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Sunday, January 19, 2020
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Saturday, January 18, 2020 10:31 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  – Some politicians are just lucky. Take David McIntosh, for instance. The current Club For Growth chief decided to come back home to run for Congress in 1994, only to have U.S. Rep. Phil Sharp decide to retire and then frontrunner State Auditor Ann Devore forgets to file. McIntosh was then swept into office with the Newt Gingrich tsunami after reporting about $10,000 on his second quarter FEC report. That’s blind, dumb luck.

I think President Trump has this valuable commodity. He runs for president in 2016 against 15 establishment Republicans, who didn’t know how to handle his insults and campaign infomercials. He wins the nomination, then insults Sen. John McCain, Gold Star Mothers, has Billy Bush and the Access Hollywood “Grab ‘em by the pussy” audio tape blow up in his face, then shows up at the next debate with his wife wearing a fuschsia pussy bow. The real “October surprise” was James Comey’s bombshell that he reopened the file on “Crooked Hillary”, when in reality it was the Trump campaign under investigation. Hillary ran a real stinker of a campaign. When her blue wall collapsed, Trump was stunned that he won. He didn’t even have a victory speech drafted.

This dumb luck, thank goodness, appears to have extended into the Trump presidency.

“Little Rocket Man” has become a pen pal. The Chinese either don’t know how to deal with him or they do and we just don’t know it, yet. And now there are the Iranian ayatollahs.

President Trump stuns his Pentagon commanders when he chooses the most severe option when it comes to revenge for the December death of a U.S. contractor months after calling off a retaliatory strike 10 minutes before launch. With little forethought or long-range strategy, he orders the drone assassination of General Suleimani near the Baghdad Airport. A million Iranians fill the streets with tears of grief, while the Iraqi parliament orders U.S. troops out of this fragile nation-building fiasco of a country. The war drums beat.

Meanwhile, Trump and his administration spend the next 10 days struggling with the narrative to justify the attack. They finally settle on the “imminent threat” Suleimani posed to four Middle Eastern U.S. embassies, only to have that rationale undermined when Defense Sec. Mark Esper pulled a Sgt. Schultz “I know noth-ING” on “Face The Nation.” Over on Fox News, Chris Wallace sensed the bovine scatology. “It does seem to be a contradiction; he’s telling Laura Ingraham [of imminent attacks] but in a 75-minute classified briefing, your top national security people never mentioned this to members of Congress, why not?” Wallace asked National Security advisor Robert C. O’Brien on “Fox News Sunday.”

Once again, President Trump was caught in a fib. By Monday, President Trump ended the mangled speculation. This was a tactical decision with no broader strategy. “It doesn’t really matter,” Trump tweeted, “because of his horrible past.”
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  • By PETE SEAT
    INDIANAPOLIS –  What is leadership?  It was a question posed to us, a group of two dozen Atlantic Council Millennium Fellows, as we sat in a small classroom at a secluded and rustic resort on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, this past May for a professional development retreat. What attributes constitute leadership, the session’s facilitator asked. How, more specifically, do you know a leader when you see one? The answers ran the gamut of available responses. Leadership was having a platform to share a worthwhile message, offered one fellow. It was casting an actionable vision, said another. We also heard that one could not be a leader without followers and that leadership meant exacting change or taking risk where others may otherwise disengage. In this lively exercise, our global focus group proved a universal point: Leadership has many definitions. This same question of leadership came to the fore when reading the Eurasia Group’s “Top Risks 2020” report. In it, authors Ian Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan write that “both U.S. allies and enemies over the past years have come to wonder whether the United States intends to lead – and they’ve hedged their bets accordingly.
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON  — You know these words, but how often do you stop to think about them? “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …” They belong, of course, to the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. That remarkable document is not just the blueprint for our political system. Its Preamble is also a profoundly aspirational call to arms. Because when you read it, it’s hard not to ask yourself how we’re doing — at establishing justice, promoting the general welfare, securing the blessings of liberty, and, in sum, creating a more perfect union. It’s especially hard to avoid asking this question now, when the warnings of democracy in retreat are all around us. For many, the creeping authoritarianism that has taken hold in any number of countries — Russia, China, Bolivia, Turkey, the Philippines, and Hungary, among others — seems alarmingly on the ascendant.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND - Mayor Pete wasn’t known as a foreign policy expert while serving as South Bend’s mayor. But then Sen. Bernie Sanders never has been known as a foreign policy expert while serving for so long in the Senate. And the current president doesn’t exactly demonstrate expertise in relations with foreign nations, whether they be friends or foes. So, it will be interesting if foreign policy is — as it should be — a major focus of the Democratic presidential debate at 9 p.m. (ET) Tuesday at Drake University in Iowa. It will feature six candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, billionaire executive Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It comes as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker withdrew fron the race Monday morning after failing to make the debate stage. The only one of the debating Democratic candidates with real foreign policy expertise is Joe Biden, the former vice president who long was the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back when it was powerful and prestigious. He knew the world. The world knew him.

