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Saturday, December 7, 2019
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Wednesday, November 27, 2019 9:43 AM

INDIANAPOLIS – The spook’s eyes at the Londonskaya Hotel bar burned holes in me. Every time I glanced in his direction, they were trained on me. I had entered Odessa, Ukraine as part of the last hurrah of Sen. Richard Lugar’s old Republican internationalist order in this pre-partitioned nation. 

It was 2007. Vladimir Putin held only shadow power in the old Soviet remnants. His fractured standing belied a reeling nation, the former Soviet Union, in steep demographic decline. High rates of alcoholism, suicide and plunging birth rates defined this former empire. Donald Trump was a gadfly, wannabe presidential aspirant who owned a couple of Gary riverboat casinos and a New York real estate empire.

It would have been impossible to foresee how this churn of events would play out a dozen years later in Moscow, Kiev, Washington and even Indianapolis. The old Republican internationalist order that once thrived in Indiana has ended, begging the question in the emergent era of the Trump cult of personality, so what if it has?

The Indiana aspect of this story can be told through the hyper-supplicant Pences, with the vice president accepting full ownership of that cult; and Indiana’s two Republican senators, Mike Braun, who owes his station to Trump, and Todd Young, a former Lugar staffer who, had he taken a different career path, might have found himself briefing the Senate in a manner similar to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Last week Vindman, former Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and State Department Ukrainian expert Dr. Fiona Hill testified before Congress of a disinformation campaign echoing Putin’s Kremlin that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who meddled in the 2016 US elections. The Republican senators received a briefing on the Ukrainian fiction as multiple sources discredited the story. In the wake of the sensational impeachment testimony which appears not to have swayed public opinion, the question for Hoosier voters remains, does it matter? Do people care? I don’t think they do. Hoosier voters appear to be giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt, preferring to decide his future at the ballot box next year. Two recent polls in Indiana, the Old National/Ball State and Bowen Center poll, put Trump’s approval at 52%, while a Morning Consult poll had Trump’s Indiana approval at 50%.

  •  INDIANAPOLIS - Three years ago, Curtis Hill was a Republican rising star, capturing the nomination for attorney general in a spirited convention floor fight, then leading the ticket that November in votes. He became a rare African-American Republican, working in a building where the rest of his party of white. Hill gave a racial component to Republican politics that had seen females win the constitutional offices, save governor, when Holcomb edged out U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks for the nomination following Gov. Mike Pence leaving his nomination to join Donald Trump’s presidential ticket. But this past week, Hill was fighting for his political career and his law license. His reputation has taken a beating. He faced a Supreme Court disciplinary hearing over allegations of sexual harassment and groping at a 2018 sine die party. The ensuing headlines were a politician’s nightmare. There was a parade of 26 witnesses, including Democrat State Rep. Mara Candaleria Reardon, four Republican legislative staffers, and an Elkhart County employee of Hill’s when he was prosecutor there, who testified under oath that her boss sought sex, saying, “We need to ---- because it would be hot.” Hill was described as a “creeper” who was “grabbing butt” and sliding his hands down Reardon’s backless dress. The “Me too” era passed the Indiana Statehouse over the past couple of years with no official taking a fall. That Hill’s alleged conduct came after movie moguls, media anchors and U.S. senators had been swept from power was an indicator of being tone deaf.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - There have been three presidents with vivid Indiana ties.  William Henry Harrison won the battle of Tippecanoe and served as a territorial governor. Abraham Lincoln moved to Spencer County as a boy within days of statehood in 1816 and became a man on the prairie, as poet Carl Sandberg writing that he gained his gait, demeanor and sense of spiritual place, particularly after he journeyed from the Ohio River to New Orleans and witnessed his first impressions of slavery. Benjamin Harrison, grandson of the aforementioned ninth president, was born in Ohio, moved to Indianapolis in 1854, and after serving as a general in the Civil War, used a law career to enter the U.S. Senate before reaching the White House 1888. There have been six Hoosiers who have served as vice president - Schuyler Colfax, Thomas Hendricks, Charles Fairbanks, Thomas R. Marshall, Dan Quayle and Mike Pence - the literal heartbeat away. Of this group, Marshall came closest to ascending to the presidency after President Woodrow Wilson suffered two strokes a century ago, though the First Lady hid the president's condition from the former Indiana governor. I recount this history so you might begin to wrap your mind around the prospect of "President Michael R. Pence."
  • NEWPORT, R.I. - When it comes to America's engagement in what is increasingly globalized marketplace and security, a number of Hoosier statesmen set the compass points for many of us over the past generation. There was the late Sen. Richard Lugar, who in tandem with Democrat Sen. Sam Nunn, established a historic cooperative threat reduction program and helped denuclearize a half dozen nations (including Ukraine), while rounding up and stabilizing a Pandora's box of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons guarded by padlocks and chain link fences as the Soviet Union crumbled. Congressmen Lee Hamilton and Tim Roemer helped establish the post-Sept. 11 security regime and Hamilton served on the Iraq Study Committee following the first American geopolitical blunder of the 21st Century with the Iraq invasion of 2003. The late Rep. Frank McCloskey literally saved tens of thousands of Bosnians from genocidal Serbs in the first ethnic cleansing of this century. Gov. Robert Orr opened up the Pacific rim to investment in our state in the 1980s, and there are now 200 Japanese companies employing more than 100,000 Hoosiers, and, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb, firms from India, South Korea and China are poised to join their ranks.

