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Monday, April 6, 2020
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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 — Fear. That was the name of Bob Woodward’s first book on the Trump presidency. It’s been a theme of Michael Moore documentaries and a proven Madison Avenue marketing device. And fear has become an invasive pandemic element that has seeped into every family, every business, every school, and every circle of friends this spring. Fear has planted itself in our collective psyche. My explicit fear is the Intensive Care Unit. After suffering a subdural hematoma last November, I ended up in the St. Vincent ICU – then one of about 1,400 in the state – for about five days. I was on one of the state’s 1,100 ventilators for about 36 hours. When I came to, I couldn’t talk with the tube going down my gullet. I remember thinking, “How in the hell did I get here?” I had no idea. And the sounds of that ICU – the chimes and what seemed like an animated woodpecker working on a hollow log – haunt me to this day. I never want to go back to the ICU. When this pandemic began, with Gov. Eric Holcomb and President Trump issuing stay-at-home orders early last month, I needed little convincing to remain holed up at our condo. Time in the ICU will do that to you. As Holcomb said on Monday, “It took a month for the United States to record its first 1,000 deaths, and then it took just two days to record the next 1,000. In Indiana we went from one COVID-19 case on March 6 to 1,786 today. Those are the ones we know of. Our first COVID-19 death in Indiana was two weeks ago today and we’re now at 35 Hoosiers who have passed.” By Tuesday, it was 49. By Wednesday it was 65. By Friday it had topped 100.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – For more than two centuries, Hoosiers have participated in democracy by going to their local polling place to vote. In normal times they chat with their neighbors as they wait in line. These are not normal times. Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Chairman John Zody combined in a letter earlier this month calling for expanded absentee balloting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that signaled what Gov. Eric Holcomb announced last Friday: A delayed primary until June 2. “The coronavirus pandemic is causing all of us to consider precautionary measures related to group gatherings and general interaction with other people, and Election Day is no exception,” Hupfer and Zody wrote. “For their safety, the safety of poll workers, absentee voter board members, and election administrators, and the safety of all Hoosiers, allowing maximum flexibility, while preserving a citizen’s right to vote, is paramount.” Last Wednesday, the Indiana Election Commission voted unanimously to move the primary to June 2. At its April 22 meeting, the discussion will likely turn to how the Nov. 3 election will be conducted. On Monday, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the advocacy group Indiana Vote By Mail urged the commission to expand vote by mail for the general election. Specifically, the groups urged the commission to: Extend access to “no-excuse” absentee voting to all voters in the general election, as well as the primary; Send all registered voters an absentee ballot by mail, with the state covering those costs (as opposed to requiring all voters to apply for an absentee ballot); Clarify how the signature match process to verify voter identity will be done; Provide rules for the efficient counting of a significantly larger number of mail-in ballots. It came as media reports revealed that Porter and Hamilton county election officials were seeking to entire high school students to serve as primary poll workers because many poll personnel are self-quarantining. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS — It is becoming apparent that Indiana and the U.S. will not duplicate South Korea’s coronavirus response with widespread testing to determine and isolate vectors and victims, which would then reopen society for business and pleasure. Health experts ranging from the now famous Dr. Tony Fauci to Indiana University’s Prof. Aaron Carroll had been telling us for weeks that testing was the key. Dr. Carroll, writing in The Atlantic with Harvard Unversity’s Dr. Ashish Jha, said, “We can create a third path. We can decide to meet this challenge head-on. It is absolutely within our capacity to do so. We could develop tests that are fast, reliable, and ubiquitous. If we screen everyone, and do so regularly, we can let most people return to a more normal life. We can reopen schools and places where people gather. If we can be assured that the people who congregate aren’t infectious, they can socialize.” While the World Health Organization and epidemiologists from around the globe say that widespread testing is the key to defeating COVID-19 and reopening commerce, Hoosier leaders seem to be saying that’s not going to happen. Of 6.85 million Hoosiers, only 3,356 Hoosiers had been tested by midnight Tuesday, while the death toll rose to 14 and the number of cases spiked to 477.  Now as the U.S. and Indiana populations steeply head up the pandemic curve, Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box said Tuesday, “I want to emphasize we’re still in the early parts of this outbreak. We will continue to see more cases. Every state is having to adapt daily as the situation changes. That includes how we investigate cases. Across the country states are finding the traditional approach to investigating cases and tracking every single contact of every person who tests positive is not sustainable." With the state’s capital city poised to join the ranks of American cities under siege from the coronavirus, as supplies from the federal government are coming in at just a fraction of our needs, the Holcomb administration acknowledged Tuesday afternoon it is relying on “homegrown” solutions.