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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 – Big Ten football made a stunning comeback on Wednesday. It announced it would revive its postponed season on Oct. 23-24. But the crowds won’t go crazy. The pandemic will keep stadiums mostly empty. This coincides with the University of Washington’s Health Metrics projected spike in COVID infections in Indiana beginning in late October. If Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mask mandates are discontinued or widely ignored (and there is ample evidence of this around the state), the projections are for increased deaths and hospital resource use that will surpass those of late April and early May during what was thought to be the first wave of the pandemic. If there is a clear winner in this beyond the highly ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, it is President Trump, who called Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren two weeks ago, urging him to reconsider the decision to postpone the season until the winter or spring of 2021. Through the prism of Trump’s shaky reelection bid, anything resembling a return to normal is to his advantage.
  • MICHIGAN CITY – I was with a veteran Democratic operative on a wintry night in 1998 when the story of President Clinton’s relationship with a White House intern broke on network news, Monica Lewinsky was revealed, and the scandal began mushrooming. My friend began laughing and then he blurted out, “It’s true!” How could he be so sure? I asked. “Because she’s his type,” came his response. And as we came to know through the tortuous process that led to Clinton’s impeachment … it was true. I tell this tale as the story broke late last week about President Trump’s disparaging remarks in the summer of 2018 when he refused to go to a ceremony honoring the 1,500 fallen U.S. Marines at the World War I Aisne-Marne Cemetery, reportedly saying these dead Americans were “losers.” Jeffrey Goldberg’s assertion in The Atlantic continued that Trump considered Vietnam vets “suckers” for fighting in a war he had avoided due to a friendly doctor’s diagnosis of bone spurs. On Wednesday, Bob Woodward’s book “Rage” cast further brooding shadows on the Trump psyche, with former Indiana senator Dan Coats and Vice President Pence’s  conspicuous but divergent roles coming into focus. Woodward recounts Defense Sec. Jim Mattis quietly going to Washington National Cathedral to pray about his concern for the nation’s fate under Trump’s command and, according to Woodward, told Director of National Intelligence Coats, “There may come a time when we have to take collective action” since Trump is “dangerous. He’s unfit.” In a separate conversation recounted by Woodward, Mattis told Coats, “The president has no moral compass,” to which the director of national intelligence replied, “True. To him, a lie is not a lie. It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”
  • MICHIGAN CITY – If ever there was a professional resume to match a political moment, it could be that of Dr. Woody Myers. The Indiana Democratic gubernatorial nominee is a medical doctor who spent his mid-career as a health official to corporations like Ford Motor Co. The campaign notes: Dr. Myers’ career intersects with many of the highest-profile medical stories of the last few decades, including teaching emergency medicine in San Francisco at the time of the emerging AIDS crisis. Myers served as Indiana health commissioner and championed the cause of Ryan White, a young boy infected with HIV who wished to attend public school. On his Twitter account, Myers acknowledged, “My life has led to this reckoning of a pandemic, an economic collapse, and a racial awakening. This election, we are fighting to put people over politics and fix this broken system.” But as he heads into the Labor Day milepost, the Myers campaign languishes in his challenge to Gov. Eric Holcomb. The pandemic has crimped Myers’ challenge financially from its beginning in March. But he began the year with just a $14,648 balance, even though Myers declared his candidacy the previous July. The Myers campaign posted $678,296 on its June 30 mid-year report and had just $72,310 cash on hand, which is by far the worst performing gubernatorial campaign for the two “major” parties in a generation. Holcomb began the year with $7.25 million and at the June 30 reporting deadline, had more than $8 million cash on hand. He has already spent “seven figures” on two statewide TV ads and has booked all the ads the campaign figures it needs through the Nov. 3 election, according to his campaign manager, Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer. “We’re not going to take our foot off the gas,” Hupfer said.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - There’s a forecast that is predicting that up to 1.8 million Hoosiers will vote by mail via absentee ballot for the coming general election. This comes during a pandemic that has stricken more than 90,000 of us in cases documented by the Indiana State Board of Health and killed more than 3,000 Hoosiers.  While Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson signed off on expanded, no-excuse absentee voting for the pandemic-delayed June 2 primary election, the state is sticking to its rules for the general. “I want to make it clear that we are going forward with a normal election process here in Indiana,” said Lawson, who is not granting press interviews due to litigation. “We will not be making changes like we did in the primary since the stay-at-home order has been lifted.”  Earlier this month, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers and attorney general nominee Jonathan Weinzapfel called for an extension of the no-excuse absentee voting. “Indiana is one of only eight states that do not allow all voters to vote safely by mail in times of a pandemic,” they said in a statement. More than 500,000 people voted absentee in May and June. Weinzapfel added, “An overwhelming number of Hoosiers have been calling for safer voting options. With the election fast-approaching, our Indiana counties need direction now.”  President Trump has consistently said that voting by mail is corrupt and will “rig” the election, even though he and Vice President Pence as well as many U.S. military servicemen and women abroad vote that way. “Mail ballots, they cheat,” Trump said earlier this month.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – By any measure, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mid-day address on Tuesday was extraordinary. Stating that Indiana stands at an “inflection point” and promising Hoosiers that he is prepared to become a racial “barrier buster,” the governor traced the nation’s racially charged lineage from Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” to the Civil War, to the Jim Crow era leading up to the civil rights movement, and the current Black Lives Matter. That it came a week before the virtual Republican National Convention with President Trump emanating a series of racial dog whistles ranging from his defense of Confederate statues to equating a Black Lives Matter mural as a “symbol of hate,” to Patricia and Mark McCloskey (the St. Louis couple pointing guns at a group of Black protesters) receiving invitation to address the RNC, is fascinating timing. By Wednesday, Holcomb’s bold move brought criticism from his right and left flanks. While most of the press equated Holcomb’s address to simple policy – Indiana State Police to be equipped with body cameras – there was something far deeper here. Holcomb began with a statement, saying racism is “another kind of virus that is equally voracious and it’s in turn forcing us to a reckoning as a state and nation – one that’s built on ‘equality for all.’”

  • INDIANAPOLIS – There was one key moment during the 2016 vice presidential debate between Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democrat U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine. Pence was pressed on why he backed a ban on Syrian refugees. “I have no higher priority than the safety and security of the people of my state. So you bet I suspended that program,” Pence responded to Kaine. “And I stand by that decision. And if I’m vice president of the United States or Donald Trump is president, we’re going to put the safety and security of the American people first. Donald Trump has called for extreme vetting for people coming into this country so that we don’t bring people into the United States who are hostile to our Bill of Rights freedoms, who are hostile to the American way of life.” It led many observers to say that Pence won that debate, or at least held his own. And don’t forget, this came during Donald Trump’s pre-Comey meltdown period when most saw Pence as auditioning for a Fox News show and 2020. When Joe Biden picked U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris for his ticket on Tuesday, setting up what could be an out-sized debate sequence, given the pandemic has robbed us of conventions and rallies, the national pundits suggested Sen. Harris would, as the New York Times’s Frank Bruni put it, “have him for breakfast.” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt observed, “I think Mike Pence is going to have a very, very difficult time in the vice presidential debate. Frankly, intellectually, from an eloquence and articulation perspective, they’re not in the same league with each other.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In the April 7, 2011 edition of Howey Politics Indiana, I offered up this analysis of the coming reapportionment: "New Congressional and legislative maps are being forged in the Indiana House and Senate and are expected to be made public next week. Whatever the specifics are, the new maps will likely paint a grim picture for Indiana Democrats." The year before, Republicans seized control of the Indiana House, giving them a commanding trifecta (along with the staunchly GOP Indiana Senate and Gov. Mitch Daniels) to steer the reapportionment outcome. Then Secretary of State Todd Rokita, now the Republican nominee for attorney general, came up with what seemed to be reasonable guidelines: The districts would be based on “communities of interest” keeping legislative and