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Saturday, May 27, 2017
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  • Trump blasts Germans (& American workers) and free trade
    American workers make BMWs in South Carolina, Mercedes in Alabama and Volkswagons in Tennessee (just as Hoosiers make Toyotas, Hondas and Subarus in Princeton, Greensburg and Lafayette). Those are American workers in the photo at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina. Combined, deliveries by the German companies reached 1.33 million vehicles last year, according to data provided by Wards Automotive Group, while the U.S. is the second-largest export market for German automakers. While in the European china shop, President Trump blasted one of our staunchest allies, Germany. “The Germans are bad, very bad,” Der Spiegel cited Trump as saying to unidentified participants at a closed-door meeting Thursday with European Union officials in Brussels. “Look at the millions of cars that they sell in the U.S. Terrible. We’re going to stop that.” In a Bild newspaper interview in January, Trump singled out luxury-car maker BMW and threatened it with a 35 percent import duty for foreign-built vehicles sold in the country. Bloomberg News reported in the wake of this controversy that German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her visit to the White House defended the importance of free trade and noted that BMW’s biggest plant worldwide is in South Carolina. That factory makes BMW the top exporter of vehicles from the U.S. by value. Next to China, Germany is the biggest source of the U.S. trade deficit that Trump has vowed to narrow. The U.S. had a trade deficit of $68 billion last year with Germany. American free trade proponents, fasten your seatbelts! - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • The coarsening of American politics
    Two weird scenes this week reveal the growing coarseness of American politics. We heard Montana Republican CD candidate Greg Giaforte assault a reporter, and we watched President Trump shove the prime minster of Montenegro aside as he rushed to the head of the NATO class for a group photo. These are fleeting images and sounds, but they are markers in the state of our politics these days. Giaforte won his election last night, but he apologized to the reporter. As for the NATO summit, Trump’s chastising allies for funding of the alliance which has been an absolute bargain for U.S. taxpayers is perplexing, particularly when he showed great deference or Arab leaders who have actually funded the terrorists who aim weapons and airliners at us. And Trump’s lack of endorsing NATO’s Article V is inexplicable. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • The CBO scoring of TrumpCare
    House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act or TrumpCare with no hearings and no Congressional Budget Office scoring. That CBO scoring came on Wednesday and it revealed that 18 million Americans would lose coverage in the mid-term election year of 2018, and 23 million by 2026. Insurance premiums would increase by 20% in 2018, then 5% in 2019. It will hammer people with pre-existing conditions and older Americans. The one silver lining for Republicans who voted for TrumpCare is that it will decrease the federal budget deficit by $119 billion. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said the CBO scoring “would make health care more expensive and harder to access, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions, children, older Hoosiers and seniors.” Republican reaction? U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks notes the plan will “reduce premiums and our deficit.” U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, a medical doctor, called it a good “starting point” but added, “There are specific portions of the budget blueprint, like the President’s proposed reduction in funding for medical research at institutions like the NIH, that I do have concerns with.”  People will vote their pocketbooks in 2018, not on potential deficit reductions. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • The integrity of Director Coats
    That Dan Coats would spurn another attempt by President Trump to shut down the Russian collusion probe with his presidential campaign is not surprising. The Director of National Intelligence is known for his integrity. But Coats, along with other intelligence and White House officials, are now in untenable positions in this presidential viper’s nest. They are being asked to participate in what now appears to be an unprecedented conspiracy to thwart an investigation, with all the trappings of a developing obstruction of justice scenario. What is emerging are the markers of historic scandal that appears poised to bring down this populist presidency. And it is now ensnarling Hoosier public servants like Coats and Vice President Mike Pence. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • 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
  • The impactful Roger Ailes