  • CARMEL – Police stop a driver westbound on 96th Street in Hamilton County. They find less than an ounce of marijuana and this driver in arrested, complete with a stay in the county jail, facing thousands of dollars of legal bills, court costs, fines and a criminal record. Police stop an eastbound driver on 96th Street in Marion County. They find a doobie on the console. He is not arrested, faces no charges, legal bills, court costs or fines. That is the evolving state of marijuana prohibition in Indiana. It's like swiss cheese, with a big hole in the middle and others likely to form in college and border cities. Acting prosecutor Marion County Ryan Mears, then an unelected official, abruptly announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases of under one ounce, which was quickly reinforced by Sheriff Kerry Forestal. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach said his force would still make marijuana arrests. But after Mears dismissed nearly 150 possession cases, it's only a matter of time before the arrests stop. The cops I know aren't big fans of doing the paperwork, only to watch an offender go free.

  • Merriam-Webster: Aberrant (n) 1: a group, individual, or structure that is not normal or typical: an aberrant group, individual, or structure; 2: a person whose behavior departs substantially from the standard. Synonyms:(Adjective)  aberrated, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, especial, exceeding, exceptional, extraordinaire, extraordinary, freak, odd, peculiar ....


    NASHVILLE, Ind. - On July 27, 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made his infamous "Russia, if you're listening ..." appeal for dirt on Hillary Clinton. It commenced a two-year jigsaw puzzle type investigation that became President Trump's nightmare. It all seemed to end last July 24, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress that he could not indict Trump for obstruction of justice because of a Department of Justice rule that a sitting president can't be charged. Mueller distinctly said, “The President was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.”  July 25 should have been a new day, a new era for President Trump, the proverbial sigh of relief. The House could impeach, but there was no way the 55-seat Senate Republican majority would convict. So what does President Trump do?  According to a rough transcript released by the White House, the president essentially attempted to extort dirt on potential rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, from the rookie President Zelensky of Ukraine, a former comedian. It is the same Ukraine that gave up its nuclear weapons under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, went through a revolution in 2014, then saw Russian President Putin annex the Crimea before launching a low-grade war on the eastern part of the country that has since claimed 13,000 lives. This summer, President Trump inexplicably held up close to $400 million in U.S. military aid from this new president, pulled Vice President Pence away from attending Zelensky's inauguration last May, and then subtly put the screws on him on July 25.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — A week ago Monday I began writing the “Double dog impeachment dare” story that headlined the Sept. 19 edition of HPI as a cautionary primer for why going down that rabbit hole would be dangerous for our nation because the consequences are often unintended and the ramifications impossible to gauge. By the time I published it a week ago, the emerging scandal of the DNI whistleblower’s urgent complaint involving President Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky had blown up like a mushroom cloud, as fast as Hurricane Rita did in 2005. It is a disconcerting circumstance. And I am disturbed by what appears to be another round of scandal and hyper media, allegations and denial, talking heads churning out conspiracies and illogical defenses. Our nation faces huge challenges. Our entitlements are on an assured crisis course, probably by the end of the next presidency. We are now running trillion dollar deficits with a good economy. We have no idea how bad that will get in a recession, or a severe recession. We have climate scenarios that are daunting in an immigration/refugee and humantarian sense, and we must begin preparing now.