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Wednesday, July 26, 2017
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  • 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 Verge.com 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
  • The little man in the big office
    President Trump tweeted this about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” which has been a fierce critic of the GOP reforms: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came ...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” It lit up the Twitter Machine: Republican pollster Christine Matthews: “Trump called @Morning_Joe "psycho" but went after @morningmika in every sexist way possible: dumb, crazy, old/unattractive, desperate.” Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol: “Dear @realDonaldTrump, You are a pig.” Lafayette Journal & Courier columnist Dave Bangert: “My face: one reason I knew not to ask to hang NYE at Mar-a-Lago.” NBC’s Chuck Todd: “Anyone with a child under 18 has to be asking themselves, how do I explain the president's actions especially since he faces no consequences.” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” And Mika Brzezinski’s response? She tweeted a box of Cheerios which reads on front: “Made for little hands.” My take: Doesn't the "leader of the free world" have better things to do than to stoop to a low brow pissing match at 9 a.m.? - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Tonight's Pence dinner menu leeked to HPI

    We’ve gotten leaked information about Vice President Mike Pence’s dinner with conservative Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska tonight in an effort to save the Republican health reforms. Pence leakers have produced the Naval Observatory menu:

    alewive soup
    kale bun
    blistered farfalle
    peach platter with clam reduction
    spare ribs
    distressed bison pate
    Hoosier duck crisper crumbs
    grasshopper leeks
    rice sliders
    sublimated corn
    cider chorizo croquettes, water bombs & eggplant
    humble pie
    Japanese pork belly jam with orecchiette
    okra ice cream

    - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • President Trump and bovine scatalogy
    Here in Indiana, when someone talks big, says unreliable things they can’t back up, Hoosiers call that person, pardon our language, a “bullshitter.” Or as Sheriff Joe Squadrito might put it, a purveyor of “bovine scatalogy.” Well, with President Trump’s claim that he has no audio files of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey made via Twitter on Thursday, when last month he suggested he did, our assessment is that our president is a BSer. And because he has told hundreds of lies since taking the oath of office, do we believe him this time? This is a dangerous dynamic, because at some point in his presidency, Donald Trump is going to face a crisis where he is going to have to level with the American people and we are going to have to decide whether he is being truthful. What we have in President Trump is someone who is a serial liar and his chaotic administration runs on fantasy, half truths and alternative facts. We want to believe our presidents, but this one is in a realm all his own. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Go long, George
    Last Thursday, Indiana Pacer quasi-super star Paul George told reporters, “I’m here. I’m a Pacer. Again, what I’ve been dealing with is stories. You guys talking or teams talking. I’m a Pacer. There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group and this is where I’m at.” Got it, Paul. Great. You can join the Hoosier pantheon of the Reggies, Smits, Peyton, Freeney and Mathis. Except on Saturday, when agent Aaron Mintz told Pace GM Kevin Pitchard that George was heading for the door, intent on becoming an L.A. Laker. Go, it’s good riddance for Paul George. No more Hickory jerseys. Trade him to Memphis or Oklahoma City. The danger for the NBA is that small market teams are struggling to compete and the super stars looking for rings are creating talent monopolies. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Approaching an unhinged national moment
    We appear to be pulling closer to an unhinged national moment as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise battles for his life after an attack on the Republican congressional baseball team. If his Capital Police detail hadn’t been on hand, it could have been a full-blown massacre. We are further torn by talk of scandal, impeachment and resistance, with Patrick J. Buchanan writing at CSN, “We are approaching something of a civil war where the capital city seeks the overthrow of the sovereign and its own restoration.” Radio commentator Michael Savage (pictured) cites the escalation of anti-Trump resistance citing comedian Kathy Griffin’s ISIS-style photo shoot of the decapitated likeness of Trump and the “Julius Caesar” play in Central Park featuring the assassination of a Trump-like figure. “We are at a boiling point. There’s going to be a civil war,” Savage predicted.

    We’ve seen political intolerance here in Indiana, where an anti-Trump musician at a Bean Blossom church defaced his own building because of the president’s election, while Latinos have been harassed at public events in Hammond, Indianapolis and Columbus. We’ve witnessed foul language and brawls at public meetings in Fort Wayne, New Castle and Hymera over the past year.

