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Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:28 PM
ANGOLA, Ind. – These past few weeks, we’ve seen yet another example of sclerosis in Washington, this time with the farm bill. On a topic that begged for compromise, everyone dug in, and there was celebration in some quarters even as they were spitting the ashes out of their mouths.
Next up comes the immigration package, with House Republicans overwhelmingly balking Wednesday at the Senate passed bill despite warnings from Speaker John Boehner about the political consequences.
Later this year, we’ll get another debt limit faux crisis.
It is a city of gangs who can’t shoot straight, of rhetoric akin to methane gas seeping out of a melting tundra. Gallup has congressional approval at 10 percent, yet another historic low.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo’s column on page 1 hits a number of points that are resonating. And it underscores a recent piece by conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on what he calls the “power inversion,” the rise of city states and regional governments that fill the void left by the partisan polarization in Washington.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – When Vice President Mike Pence strides into the J.W. Marriott Friday night for the Republican Fall Dinner, and then the Saturday GOP “Right Track Barnstorm Tour” kickoff, he finds himself at the apex of Trump World. The president’s approval popped up to 41% in CNN tracking. Unemployment is the lowest in 50 years. Trump achieved his remake of NAFTA, and that has bought him some time with Hoosier farmers and manufacturers still nervously awaiting some resolution to the shotgun $200 billion tariffs aimed at China. Most Hoosier farmers are sticking with the president even as their bottom lines take a hit. On that front, Pence thrust himself fully into the China fray this past week by warning the emerging Pacific powerhouse that it mustn’t meddle or assault our elections, and it had better keep away from our ships, that latter notice coming after a close call with the USS Decatur and a Chinese interceptor ship. “The United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence said at the Hudson Institute. “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”

  • WEST LAFAYETTE – From the auto assembly lines in Fort Wayne and Kokomo, to the RV belt in Elkhart and Goshen, to the rows of soybeans across the Hoosier state, there’s been much organizational angst over President Trump’s trade strategy and tariffs.  But if there was a hold-the-line mentality, it came from individual farmers, union workers and the assortment of President Trump’s 2016 voters. Even though candidate or President Trump has never so much as stepped on to a Hoosier farm, in many of Indiana’s agriculture counties, Trump had pluralities in the 65 to 70% range. Through dozens of press accounts and TV interviews we hear this: Trump gets the big picture. There was a method to the madness that seemed to defy conventional wisdom. And last Sunday night as the farm bill stalled in Congress, the word was that through ultimatum and insult, Trump had forged a deal with Canada and the president’s whipping boy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. What emerged was the final part of a trilateral agreement with one of our staunchest allies. NAFTA would be replaced with the United States, Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).


  • Brian Howey: That race between 'Mexico Joe' & 'China Mike'