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – It took nine months after South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg kicked off his long-shot Democratic presidential campaign before he landed his first spate of Indiana endorsements. Ten Hoosier mayors – Tom McDermott of Hammond, Dave Kitchell of Logansport, Brent Bascom of Rising Sun, Gay Ann Harney of Rockport, Ron Meer of Michigan City, John Hamilton of Bloomington, Gabriel Greer of Peru, Greg Goodnight of Kokomo, Ted Ellis of Bluffton and Hugh Wirth of Oakland City – were part of a group of more than 50 mayors to endorse this upstart presidential campaign. Beyond his fellow mayors, Buttigieg hasn’t picked up much support from the Democratic Indiana political establishment. U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and André Carson aren’t on board, nor is former senator Joe Donnelly, who attended Buttigieg’s campaign kickoff last April. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was also there, but didn’t endorse this past week, presumably concentrating on his own reelection bid.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - So there was President Trump in the Oval Office on Wednesday, mocking his most recently departed National Security Adviser John Bolton as a "Mr. Tough Guy." A few minutes later, President Tough Guy was seated with Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, announcing a ban on flavored vapes. “We have a problem in our country,” Trump said, springing into action after five vape-related deaths nationally, including one in Indiana. “It’s called vaping, especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children.” But if you want to talk about protecting "innocent children," the huge elephant on the table is the epidemic of mass shootings in our nation in places like Sante Fe and Marjorie Stoneman Douglass high schools in Texas and Florida, and, of course, Sandy Hook Elementary School where more than 20 little kids and educators were slaughtered. Most of these involved AR-15s and many other incidents have killed hundreds of people. And on this point, “President Tough Guy” might as well be “President Mouse.” Because we have no idea where he stands on several issues with widespread support.
  • MICHIGAN CITY – In the wake of the new terror afflicting our schools, our Walmarts, our malls, our nightclubs, it appears we no longer have members of Congress and senators. In the House, we have cephalopods, elected every two years. In the Senate, squids, elected every six. The cephalopod is of the political molluscan class, characterized by bilateral body symmetry and a prominent head known to quip “I approve of this message” and “I have an A rating from the NRA” and a set of muscular hydrostats, modified from the primitive molluscan foot. These creatures that haunt the U.S. Capitol, a variety of K Street salons and a very occasional Hoosier town hall do have abilities. They can open containers with screw caps or, like the Hawaiian bobtail squid, can bury themselves in the sand, leaving only their eyes exposed. Our congressional cephalopods need to grow spines. U.S. Rep. Jim Banks reacted to our American Bloody August (53 murdered by AR-15s in Texas and Ohio) by suggesting that the appropriate response to this ongoing domestic terror is to enforce the laws we already have. Somehow that seems not to be working, thoughts and prayers notwithstanding. U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon suggested that background checks  – even expanded background checks that 90% of Americans want  – wouldn’t have prevented the mayhem in El Paso, Odessa, Midland and Dayton. Our Midland/Odessa mass shooter did flunk a background check, but then went on to acquire his weapon through a private-party sale. U.S. Rep. Greg Pence called himself a “staunch 2nd Amendment defendant,” but said in Muncie he is open to compromise, though he reminds us, “If you read the second part of the 2nd Amendment, it’s to protect us from the government.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS - For many Hoosiers, last weekend presented a gut punch when we learned that Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was retiring at the tender age of 29. The emotions of fans run the gamut, from incredulity, to anger, sadness, wist and then when you put it into the proper context, appreciation and thanks for what Andrew Luck brought to Indiana. He became a Hoosier, invested in our community while playing with great heart, soul and distinction. One of Luck's most courageous displays occurred in November 2015 in a game against Peyton Manning and the 7-1 Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck led the 4-5 Colts to a thrilling 27-24 victory, throwing two touchdown passes and 252 yards (Manning threw for 281 yards, two TDs and two picks and finished the game a mere three yards from becoming the NFL’s all-time leading passer). But it was a brutal second half hit on Luck that would lacerate one of his kidneys and tear an abdominal muscle. It forced him to miss several games.