    Word of the passing of Fox News founder Roger Ailes is one of those cultural markers. Ailes was a legendary producer and marketing guy who did wonders for Richard Nixon’s successful 1968 presidential campaign. Realizing that existing news media trended left, Ailes forged the conservative bastion Fox News in 1996 and propelled it to the No. 1 cable news source, and American politics forever changed. "Roger and I shared a big idea which he executed in a way no one else could have. In addition, Roger was a great patriot who never ceased fighting for his beliefs,” said Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox. That Ailes left Fox News in disgrace after an array of sexual harassment scandals is the sad footnote to what had been an impactful career. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Let's hear your Comey tapes, Mr. President
    James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” With that tweet, the weird saga of President Trump just got stranger. As an array of parallels to the Watergate scandal surfaced with the Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump seems to being saying he has audio conversations between himself and the former intelligence chief. The Washington Post recounts how presidents from Franklin Roosevelt through Barack Obama have had White House taping systems. Trump himself has a penchant for taping staff and media interviews. So, Mr. President, let’s hear your tapes. Let’s see your taxes. Why don’t you take decisive steps to clear the air on all this Russia/Trump campaign “fake news” and let the nation move on to the critical tasks at hand? - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Russia's Oval Office victory dance
    The Oval Office photo op on Wednesday had a distinctly “RFRA” feel to it. There was President Trump with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The photo was snapped by the Russian press under the thumb of President Vladimir Putin. The American press was precluded. It came two days after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, with the official reason that Trump was dissatisfied with Comey’s conduct of the Hillary Clinton email probe. Mike Allen of Axios observes today,” The answers to why Trump canned Comey are becoming clear: The president was filled with grievance about the FBI probe and acted on impulse without clearly thinking through the fallout, numerous sources tell me. The consequences are also becoming clear: This one quick decision put everything at unnecessary risk, from his legislative agenda to his public standing — and potentially his presidency. ‘It is a debacle,’ said one Republican in constant touch with the West Wing. ‘They got everything — timing, rationale, reaction — completely wrong.’” That’s what bad staff work gets ya. Politico called it “Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance.” The timing and photo op reveals the classic tin ear and eye of this White House. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • A legacy of Hoosier gold miners
    It’s always fascinating see the impact of Hoosiers beyond Indiana. I crossed the continental divide at Hoosier Pass in Colorado near Breckenridge and found this historical marker, commemorating the work of Hoosier discoverers and miners who headed west during the gold rush of the 19th century. The Hoosier Gulch District overlaps the Pollock District. Lying along the Park-Summit County line, the district consists of historic placer operations at the headwaters of the Blue River. There’s also a Hoosier Gulch gold encampment in California. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Finding the 'truth' in Golden, Colo.
    I'm in Golden Colorado and among downtown municipal statuary that includes Adolph Coors and an array of cowboys, there’s one the "newsboy" clutching a newspaper with the bold headline: "Truth.” Having proudly spent 11 years of my journalism career at the Elkhart Truth, this moment hit home and it comes at a time when many of us hope that “truth” in the public domain hasn’t been relegated to the past. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Political cotton candy
    What occurred in the U.S. House on Thursday was policy and political cotton candy. This was a rush job at the behest of an embarrassed President Trump and Vice President Pence who demanded that “something/anything” pass the House to counter the stupid 100-day narrative. If this is to pass the Senate, it will look nothing like the House version, and a Senate revision will face other huge hurdles in the House. The House passed a bill that was not scored, there were no amendments, and just a few hours of debate. They were all flying blind - including Trump, who never could seem to grasp what was actually in the bill - with the fates of up to 24 million of Americans twisting in the winds. This is the first attempt to take away an entitlement. And like the ACA seven years ago, this was a party line vote on widespread social engineering. That’s an extremely dumb way of dealing with one-sixth of the U.S. economy. It was stupid in 2010 and it’s that way now. This was fun house mirror politics. And this is why there is so much skepticism and cynicism about anything that happens under the Dumb Dome in Washington. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Pence, Verma and Messer search for GOP TrumpCare votes
    Today’s U.S. House vote on the American Health Care Act included a three-pronged Hoosier attack. Vice President Mike Pence, Centers for Medicaid/Medicare Director Seema Verma pressed Republicans over the past three days to reach 216, and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer participated in the whip count. The House GOP just met in caucus and adjourned at 10 a.m. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says they have the vote. The AHCA was just posted online at 8 p.m. Wednesday night, but there has been no Congressional Budget Office scoring, so members have no idea who will be covered and at what cost. And like the Obamacare passage in 2010, Members will be voting without reading the bill. Ultra sausage making. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • President Trump, President Jackson and the Civil War