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - In past U.S. Senate races in Indiana, the emphasis in the campaign homestretch is mostly concentrated on domestic or foreign policy. We’ve watched the debate in races going back to 2010 center on issues like deficits and debt, Obamacare, our alliance with Israel, military strength, or tax reform. The battle between U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Republican Mike Braun this time has strangely focused on their personal business interests, with most of the dirty work coming from super PACs which operate independently and are cloaked from the actual campaigns. If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve heard about “Mexico Joe” shipping jobs south of the border and Braun, whose company is selling auto parts imported from China.
  • 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. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – For months now we’ve scanned the horizon for the so-called “blue wave,” a response from voters in November’s mid-term elections for what President Trump has vowed to make a referendum on himself. Speaking with Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks a couple weeks ago, he called such a wave political event “fictitious,” believing that the GOP majorities will hold in Congress and across the state. There were precursors to such a tsunami. In an era where some two dozen women had made sexual harassment allegations against the president, the wrenching immigrant child separations from their parents at the border, the prospect of the overturning of Roe. v. Wade where an NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll showed 70% supporting (including 52 percent of Republicans), we watched 57 women file for Indiana General Assembly seats.  Now with the release of the NBC/Marist Poll in the U.S. Senate race, we’ve learned that U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has a 44-41 percent lead over Republican Mike Braun, with Libertarian Lucy Brenton coming in at 8 percent. For a historical perspective, in Donnelly’s race against Republican Richard Mourdock in 2012, a Sept. 27 Howey Politics/DePauw Poll had Donnelly up 40-38 percent in a race in which many perceived him as a distinct underdog. 
  • MICHIGAN CITY - A decade ago Indiana was a battleground for control of Congress. Between 2004 and 2010, there were six U.S. House seats that flipped. We weren’t “flyover country” when it came to Capitol Hill. Indiana was often ground zero. The flipping began in 2004 when Republican trucking executive Mike Sodrel upset Democratic U.S. Rep. Baron HIll 49.4 to 49 percent. Two years later, with the Iraq War dissolving into an insurgency that would claim more than 5,000 American lives and more than 100 Hoosier soldiers, Hill returned with a 50-45 percent victory in a rematch, while Democrats Brad Ellsworth and Joe Donnelly upset U.S. Reps. John Hostettler and Chris Chocola, the latter by a 53-46 percent margin. In 2010, two more seats changed parties, with Republican Todd Young upsetting Hill 52-42 percent. Dr. Larry Bucshon won the 8th CD by defeating State Rep. Trent Van Haaften 57-37 percent in a seat Democrat Rep. Ellsworth abandoned to replace Sen. Evan Bayh after he stunned the political world with his retirement. Compare that to this year’s mid-term elections, where the website FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats at 74 percent chance of retaking the U.S. House, but in Indiana’s nine districts, well, there’s hardly a race to be found. Reps. Pete Visclosky, Jim Banks, Susan Brooks, Andre Carson and Larry Bucshon all had a 99 percent chance of winning and so do new nominees Jim Baird and Greg Pence.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – When Attorney General Curtis Hill left the Indiana Republican Convention in Evansville last June, social conservatives were whispering in his ear about a potential 2020 primary challenge to Gov. Eric Holcomb after he help bat down a marriage platform plank change. Next week, when President Trump comes to Evansville to campaign for Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun, Hill won’t be there. On July 2, we learned that a female state legislator and three General Assembly staffers had made sexual harassment allegations against Hill, which are now being investigated by the state’s inspector general and a special prosecutor.  Three days later, Gov. Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Republican legislative leaders and Braun began cascading and coordinated calls for Hill to resign, citing “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment. Holcomb explained the allegations ”are disturbing and, at a minimum, show a violation of the state’s zero tolerance sexual harassment policy." Crouch explained, “The governor believes the women who came forward. Those actions violate the state's zero-tolerance policy.”  So at 7 p.m. CT next Thursday at the Ford Center, a fascinating juxtaposition will be there for all to see. Braun will rally with President Trump, who has been accused by upwards of 20 women of sexual harassment or assault. Some of these women – models, porn stars, journalists, an “Apprentice” contestant and even a Miss Utah –  have gone on the record, speaking to the Palm Beach Post, NBC’s Today with Megyn Kelly, the Washington PostUSA Today, BuzzFeed, Huffpo  and the New York Times

  • INDIANAPOLIS – It was just two years ago that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence entered the Trumpian twilight zone. Those close to him saw it as a deal with the devil. Others believed it would be his clearest path to the presidency that he had coveted since his childhood. What commenced in Indianapolis, Westfield, New York and then Cleveland in July 2016 has been Vice President Pence’s odyssey, with the final chapters of how this ends unwritten, unknowable, and perhaps, unfathomable. In the Pence worldview of ambition, he was climbing into the shoes of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush, turning the “heartbeat away” office as entry into the pantheon of 45. Or, he could be consigned to Vice President John Nance Garner’s “warm bucket” of “spit” occupied by Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Gore who aspired and fell short. On July 24, 2016, in Cleveland, we heard Pence cut through the myriad of controversies surrounding the GOP nominee. “Donald Trump gets it,” Pence said in his half-hour speech in primetime. “He’s a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers. He doesn’t tiptoe around a thousand new rules of political correctness."
  • Brian Howey: 24 years of real news from Howey Politics

