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Friday, December 14, 2018
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Friday, December 14, 2018 11:04 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

1. Indiana's second school shooting in 2018

Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week. From Gov. Eric Holcomb, to Supt. Jennifer McCormick, to ISP Supt. Doug Carter, to parents, teachers and lawmakers around Indiana, we feared Thursday was coming. This time, it happened at Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond, where a 14-year-old boy gunned his way into the school. But a tip to police  gave authorities a crucial heads-up and after a brief hallway gun battle, the shooter committed suicide. "The police response was exactly as it should have been," Richmond Police Chief Jim Branum said. "Everybody here was prepared for a confrontation." It was the second Indiana school shooting in 2018, with a student and teacher wounded in a May attack at West Middle School in Noblesville. That shooting, and the more than 30 school threats and arrests following the Feb. 14 massacre at Stoneham Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla., prompted Holcomb to order a school safety audit. The 18 recommendations made in August are included in Holcomb's 2019 General Assembly agenda.

The gnawing dynamic is, what if the Richmond tip hadn't come?  What if the West MS shooter had chosen a classroom with a petite teacher, instead of one with a teacher who was a former Southern Illinois football player?  America is awash in guns. The CDC is reporting a record number of gun deaths in 2017 at nearly 40,000 (including 23,000 suicides), and there were a record number of guns (47) confiscated at Indianapolis International Airport. The good news on the school front is that active shooter protocols seem to be working, but still these incidents result in injury and death. We just haven't had the kind of massacres we've witnessed in Florida, Texas and other schools this year. The General Assembly is about to get another lesson, the coming costs of hardening schools. There will be a steep and continuing price for unrestrained 2nd Amendment rights as parents demand more and more expensive protections for their children. It used to be we'd drill for fire and tornadoes at school. Now it's for the depraved shooters amongst us.

2. Sen. Young leads Saudi rebuke

U.S. Sen. Todd Young led the effort to rebuke Saudi Arabia on Thursday, even as President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner continue to dispel U.S. intelligence on the kingdom's fingerprints on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and support it despite the human rights abuses and famine threatening 14 million souls in the Yemen civil war. The Senate voted 56-41 on a resolution ending U.S. support for the Saudi military in Yemen. Young explained on the Senate floor that from a practical standpoint, the resolution calls for the "term of hostilities" to include "inflight refueling on non-U.S. aircraft. Those very aircraft that in too many cases are responsible for indiscriminent bombing and violations of international human rights law." Young calls the civil war an "unmitigated national security and humanitarian disaster."  And he took a swipe at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying, "The Saudi crown prince has unfortunately been left with the impression he can get away with anything, including murder."