  • FRENCH LICK – U.S. Senators take this oath: "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office  on which I am about to enter: So help me God."  Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Congress and President George W. Bush took an array of security steps to defend Americans from foreign terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security was created, along with the Director of National Intelligence that would eventually be manned by Indiana’s Dan Coats for three years. We experience a number of security elements every time we fly or go into a security sensitive area. These measures have been largely successful as terror attacks from foreign sources like al-Qaeda are exceptionally rare.  In 2019, Americans are facing a virtual guerrilla war from domestic sources ranging from white supremacists to nihilist and anarchists. Attacks just this year have claimed 246 deaths and 979 wounded, culminating to that weekend earlier this month with massacres in Dayton and El Paso took out 30 lives, injuring dozens of others. The gunman in Dayton killed nine people and injured 27 others with an assault rifle and high-capacity magazine in just 30 seconds before heroic cops took him out. That's a total of 1,325 victims, about a third of the 9/11 total. There is now palpable panic. Americans are so insecure that they stampede at the sounding of a motorcycle backfiring on Times Square or a mall sign falling.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These were the epic words of the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus”  adorning the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. These words cut to the crux of the American experiment and spoke to our epic, melting-pot heritage. Ken Cuccinelli is acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and he made an astounding assertion on Tuesday. As the Trump administration seeks to dramatically limit legal immigration to America, Cuccinelli tweaked the Lazarus poem after a question from the press. “Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’s words etched on the Statue of Liberty, ‘Give me your tired, give me your poor,’ are also a part of the American ethos?” NPR’s Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli during a “Morning Edition”  interview. Cuccinelli responded, “They certainly are: ‘Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.’ That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge was passed – very interesting timing.” Thus we see the aberration of a basic American ethos, replaced by President Trump and top aide Stephen Miller’s attempt to stir ethnic, racial, urban and rural divides in the country they govern.

    NASHVILLE, Ind. – It has been fascinating to watch Mike and Karen Pence orchestrate his ascension onto the national stage. It has been a meticulous crusade of control. As a congressman and governor of Indiana, Mike Pence rarely strayed from a tight set of talking points. His inner circle is constricted, calculating and guarded. 
    On Aug. 1, my Howey Politics Indiana  analysis was that it's a “reckless” course for the Pences, with my penultimate paragraph reading: “This is flint and spark in extreme drought conditions. President Trump is not uniting Americans, he is exploiting the urban/rural divide along racial lines that are pulled taut these days. An errant spark goaded by the right quote at the wrong time could have devastating consequences.” This was published two days before the mass shooting atrocities in El Paso and Dayton, claiming another 30 lives and injuring dozens more. The El Paso shooter – who I will not lend the sought-after infamy by mentioning his name – published a manifesto on 8chan just moments before opening fire. It was teeming with white nationalist diatribes against “race-mixing” along with the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The Dayton shooter appears to have sought association with Antifa, the leftist bookend to white supremacy. Isolate the fringe 1% of the American bell curve and you’ll find the warrens for these two latest cowardly shooters. The problem for Trump and, by association, Pence was the former’s own rhetoric warning of “invasions,” and amplified on Facebook by the Trump campaign and the Prosper Group based in Indianapolis.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – Perhaps on Tuesday, Aug. 20, we’ll find private citizen Dan Coats at Wrigley Field, taking in the Cubs-Giants game. Or, perhaps, he’ll wait for that day game on Aug. 23 against the Washington Nationals. We can hope that this Cubs fan, Hoosier patriot, who never lost an election, who was willing to walk away from the money-grubbing political swamp at least twice, will treat himself to a beer, a brat and sing “Take me out to the ballgame” soon.Dan Coats deserves it. But the trade-off for the rest of us is that of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” or the warning from David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” remake: “Be afraid, be very afraid." When Dan Coats leaves as director of national intelligence on Aug. 15, the last of the “grown-ups” from Donald Trump’s White House will be gone. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster had been the “guard rails” for the unpredictable Trump, who presides over an administration filled by “acting” secretaries and directors. These actors now toil with a side-glance for every presidential whim. Screw up and, well, “You’re fired.” Supposedly taking Coats’ place will be U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, a former small town mayor and district attorney who claims to have prosecuted terrorism cases, though there is no evidence that he did. He is a political defender of Trump, who has auditioned on Fox News, which is now the proving ground for economic advisors, United Nations ambassadors, and White House and Foggy Bottom communicators.

