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Saturday, January 20, 2018
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Hundreds of people showed up for the women's march in downtown Indianapolis Saturday. The march coincided with the federal government shutdown that began at midnight. (HPI Photo by Mark Curry)
Hundreds of people showed up for the women's march in downtown Indianapolis Saturday. The march coincided with the federal government shutdown that began at midnight. (HPI Photo by Mark Curry)
Saturday, January 20, 2018 11:39 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Gnaw Bone, Ind.

1. Trump’s ‘shithole shutdown’

Here are your Saturday power brunch talking points: Hap-py anniversary, Baby, I got you on my mind  …. Congrats to President Trump on your first year in office. The United States government is shut down, mostly due to the mixed signals you sent  out over the past week, including his now infamous “shithole countries” that threw negotiations into disarray. So this is the “shithole shutdown.” And it is a Republican shutdown, coming for the first time a party controls both the executive and legislative branches. President Trump, who delayed a trip to his opulent Mar-A-Lago resort, tweeted this morning: “This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present. #DemocratShutdown. For those asking, the Republicans only have 51 votes in the Senate, and they need 60. That is why we need to win more Republicans in 2018 Election! We can then be even tougher on Crime (and Border), and even better to our Military & Veterans!”

To which MSNBC’s  Joe Scarborough retorted: “This is not Chuck Schumer’s shutdown. This is not Mitch McConnell’s shutdown. This is Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s shutdown. This is the result of a confused, chaotic White House. Remember Wolfe saying that Trump is clueless on policy and his staff leads him around by the nose? Well, two times this week his staff killed deals  that Trump had supported to keep the government open.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke just after midnight and called the shutdown "100% avoidable," blaming Democrats for "shoehorning" immigration in the negotiations. “Almost everybody on both sides doesn't understand how we ended up here,” McConnell said. “Because most of this stuff, we agree on." And U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham blames White House adviser Stephen Miller for the change in Trump's stance on immigration and DACA, tells NBC News that Miller's approach to immigration "has no viability."

2. Donnelly tried to head off shutdown

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly appeared to be getting things back on track late Friday afternoon while bucking his party, stating, “Today we face a deadline to fund the government. It’s the most basic duty of Congress to keep our government running. I was elected by the people of Indiana to work every day on behalf of Hoosiers to do my job as United States senator. Keeping the government running is our job, and I will vote to keep the government running. I hope that Republicans and Democrats will join together to reach an agreement and avoid a shutdown. We still have that opportunity to prevent a shutdown, and I stand ready to work with anyone.” This morning, Donnelly reacted, “The most basic duty of Congress is to fund the federal government, and I voted to keep the government running. I am incredibly disappointed Congress failed to prevent a shutdown. Like in 2013, I’m going to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to reopen the government, and I will donate my take-home pay during the shutdown to charity in Indiana.” Potential Senate race rivals took aim. Rep. Todd Rokita said, “Typical Joe Donnelly. Joe only votes with Hoosiers when it doesn't matter. He knows the votes aren't there to pass this, so Schumer gave him permission to take a walk.” And U.S. Rep. Luke Messer tweeted, “The House did its job and voted to keep the government open. Now, the Senate needs to end the filibuster and put aside the partisan political games. I will be donating my pay during the shutdown to Indiana pro-life charities.”

3. Hoosiers Democrats react

Democrats feasted on the Trumpian paralysisLiz Watson running in the 9th CD tweeted, “I’ve been watching the folks who run Congress screwing things up all week, and I have to tell you, I'm outraged. Get your act together and stop playing games with the lives of children and our Dreamers! They are American people, not bargaining chips!” Dan Canan, also running in the 9th CD, said, “Before the GOP was in total control of the government, CHIP and DACA were successful programs. Both could have been renewed and repaired at any time during the last several months, with or without Democratic support. Now Republicans point the finger at Democrats and pretend as though they ever cared about any of the children affected in the first place. No one wants a government shutdown, but I am glad to see Senate Democrats stand on principle rather than using the dreamers as political pawns. Enough is enough.” U.S. Rep. Andre Carson added, “There should be no question over who is to blame for this government shutdown. Republicans control the White House, the Senate & the House. The American people deserve representatives that work for them, not ideology.” Chairman John Zody added, “Despite controlling the House, the Senate and the White House, Republicans can’t even successfully negotiate amongst themselves to keep the government open. Instead of grandstanding, they need to put aside partisan politics  and work with Democrats to find a solution that keeps our government open and ends the first shutdown under unified control in decades.”

