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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Friday, May 25, 2018 12:03 PM


NASHVILLE, Ind. - Following the Parkland high school shooting on Feb. 14, I predicted to friends that there would be another school massacre within a month. I was off by a couple of months. I’ve been covering Indiana politics and public policy over the past four decades, and what happened today at Noblesville West Middle School comes as no surprise. I’m chagrinned to write that it was only a matter of time before this epidemic of violence came to Indiana.

The older students and teachers I know believe lethal violence in Indiana schools is now a distinct possibility. The 30 arrests across Indiana following the Parkland shooting due to a spate of threats by students and adults was sobering. Hoosier parents are now demanding “hardened” schools, which will come at a big cost to taxpayers. The $5 million for school safety the General Assembly and Gov. Holcomb forged earlier this month is a tiny down payment to confront the reality that unfettered gun rights and widespread mental health issues are creating what Noblesville students are describing today as a scene of sheer “chaos.” A parent told WTHR-TV, "This is a war on our kids."

The 21st Century political culture is partly to blame. Our leaders have been paralyzed in their response out of fidelity to the National Rifle Association. Today U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks tweeted that the shootings are “something no one should ever have to go through, especially children.” Following last week’s Texas school massacre, Brooks said, “I am working with my colleagues in Congress to do more, because more must be done to prevent the loss of innocent lives.” The preamble to the U.S. Constitution, written before the 2nd Amendment, promises “domestic tranquility.” Our classrooms are now targeted with lethal violence and chaos. We must do more.

Vice President Mike Pence reacted to the Noblesville shooting, saying, “Karen and I are praying for the victims of the terrible shooting in Indiana. To everyone in the Noblesville community – you are on our hearts and in our prayers. Thanks for the swift response by Hoosier law enforcement and first responders."

Not good enough, Mr. Vice President. Thoughts and prayers aren’t cutting it any more. To say such a trite, rote thing is embarrassing.

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    KOKOMO – It’s the final game of the Indiana State High School Basketball Championship and three seconds left in the game with the Hickory Huskers down by one. The Huskers get the ball at mid-court and Buddy Walker fires a pass to Huskers’ star Jimmy Chitwood who turns toward the basket. Jimmy’s got a Ben Franklin bet on the South Bend Central Bears so he takes two dribbles and passes the ball to Ollie McClellan who promptly clanks one off the rim.  The Huskers lose but Jimmy’s got an extra hundred for his effort. Think sports betting hasn’t caused many a fierce competitor to take a dive for the sake of a buck or two?  Ask the Chicago Black Sox, Pete Rose, Alex Karras, Paul Hornung and Sonny Liston, just to name a few. Many folks who place big sports bets just don’t trust their money to the game going on inside the lines. Let’s just say they are prone to trying to put their thumbs on the scale.  They’ve always done it and they always will. Yes, due to a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision, sports betting is coming to a state near you. Soon!

  • Brian Howey: Truth, tribes and tyranny

    NASHVILLE, Ind.  – The fissures continue to appear, the dominant topical one cracking the thin crust of Hawaii’s Big Island. In the human context and the matter of whether we can keep our republic, the breaches forecast trouble, upheaval and, perhaps, cataclysm. The voices we’ve heard over the past several weeks should not be ignored. For Hoosiers, it was Purdue President Mitch Daniels who sounded alarms during his annual commencement address. “The freedoms we take for granted, the ‘blessings of liberty’ of which our Constitution speaks, are the gross exception in history,” Daniels said Friday night in West Lafayette. “Almost all of history has belonged to the tyrants, the warlords, the autocrats, the totalitarians. And tribes always gravitate toward tyrants. His remarks come two months after Chinese President Xi Jinping changed his country’s constitution leaving him in power indefinitely. On March 4, speaking at his Mar-a-Lago estate, President Donald Trump praised Xi, saying, “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.” 