    U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., says President Trump has contributed to this dynamic after a 2016 campaign where he offered to pay the legal fees of supporters who brawled with opponents and bragged he could “shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Sanford explained, “The president is at least partially — again, not any way totally, but partially — to blame for demons that have been unleashed. If you let these forces play out, I think we end up at a very, very bad spot. What happened yesterday was symptomatic of it.” We are a nation still in search of sound and rational leadership. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Senate passes bipartisan Russian sanctions as Navalny is arrested
    The Senate has reached a bipartisan deal to add new sanctions on Russia. This is a good step and because it is bipartisan in nature, it sends a signal of solidarity after the Kremlin attempted to impact the 2016 election. We hope President Trump signs it when it reaches his desk. The Senate passage comes after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested and detained following anti-corruption protests in 180 Russian cities last week. President Putin is believed to have amassed a personal fortune of more than $40 billion since taking office. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Pence becomes the 'whisperer' to Congressional Republicans
    Vice President Mike Pence has become President Trump’s indispensable man on Capitol Hill, writes Emily Goodin for Real Clear Politics. He lunches with Senate Republicans most Tuesdays. He has on office not far from the House chambers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describes him at “the de facto congressional relations guy for the administration.” U.S. Rep. Luke Messer calls him the “Congress whisperer” saying,  “Mike helps translate the president to Congress and helps translate the Congress to the president.” And U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur notes,  “He’s very genuine, he’s very experienced and he knows what needs to be done. He’s in a powerful position. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him.” But Pence would be in an even more powerful position if the administration made an effort to work with Democrats on health and tax reform, and infrastructure. Pence’s hero, President Reagan, forged his greatest accomplishments cutting bipartisan deals with Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Harrison County Democrats migrate to GOP
    The Corydon Democrat’s Ross Schulz reports that Harrison County GOP made history when it introduced five new elected officials — District 1 Councilman Kyle Nix, Assessor Lorena (Rena) Stepro, Jackson Township Trustee Joe Martin, Blue River Township Trustee Michael Beyerle and Spencer Township Trustee Aaron Scott — to a rousing applause of a standing-room-only audience in the commissioner/council room at the Government Center in south Corydon. "None of them were happy with the left-ward turn of the Democratic party of the recent years as it did not match their own beliefs," GOP county chairman Scott Fluhr said of their motivation to change parties. "I think they all agree with Ronald Reagan, who once said he did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him." This is a continuation of the former Democrat Ohio River strongholds turning Republican. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Happy Birthday Mr. Vice President
    Today is Vice President Mike Pence’s birthday. His staff decorated Air Force II in his honor as they headed to NASA’s Johnson Space Center to welcome a new astronaut class, with Pence tweeting, “Fun way to start a birthday. Thanks team for decorating AFII! Glad to have @SenTedCruz, @RepBrianBabin, & @LamarSmithTX21 aboard! So, happy birthday Mr. Vice President. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Pence headed to NASA
    Vice President Mike Pence will travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Wednesday to welcome America's newest astronaut candidates, chosen from more than 18,000 applicants to carry the torch for future human space exploration. In covering President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords last week, we turned to NASA research that documents the rise on ocean levels and temperatures and the loss of ice mass in Greenland and Antarctica. With politics dividing Republicans, Democrats and independents on man-made climate change, which Pence called a “myth,” we turned to NASA as our data source, figuring that was about as credible source available. Gallup reports this morning that while 66% of Democrats are worried about global warming along with 45% of independents, while only 18% of Republicans were in that camp, down from 29% in 2001. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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  • Zody continues to press Gov. Holcomb on health reform impacts
    “Leaders take a clear, concise position and lay out a path forward. Instead, Gov. Holcomb has artfully dodged taking a position on federal health care legislation. He knows it could cost the Hoosier economy billions of dollars, close rural hospitals and threaten progress made fighting Indiana’s opioid epidemic. The Holcomb Administration is keeping Hoosiers in the dark, refusing to release the analysis of the impact of federal action on health care, something the governor himself said he’d do. A number of Holcomb’s Republican governor colleagues have come out against Senate Republicans’ latest health care bill. They’ve stood up against the bill’s devastating cuts to Medicaid and said ‘no’. It seems a blind loyalty to his political party and not the millions of Hoosiers he serves is driving his actions. Yes, or no, do you support a repeal only of the Affordable Care Act and the end of HIP 2.0 as we know it, Governor Holcomb? When will you release your administration’s analysis of this bill’s impact on the Indiana economy and Hoosiers’ health care?” - Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody, on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s refusal to release an administration analysis of the Senate Republican health legislation and the impacts on Indiana health care ahead of today's procedural vote.
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  • 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

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