  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – Ever buy hamburger? You pay more for less fat and more beef. I think of that whenever I hear about the blatant incompetence and arrogant ignorance of state or local government workers. Want less fat and more beef? Pay for it! The surprising element is so many excellent government workers remain diligent, dedicated and on the job. Some of these outstanding public servants report to unprepared elected officials or their political appointees. We don’t have sufficient numbers of people who understand their jobs and appreciate their responsibility to the public that pays them. But there is a light shining in the Governor’s office. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a range of pay increases for existing state employees. Based on merit reviews, employees can receive two, four, or six percent increases, beginning next month. That’s good. But recognize how bad it has been for so long and getting worse. In 1998, 20 years before our latest data, on average, Indiana paid state workers 22% less than the national average for state employees. In 2018, our state employees were paid 27% below the U.S. average. Indiana sank from 46th to 48th place among the 50 states in paying state workers, ahead of only South Dakota and West Virginia.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – As the new year dawned 25 years ago, back in 1995, there were two presidential prospects from Indiana. Neither was the mayor of South Bend, a post now a springboard to a top-tier spot in the quest for a presidential nomination. Joe Kernan, the mayor back then, was popular and went on to serve as lieutenant governor and governor. But nobody in 1995 was suggesting that Mayor Joe should launch a presidential campaign from South Bend the way Mayor Pete has done. The two prospects from Indiana back then were both Republicans, both following the more traditional political path to run for president. One was a senator. The other had been a senator and then vice president of the United States. Dick Lugar. Dan Quayle. Neither made it, of course, and for different reasons.
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  • HPI Analysis: Teacher pay an issue of semantics
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – Wait ‘til next year? That was part of the reaction to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s fourth State of the State address Tuesday night when he announced he would use $250 million of the state’s $2.3 billion surplus to free up $55 million “to redirect” to teacher pay. Next year. Except the governor’s office produced data that 99% of teachers received an average pay bump of more than $1,200 this year, due to actions he took in 2019.

  • Horse Race: Holcomb begins with $7M cash advantage
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb will hold a $7.25 million cash edge on Dr. Woody Myers, who told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that he “raised and spent $173,000, plus or minus.” Myers said in a statement his campaign will report $172,801 raised. A second Democrat, Indianapolis businessman Josh Owens, filed a report of $83,906 raised and a little over $16,000 cash on hand. The largest campaign fund of any Democratic gubernatorial candidate belongs to 2012 and 2016 nominee John Gregg. He has about $360,000 left over from his 2016 campaign but didn’t collect any contributions during the past year.
  • Horse Race: Pete's lackluster debate may not matter
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS — His supporters were hoping for that defining moment in the final debate Tuesday evening before the Iowa caucuses three weeks out. But when the dust settled after two hours, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was described as “muted” and struggling for attention. The Hill observed: “Buttigieg continues to present himself as the youthful centrist, at one point jabbing at progressives for purportedly believing that ‘the boldness of a plan only consists of how many Americans it can alienate.’”  
  • Horse Race: Indiana implications of rising Bernie Sanders
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Bernie Sanders is rising, and conventional wisdom is that a Democratic nomination of the Vermont Democratic socialist will play right into President Trump's reelection wheelhouse. But look back to the faint echoes of 2016 here in the Hoosier State and that conventional wisdom finds plenty of doubt. Sen. Sanders catapulted into the Iowa caucus lead in a Des Moines Register/CNN poll with 20% on Friday, with Pete Buttigieg fading by 9% to 16%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was second at 17%, and Joe Biden was at 15%. In a Monmouth New Hampshire Poll, Mayor Pete had the lead at 20%, with Biden at 19%, Sanders at 18% and Warren at 15%.
  • Stark money realities prompt Melton out of gov race
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - By the time the Indiana General Assembly gaveled in on Monday, the obvious set in on State Sen. Eddie Melton's nascent and under-funded Democratic gubernatorial campaign: the prohibition on legislator money-raising would doom the effort. After sunset, the Gary Democrat pulled out of the race, leaving Dr. Woody Myers and gay businessman Josh Owens in the primary race for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. 

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  • Parnas implicates Trump, Pence in Ukraine scandal
    “The announcement was the key at that time because of the inauguration and I told him Pence would not show up, nobody would show up to his inauguration. It was particularly Vice President Mike Pence.” - Lev Parnas, the indicted friend of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, in an interview on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, where he implicated Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General William Barr in the quid pro quo of the Ukraine scandal that prompted Trump's impeachment. Parnas said that Pence's attendance at Ukraine President Zelensky's inauguration was cancelled the day after Parnas called on Zelensky to announce an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden, When asked if Pence was aware of the quid pro quo, Parnas said, “I’m going to use a famous quote from [Ambassador Gordon] Sondland. Everybody was in the loop.” 
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  • Pence, Holcomb, Buttigieg head 2020 HPI Power 50
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR., 
    in Washington

    As we unveil the 2020 version of the Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 List, Hoosiers appear to be relatively satisfied with their state government, unsure about the federals and specifically President Trump, and are most concerned about health care and the economy.

    These are the latest survey numbers from the We Ask America Poll conducted in early December for the Indiana Manufacturers Association. They accentuate the formulation of our annual Power 50 list headed by Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Eric Holcomb, former South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, and the state’s two Republican senators who will likely sit in judgment (and acquittal) of President Trump in an impeachment trial later this month. 

    As Pence appears to be heading off thinly veiled attempts by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to get him off the 2020 ticket, Hoosiers by 47.4% approve to 47.7% disapprove of President Trump’s job performance. This is consistent with 2019 polling by Ball State University and Morning Consult. On the national right/wrong track, just 37% of registered voters in Indiana feel that the country is headed in the right direction, while a majority, 52%, say that things have gotten off on the wrong track, including 51% of independents and 26% of Republicans. Among female voters, the right/wrong track split is 29%/58%.

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