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. — It's been described as "the new normal." COVID-19 cases are exploding across the state, doubling between mid-week and this weekend, and now doubling again. The South Bend Tribune  reported that people are buying guns and ammo, and an Evansville State Police Post spokesman tweeted Sunday that the Indiana National Guard has been activated by Gov. Eric Holcomb for logistical help to get medical supplies to hospitals, and not to secure highways and borders. "The National Guard's mission is to aid our fellow Hoosiers and state agencies during this crisis," said Brig. Gen. R. Dale Lyles. "At Stout Field in Indianapolis, we are actively working with INDOT to assist with the distribution of critical medical equipment and supplies to those hospitals throughout the state with urgent needs. We are citizen soldiers and airmen and we are here to help during these trying times." Hoosiers are facing their greatest physical and economic threat since the Great Depression and on the most crucial aspect of this crisis – the availability of coronavirus testing that would allow health and policy executives to learn of the extent of the spread and contact trace those in a cluster – we are flying blind.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — This has become the whiplash era of American politics. The punditry class was chastened in 2016. Howey Politics Indiana put out a “blue tsunami warning” that June, only to see it swing wildly the other way resulting in Donald Trump’s stunning upset of Hillary Clinton. But Political Science 101 teaches us that no two election cycles are the same, particularly in consecutive fashion. Now think about where the 2020 presidential race was a month ago: President Trump was acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial and his approval approached the 50% mark that had eluded him for most of his first term. His reelection chances were greatly enhanced. Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa delegate battle, and came within a whisker of upsetting Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. But Bernie’s win there ignited the notion that Trump’s risk of impeachment to slime Joe Biden had handsomely paid off, setting up his dream November showdown with an avowed Socialist. With Joe Biden’s apparent demise, Trump v. Sanders appeared to be a fait accompli. Since then, we’ve watched the coronavirus swarm across the globe and into the American psyche, shutting our society down for what looks to be a month or two. President Trump’s response has been abysmal, crystalized in his visit late last week to the Center for Disease Control where he asked, “Who would have thought? Who would have thought we would even be having the subject?” Ask Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box or Gov. Eric Holcomb if they had ever pondered a microbe-induced pandemic here.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — Back in 1980 while working for the Elkhart Truth, I covered a rising star congressman named David Stockman, who represented a southern Michigan district. He was handsome, astute, Harvard-educated and cerebral, with one of my editors observing, “The genes really came together with him.” Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will became an ardent proponent of Stockman, declaring that should Ronald Reagan reach the White House, he should put Stockman in charge of the Office of Management and Budget. That actually happened, though subsequent events collided with a sensational interview with legendary journalist William Greider in the 1981 Atlanticarticle, “The Education of David Stockman” in which he ackowledged the inherit contradiction of Reagan’s campaign promises to raise defense spending, cut income taxes, and balance the budget, all at the same time. While Stockman would premise his Reaganesque promise of “it’s how the world works,” during the Greider interview, he acknowledged “absolutely shocking” metrics. “All the conventional estimates just wind up as mud,” he said. “As absurdities. What they basically say, to boil it down, is that the world doesn’t work.” Stockman finally said in what had become the obvious: “None of us really understands what’s going on with all these numbers.”It famously earned Stockman a trip to President Reagan’s woodshed. I tell this tale in the days following Pete Buttigieg’s withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race last Sunday. Mayor Pete knew the metrics, saw his path to the Democratic nomination winnow to less than a mouse hole, pulled out of the race and endorsed Joe Biden. He, too, understood how the world worked.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — When the Indiana Democratic Party convened its 2012 convention in Fort Wayne, party leaders like gubernatorial nominee John Gregg warned of an “extreme” and “radical” Republican party. But tucked away at the Democratic Party’s AFL-CIO luncheon was the keynoter, Democratic socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders told 350 Hoosier Democrats, “Our job is to tell working people that we have got to stand together against the onslaught of big money or there is not going to be a middle class in this country.” He said workers must “fight back in a way that has been true of the labor movement since its inception. That is, we educate and we organize.” It prompted then Republican National Committeeman Jim Bopp Jr. to propose an RNC resolution calling on the Democrats to officially call themselves the “Democratic Socialist Party.” Curiously, Gregg didn’t pose for a picture with the Vermont senator. I wondered about the wisdom of inviting Sanders in 2012, thinking that it was odd at the time. Little did we realize it was harbinger for things to come. My next brush with Sanders came on primary election eve in 2016, when Sanders drew a crowd of 10,000 people at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. This was my first glimpse of "Bernie's Army." It feeds off the same grievances that Donald Trump did in 2016: The systems are rigged against the common man. The Manhattan billionaire and the Vermont millionaire were feeding off the same energy, just 180 degrees apart across the political spectrum.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court faces a “political” decision that will be known in the next three weeks: What to do about Attorney General Curtis Hill? Former justice Myra Selby determined a 60-day suspension in light of his 2018 sine die party horndogging, in which he was accused of groping a Democratic legislator and three staffers. She also recommended no automatic return to office. Indiana law requires the AG to be “duly licensed to practice law in Indiana.”  In Selby’s words, “By seeking and accepting the responsibilities of the office of Indiana attorney general, (Hill) undertook to conduct himself both officially and personally in accordance with the highest standards that the citizens of the state of Indiana can expect.” So if the Supremes accept Selby’s recommendation, Hill “likely would be forced to immediately vacate his office because he no longer could practice law,” according to NWI Times reporter Dan Carden. This has never happened since the 1851 Indiana Constitution became the law of the land. And it begs all sorts of questions. Is the alleged behavior by Hill that kind for which any other lawyer in Indiana would be disciplined?