    INDIANAPOLIS – With today’s edition, Howey Politics Indiana begins its 24th year of publishing. We do so across four platforms, reaching more than a half million Hoosiers per week. This benchmark comes in uncertain times. President Trump has labeled American news reporters, editors and photographers as “enemies of the people.” This has become the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts” as Americans have fled the First Amendment Tower of Babel into ideological silos. The divisions among us go beyond gender, race and creed and into who we voted for and what cable channel or social media platform we glean our information from. It also comes as American media finds its fiscal platform splintering. According to Pew Research, newsroom employment declined 23% between 2008 and 2017. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – worked in five industries that produce news: Newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and “other information services” (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – We are heading into that stretch of the election cycle where distinct trend lines begin to take shape. It was August 1994, 2006 and 2010 when the contours of those wave elections became more recognizable in polling. While voter intensity in polls has been more meaningful up to this point, the congressional generics begin to carry more heft in August and September. The anomaly was the historic 2016 election when many pollsters, pundits and, yes, even Republican nominee Donald Trump himself, were convinced that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. That all changed around 9 on Election Night when the epic Trump upset came into focus. This cycle, President Trump absolutely dominates all things politics. This election will essentially be a referendum on his first two years.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – What did President Trump and Russian President Putin talk about for two hours and 10 minutes when they were alone at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki Monday while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Jon Huntsman, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Chief of Staff John Kelly nervously waited outside? It’s something we may never know. Or, perhaps, we will in snippets as Putin sees fit. Asked whether the Russians recorded the Trump/Putin meeting sans aides (but, perhaps with a mic in Putin’s cufflinks), former CIA Director John O. Brennan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “In some manner, yes.” Did the Americans? “I have no idea,” Brennan responded. “I think whatever Mr. Trump said in that meeting with Mr. Putin is now memorialized on Russian tape and it will be used when necessary by Mr. Putin against Mr. Trump. I am sure he was told that. Whether he accepts what he is told by the men of the CIA and intelligence community, I don’t know.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Attorney General Curtis Hill is innocent until proven guilty on allegations that he sexually harassed at least three General Assembly employees and State Rep. Mara Candeleria Reardon at a late night March 15 sine die party. But when it comes to Politics 101 and the chapter of how an elected public official handles him or herself in in the public sphere, Hill is flunking out. The allegations that surfaced on July 2 in a leaked General Assembly investigation memo has prompted the Republican establishment - Gov. Eric Holcomb,  Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, House Speaker Bosma, Senate President David Long, Secretary of State Connie Lawson,  U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks and U.S. Senate nominee Mike Braun - to call for Hill to resign. That, folks, is a catastrophic collapse of political support from the most influential people in the state.

  • FREMONT, Ind. - Friday became the day when the reckoning begins. That’s the day President Trump’s first wave of tariffs kick in, hitting China with $34 billion of new taxation on imports. Hundreds of billions more are just over the horizon. China will respond, taking aim at American pork, poultry, soybeans and corn. So if you’re a Hoosier soybean farmer, and an overwhelming majority of these sturdy folks voted for Trump in 2016, this presents a dilemma. The guy you sent to Washington to drain the swamp, tell it like it is, and shake things up, is now fiddlin’ with your bottom line. The American Soybean Association is putting President Trump’s tariffs into perspective: Soybeans are the No. 1 U.S. agricultural export, with sales of $27 billion last year according to the Foreign Agricultural Service. Of those $27 billion in soy exports, $14 billion worth of soy and soy products were sold to China, which has stated it will retaliate in-kind to the Administration's Section 301 tariffs, with a 25 percent tariff falling on U.S. soybeans. According to a study conducted by Purdue University, it is projected that China's soybean imports from the U.S. would fall by 65 percent and total U.S. soy exports would drop by 37 percent. 

  • FREMONT, Ind. - U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly may have just gotten Comey’d. For Hoosier Republicans who have hitched their wagon to President Trump, having endured all the incendiary rhetoric, the tariffs that are now hammering soybean farmers and manufacturers who use steel, for all the extramarital porn stars and Playboy bunnies, for all the racism and assaults on American institutions near and far, last Wednesday made it all worth it. That was the day that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he would step down, giving President Trump the golden opportunity to put that august panel on a conservative arc for the next generation after years of 5 to 4 decisions with Kennedy as the swing vote. And not unlike FBI Director James Comey’s October 2016 surprise when he announced a new probe of Hillary Clinton that altered the course of the presidential race in Trump’s favor, Kennedy’s decision now roils the 2018 mid-terms, potentially restaging what had been shaping up to be a Democratic year.

