnelly on tax reform as McCain scuttles health bill
    "We will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. And to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again." - Vice President Mike Pence, appearing in Anderson to push President Trump’s tax reform plan. Pence made a pitch to Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who attended the speech, saying, "Senator Joe Donnelly we need your help." Pence’s appearance came as U.S. Sen. John McCain announced he will vote against the Graham/Cassidy health care bill, saying, “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried.” Pence had been lobbying Senate Republicans to support the plan, which is now opposed by McCain and Sen. Rand Paul, with Sen. Susan Collins likely to vote against the measure.
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  • Mike and Hillary
    We’ve watched 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton make the rounds on her new book: “What Happened.” The reaction has been cringes from Democrats hoping to move on, a set-the-record mentality from some journalistic quarters, and taunts from Republicans. Vice President Pence has the best line of all, with this tweet Thursday morning: “The first book that has the question and the answer on the cover.” Good line, Mike, er … Mr. Vice President. It harkens back to those studio days near the Speedway and a retreat to Claude & Annies. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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