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Before Sen. Bernie Sanders’ narrow New Hampshire primary victory Tuesday night over Pete Buttigieg, Notre Dame Prof. Robert Schmuhl questioned the viability of the two major political parties in his recently published book, “The Glory and the Burden: The American Presidency from FDR to Trump.“ Is Sanders on his way to what would be the continuation of a new trend in American politics: The individual takeover of the two major parties by the Vermont senator and the current White House inhabitant, President Donald Trump? These twin forces have induced considerable volatility in the world’s oldest republic and super power. If you need an accompanying soundtrack, Donald Trump’s 2016 Republican National Convention acceptance speech in Cleveland will suffice: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” Schmuhl, whose son Mike Schmuhl is Pete Buttigieg’s campaign manager, writes of the Vermont socialist’s loss to Hillary Clinton in June 2016: “Sanders in defeat took with him a following of supporters afire with the political passion that one didn’t detect with Clinton backers. When Trump beat Clinton in November, more than a few analysts wondered aloud whether Sanders would have been more appealing to ‘the forgotten men and women’ of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin who put Trump over the top in the Electoral College. “Trump and Sanders exemplify the weakening nature of the major parties as political institutions,” Schmuhl observes. “Most observers date Trump’s association with the GOP only back to his questioning of Obama’s birth certificate of 2011, while Sanders’s official Senate biography identifies him as ‘the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.’” He then poses this question: “Have the parties actually become obsolete or extraneous in the nominating process of the so-called party standard bearer?”
  • INDIANAPOLIS  — Some called it the State of the Union address. But Tuesday night was another episode of Donald Trump’s White House reality show, coming just hours before the U.S. Senate acquitted him in his impeachment trial. He was greeted by Republican Nixonian chants of “four more years” in a Chamber that voted to impeach him less than two months ago. He refused to shake Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand. Pelosi dropped the normal “distinct pleasure and high honor” part of her greeting. After the speech that claimed the historic great economy (which is growing at a modest 2.3%) and portrayed himself as a defender of pre-existing health conditions (his administration is doing the exact opposite in the courts), the speaker tore up his speech. She described it as a “manifesto of mistruths.” But this was a classic made-for-TV moment. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We have totally rejected the downsizing,” President Trump said in a speech during which he honored Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom and reunited a military family. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back.” “He has had existential political threats facing him from the moment he was elected until tomorrow,” Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak told Reuters, referring to the impending acquittal vote on impeachment charges.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — With closing arguments completed and Senate jurors in Q&A mode in President Trump’s impeachment trial, we find this a cleaved nation, with the We Ask America Poll in Indiana perfectly framing the situation: 47.4% of Hoosiers approve of the president, 47.7% disapprove. A Fox News Poll released Monday has 50% supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal, while 44% oppose. There is little that can be said from the well of the Senate that will change the opinion of these masses, or of the two major political parties, or perhaps even you, dear reader. The Senate is poised to acquit President Trump. The risks facing Republican senators are the recent revelations from Lev Parnas and now former national security advisor John Bolton. Will that give them pause prior to their potentially premature verdict? As U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the House impeachment managers “put together a broad, comprehensive case” but he characterized it as “circumstantial in nature.” And then came this nugget when moderator Chuck Todd took a Rex Early axiom (“I don’t have to slam my hand in the car door twice to know that it hurts”) and pressed the freshman Hoosier senator: “This president, as you know, he’s going to take acquittal and think, ‘I can keep doing this.’” Braun responded: “No, I don’t think that. Hopefully it’ll be instructive. I think he’ll put two and two together. In this case, he was taken to the carpet.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS -  Since House Democrats impeached President Trump on a mostly party line vote late last month, I’ve been pretty outspoken that his future should be determined by the voters at the ballot box in November. A historic first censure of a president should become a viable option. Having stated that, we appear to be in for a Senate impeachment trial, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to send the two articles to the Senate until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows witnesses. Specifically, Democrats maintain that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House counsel Don McGahn, former nation security adviser John Bolton, and several Office of Management and Budget officials should testify. President Trump wants Joe and Hunter Biden to swear an oath and talk before these Senate jurors. Since polarized Washington has foisted this debacle on to the American people, then it's only fitting to have a real trial, with real witnesses. If Trump wants us to believe there was no transgression, he should allow senior aides to testify.