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Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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  • 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
  • Tillerson arrives in Moscow in a muddled position
    As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Moscow today, the U.S. position on Syria is muddled. Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley appear to be on different pages and we don’t know how President Trump will follow up as the Assad regime resumes flying sorties out of the base the U.S. bombed. The only certain thing is that Trump’s strange, strange bromance with Russian President Putin appears to be on the skids. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Still wingin' it after the Syrian showboat airstrikes
    President Trump ordered an airstrike in Syria last week. The photo at left is a Syrian fighter after the strikes and the base was operational over the weekend, multiple news services are reporting despite 59 Tomahawk missile strikes. The Assad regime has already resumed military flights from that base. So the Trump Tomahawk strikes were basically a stunt, with little practical military value. The Chinese were watching and are concerned about Trump’s unpredictability. The Vinson strike group is moving toward the Korean peninsula. This is the Trump Doctrine: Wingin’ it. Just like the campaign. Just like the first three months in office. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Weekly Thoughts: Tomahawks, Xi, nukes, Pence & cold beer rebellion
    Final thoughts for a sensational week: 1. President Trump ordered the Syrian air strikes that President Obama should have years ago. There should be a no-fly zone in Syria. Thursday night’s strikes hit only one of six Syrian air bases and did not degrade its integrated air defense system. All should be destroyed. 2. Trump’s show of force comes as China President Xi awaits his summit in Florida with North Korea festering and the White House declaring all responses are on the table. 3. Remember studying the Whiskey Rebellion in high school? Well, the Hoosier Cold Beer Rebellion has commenced with the Ricker’s case. I was with non-political types Thursday evening and everyone was talking about the Ricker’s case (and mocking the powers that be). Remember how the license branch patronage became a huge political issue in the 1980s? That’s the potential for cold beer in the 2018 election cycle. Expect to see an array of General Assembly candidates seeking to exploit the General Assembly’s ham-handed response to this. 4. All the signs of a White House power shakeup are in place (see below in Trump45) as Trump fumes about the health care debacle. We have reports of Vice President Pence hanging around the crowded Oval Office. Pence has been the health care point man. It will be fascinating to see where he ends up on the org chart. Have a great weekend, folks. Thanks for reading. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Trump says Assad 'crossed many, many lines'
    President Trump reacted Wednesday afternoon to the Syrian chemical atrocity that killed dozens of men, women and children when he had a joint press conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II, saying, “It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.” The attack came just days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that it would be left up to the Syrian people to remove Syrian President Assad. What that means remains to be seen. President Trump blamed President Obama for creating the scenario for such an attack, though in 2013 Trump urged Obama not to intervene militarily in Syria. So we watch to see what crossing a red line, or any line, really means to President Trump. - Brian A. Howey, Publisher
  • Fox and horndog O'Reilly take 5
    Two sponsors of “The O’Reilly Factor” - Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai - are dropping out after the New York Times reported over the weekend that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is a real horndog, with Fox News give five women about $13 million in settlements of sexual harassment cases. The Times said its reporting "suggests a pattern:" O'Reilly would wield his influence to "pursue sexual relationships" with women at Fox. Here is a list Axios compiled of the women who have come forward: O'Reilly's accusers: Andrea Mackris: Former producer. Accused O'Reilly of making inappropriate phone calls. O'Reilly paid her a $9 million settlement. Wendy Walsh: Former regular O'Reilly guest. Claims he offered to help her get a position at Fox News but reneged after she declined to go to a hotel room with him. Rebecca Gomez Diamond: Former Fox Business host. Accused O'Reilly of inappropriate phone calls. O'Reilly paid her a settlement. Juliet Huddy: Former regular O'Reilly guest. Accused him of inappropriate phone calls and trying to kiss her, and then damaging her career after she rejected his advances. Fox paid her a $1.6 million settlement. Andrea Tantaros: Former Fox News Host. Sued both O'Reilly and Ailes for alleged sexual harassment. Laurie Dhue: Former Fox News host. Sued both O'Reilly and Ailes for alleged sexual harassment. Fox paid her over $1 million. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • EPA's Pruitt acknowledges human climate impact
    EPA Director Scott Pruitt, who along with President Trump is putting the brakes on Obama era anti-greehouse gas measures, the Clean Climate Plan and are hostile to the Paris Climate Agreement, told Fox News Sunday, "There's a warming trend, the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that change in some measure. The real issue is how much we contribute to it and measuring that with precision.” Pruitt’s comments come as the Spring has come early to Indiana as well as Washington, D.C. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Gov. Holcomb to bring EPA's Pruitt to East Chicago
    Gov. Eric Holcomb told Howey Politics Indiana that he has invited EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt and HUD Secretary Ben Carson to tour the lead contamination site in East Chicago. Holcomb talked with Pruitt at the National Governors Association meeting last month and said Pruitt has agreed to work it into his schedule. “I look forward when Pruitt walks the streets of East Chicago,” Holcomb said in an HPI interview at Nick’s English Hut in Bloomington Thursday afternoon. “He has accepted the invitation.” Lead from a former smelting site prompted the EPA to move 1,000 residents from a public housing site. The city is in the midst of exploring if there are other contamination sites. Holcomb declared the situation an “emergency” and he said that started the clock on a coordinated federal, state and local response. Holcomb was asked about Mayor Anthony Coleman’s $54 million laundry list of needs in the wake of the crisis. “I’d rather deal with the facts. We’re in this together and we’re going to solve these problems together.” - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Hoosier newspaper legend Jack Howey turns 91 this week
    I'm taking a point of personal privilege to wish my father, legendary Hoosier Journalist Jack E. Howey, a happy 91st birthday, shown here with CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. He's a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, edited the Indiana Daily Student, and his career took him from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, to the Michigan City News-Dispatch, Peru Daily Tribune and editorial director for the Nixon Newspaper chain. And, he's a great Dad. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Chairman Nunes has disqualified himself
    As if Republicans haven’t lost credibility on the Obamacare repeal fiasco, the House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes debacle is another epic embarrassment. The fact that he ended up on the White House grounds to review intel docs on the Russia investigation is cause for great concern. He's supposed to be a congressional watchdog over the White House, not a permanent member of President Trump's transition team. Nunes needs to step down as chair of the intel committee. He has zero credibility now.  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • A question for Gov. Holcomb: Who's the king of rock n' roll?