    INDIANAPOLIS – As we’ve watched political events in Indiana unfold over the past few weeks (and really, as we’ve watched them unfold nationally over the past few years) there’s a temptation to suggest that we’re witnessing things that have never happened before, that we’re in a uniquely historical time in our politics. But with more than 200 years of state history to draw on, it turns out that King Solomon was probably right: There is nothing new under the sun. Consider the rise of Mike Braun, who is taking his outsider businessman campaign into a general election for U.S. Senate, against the backdrop of a long line of Hoosier Senators with deep political experience. Todd Young, Joe Donnelly, Dan Coats, and Dan Quayle all came from the U.S. House; Evan Bayh served as governor; Dick Lugar and Vance Hartke both served as mayors of major cities; Birch Bayh had been speaker of the Indiana House; and Bill Jenner had been the State Senate pro tem. Braun (who only served a handful of terms as a rank-and-file state representative) certainly appears to have a unique background. But Homer Capehart was the original trailblazer of the outsider-businessman-to-U.S.-Senate path.
    MERRILLVILLE – My gosh they are getting old. Old as dirt, some would say. That is the complexion of elected officials in Northwest Indiana, particularly Democrats. And the area’s delegation to the General Assembly also is aging. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who finally tired of driving twice a week up and down Interstate 65 to the General Assembly, didn’t give up politics. Brown, who is an octogenarian but sharp as a tack, ran for and won nomination to the County Council. Election in the fall is a given. Speaking of the County Council, incumbent Elsie Franklin, who is no spring chicken, won nomination for another term. And there is former Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo who lost a bid for attorney general in 2016. Arredondo, who is pushing 80, won the Democratic nomination for county clerk. Victory in the fall is pretty much guaranteed. Fran Dupey, who also is just on the short side of 80, retired as county commissioner a few years back. Since, she moved from Whiting to Schererville and won one of the three Democratic nominations for St. John Township Board. Victory in the fall isn’t a given.
    SOUTH BEND – President Trump has left town and TV ads by Republican Senate candidates attacking each other have disappeared. Questions remain. Q. Why did Trump fly here for a big rally in Elkhart right after the Indiana primary? A. Joe Donnelly. Q. The president took Air Force One here because he wanted to ridicule Donnelly as “Sleepin’ Joe” and “swamp person” in the Democratic senator’s home area? A. Right. Indiana’s Senate race is targeted by Republicans as crucial to hopes of retaining and even expanding their control of the Senate. They know Donnelly is vulnerable, a Democrat in a Republican-voting state that Trump won by a ton. Q. But why the hurry for Trump to bring his wrath against Donnelly so quickly after the primary election? A. Quick timing was due to those vicious TV attacks against each other by the three Republicans fighting to become the challenger to Donnelly this fall. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence came quickly to seek GOP unity against Donnelly after that primary election fight with Mike Braun, the winner, and Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer savaging each other. Braun was there to embrace Trump as his inspiration and to pledge foursquare Senate support.
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  • Atomic! Gov's joy ride; Pence the 'last straw'; Stormy reality
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.
    1. The Gov’s joy rideHere are your final power lunch talking points before the Indy500 and Memorial Day: Four things that animate Gov. Eric Holcomb include Hoosier high school basketball gyms, First Dog Henry, double-tracking the South Shore line and direct commercial flights to Europe. Today, the governor takes his first official joy ride on Delta Flight 501 from Paris directly to the beautiful and award-winning Indianapolis International Airport. He’s due to arrive at 4:27 p.m. and will meet the press at the baggage claim where he will almost certainly react to the Noblesville school shooting.
  • Atomic! Trump's 'spygate'; Braun disclosure; rally to Bayhs
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Trump seeks to discredit Mueller probe: Here are your hump day power lunch talking points: President Trump, with the tacit support of Vice President Pence, is seeking to obfuscate and discredit the Russian collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The latest tactic is to allege that the FBI was spying on his 2016 presidential campaign. "Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State," he tweeted. "They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!" James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence before Dan Coats took the job, was asked on ABC’s “The View”  if the FBI was spying on Trump. “They were not. They were spying – a term I don't particularly like – on what the Russians were doing.” The FBI, Clapper said, was simply trying to answer the question, "Were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence?" What we do know is the Russians were approaching the Trump campaign at multiple levels during 2016.
  • Atomic! Obst, Lotter sound off; Dems hit the gas; Veep on FBI
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Lotter and Obst sound off: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Indy Politics’Abdul interviewed Vice President Pence aides and affiliates Marty Obst and Marc Lotter, who addressed the Indiana GOP spring dinner Monday night. Obst notes that INSen Republican nominee Mike Braun “was up 2 points in our internal polling.” As for support for Braun, Obst said, “You’re going to see the president and vice president multiple times around the state.” On Trump’s statewide approve/disapprove in the 48/49%, Obst said, “The numbers track similar to 2016 and we won by close to 20 points.” And on the mid-terms, Obst said, “The vice president will be the tip of the spear.” On the veep’s relationship with President Trump, Lotter explained, “I think they play well off each other. They bring different skills and backgrounds and that makes it a good partnership. There is no question it’s the president we work for.”
  • Atomic! Hoosier ag angst; Trump v. DOJ; Gov in Prague
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Southport