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana’s two most competitive congressional districts are both open seats in 2020 and are mirror images of each other. The 1st District being vacated by 18-term U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky is in the heart of the state’s industrialized northwest Region. The 5th CD spans northward from Indianapolis, including the doughnut suburbs of Zionsville, Carmel, and Fishers, as well as Anderson, Marion and suburban Kokomo. Four term Republican Rep. Susan Brooks declined to seek another term. According to the 2017 Cook Partisan Index, the 1st is +9% Democratic (meaning a generic Democrat candidate in a normal election cycle could expect a 9% plurality) while the 5th is +9 Republican. These are the two most competitive districts in Indiana. The current maps drawn in 2011 stand to make history. If the 1st and 5th CDs stay in their current party columns next November, these maps will be the first time in the television age when not a single Hoosier congressional seat changed parties.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — There are no winners. We’re all losers, from President Trump down to my kids who will be facing a precarious future filled with climate and fiscal challenges. That’s what I was thinking Wednesday afternoon, watching the mind-numbing tribal parade of congressional Republicans and Democrats stating their rote impeachment talking points. They were all talking past each other, not to each other. It was a disgusting display of governance, across the board. By late that night, Donald John Trump became only the third American president to be impeached, and in payback Washington, perhaps only one of many to come before we know whether we can really keep our republic going. And you could see this coming from miles away, with “The Squad” talking about impeachment months before President Zelensky was even elected president of Ukraine, to Trump’s George Stephanopoulos interview last June when he was asked if he would accept foreign assistance to win reelection in 2020.  “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump answered. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘we have information on your opponent’ – oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Last Sept. 19 in my publication Howey Politics Indiana, I wrote the cover story "Double Dog Impeachment Dare."  It came just as the whistleblower had surfaced, flagging President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky. There were 146 Democrats (including Indiana's Andre Carson) and one former Republican backing the impeachment of Trump at that time. I acknowledged a sinking feeling about this Ukraine story. Just a day before his “perfect” July 25 phone call with Zelensky , Trump seemed to have dodged the Robert Mueller threat. But last June 16, Trump was asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos if he would accept foreign intel heading into his 2020 reelection. "I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump answered. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘we have information on your opponent' – oh, I think I'd want to hear it."  Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub quickly released a statement on Twitter to make it "100% clear to the American public" that accepting such an offer is illegal. "This is not a novel concept," Weintraub said. "Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation."
  • INDIANAPOLIS – To use a well-worn-political phrase, is timing is everything. That may have prompted the latest change of the Republican guard at the Indiana Statehouse this past week where we saw State Rep. Todd Huston of Fishers take the House speaker’s gavel by acclamation from one of the strongest speakers in Hoosier history when Brian Bosma of Indianapolis decided to stand down.  Bosma spent two non-consecutive terms with the gavel in what is considered by many as the most powerful Statehouse office due to the Indiana’s constitutionally weak governorship, where a veto can be overridden by a simple majority vote. It follows a similar transition in the Indiana Senate a year ago, when Rod Bray of Martinsville took the helm from Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne, while on the fiscal side State Sen. Ryan Mishler of Bremen and Travis Holdman of Markel took the reins from Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley and Budget Chairman Brandt Hershman. Informed and reliable sources tell me that House Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown will seek reelection in 2020 after surviving critical injuries in a 2018 motorcycle accident at the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan. Huston served as co-chair of that influential, budget-writing committee during the 2019 biennial session.
  •  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.

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  • Pence says U.S. pandemic is 'comparable' to Italy
    “We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.” - Vice President Pence, to CNN on Wednesday, after he was asked how severe the COVID-19 pandemic will get in the United States. The pandemic has hit Italy the hardest to date.
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  • President Trump, Gov. Holcomb address the pandemic in their own words
    The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming the story of our time. As Sen. Todd Young explained, unlike the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the Oil Shock recession of 1979-82, what we are experiencing today is a double hammer: A pandemic and a severe economic panic. The Hoosier State is poised to go from a historic low 3.1% unemployment rate to double digits in the span of a month. At least one pandemic model says 2,400 Hoosiers will die.

    Tough times shift our attention to leadership. Here are quotes from President Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb as the pandemic approached the U.S. and then impacted our nation and state.

    President Trump

    Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” – CNBC interview.

    Feb. 10: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” – New Hampshire rally.

    Feb. 24: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock market starting to look very good to me!” – On Twitter.

    Feb. 25: “China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they are working very hard. If you know anything about him, I think he will be in pretty good shape. I think that is a problem that is going to go away.”

    Feb. 26: “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” – At a White House news conference.
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