    Most of us know that President Trump doesn’t read history. He doesn’t study. He likes brief briefings and maps. He often has no idea what’s in bills he pushes. He is often influenced by the last person he talks to. On Monday, he posted a video talking about President Andrew Jackson’s role in the American Civil War. Trump said that President Jackson, “Was really angry that - he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War." The problem? President Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War began. Trump seemed to backtrack, saying later, "I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War." Perhaps. President Jackson was a slave owner and had he been in office in the 1850s, he might have handled things differently than President James Buchanan. President Trump (first time for this juxtaposition) is the man who must make an epic and lethal decision on how to deal with North Korea. So there is cause for great concern about a public servant who doesn’t understand context, history, read or study. Also of note, the Washington Post notes that in his first 100 days in office, Trump has made 488  false or misleading claims. That’s an average of 4.9 claims a day. Whew. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Trump tax reforms and deficit hawks
    Vice President Mike Pence, deficit hawk. Rep. Todd Rokita, deficit hawk. Rep. Luke Messer, deficit hawk. President Trump? Deficit chicken hawk. His one-page tax reform plan could add $7 trillion in debt over the next decade. Analysts believe the economy would have to grow at a 4.5% annual rate, something it hasn’t done in decades. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin says the plan will pay for itself. Really, Steve? Really? President Reagan said he could cut taxes, raise defense spending and balance the budget. Two outta three came true. Where will our deficit hawks perch? - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • President Trump a polling bottom feeder
    President Trump is flagging in the polls, with the latest NBC/WSJ Poll putting his job approval at 40% with 56% disapproving. NBC notes that Trump is “still holding on to Republicans and his most committed supporters. In the poll, 82% of Republican respondents, 90% of self-described Trump voters, and 56% of white working-class Americans” but he stands at only 30% with independents and 34% of college educated whites. And here’s how Trump stacks up with modern presidents at this stage of their presidencies: Eisenhower: 73% (April 1953); Kennedy: 78% (April 1961); Nixon: 61% (April 1969); Carter: 63% (April 1977); Reagan: 67% (April 1981); Bush 41: 58% (April 1989); Clinton: 52% (April 1993); Bush 43: 57% (April 2001); Obama: 61% (April 2009); Trump: 40% (April 2017). Why the low standing? Just 27% give him high marks for being knowledgeable and experienced and only 21% give him high marks for having the right temperament. And then there’s that problem with the truth: Just 25% give him high marks for being honest and trustworthy, down from 34%. On top of all this, he faces a yuuuuge week with the debt ceiling showdown, a new tax plan his Treasury Department doesn’t seem to know about, a second stab at TrumpCare, and that arbitrary "first 100-days" measuring post. - Brian A. Howey, Publisher
  • Horndog O'Reilly and the perks of scandal
    Horndog Bill O'Reilly sexually harassed women colleagues and guests on his show, was praised by President Trump, fired by 21st Century Fox, makes million of dollars in a settlement with the network despite his contract’s morality clause, gets to meet Pope. What the . . . .? - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Remembering Ernie Pyle and Brave Men
    With the beating of war drums in Syrian, Afghanistan and the Korean peninsula, perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the wartime writings of Hoosier journalism legend Ernie Pyle, who was killed at Okinawa on this day in 1945. “War makes strange giant creatures out of us little routine men who inhabit the earth,” Pyle observed. Of the American character, Pyle explained, “It's alright to have a good opinion of yourself, but we Americans are so smug with our cockiness, we somehow feel that just because we are Americans, we can whip our weight in wildcats.” Finally, Pyle observed in bombed out England, “A bombed building looks like something you have seen before — it looks as though a hurricane had struck. But the sight of thousands of poor, opportunityless people lying in weird positions against cold steel, with all their clothes on, hunched up in blankets, lights shining in their eyes, breathing fetid air — lying there far underground like rabbits, not fighting, not even angry; just helpless, scourged, weakly waiting for the release of another dawn — that, I tell you, is life without redemption.” If you haven’t read “Brave Men,” a compilation of Pyle’s World War II reporting, I would strongly advise doing so. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Gonzofest, Wild Turkey & WKRP