3. Tribune-Star on Khashoggi at ISU

Terre Haute Tribune-Star columnist Mark Bennett recounts Jamal Khashoggi's years at Indiana State University, where he arrived in 1977 and graduated in 1982 with a journalism degree. He was featured as a freshman in a Trib-Star  photo (center) arriving on campus. Classmate Laurie Elliott (also in the photo) recalled: “I remember going to dinners at their house, where you would eat Saudi style.” They spread newspapers over the floor, laying out the various dishes and nibbling at the foods by hand. “It was really cool,” she said. She recalled Khashoggi and classmate Emad Sulaiman buying Triumph TR7s, a British sports car popular in the 1970s and early ‘80s. Bennett observes: On Tuesday, 41 years after that picture was taken, Khashoggi’s face appeared on the cover of TIME  magazine. His cheeks were fuller and covered with a graying beard. A white keffiyeh, a traditional scarf worn by Saudi Arabian men, covered his hair. The magazine’s headline read, “Time Person of the Year: The Guardians and the War on Truth.”  Beside his photo was the notation, “Jamal Khashoggi: Columnist, Murdered.” And, back in the day, part of the Hoosier family.
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    KOKOMO – Dear Mr. President, my wish for you for this coming Christmas is that Santa Claus comes down the chimney at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and brings you a gift that you desperately need, the gift of discretion.  You have taken a presidency that by most contemporary yardsticks would be measured as successful and turned it into a combination of a circus sideshow and a Paris Hilton slumber party. Your personal mannerisms, disregard for simple truths, mistreatment of people, abusive tweets and public braggadocio have become an embarrassment that have weakened your presidency, affected our international reputation and jeopardized your continued tenure in office. I have hesitated to write these words for months, but I just can’t be silent any longer. The last time that I spoke my mind in regard to your words and conduct, things didn’t go very well. It was April 2016, and several fellow Hoosier Republicans publicly expressed our lack of appreciation for your conduct.  
    SOUTH BEND – Don’t be surprised if President Trump doesn’t run for reelection in 2020. He might not for any of a variety of reasons. This isn’t a prediction that he won’t run again. I don’t make political predictions unless it’s a sure thing. The last flat-out prediction I recall was when I said Bob would be elected mayor Mishawaka. That was way back when the nominees were Bob Beutter and Bob Nagle. And Bob won. So, I’m not predicting that Donald Trump won’t seek a second term. Just saying it’s indeed a possibility. Here are some reasons why he might not: Since Trump is so often in a foul mood, furious over any criticism, ranting and raving in angry tweets, insulting and threatening enemies he sees looming everywhere, he could decide he can’t stand the job and would prefer life at Trump Tower and his golf courses rather than frustrations in the White House.
    MUNCIE – The research center in which I work released our 2019 economic forecast this week. Like all economic forecasts, this one is likely wrong, but is hopefully useful. To talk about the forecast, it is best to re-examine 2018. In many ways, this has been a good year for our economy. Employment growth nationally has been strong, and median wages for the world rose roughly one full percentage point above inflation. More people returned to work, with labor force increases strong throughout most of the year. It was, in short, a mostly good year, but the end of year news is far less salutary. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which I supported, proved a disappointment. Among its goals was the repatriation of between 2.0 trillion and 2.5 trillion dollars in assets held abroad. Only about 10% of that actually returned as investment. Another goal was to cause businesses to invest domestically. Business investment actually slowed deeply by year’s end. As it appears today, most of the economic effect of the TCJA was to promote domestic consumption.
    INDIANAPOLIS – Next week’s column will offer data demonstrating the failure of Indiana and a substantial portion of its counties to exhibit even average economic growth in jobs and wages. You, therefore, have seven days to sharpen your arguments supporting complacency, even satisfaction, with our economic progress. Flatly stated, Indiana is not, and has not been, outperforming the nation in job or wage growth. Yes, for short periods of time, largely in the early part of the recovery from the Great Recession (2010 to 2012), Indiana did better than the nation as a whole. But if we take the entire recovery period (2010 to 2017), the story is one of continued mediocrity at best. Why are we misinformed and self-satisfied? Is it the adverse economics of journalism combined with the self-interest of the booster community? The Times of Northwest Indiana did run a story on business closings in the past year, but how many other news outlets did so?
    ZIONSVILLE - History fascinates me because it is often a juxtaposition of irony. Man claims to build an unsinkable ship and the Titanic cascades to the Atlantic floor on its maiden voyage. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both die on July 4, 1826 on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence, with the former's last words: "Thomas Jefferson survives" (in fact, he had been dead for five hours). Americans witnessed a fascinating contrast this week with the death of President George H.W. Bush at age 94. His final rites came on Thursday in Texas. On Friday, we are likely to wake up to tectonic grind of scandal, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia collusion probe reaches what some are describing as the "endgame" that has the potential to render President Trump into the same historic designation of Bush41, that of a one-term president, though for very different reasons. Earlier this week, Mueller filed a sentencing statement on former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, recommending no prison time because his cooperation stands to impact three criminal cases in formulation. A second such filing is expected on Friday for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In tandem, they are precursors as to what lurks in the future of this presidency. It would be impossible not to see these stories as a sign of our times.

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  • HPI Analysis: Indiana Senate race drew $110 million

    INDIANAPOLIS – In 2017, Howey Politics Indiana predicted Hoosiers would see a $100 million Senate race. The emerging reality is that the five major party candidates crested $110 million, according to FEC and Open Secrets reports and compilations. Of that amount nearly $70 million came from outside groups, more than doubling what such groups spent in Indiana’s 2012 U.S. Senate race when Democrat Joe Donnelly defeated Republican Richard Mourdock. Essentially, the Indiana Senate race was engulfed and influenced by groups located outside the state. This tally comes as U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly used his farewell speech in the Senate on Tuesday to decry the gush money spilling into congressional races that propagate “divisive rhetoric.”  Donnelly explained, “Campaigns are increasingly funded by tens of millions of dollars. Anonymous dark money interests (are) really doing damage to this country. People ought to have the right to know who’s talking to them, who’s standing up for what they have to say. I’ve always believed that if you have something to say, you ought to put your name on it.” He said it was impacting the ability of Congress to address “serious, long-term issues.”