  • CHICAGO - In the climactic scene in the movie “Apocalypse Now,” we find Capt. Willard in his attempt to terminate the command of a rogue colonel saying to his target, “They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.” Col. Walter E. Kurtz, responds, “Are my methods unsound?” And Willard replies, “I don't see any method at all, sir.” That’s what I see with President Trump this past month. A year after U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Joe Donnelly advised us to “wrap our heads around” the potential of a nuclear war with North Korea, President Trump had a one-day summit with the despot Kim Jong Un. His “fire and fiery” rhetoric appeared to bring Kim to the table. Dialogue is always preferable to war. You can make the case that incendiary tweets motivated the murderous Kim to show up. In its wake, Trump tweeted there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” It was a naive assertion, contradicted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was asked Wednesday about Kim’s steps to dismantle, saying, “No, I’m not aware of that. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”  
  • EVANSVILLE – Nearly 1,500 Republican delegates gathered here last weekend. Their Democratic brothers and sister convene in Indianapolis Friday and Saturday. So what is the status of Indiana’s dominant, super majority Grand Old Party? For Democrats, the blunt force reality is that their hold on the only office voted on by all Hoosiers, the U.S. Senate seat, is now a “tossup” race. The Morning Consult “2018 Midterm Wave Watcher” supplies some statistical grist: Donnelly’s approve/disapprove stood at 41/34 percent, down from 43/30 percent in January. But the real heartburn for Democrats is that 44 percent said it’s “time for a new person” while 31 percent said Donnelly “deserves reelection.” The Donnelly campaign’s fundraising appeals are also fraught with angst. “We know our emails have been a little panicky lately, but we’re not exaggerating when we say that Joe’s chances of winning in November are no better than a coin flip,” read one Team Donnelly fundraising appeal last week. Another notes: “Here’s the deal … The pollsters are calling this race a toss-up, and that means we’ve got an equally good chance of losing as we do of winning. I’ve heard that before, though. After all, no one thought we’d win in 2012.” The “blue wave” that had been a double-digit advantage for Democrats until May, has turned into, as Republican National Chairman Ronna McDaniel put it, a “blue ripple.”  
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – Some how, some way in the curiously twisted mind of President Donald J. Trump, Canada is deserving of disrespect, derision and PM Justin Trudeau has a “special place in hell” awaiting him. And Kim Jong Un is to be trusted. “He trusts me and I trust him,” Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopolous. This comes after decades of North Korean deception, lies, brutality and evasions. This is the same Kim who ordered the murders of his deputy premier for education (by firing squad), Gen. Hyon Yong-chol (excuted by an anti-aircraft gun), his brother Kim Jong-nam (assassinated in a Malyasian airport) and uncle Jang Song-thaek (killed by anti-aircraft gun and incinerated by flamethrowers) while 120,000 endure torture and hard labor in four political prisons. Trump also trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been implicated in the murders of dozens of political opponents and journalists, annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine while shooting down a commerical airliner and runs a kleptocracy. Oh, and Putin orchestrated the meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
  • FREMONT, Ind.  – We’ve all had that feeling of veering in heavy traffic and just missing a major collision. If your family was strapped in behind you, it’s the kind of memory that gnaws at you late at night. What if? What if there had been a cement truck coming up on the lane I swerved to? That’s the feeling Hoosier leaders and citizens should be realizing in the wake of the West Middle School shooting in Noblesville last Friday. A typical 13-year-old girl named Ella Whistler went to school and ended up at Riley Hospital after suffering gunshot wounds. Since 2011, she’s the third Hoosier student to go to school in the morning only to be shot and taken away later that day in an ambulance. The other two shootings happened at Lawrence North and Martinsville high schools, in districts represented by Speaker Brian Bosma and incoming Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, respectively. Ella’s teacher, former Southern Illinois University defensive end Jason Seaman, was shot three times while tackling the teenage shooter. The shooter brought guns from his home to school. Police had been called to his residence several times prior to the shooting on reports he had guns. There are many questions: How did this teenager have access to the guns he brought to school? Did the parents have them secured? Did police inform school officials the shooter had been investigated for having guns? 

  • FREMONT, Ind.  – Hoosier voters are familiar with a number of political family dynasties, the Bayhs, Carsons, O’Bannons and Viscloskys. And now another is emerging with the Brays. At the General Assembly’s special session earlier this month, Senate Republicans anointed State Sen. Rodric Bray as the incoming Senate president pro tempore, replacing the retiring Sen. David Long. It was a majority caucus vote that insiders say Bray won by a single vote over State Sen. Travis Holdman. It won’t become official until all senators vote the day after the November election. While seen as a fait accompli, there will be at least four new senators replacing Long, the defeated Sen. Joe Zakas, and the retiring Sens. Doug Eckerty and Jim Smith. Sources say they expect the Bray selection to endure after the election.  Bray’s election differed from the other two pro tempore showdowns in 1980 and 2006 that have shaped the modern leader of the Indiana Senate.
  • 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.” 

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  • Trump wanted to shut down U.S. border with Mexico
    “Close the whole thing!” - President Trump in a stormy Oval Office meeting about immigration. The Washington Post reported that aides talked Trump out of shutting down the U.S.-Mexican border, telling him it would curtail $600 billion in annual trade. Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton reportedly had a “profane” argument that prompted Kelly to storm out of the White House. Meanwhile, an immigrant caravan coursing through Mexico is becoming a late mid-term campaign issue. Trump said in rally in Mesa, Arizona Friday night, "Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs."
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  • It's Oct. 20 and it's weirdly green in Brown County
    In another year of Category 4 hurricanes ravaging the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, wildfires devouring hundreds of thousands of acres in the American west, and a landmark United Nations report painting dire consequences of climate change coming as early as 2040, this has been a strange, strange autumn down here in Brown County.

    It’s Oct. 20, and it’s still green. There is very little color here in what should be the heart of what locals call “leaf looker” season. The golds, yellows and reds are mostly missing. And most of the leaves are still on the trees (though today’s high winds will change that a bit). Looks like peak color will come next weekend. No matter the color, c'mon down! 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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