    After Howey Politics Indiana conducted a brief interview with Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this week, we followed up with this probing question for a governor who loves rock n’ roll: Who’s the King of Rock n’ roll: Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry? Holcomb responded, “That’s a trick question. It’s not an ‘either-or’ answer. It’s ‘and.’ The world was big enough for two kings who both owned every room they ever performed in!” Great answer, Gov! - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Trump and truth
    The Obamacare repeal is teetering in the House. Why? Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf? President Trump’s penchant for lies is beginning to take such a toll that NBC reporter Kasie Hunt said this morning that some members wonder if he’ll even be around in a year. So when Trump threatened retribution against recalcitrant House members on Tuesday, its impact was dubious. The Wall Street Journal editorialized today: “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago.” The other emerging dynamic is that the Pence/Marc Short legislative team hasn’t done the legwork on the RyanCare bill. It could all come down to Vice President Pence, HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to round up about eight votes and keep Republicans like Rep. Hollingsworth in the fold. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Deceit and the reality presidency
    When Americans went to the polls in the 2016 general election, the perception was that the FBI had been investigating Hillary Clinton. The reality that emerged with the testimony of FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers on Monday is that it was the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump who was under investigation since July, for potentially colluding with the Russian government to influence the American election. This is a stunning turn of events that should greatly concern every American patriot. The second takeaway is that President Trump is a liar, as confirmed by Comey and Rogers. He lied about President Obama wire tapping him during this campaign. Trump has offered no evidence, other than the rantings of cable news commentators who Fox News has removed from the air. Comey and Rogers not only said there is no evidence, but Rogers chastised the Trump administration for suggesting that the British government surveilled the Republican nominee at the behest of the sitting president. This president and his team lies about things little and big, things of no consequence and of great gravity. So this fledgling administration has emerged into a deep ethical cloud, operating in a post-truth, alternative fact mode, at a time when jarring events such as the growing North Korean crisis and efforts by the Kremlin to destabilize Europe and the Middle East will require our leaders to make decisions based on fact and sound judgment. We are now bearing witness to a reality TV presidency that appears to be beyond control. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • We celebrate our Hoosier champion Panther Bots
    “Go back to Mexico!” That’s what greeted the Pleasant Run Panther Bots from an Indianapolis elementary school in the parking lot after competing and winning the robotics challenge at Plainfield High School this past week. The IndyStar reports that there were similar disparaging comments made by parents inside the school. So our Hoosier hearts break a bit this Saturday morning. We’ve seen this type of intolerance in places like Columbus and Hammond this past year, goaded on by a coarsening political culture that has overtaken our nation. It is epic ignorance when you consider that these kids have been born and raised here, and for decades the Latino culture has enriched our state with a sturdy work ethic, a devotion to family and a graceful assimilation into the Hoosier culture. If there are exceptions to the phrase many of us oft say - Hoosier Hospitality - they are these ignorant, intolerant people who make the headlines by spewing hate and loathing. As for the champion Panther Bots, a trip to the General Assembly and Gov. Holcomb’s office is probably in order. We need to celebrate our Hoosier kids. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Final thoughts for the week as J.D. Vance heads home
    Several end of week thoughts: Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it's not that easy. Once something is given — say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans — you take it away at your peril. This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care.” U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton: “The House majority could be at risk if we get health care reform wrong." Mike Allen writes in Axios today: “If you refuse to meet with him or put out anti-Trump messages, prepare to suffer revenge. He pays close attention to critics, and his aides hand him printouts of anti-Trump statements made by people or companies they don't like. They have a notional enemies list that gets used for everything from rejecting appointments to key jobs, to deciding who gets a voice in policy debates.” Finally, J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” on moving back to Ohio from Silicon Valley: “It's jarring to live in a world where every person feels his life will only get better when you came from a world where many rightfully believe that things have become worse. There were practical reasons to move: I'm founding an organization to combat Ohio's opioid epidemic.” Have a great weekend, folks. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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  • Trump vows to build the wall as Congress balks
    “Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc. The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!” - President Trump, disputing media reports on Twitter that he had “caved” on building the Mexican border wall. The Washington Post reported: Last night the president backed off his demand that any deal to fund the federal government include money to start construction on his border wall. At an event with conservative journalists, Trump said he’s okay waiting until September to have this fight.
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  • 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
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