congressional county lines intact, and nesting House districts in Senate districts. Gone would be the serpent-shaped gerrymandered maps Hoosier Democrats had drawn in 1991 and 2001. The final product, which breezed to passage and Daniels signature, came via computer-assisted Republican consultants. They worked with and weaponized the demographics from the 2010 Census that posed a daunting challenge to House Democrats. During that fateful spring of 2011, the 40 Democratic-held Indiana House districts gained a total of 4,681 people, an average of 117 per district. The 60 GOP-held Indiana House districts gained a total of 398,636 people; an average of 6,644 per district. In the April 14, 2011 edition of HPI, my analysis: "Canny House Republicans can get maps for the next decade that will be fertile ground for future majorities just by playing the demographics straight and following the Rokita doctrine that has been embraced by the governor." Now as we head into the fifth and final cycle of these maps, the adjective "grim" is an understatement for Hoosier Democrats. It has become an enduring nightmare. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – We are less than 100 days before the November election and on Thursday, President Trump suggested via Twitter that it be delayed. "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," Trump began. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"  His plaintive wails continued on Friday: “This will be catastrophic for our nation. You'll see it. I'm always right about things like this. I guess I must be, or I wouldn't be sitting here. Everyone knows mail-in ballots are a disaster." These grievances prompted the Wall Street Journal  to editorialize Friday, "Delaying the Nov. 3 elections is a dreadful idea. This is not to suggest that the November election will be 'rigged, as Mr. Trump asserts. If he believes that, he should reconsider his participation and let someone run who isn’t looking for an excuse to blame for defeat." In April, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said, “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”  This is not an isolated case of the injection of doubt in what has become a cornerstone of American democracy: The national election and a peaceful transfer of power. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – A day after Gov. Eric Holcomb had to tamp down rumors relegating COVID-19 as a “hoax” and conspiracy, and President Trump finally asked “everybody” to wear a face mask, Indiana became the third state headed by a Republican governor to mandate the now controversial facial coverings. In just about every other nation, wearing a face mask has been seen as a common sense approach to a pandemic where an estimated 40% in an Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health study are asymptomatic. In Japan, people wear masks when they catch a common cold out of respect and safety for those around them. In America and parts of Indiana, face masks are seen as an infringement on personal freedom. “We’ve arrived at this juncture because over the past several weeks, a few things have happened,” Holcomb said at his weekly press conference. “There has been a rise of COVID positivity across the state from a low of just 3.6% a month ago to where we find ourselves today with a seven-day average rate of just over 7%. The last couple of days it rose to 8%. “As a lagging indicator, our overall hospitalization has increased from about 600 a day at the end of June to about 800, where we are now,” Holcomb continued (there were 954 new cases on Thursday, 1,011 on Friday, 934 on Saturday). “Some counties in the past that had never been a blip on the radar screen for positive tests are reporting regular double digits of positive cases now, counties like Clark and Dubois, Kosciusko, Posey. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – During a hot July four years ago,  Donald Trump rescued then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence from what many believed would be a career-ending loss to John Gregg. And now, four years hence, it is Vice President Pence who is tied inextricably to the flagging fortunes of America’s most conspicuous pandemic victim, President Trump. Vice presidents must become team players, echoing their boss. But what Vice President Pence faces now is a pandemic that is becoming the gravest crisis facing the nation since World War II. The emerging consensus is that with Pence at the helm of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the federal response has been botched. It took Trump nearly two critical months to acknowledge this health crisis wasn’t a “hoax” dreamed up by Democrats and the news media. The federal response has been punted to the 50 states in what every other country has deemed to be a national crisis. With U.S. deaths approaching 140,000 in just five months, on Tuesday, Italy reported 114 new cases, Germany 276, and the United States 67,400. At critical junctures, Pence has misled the American people. In an April 24 interview with Geraldo Rivera, he said, “If you look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.”