  • NEW ALBANY – This is turning out to be a disheartening summer when it comes to race relations in our country. The reelection campaign of President Trump and Vice President Pence appears to be  conducting the most overtly racist strategy since Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s independent bid in 1968. Trump is taunting four minority freshman Democrats - Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib – with tweets of “go back” to your crime-riddled countries. The problem is three of them were born in the United States and the fourth is a naturalized American. The common denominator is skin color. Trump launched a screed at a rally Greenville, N.C., Wednesday night with Pence in tow, only to have the crowd chant “send her home.” Trump said Thursday, “I was not happy with it — I disagreed with it,” but video showed him savoring the chant. When congressional Republicans pressed Pence on Thursday with their dismay with the rally, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Pence seemed to share their concerns. “He said, ‘at first I couldn't even tell what it was.’" And that is BS. It was clear what people were chanting. You can disagree with these freshmen on politics and policy, but telling elected members of Congress to leave the country is a new low. This is David Duke meeting Joe McCarthy.
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY??INDIANAPOLIS - Ross Perot famously said, “Eagles don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.” ??It was a prescient comment from the first billionaire to run for president, coming a few years before Steve Forbes and some 34 years before Donald J. Trump. In late spring 1992, Perot actually led President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton in the polls, giving us a glimpse of a populist movement with widespread traction.??Writing then for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, I got a ground floor view of this movement. The Perotistas had set up an office in a Fort Wayne strip mall. It was an utter beehive, with volunteers buzzing about, breaking Allen County into "zippies" (i.e., zip-codes) to organize a political movement.??Aided by the fledgling radio talk star Rush Limbaugh, the Perotistas were pissed off about what they perceived to be bad trade deals like NAFTA, with Perot saying in his Texas nasal twang that the "giant sucking sound" we’d be hearing were jobs headed to Mexico. Perot favored term limits for Congress. He loathed the special interest money that Donald Trump would later define as "the swamp." He once said, "The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, the public debt should be reduced and the arrogance of public officials should be controlled."??Perot took on both the Clintons and Bushes three decades before Trump. This came in an era prior to the World Wide Web, but Perot communicated with his peeps in his own way. He appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live," vowing to run for president if the people would qualify him for the ballot in all 50 states. Working class folks from Fort Wayne to the coasts rose to the challenge, achieving his goal in the ultimate political draft movement.??And three decades before Trump declared health reform and trade wars would be "simple" to win, Perot had his own boasts: “I can solve the problem of the national debt without working up a sweat. It’s just that simple.”??If there was an enemy at hand, Perot's approach was curt and concise: “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”??There are many comparisons between Perot and Trump, but the former provided a crucial lesson to the latter. Perot tried to win the presidency as a populist independent. But as the rockers say, "paranoia will destroy ya" and the media got inside Perot's head. He declared midsummer that the news media was conspiring to ruin his daughter's wedding, and the whole thing began to unravel. He exited the race, then stormed back. But the window to victory had closed.??When the votes were counted, Perot carried 18.9% of the vote nationally, including 19.77% in Vice President Dan Quayle's Indiana. He paved the way for Clinton to defeat Bush. From this showing, Perot created the Reform Party, used it to run again in 1996, and the party was a presidential campaign platform that Trump briefly dallied with in 2000.??But as Steve Earle's folk hero John Lee Pettimore down on Copperhead Road might put it, Donald J. Trump came up "with a brand new plan." Trump would speak the populist code to the regular folks and take over an entire party, the Grand Old Party. While the Hoosier Republican establishment stuck with John Kasich and Ted Cruz in the 2016 primary, Trump invoked the coaching trinity (Bobby Knight, Gene Keady and Lou Holtz), deemed the state "Importantville" and like another populist (socialist Bernie Sanders) won the Hoosier primary with 53% of the vote.??Gov. Mike Pence would see the light and a golden opportunity, and today Hoosier Republicans have enjoined the Trumpian cult of personality. They now eschew balanced budgets and free trade, embrace tariffs and farm bailouts, don't mind sexual harassment allegations (unless you're Attorney General Curtis Hill) and don't sweat a bead if Harley-Davidson is demonized.??“Ross Perot was certainly the most influential political force in the late 20th century from outside the regular party system,” Allan Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University, told CNBC. “I think what explains it is people’s dissatisfaction — this is absolutely relevant to the appeal of Donald Trump — people’s dissatisfaction with business as usual in Washington.”??Perot once said, “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.”??Donald J. Trump took that ball and rammed it up the gut, then spiked the ball into the punch bowl. He took over a party, beat the Bushes and Clintons, and as Frank Sinatra might put it, he's doing it "my way."??I couldn't find any Ross Perot quotes explicitly about Donald Trump, but he did say, "War has rules, mud wrestling has rules, politics has no rules."