    Gonzofest honoring the late author Hunter S. Thompson took place in his hometown of Louisville on Saturday. Thompson, of course, was known for his chronic swilling of Wild Turkey Kentucky bourbon. Coincidentally, four wild turkeys have plunged into Hoosier windshields over the past month or so. Coincidence? WKRP out of Cincinnati reports. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Wag the Missile
    What’s a President to do when his approval slides south of 40% (actually, 39% in the new Marist Poll)? In Hollywood, a director like Barry Levinson comes up with a plot: Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. That was the 1997 movie “Wag The Dog.” During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly vowed to "bomb the crap out of 'em," winning ringing cheers at his rallies. This week, the Trump administration (which is not fending off a sex scandal, but does have low approval and a microwave oven problem) dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on ISIS in Afghanistan a week after strafing a Syrian air base. And NBC reports that Trump is pondering a “pre-emptive strike” if North Korea tests a sixth nuke on Saturday to celebrate a key regime anniversary. Kim Jong Un is warning of a "merciless retaliatory strike.” There has been no evacuation of non-essential U.S. personnel in South Korea or Japan. Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Seoul on Saturday. We don’t know where Bill Richardson and Dennis Rodman are. So this is the reality show presidency. No one - not Vlad, not Xi, nor Kim - knows what will happen next. That’s the Trump Doctrine. Epic unpredictability. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Flipping with Mr. President
    Our heads are spinning, Mr. President. Just this past week you’ve launched missiles into Syria, put Steve Bannon in his place, told the NATO commander that it is “no longer obsolete,” told the Wall Street Journal he no longer plans to label China a currency manipulator, scolded Russian President Vlad Putin for propping up the Tyrant Assad, and bonded with Chinese President Xi. He’s going to try to do that TrumpCare thingy again. Oh, and on that America First stuff, it’s now we are the world (let’s hold hands). Trump notes, “The world is a mess. By the time I’m finished, it’s going to be a lot better place to live in because, right now, it’s nasty.” Here’s the fun part: Since last July when he joined the Trump ticket, Vice President Mike Pence has chucked long-held stances on issues like free trade and Muslim bans. Now as President Trump evolves (or flip-flops), it will be fascinating to see how Pence responds. Will he flip and flop with him? Go with the flow, or end up on a policy island? Staking your fate to President Trump requires elasticity, gumption and a mighty fine weather vane. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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  • Boehner calls Trump a 'complete disaster'
    “Everything else he’s done has been a complete disaster. He’s still learning how to be president.” - Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner to Rigzone, on President Trump. It came after Trump chastised NATO leaders then called staunch ally Germany “very, very bad.” On Friday, the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking all Trump campaign documents related to Russia while Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly sought back channel communication with the Kremlin, with the Times reporting it was in tandem with Michael Flynn. Boehner resigned as House speaker in 2015 after repeated clashes.
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  • Trump blasts Germans (& American workers) and free trade
    American workers make BMWs in South Carolina, Mercedes in Alabama and Volkswagons in Tennessee (just as Hoosiers make Toyotas, Hondas and Subarus in Princeton, Greensburg and Lafayette). Those are American workers in the photo at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina. Combined, deliveries by the German companies reached 1.33 million vehicles last year, according to data provided by Wards Automotive Group, while the U.S. is the second-largest export market for German automakers. While in the European china shop, President Trump blasted one of our staunchest allies, Germany. “The Germans are bad, very bad,” Der Spiegel cited Trump as saying to unidentified participants at a closed-door meeting Thursday with European Union officials in Brussels. “Look at the millions of cars that they sell in the U.S. Terrible. We’re going to stop that.” In a Bild newspaper interview in January, Trump singled out luxury-car maker BMW and threatened it with a 35 percent import duty for foreign-built vehicles sold in the country. Bloomberg News reported in the wake of this controversy that German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her visit to the White House defended the importance of free trade and noted that BMW’s biggest plant worldwide is in South Carolina. That factory makes BMW the top exporter of vehicles from the U.S. by value. Next to China, Germany is the biggest source of the U.S. trade deficit that Trump has vowed to narrow. The U.S. had a trade deficit of $68 billion last year with Germany. American free trade proponents, fasten your seatbelts! - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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