  • BLOOMINGTON – Everyone, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to parents, teachers, students and employers, yearns to reopen schools and universities within the next three to four weeks. But parents are consumers, and most want schools to reopen when it is safe to do so. On Tuesday, President Trump injected politics into the equation that is being debated by thousands of school trustees, administrators, state and local health officials. “We hope that most schools are going to be open,” Trump said at the White House. “We don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. They think it’s going to be good for them politically so they keep the schools closed." He threatened to cut off federal aid to schools that don’t fully reopen. The problem these educators and trustees are facing is the resurgence of the first wave of COVID-19. Trump cited school reopenings in Germany, which posted 219 confirmed cases on Monday, compared to 192 in Italy and 57,186 in the U.S. On Friday, there were 68,226 new cases in the U.S. Indiana has seen its testing positivity rate increase to 5.9% this past week, a precursor to more trouble, which arrived on Friday when the Indiana State Department of Health announced 748 new cases, a spike of over 200 from the day before. It was the largest one-day increase since May 6, when cases increased by 837. Vice President Pence said at a now rare Coronavirus Task Force presser, “Well the president said today, we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough. That’s the reason why next week, the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.”

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – Forty-one years ago as the U.S. reeled from oil shocks and long lines of cars just to get gas, the conservative tabloid New York Posteditorialized: "Independence Day, 1979 the American paradox is bleakly apparent. As a nation, we appear to have become steadily more dependent on forces seemingly beyond our control, losing confidence in our ability to master events, uncertain of our direction." Out on the left coast, the Los Angeles Times observed: "The United States is now a victim of a loss of nerve and will, wracked by indecision and groping for a glimpse of inspirational and innovative leadership." That was the precursor to what became known as President Jimmy Carter's "malaise speech." After disappearing for over a week, Carter told the nation in a televised address that July, "The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation."  That's where we are as a nation now. The invisible enemy is COVID-19, with cases up 82% from two weeks ago. The European Union, which has been reporting about 5,000 cases a day (compared to more than 50,000 in the U.S. on Wednesday) banned Americans from traveling there earlier this week. Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted 100,000 new cases a day as the nation is going “in the wrong direction.” A Pew Research Poll revealed that as the United States "simultaneously struggles with a pandemic, an economic recession and protests about police violence and racial justice, the share of the public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plummeted from 31% in April, during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, to just 12%. Anger and fear are widespread." Folks, this is due to an abject failure of leadership.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – With 45,000 COVID-19 cases reported in just one day (compared to 5,000 in the European Union) this past week, it is becoming clear the United States is flunking its pandemic response in an epic fashion. Had Americans opted to wear face masks and continue social distancing, we might have avoided the hard choices that face our governor and mayors. And this is the first wave of COVID. The second wave has been forecast for later this fall and winter. Upwards of 75% of Hoosiers live in urban areas and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stratospheric job loss portends to significant revenue loss for municipalities. That could mean tax and fee increases for those residents. An analysis by Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research finds that the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19 has deeply damaged the state’s economy. The study released on June 12 estimates state and local governments are now facing tax revenue losses for all local governments ranging from $240 million to $700 million in 2020. CBER anticipates tax revenues will rebound by the end of 2021 but remain beneath the 2019 levels by as little as $39 million and as much as $559 million. The state is expecting a $2 billion revenue shortfall by the time the biennial budget ends in June 2021. “Our scenarios reflect a state that will not fully recover from this pandemic before 2022, if not much longer,” said Michael Hicks, CBER director.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – Last March 29, President Trump said at one of his coronavirus task force “shows” that “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” But that is exactly what Trump and coronavirus task force chair Mike Pence are saying and doing in their stewarding the United States through the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 1 million people, killing 118,000 since March. On June 16 in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pence insisted, “In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown.Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear-mongering.” Eight days later, the United States recorded 45,000 news cases (compared to 5,000 for the European Union, which is considering adding Americans on a travel ban list along with Russians and Brazilians). Indiana is in stage 4 of its five step reopening and has stabilized what would have been a major health system overload by shutting down in March. The final stage 5 in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s reopening plan was supposed to be July 4, coinciding with the NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But it will be run without fans in the stands, and dozens of county fairs, fireworks and festivals, along with the Indiana State Fair have been cancelled. Trump and Pence can “celebrate “ their “victory,” but the population remains guarded after this pandemic has claimed 2,265 Hoosier lives, with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicting 2,800 Indiana deaths by Aug. 1 and 3,407 by Oct. 1. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Just minutes after President Trump chided American governors for not “dominating” violent protesters in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and just days after he used a 1960s era catchphrase ("When the looting starts, the shooting starts"), Gov. Eric Holcomb addressed Hoosiers. “Every breath we take, every breath we have left should be devoted to making sure what happened to Mr. Floyd never happens again,” Holcomb said, two days after violence rocked downtown Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, resulting in death and destruction. “What started as a justifiable, and actually, needed protest has turned into something else. Indiana, we don’t have more time or lives to lose. I implore every Hoosier ... to use your breath, your will, in efforts that bridge, not divide. Only then will these tense and turbulent times give way to the more optimistic days ahead.” As Holcomb spoke, smart phones across the state blared an “emergency alert” that Marion County would be under a curfew that night. And how did President Trump respond after calling governors "weak" and suggesting they were "fools" and must “dominate" lest "you're going to look like a bunch of jerks"? He had Attorney General William Barr use tear gas and concussion grenades to clear a peaceful protesters across the street from the White House in Lafayette Park, where he then walked and used the Holy Bible as a prop, holding it upside down for a photo op.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. — One of the most arduous jobs in America these days is being a governor of one of 50 states. The Trump administration has essentially kicked the response to the coronavirus pandemic to the states, and so Gov. Eric Holcomb and his 49 cohorts have had to make unprecedented decisions that have impacted millions of people. Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer began getting calls after Holcomb's mid-March decision to shut the state down. "I used the line ‘The easy decisions were made about three days ago,'" Hupfer said. "They are all hard now. There are no easy decisions. So now every decision is between two bad things. There just aren’t good options left. It’s been that way through the whole thing.” Since that decision, deaths and jobless statistics have mounted at a startling rate. At this writing there have been 1,764 deaths, 29,936 total cases, and 202,995 tests. All of these health stats are significantly below what experts say the real numbers are. Nearly 650,000 Hoosiers have filed for unemployment compensation and many of the state's 500,000 small businesses are vulnerable, causing the state jobless rate to skyrocket from 3.2% in February to 16.9% in April, a truly jaw dropping and historic number. These statistics form the basis for the policy tug-o-war Holcomb and other governors face.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — In the hours after the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission suspended Attorney General Curtis Hill for groping four women at a legislative party, there was speculation as to how Gov. Eric Holcomb would respond. Hill said he accepted the 30-day suspension with “humility and respect.” Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer released a statement, saying, “The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that Curtis Hill committed battery against four female victims. Hoosiers would be best served by having a new Attorney General. I have faith in our delegates.” Some saw it as the governor, his hands full with the coronavirus pandemic, throwing the decision to Republican convention delegates. But that was quickly  dispelled by a Supreme Court filing by the governor’s legal counsel on Tuesday seeking “clarification whether the Court’s May 11, 2020 Order suspending Attorney General Hill from the practice of law for a period of 30 days means that he is not ‘duly licensed to practice law in Indiana’ as set forth in statute. “If Attorney General Hill does not have the requisite qualifications for the office … such that the Governor must name a successor for the remainder of Attorney General Hill’s current term,” the filing stated. “The clarifications being asked of this Court are necessary for the Governor to fulfill his constitutional and statutory obligations.” Thus, it became clear: Gov. Holcomb is going to play hardball.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — When I pray, it usually goes something like this: “Dear Lord, give me the strength and courage to overcome the adversity I now face.” Today, I will pray for something very specific: A coronavirus vaccine ... the sooner the better. While I give Gov. Eric Holcomb and his team much credit for their response and transparency, my take on President Trump is that he’s mailed it in. On one hand, Trump said, “This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There has never been an attack like this.” On the other, he essentially said it was up to individuals and states to cope with the virus and there will be lives lost. “We have to be warriors,” he said. “We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” There will be no viable national testing/tracing regimen needed to orchestrate a credible economic reopening. After an aide to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive, Trump said on Friday, “This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great." Besides, testing will increase the number of cases, and Trump has made it clear that will be bad for his reelection. So testing has been punted to the states. There was talk of disbanding the White House coronavirus task force, until Trump reversed course a day later saying it would continue “indefinitely.” He was in denial for the critical three months leading into the societal shutdowns of April. He is now poised to compound early mistakes in an effort to save his reelection campaign.