  • Holcomb, ISTA in fluid teacher pay issue

    ZIONSVILLE – There was a show of initial unity between Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana State Teachers Association President Theresa Meredith when the governor unveiled his 2019 legislative agenda. The governor vowed to raise teacher pay, but he described a multi-year process. As he concluded his press conference remarks, Holcomb said, “I want to profusely express my appreciation to the ISTA for stepping forward and reaching their hand out and saying ‘We want to work with you.” Asked about the delay, Holcomb described talks that began with the ISTA last summer. “We’re being very methodical and careful to get this right. Any time you move one piece of the puzzle, it affects another and they have had discussions with their members, we have had discussions with our members to make sure we have leadership, myself and others to make sure we agree on the goals and not just agreeing to do things the way we’ve done them before. We’re changing the course. It is a huge accomplishment to have all of us sitting at the same table and planting the flag and saying this is where we’re going. This is what we’re going to achieve.”
  • Atomic! INGOP shatter $ records; INDems crater: INSen $35M

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Holcomb, Crouch, GOP money tear: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana GOP are on a money tear. Together, the three entities will post at least $5.25 million cash-on-hand, eclipsing the previous second year record by $1.25 million. Eric Holcomb for Indiana will post a bigger end-of-year number than either Govs. Mike Pence or Mitch Daniels had at the end of their second year in office, with $3.6 million. In 2014 Mike Pence for Indiana reported $3.549 million, and in 2006, Mitch for Governor posted $2.594 million. Lt. Gov. Crouch will have $750,000 in the bank – four times the amount of her nearest predecessor, former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman. The Indiana Republican Party will close out with at least $900,000, breaking last year’s $818,000, which was a record amount.

  • HPI Analysis: 'Tariff Man' is on the clock with his base

    INDIANAPOLIS – On Nov. 30, Hoosier farmers had a reason to be optimistic, with word that President Trump and Chinese President Xi were on the brink of a yuuuuuuge deal on trade and tariffs as they prepared to dine in Buenos Aires at the G20. When Sunday dawned, (viola!) there was a 90-day trade cease fire. As part of the deal, China agreed to buy “a very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump added, “This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi.”

  • Atomic! Individual 1's gathering storm; tariffs continue market roil
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The gathering storm of 'Individual 1': It's Saturday, but current events  warrant a special weekend version of The Atomic! I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating. A prominent Hoosier Republican asked why I "hate" President Trump. The response: I don't hate the president, but I am wary of his rule for two reasons, he lies all the time and the White House operations are amateurish. The sentencing filings by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York on Friday underscore both of these points. Russian contacts to the Trump campaign go back to 2015, and everyone lied about them. There were few seasoned pros on the Trump campaign, and despite the epic upset with a huge assist from the woebegone Hillary Clinton, it showed. From the SDNY, the Michael Cohen payments to porn star Stormy Daniels constitute what appear to be campaign finance violations by the president, or "Individual 1." Every operative or candidate from the Indiana General Assembly to Congress to president must adhere to campaign finance laws, or risk jail and political oblivion. Trump appears to have ignored the standard

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  • Sen. Merritt steps down as Marion County GOP chair, mum on mayoral run
    “The year 2019 will bring a unique session as I work on over 34 pieces of legislation and will also allow me to continue to further evaluate future opportunities that may arise. With all of that in mind I do believe that the Marion County Republican Party would benefit from someone who is able to be laser focused on winning back both the City-County Council and the Mayor’s Office. For these reasons, I am announcing that I will be resigning as Chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, effective immediately. I am excited for the future of our party and for a successful 2019.” - State Sen. Jim Merritt, announcing he is stepping down as Marion County Republican chairman. It is unclear whether Merritt will challenge Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who announced he would seek a second term earlier this month. Merritt told HPI earlier this year he was exploring a challenge to Hogsett and would make a final decision after the November election. Merritt narrowly defeated Democrat Derek Camp for reelection on Nov. 6. Indianapolis businessman John Schmitz has declared his candidacy.
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  • Weird scenes inside the White House
    The Nick Ayres saga fallout continues to be just ... weird. Vanity Fair's  Gabriel Sherman reports that last Friday, President Trump met with Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence, and out-going Chief of Staff John Kelly to finalize the CoS transition. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday. But Kelly was pressing for top aide Zachary Fuentes to get the job, Trump got pissed and leaked the story on Saturday. Ayres began getting calls from the press about his net worth estimated to be between $12 million and $54 million.

    Ayres then insisted he only wanted the job for several months. Sherman: “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said. By Sunday, Ayres not only bolted the Trump gig, but the Pence job, too, deciding to head back to Georgia. So by year's end, Trump and Pence will both be on their third chief in less than two years.

    This all comes amid rampant speculation that with scandal, House Democrat investigations and a tariff-bruised economy all looming over the horizon, who would want to work for a guy like Trump, where loyalty is a one-way street, allies get thrown under the bus, and careers can be tainted forever after folks wallow in Watergate or get the Kremlin Kramps. Trump and Pence had lunch on Monday. Wonder what was on the menu? Crow, perhaps?
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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