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Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018 11:00 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Walorski calls for Trump, Xi summit

Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: With another round of tariffs on China ($200 billion) and retaliation on just about every U.S. product, and both Presidents Trump and Xi defiantly guarding their super power status, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski is calling on the two leaders to meet. “We need to hold China accountable for its unfair trade practices, but I am increasingly concerned about the harmful impact tariffs are having on Hoosier farmers and manufacturers,” Walorski said. “It’s time for President Trump and President Xi to meet face-to-face and find a long-term solution  that ensures American farmers, businesses, and workers are treated fairly. Until such an agreement is reached, the administration should work with Congress to minimize the negative effects of these tariffs.”

Trump believes that China will pay for the tariffs, when the reality is that it will be American consumers who foot the bill  while manufacturers and farmers twist in the wind. Trump tweeted: "Tariffs have put the U.S. in a very strong bargaining position, with Billions of Dollars, and Jobs, flowing into our Country - and yet cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable. If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be 'Tariffed!'" And yetthere are signs Trump may be gaining the upper hand, per New York Times: “‘Chinese officials “are generally confused,’ said Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, a UCLA trade specialist, who has been traveling around China speaking with officials, businesspeople and workers. ‘They don’t know what to do. They worry that the tit-for-tat model is playing into Trump’s hands.’”

Walorski appears to be weathering a challenge from Democrat Mel Hall, though tariffs could be a defining issue  on this referendum election on Trump. Hall told HPI’s Jacob Curry, “Pork has dropped 44 cents, and milk has gone from about $22/100 to $13/100. So, farmers are really hurting. When it comes to tariffs, I think first of all ‘do no harm,’ and I don’t think all the costs of  tariffs have been well thought out.”

2. Kavanaugh twisting . . . 

We were struck by the almost nonchalant attitude President Trump displayed toward SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of high school era sexual assault allegations by Prof. Christine Blasey FordU.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly called for a delay on Thursday’s Judiciary Committee vote, it was, and now there is dual testimony under oath scheduled for next Monday. Trump said he was open to a “full process” and praised Kavanaugh as a “high quality individual.” But missing was the stinging tweets he often issues when feeling aggrieved. NBC’s Meet The Press  team sniffs a potentialHarriet Miers: “We wouldn’t be surprised if this hearing never happens — because Kavanaugh ultimately withdraws his nomination. He survived yesterday. But does he survive today?  Or tomorrow? Or Thursday? Or Friday?” Thirteen years ago, President Bush43 withdrew Miers nomination, and ended up with Justice Samuel Alito, a reliable conservative. Might Judge Amy Coney Barrett be the new Alito?

3. Kavanaugh peril for both parties

Sen. Donnelly was quick to call the a delay in the Brett Kavanaugh vote and was joined by potentially teetering Republicans Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Bob Corker. But a sensational Kavanaugh v. Ford hearing 23 years after Clarence Thomas v. Anita Hill is a completemid-term wild card. Republicans risk fueling the “pink wave,”  with a record number of congressional, Senate, gubernatorial and legislative female candidates. But Republicans tend to win cultural wars. So these allegations have become the “September surprise.” Wonder what October will bring?

4. Lawson holding candidate schools

With Russian election assaults continuing on the U.S. election process, Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced this morning she will be hosting “candidate schools” in Terre Haute, Evansville, Jeffersonville, Fort Wayne, Elkhart, Valparaiso, Lafayette and Indianapolis from Sept. 20-27. “Candidate Schools help new candidates understand the basics of cybersecurity and campaign finance, while providing a refresher to veteran candidates,” Lawson said. It will also bring about scads of earned media  in every market as she wages a reelection campaign against Democrat Jim Harper. We would be surprised if Harper enrolls in every session.
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  • Craig Dunn: A Hoosier spy and the JFK assassination
    KOKOMO – President John F. Kennedy was an avid reader of the British spy novels written by Ian Fleming. Fleming’s hero, James Bond, conjured up in the President’s mind the vision of a tall, dark and handsome man, oozing charm and sophistication. When the opportunity presented itself late in 1961 or early 1962, after learning of his exploits, Kennedy summoned to the Oval Office the American James Bond. Ushered into the Oval Office was a short, corpulent, pear-shaped, popeyed man with pigeon toes and a duck waddle. The man was William King Harvey, native son of Danville and Terre Haute, Indiana. The American James Bond was also the Hoosier James Bond. For one brief year in Harvey’s life, he would operate at the highest levels of government with awesome responsibilities fraught with danger to himself and his country. The road to the pinnacle of professional success for Harvey had certainly been a long, bumpy and winding one. The roots of his ultimate success and failure rested firmly in the soils of the Hoosier State.

    WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence is no Gerald Ford. The former president was a moderate. That species of Republican is almost extinct. Those who are still occasionally spotted in the political wild are known as RINOs – Republican in Name Only. Pence has staked out a position on the far right, becoming not just a darling of conservative Christians but their lodestar. There’s that word again. It’s a favorite in Pence’s lexicon – and it was conspicuous in the anonymous Sept. 5 New York Times oped by a “senior administration official.” If that piece was the beginning of an attempt to pave the way for Pence to triumphantly enter the White House after a forced exit by President Donald J. Trump – either through impeachment or resignation – then Pence would do well to consider the Ford model for a vice president to succeed an ethically challenged commander-in-chief. The New York Times piece excoriated Trump’s leadership style and intellect and asserted that the writer and others in the administration are working furiously and furtively to check the president’s worst instincts and decisions before they harm the country. Recent speculation – by some Hoosier political insiders and by no less an authority than former Trump-loyalist-turned-fierce-enemy Omarosa Manigault – has centered on Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers as the author. 
    NASHVILLE, Ind. – If you envision a career in Congress, there are several aspects of the job you have to accept: You work 15 to 20 hour days and weekends, you have to raise big bucks, and, once upon a time, you had to meet with your constituents. Even when they’re angry, fearful or contrarian. There used to be another part of the job description in the TV age of politics: You should be willing to debate your opponent, and show up to various forums sponsored by civic groups like the League of Women Voters, schools, or the Rotary Club. But here in the 2018 mid-terms, we find a number of Republican incumbents or nominees ducking the debates. Democratic 8th Congressional District nominee William Tanoos became the latest to find an incumbent Republican congressmen unwilling to match ideas and wit on a public stage, in front of TV cameras and radio mics. He joins 3rd CD nominee Courtney Tritch, 6th CD nominee Jeannine Lee Lake and 9th CD nominee Liz Watson in alleging that U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon and Trey Hollingsworth won’t debate along with 6th CD nominee Greg Pence. 

    MERRILLVILLE  – What is it with Vice President Mike Pence, who embraces evangelicalism and portrays himself as being holier than thou? Through 20 months of the Donald Trump presidency, Pence has been the tail wagged by the dog. Whatever Trump says or does, Pence is the first to extol his virtues or be conspicuously quiet. Even though he is a fellow Hoosier, Pence no longer should be given a pass. For example: Why is it that Pence said nothing when Trump called his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico “an incredible unsung success” although his negligence contributed to the deaths of almost 3,000 people? And, where was Pence when it was learned that Trump bought the silence of two women with whom he had extramarital affairs, a porn star and Playboy model? What has Pence had to say about Trump’s morality and his poor treatment of women?
    SOUTH BEND – Maybe the Weekly World News (WWN) stopped publishing too soon. Wouldn’t that once flourishing supermarket tabloid be popular today, what with such widespread belief in fake conspiracies and pontificated falsehoods? The WWN was a weakly weekly, in terms of journalism. In fact, it wasn’t journalism at all. It wasn’t news at all. It was fiction, strictly fiction, portrayed as news, with sensational headlines that attracted shoppers glancing at the array of supermarket tabloids at check-out lanes. It ceased publishing 11 years ago, although it and its famous covers still can be found on-line. The WWN hit 1.2 million readership in the 1980s. There were so many memorable headlines: “Elvis Is Alive”; “Severed Leg Hops to Hospital”; “Saddam and Osama Adopt Shaved Ape Baby.” My favorite was the cover story about the demise of a woman with a mink coat who was bitten to death when the animals came back to life and did her in. There was a photo. Photographic proof.
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  • Atomic! Kavanaugh allegation, denial; youthful indiscretions
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Kavanaugh allegation & denial: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Our first reaction to the anonymous high school era accusations leveled at Judge Brett Kavanaugh was akin to an assertion by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the notion of “youthful indiscretions”  providing a scandal shelf life. Lord help many of us if we had to answer various prep and collegiate behaviors in a by-gone era as society has evolved. Over the weekend the accusation, with all three principle characters allegedly wasted at the time or keeping the allegations silent for four decades, seemed difficult to validate. But withChristine Blasey Ford stepping forward and describing the assault and willing to testify at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, this case may take as extreme of a twist as we saw with the Hastert legacy (he served 13 months for a sexually related bank fraud conviction dating back to when he was a high school wrestling coach and then a blackmail attempt).