4. Hill vs. Holcomb

We’ve never seen a Statehouse constitutional officer in a party take on his own governor. There were some showdowns between Gov. Mike Penceand Democrat Supt. Glenda Ritz a few years ago, but Attorney General Curtis Hill is consistently bucking Gov. Eric Holcomb. They’ve disagreed on policy involving CBD oil (Hill insists it’s illegal; Holcomb says it is “absolutely” legal) and needle exchanges. Last week Hill got the Statehouse buzzing by hiring Mary Beth Bonaventura, former Department of Child Services director, as special counsel. Bonaventura’s parting shot when she resigned was saying that Holcomb and his administration were “putting lives at risk.” Holcomb’s office has taken Hill’s broadsides in stride, but beneath the surface, folks are not amusedMike Murphy, former legislator and Marion County Republican chairman, called the Bonaventura migration “a mercy hiring,” telling AP, “Hill is trying to stake out ground as the most powerful Republican officeholder in the state. What he doesn’t understand is the governor always wins.” 
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    MERRILLVILLE –  The future of two long-time popular Lake County politicians headed in different directions over the last week. On the brighter side, former Lake Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Arredondo announced that he was running for county clerk in the Democratic primary. Arredondo retired as judge in 2010 after 24 years on the bench. He didn’t stay out of the limelight for long. Arredondo last year was the Democratic nominee for attorney general. He lost. No one, perhaps, knows the operation of the clerk’s office – which is one of the largest in the county – better than Arredondo because of his tenure as judge.  Additionally, Arredondo said that he knows each of the judges in the county’s massive judicial system. Clerk Mike Brown is prohibited from running again because of term limits. He instead is running for sheriff. Arredondo thus far is unopposed on the Democratic ballot for clerk. While one man in his 70s is vying for public office, another is headed to prison. Former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich this week was sentenced to 15½ years in federal prison on a public corruption conviction connected to bribes from towing company operators. For Buncich, 72, the sentence almost assures that he will die in prison. The sentence was imposed by District Court Judge James T. Moody, who has a reputation for being extremely tough when it comes to public corruption cases. Moody, who has been on senior status for several years, spends a great deal of time at a vacation home in Florida.
    SOUTH BEND – Eric Holcomb is a better governor than Mike Pence. Polls show that Hoosiers agree with that. Pence was sagging in approval ratings and faced a tough race for reelection as governor back when he escaped to the national stage as the Republican nominee for vice president and then was elected to that office on the winning ticket with Donald Trump. Holcomb was elected governor in 2016 after a series of startling political developments: Named lieutenant governor to fill a surprise vacancy, selected as the Republican governor nominee after Pence was picked for vice president, and then winning over a Democratic front-runner amid the Trump tsunami in Indiana. He now is popular in the polls; a Politico/Morning Consult poll shows Holcomb with 53% approval, just 21% disapproval. Holcomb’s State of the State address shows why he is more popular as governor than Pence. His low-key, pragmatic approach, avoiding partisan rhetoric and divisive issues that appeal to some political base, was welcomed by the legislators with whom he must work to get things done.
    INDIANAPOLIS – A friend is trying to examine the big issues facing our nation and the solutions available to us. I suggested that catalog include land use which reflects and often causes many of the dilemmas Americans have failed to resolve. We complain about congestion in our urban areas while bemoaning the decline of rural areas. This is a land use issue. The high costs of health care are a persistent concern. Our sedentary life style contributes to our need for health care, but we have organized our activities and our infrastructure to avoid exercise that involves exertion. This too is a land use issue. The wild fires, mudslides, and floods of California are largely problems stemming from land use decisions made in the public and private sectors. Americans delight in the variety and stimulation of the built world. Yet, simultaneously, we seek to escape the pressures, noise, and excesses of what we call civilization. We want access to places offering us solitude and the refreshment of nature. This desire can be satisfied by altering our land use patterns.
  • Brian Howey: President Trump, the truth and the American press
    INDIANAPOLIS - Last Saturday in Nuevo Laredo, columnist and investigative reporter Carlos Dominguez was waiting at a traffic light with his son, his daughter-in-law and his grandchildren when men armed with knives flung open the car door. The Los Angeles Times reports that Dominguez was stabbed 21 times. He joined the 11 Mexican journalists slain in 2017 fighting drug cartels and public corruption, attempting to do what may be impossible now, which is to prevent a failed state from existing on America’s southern flank. Worldwide, 80 journalists were murdered in 2017 and another 326 were detained by authorities for doing their jobs. Both those numbers are down, mostly because a number of failed states like Syria are too dangerous and the press has pulled back. When that happens, it’s hard for us to know what is actually happening there. I write about this today because two Arizona Republicans had the courage to call out President Trump for branding the American press “enemies of the people.” As a journalist, an American and a patriot, I’ve conveyed to my friends who support President Trump how utterly offensive to us it is for an American president to so recklessly brand one of the key pillars of democracy. We could play the fill-in-the-blank game: How would you feel if someone called lobbyists “enemies of the American people”? Or cops? Or Republicans? Or Sikhs? Or Jews? You get the point. Some in Trump's base won't.