    1. Hoosier farmers gird for DC dysfunction: Here are your Monday morning power lunch talking points: The Friday’s collapse of the farm bill, with a pending tariff war with China and U.S. allies, and a key NAFTA renegotiation deadline missed, the angst across Indiana’s amber waves of grain grows. Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron reacted, saying, “We are disappointed that the House was unable to pass HR 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. Indiana’s farmers are relying on the passage of a farm bill that helps strengthen the farm economy. The agricultural economy has experienced a significant decline in farm income over the past several years, and it is very important that this legislation protects farmers from factors that are out of their control.” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said she is “optimistic” that a farm bill will be forged by Sept. 30. Crouch will announce her new rural strategy  on Wednesday in Greensburg.

  • Atomic! Pence returns; Braun up in INSen poll; Gov to Europe
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Vice President Pence returns to boost Braun: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Vice President Pence swoops into Indianapolis to raise money for Senate nomineeMike Braun and push the 2017 tax reforms that Republican congressional candidates hope to use  in this November’s mid-term elections. The reforms haven’t played a significant role in primary elections to date. Even with the contested GOP Senate primary, turnout was low while Republicans worry out vote suppression. It’s the second time in a week that Pence has returned to his “amber waves of grain” to tout the tax reforms. Doors at the Downtown Marriott open at 1:30 for the general public, WTHR-TV will live stream the event at 3:30 this afternoon. U.S. Sen. Todd Young will be there and will participate in panel discussion on tax reform.

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  • Gov. Holcomb, ISP Supt. Carter discuss school shooting
    “I am satisfied we’re on the right path, we’re headed in the right direction. We want to make sure the resources are there and the schools are secure. Traveling here today, the speaker and the president of the Senate were in perpetual huddle to make sure we’re not leaving any stone unturned. Whatever is needed by any school in the state we’re going to find a way to deliver on that. We’re on the right road, there is funding and resources to make sure our schools are safe.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb after returning to Indianapolis from Paris last Friday afternoon, addressing the school shooting that left a teacher and a student wounded at Noblesville West Middle School. Holcomb is expecting a school safety report on Aug. 1 and said the state will then begin to address “deficiencies.” Teacher Jason Seaman suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen, hip and forearm after he tackled the suspect. He is reportedly out of surgery. Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter called the situation “terror” but said Noblesville school had a plan and followed it Friday.
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  • Hoosier GOP dreams of a 'President Pence'
    Vice President Mike Pence returned to Indy Friday. He visited drivers and troops at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He raised big bucks for INSen nominee Mike Braun. He faithfully touted President Trump’s tax reforms under the banner “Promises made, promises kept” and bestowed effusive praise on the billionaire bossman for freeing North Korea prisoners, moving the embassy to Jerusalem and achieving big tax cuts.

    In tow were the predictable aides like Marty Obst, who heads the Great America Leadership PAC that has become the Pence political wing. It prompted a spasm of speculation in Politico  and the "failing" NYT  this past week that the Pence political ops were making President Trump and his loyalists nervous. There’s the persistent notion that Pence is doing what any smart pol would do, which is to prepare contingencies for 2020, either as the most loyal veep or as the GOP standard bearer. Trump’s nagging legal and ethical problems have created “hungry” looks in the Pence braintrust, most conspicuously Chief of Staff Nick Ayres, friends of the POTUS have noticed.

    So it was interesting that the original Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has signed on to the Pence PAC. He was in Indy Friday with the veep along with Trump reelection campaign manager Brad Parscale. One can say this was simply a united front on display. But this is an administration that sends der kamcaign kommissars into the deep state bureaucracy to make sure the cabinet secretaries and minions are truly loyal. It has vetoed employment for those deemed not original Trumpy or even secretly NeverTrump. This is a president who prizes loyalty above anything else, even competency. 

    So welcome to Indy, Brad and Corey. It’s a trusting city and Republicans here love their veep. Many Hoosier Republicans dream of Pence joining the pantheon of the Harrisons and Lincoln at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Pence even had all their portraits in his Statehouse office. To a Hoosier Republican, “President Pence” is envisioned as an achievable goal.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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