  • TRAFALGAR — I moved to a new condo in the early stages of this pandemic, and as I restored my personal library, I found a coverless paperback edition of Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock.” In his introduction for the 1970 landmark book, Toffler explained, “I coined the term ‘future shock’ to describe the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short of time.” With this coronavirus pandemic, we have essentially come to another pivot point in American culture which has begun to unfold over the past six weeks, joining the American Revolution, the Civil War, the 1929 stock market crash that wrought the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War II, the assassination of President Kennedy, and 9/11 as events that inextricably changed our lives. The dreary month of April ends with more than a quarter million Hoosiers out of work, at least a thousand dead, while our favorite stores, restaurants and bars are on the ropes.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — In times of crisis, people look to their leaders for guidance and reassurance. As the COVID-19 pandemic has been stealthy and mysterious while inflicting a heavy toll on Indiana (12,438 documented positive cases and 661 deaths at this writing), we've watched President Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb deal with this scourge on a daily basis. Neither had held elected office before their elections in 2016, so we didn't know how either would respond to a crisis. While Holcomb has grappled with the opioid epidemic for much of his first three years in office, President Trump hadn't been tested in crisis that wasn't his own making until now.  Holcomb has seen his state enter March with a 3.2% jobless rate and record employment involving more than three million workers, and will exit April with perhaps more than 1,000 Hoosiers dead, the economy tanking at historic rates unseen since 1929, with perhaps as many as a half million unemployed, while 500,000 small businesses teeter on the brink. The COVID-19 virus has infected less than 1% of Hoosiers, and killed just a fraction of those. But it has shut down a state with an annual GDP of more than $360 billion,  taking aim at an array of small and large corporations, tens of thousands of bars and restaurants which saw April revenues decline by almost $1 billion. It could cost local governments between $200 million and $360 million in revenue.
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  • Coats calls for bipartisan election oversight commission
    "The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond. The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will. Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election." - Former national intelligence director and Indiana senator Dan Coats, in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday morning. 
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  • Woodward on why Coats didn't speak out on Trump
    Bob Woodward, the author of the new book “Rage” discussed the way in which President Trump diminished former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former DNI Dan Coats and why he thinks Mattis and Coats have not publicly spoken about the president. “It’s almost a book in itself,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday. “This was a man who was a senator from Indiana. He was retiring and he was offered this job from Mike Pence, and felt he could not say no. He went in with these Republican values and was stunned, shocked and, in a way, just ground down from Trump’s refusal to accept reality.” Woodward said that at one point Mattis and Coats talked after a National Security Council meeting. “Mattis says that Trump has no moral compass. And Coats says, ‘Donald Trump,’ their leader, ‘does not know the difference between a lie and the truth.’ They were in the latter phase of their lives. (Trump) pulled all of these stunts in a way that led them to the point where, in Coats’s case, his wife Marsha said to him, ‘Look, Dan, God put you in this job. You’re not just failing the country, yourself and your family, but God and you need to get organized.’ Trump expelled him when it did not serve Trump’s purposes.”  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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