    INDIANAPOLIS – Covering Richard Lugar’s presidential campaign in 1995-96, reporters in Iowa and New Hampshire would ask the Hoosier senator what it would take for him to evolve from darkhorse to victor. Lugar would respond with the word “fame.” Or, as my memory serves me, Lugar would matter of factly state the obvious: “Well, you have to be famous.” We’ve had famous presidents before, namely generals like George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, U.S. Grant, James Garfield and Dwight David Eisenhower. And we’ve had celebrity in President Ronald Reagan, though it took him three tries between 1968 and 1980 to turn fame into White House paydirt. Donald Trump converted fame into a one-cycle genius quotient. He did it over a mere 18 months in 2015 and 2016, brilliantly turning himself into the blue collar billionaire. He didn’t like to shake hands with the middle class (he’s a germaphobe), but he was their whisperer up on the stage and out of sneeze range. He said what they were thinking, and turned their resentments into Electoral College votes. But 16 years before the genius Trump figured it all out, when he flirted with a 2000 presidential bid, he was asked about a potential running mate, and it wasn’t Mike Pence.
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  • Atomic! Shutdown? Pence to Israel; Warm Beer State!
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. The government shutdown looms: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Will the United States government shut down for the first time since 2013? At this point, our guess is yes. But remember that while President Trump sows chaos and is expected to have wheels up for Mar-A-Lago at 4:30 this afternoon,this whole scenario smacks of reality TV. Will the president stay in DC, then swing a yuuuuuge deal  at the 11th hour? We await. The beltway press is pessimistic. Politico reports of the Senate: The chamber struggled to even schedule a vote to fund the government, let alone cobble together the votes to actually pass a bill. After the GOP House passed a partisan month-long spending bill Thursday, senators in both parties appeared increasingly dug in. A spat on the Senate floor between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumerculminated in the chamber adjourning with no clear path to avoid a shutdown in barely 24 hours.
  • Senate panel scuttles cold beer sale expansion
    CNHI Statehouse Reporter