  • HPI Interview: 2nd CD Democrat Hall talks reform, tariffs

    INDIANAPOLIS – Howey Politic Indiana spoke briefly with 2nd CD Democratic candidate Mel Hall Wednesday evening to get a sense of where his campaign stands and to hear about his vision for congressional reform. Just prior to the interview, Hall had hosted a town hall session in Walkerton to announce his “Reform Plan to Clean Up Congress,” emphasizing that his reform plan reflects the attitudes of voters in the 2nd District and his own “relentless pragmatic approach.” We also touched on several other points, including Democratic leadership, President Trump’s tariffs and health care. 

  • HPI Analysis: Holcomb's taxation and transparency

    PERU – Driving back from Lake Michigan on Labor Day, the need to finish the U.S. 31 freeway was apparent, as traffic stacked up at each of the four traffic lights in Miami County, and others in Tipton and Hamilton counties. And Indiana’s highway spine courses through sorghum-slow broadband areas. So on the face of it, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement of a new $1 billion investment called Next Level Connections in highways, ports, international flights and universal broadband seemed prudent. With one exception: On the highway aspect, many of us felt that HEA1002 from 2017 had set up the state’s highway funding for the next two decades. We pay 10 cents more a gallon of gas, and we were supposed to get better roads. But it is coming up short. So much so that Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and the City-County Council had to float $120 million in bonds this week to deal with the capital city’s cratering streets. We figured that multi-billion dollar effort – accomplished with gas and diesel fuel taxes along with others on electric cars – would pay for Section 6 of I-69 and the U.S. 31 stops. But it didn’t. It’s kind of a bait and switch. If you’re an Indianapolis gas consumer, you’re now getting double-dipped. And why doesn’t HEA1002 cover Section 6?

  • HPI Analysis: Independents fleeing Trump, GOP

    INDIANAPOLIS – To win elections, a candidate has to carry 90% or more of his or her base. And then there are the independent voters, a group growing as polarization encroaches on the two major parties. With a gangbuster economy and middle class wages finally going up, conventional wisdom would be that President Trump would be a mid-term Midas. But the cascading controversies have become the new norm with President Trump just two weeks after he journeyed to Indiana to campaign in the U.S. Senate race. The question  less than 60 days out from the mid-term is whether this new norm would impact voters on Nov. 6. Two polls this week, by CNN and Quinnipiac - suggest that they will. They come just as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bob Woodward began making the first of dozens of TV interviews on his new book “Fear,” which reveals a White House in disarray and chaos, with Trump trusting only a shrinking inner circle.
  • Horse Race: Donnelly's 'knife fight' with Braun

    INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Senate race is a “knife fight,” in the words of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. His remarks came before a Fox News Poll showed Mike Braun leading U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly 45-43% and after Donnelly took a 44-41% lead over Braun in the NBC/Marist Poll (with Libertarian Lucy Brenton getting 8%) while a CNN Poll shows President Trump’s approval is in free-fall with vital independent voters. The Fox News Poll released Wednesday found President Trump still had a 54% approval in Indiana. It found that 33% said they will cast their Senate vote to show support for Trump while 31% said they will vote to express opposition. One in three voters said they could change their mind before Election Day. “Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. All of them too close to call, and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley; I mean, just a brawl in every one of those places,” McConnell told reporters in Louisville.
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  • Chairman Brown still in critical, but making progress
    House Speaker Brian Bosma is in regular contact with House Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown’s family, and Bosma reported today that Dr. Brown remains in critical but stable condition at the hospital in Ann Arbor. Brown was injured in a motorcycle accident near the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan. The family also conveyed that he has made positive progress since the accident.
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  • Bloomberg ponders 2020 presidential run as a Democrat

    Chalk this one up in the what-goes-around-comes-around category. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pondering a 2020 presidential run as a Democrat, telling the New York Times“It’s impossible to conceive that I could run as a Republican — things like choice, so many of the issues, I’m just way away from where the Republican Party is today. That’s not to say I’m with the Democratic Party on everything, but I don’t see how you could possibly run as a Republican. So if you ran, yeah, you’d have to run as a Democrat.”

    Should he win the Democratic nomination, the billionaire Bloomberg would likely face President Trump, a billionaire Manhattan Democrat who turned Republican and has said he will seek reelection. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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