    INDIANAPOLIS - Ross Perot famously said, “Eagles don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.” It was a prescient comment from the first billionaire to run for president, coming a few years before Steve Forbes and some 34 years before Donald J. Trump. In late spring 1992, Perot actually led President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton in the polls, giving us a glimpse of a populist movement with widespread traction. Writing then for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, I got a ground floor view of this movement which for several weeks prompted many of us to think he could actually win. The Perotistas had set up an office in a Fort Wayne strip mall. It was an utter beehive, with volunteers buzzing about, breaking Allen County into "zippies" (i.e., zip-codes) to organize a political movement. Aided by the fledgling radio talk star Rush Limbaugh, the Perotistas were ticked off about what they perceived to be bad trade deals like NAFTA, with Perot saying in his Texas nasal twang that the "giant sucking sound" we’d be hearing were jobs headed to Mexico.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - By 2020, Indiana may become the so-called "middle finger" of Midwestern marijuana prohibition. Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational weed last month, joining Michigan. It's on the ballot again in Ohio this November and likely to pass. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in either medicinal and recreational forms, as well as Canada. But this is Indiana, where the political class can sometimes be a decade behind the sentiment of voters. The October 2016 WTHR-Howey Politics Indiana Poll  revealed 73% favored legalizing medicinal marijuana, including 58% of conservatives. Democrats were most likely to support with 82% followed by independents at 77% support and Republicans with 59%. Hoosiers older than 65 had the lowest level of support but still favored legalization 57% to 41%. Indiana governors and political leaders have trailed national trends before. During the 1970s as surrounding states lowered drinking ages to 18 and 19, Indiana resisted. Its neighboring states later reinstated the 21 age limit.  While Gov. Eric Holcomb says he would need Federal Drug Administration recognition of marijuana legality before moving Indiana in that direction, his status quo to side with the prohibitionists does so on social and economic issues.
  • CHICAGO  – Psssst, Mr. President, you will not be running against Hillary Clinton in 2020. This past week, President Trump and Vice President Pence kicked off their reelection campaign in Orlando and while he repeated the premise for another four years - “Promises made, promises kept” - it was also an exercise in grievance, with nary an aspirational echo from those like President Kennedy or Reagan. “Our political opponents look down with hatred on our values and with utter disdain for the people whose lives they want to run,” Trump said. "They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny. But we will never let them do that, will we? They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign — probably the greatest election in the history of our country."  Trump brought up Hillary Clinton’s “33,000 emails” as the capacity crowd chimed “Lock her up!” Trump won his historic upset in 2016 in part because of his own shrewd strategies and fulsome use of social media. But there were many of his supporters, particularly in Indiana, who loathed Hillary Clinton and voted for the billionaire. But folks, Hillary ain’t runnin’. She’s back in Chappaqua. While the economy is humming, GDP is meeting his prediction of close to 3 percent growth, and jobless levels are at 50-year lows, Trump is not reaping the political windfall that most presidents do with such a positive economy.