    INDIANAPOLIS – A move to expand cold beer sales failed Wednesday but the second of two legislative bills supporting the Sunday sales of alcohol moved forward. A senate committee voted 9-1 to reject Senate Bill 26 that would have allowed groceries, drug stores and convenience stores to sell beer at any temperature. Indiana is the only state that regulates the sale of beer by temperature. Cold beer is only allowed to be sold in 
    package liquor stores. The Sunday sales bills were developed from recommendations by an interim Alcohol Code Revision Commission. The bills, both now passing from their Senate or House committees, would allow sales from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Last year the commission did not have enough members present for a vote to express support for expanding cold beer sales.
  • Horse Race: Messer, Braun on track with ballot signatures
    Howey Politics Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS - The U.S. Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. Luke Messer says it turned in ballot signatures from nine congressional districts last Friday. “We’re just waiting to hear from each county clerk on how many are verified,” said Chasen Bullock of the Messer campaign. Mike Braun’s campaign is also on track to qualify for the ballot, according to Joshua Kelley. “Mike Braun has more than the required number of signatures to qualify. All signatures have been submitted to the county clerks around the state, with more coming in the mail to Jasper each day.” Last week, Todd Rokita’s campaign said it submitted more than 9,000 signatures.
  • HPI Horse Race: A crucial GOP Senate race unfolds

    INDIANAPOLIS – Luke Messer’s win of the Republican Congress of Counties straw poll on Saturday was little more than an early milepost in what will almost certainly be a $100 million U.S. Senate race that could alter the power in Washington. Messer won with 147 votes, followed by 82 for U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, 36 for Mike Braun, 29 for Mark Hurt, 20 for Andrew Takami and 12 for Andrew Horning. While it generated weekend headlines for Messer, the exercise created a fascinating glimpse into how this race is being run and possibly how it will turn out over the next four and a half months. The event also allowed Howey Politics Indiana to conduct interviews with five of the six candidates, minus the elusive Takami.

  • Horse Race: Harper to seek Democrat secretary of state

    INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana Democrats have their first statewide candidate emerging with Jim Harper of Valparaiso announcing for secretary of state. He made his announcement via a Facebook video. “It is time for a new generation of leadership in state government. All too often, our state government has sided with those at the very top at the expense of ordinary Hoosiers,” Harper said. “I’m running for Secretary of State because we desperately need a fresh perspective at the state house. Our Secretary of State must set party politics aside and focus on improving the lives of all Hoosiers.” He seeks to face Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson, who is seeking her second full term. She was originally appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to finish the term of Charlie White, who was forced to resign following a felony conviction.

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  • Pence blames Democrats for shutdown
    “We have soldiers that are headed down range to Kuwait for six months in a critical theater to serve the country, and yet because of Democrats in the Senate, they have anxiety about their pay. It’s disappointing to every American that Democrats would shut down the government at a time when we have troops in harms way.” - Vice President Mike Pence, reacting to the government shutdown during a refueling stop in Ireland, where he met with U.S. soldiers. Pence arrived in Cairo hours after Congress and President Donald Trump failed to reach agreement on a plan to avert a partial federal closure. In 2011 as a member of Congress, Pence pushed for a government shutdown over right to life issues. Pence went ahead with his four-day trip to the Middle East, citing national security and diplomatic reasons. Pence's meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is expected to delve into security cooperation between the two countries.
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  • A president and a porn star
    The coming government shutdown has obscured and muted reaction to the Wall Street Journal story that our president had to pay $130,000 to silence his sexual tryst with a porn star Stormy Daniels. His lawyer set up a corporation in Delaware to shield the payoff just before the November 2016 election. In normal times, that would generate yuuuuuge headlines (among other things) and imperil a presidency (right, Bill Clinton?). 

    These are not normal times as President Trump has placed the bar so low that Americans (including the president’s evangelical supporters) appear willing to accept a man sexually involved with a porn star while his new wife was pregnant. Whew. You can read Stormy describe her activities with the future president with this In Touch Interview.

    As for this shutdown, to our Members of Congress, the reaction to this mess on the ground here is that Hoosiers are disgusted, but not surprised. Hoosiers want decisions made. They don’t want the can kicked down the road to February. Many voted for President Trump not only as a disrupter, but to cut deals and get things done. They want CHIP restored. They want our Dreamer Hoosiers to be able to stay in the only country they know and love. They want the military fully funded. They want more than payments to porn stars. Ya know, the more I think about this, the more wag-the-dog it feels. Want to overshadow the president-pays-off-the-porn-star story? Well, just shut the government down. Think about it: With this president, that notion really isn't that far of a stretch. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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