  • RAPID CITY, S.D. - Just months after he was vanquished in the 1940 election by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie became his emissary, traveling the world on his behalf in a show of American unity during World War II. At Tehran, he gave the Shah of Iran his first airplane ride. At a fete on his behalf, Willkie complimented the Shah on a beautiful Persian rug. The Shah had his men roll up the rug, putting it on Willkie's plane as a gift, where it ended up at Indiana University's Lilly Library and, eventually, Bryan House. I tell this story because Willkie built on the world travels of U.S. Sen. Albert Beveridge a century ago to form what I call the "internationalist" wing of Indiana politics. These are the public servants who understood global complexities and worked them to the Hoosier advantage. Willkie would author the book "One World" which became a template of the emerging post-World War II new order. He would be followed by U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, U.S. Reps. Lee Hamilton, Tim Roemer and Frank McCloskey, and Gov. Robert Orr. Orr would open up Asian investment in Indiana and become ambassador to Singapore. Lugar forged monumental nuclear safeguards and pushed for global food security. McCloskey intervened in the Balkan genocide. Hamilton and Roemer served on the 9/11 Commission, with the latter becoming ambassador to India. There is now a new member of the internationalist wing: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who gave a compelling and analytical viewpoint into American foreign policy at Indiana University this past week. It was prefaced during an MSNBC Town Hall when he was pressed to name a "living" Republican he admired. Coming just after the death of Sen. Lugar, Buttigieg responded, "I had such a great answer if it wasn't living," Buttigieg said, then naming Willkie. "He was from Indiana. He put country before party."
  • IOWA CITY - If you had to conjure a living version of the word "improbable," look no further than South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. When he launched his presidential exploratory effort last January, even some Hoosier Democrats thought he was overly ambitious. Heading into the sixth month of this experiment, Mayor Pete now faces a crucial sequence that will go along way in determining whether he's an epic dreamer, on the brink of a presidential nomination, or a slot on the national ticket.  After a series of critically acclaimed town halls on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC and dozens of network talking head appearances, Buttigieg will find himself on the debate stage with the frontrunners, the old folks of the Democratic Party: Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Biden has dominated with a Real Clear Politics polling composite lead approaching 20% but has had a tormented week capped by a sudden shift on the Hyde Amendment after supporting it for decades. Sanders has faded, Warren is on the rise, and Buttigieg has leveled off in the polls after flirting with the so-called "top tier" nationally and Iowa and New Hampshire polls. He lags behind in South Carolina, where he has virtually no support from the crucial black voters.
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  • Howey returns
     "I want to thank the many subscribers who reached out to me and my family over the past few weeks. I also want to thank you for hanging in with us as we met these challenges. I promise to return strong and with new product lines that will be unveiled in the coming weeks." - HPI Publisher Brian A. Howey following his release from the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana Wednesday morning following his treatment at St. Vincent's Medical Center for a head injury on Monday Nov. 18. The next weekly HPI will be published on Thursday, Dec. 12.
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  • Into the impeachment vortex ...
    Here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this week is anyone's guess. 

    When I wrote the Sept. 19 HPI cover story - "The Double Dog Impeachment Dare"  - the Ukraine quid pro quo scenario was just beginning, becoming a full congressional/media vortex suck. Regular Hoosiers I know aren't paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

    We'll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2. Impeachment is an American tragedy. 3. Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4. Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5. If we get into a mode where we're impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed. 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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