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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 – 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.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — President Trump, Vice President Pence and Gov. Holcomb face the most daunting policy dilemma so far this century, which is how and when do they reopen the economy? I publish the Howey Politics Indiana Daily Wire, a news aggregation service, and here were the top headlines on Wednesday: Governor sees gradual rolling reopening; Dr. Box ‘cautiously optimistic’ on surge; Holcomb preparing for fall virus breakout; Pence says economy will reopen at ‘responsible’ moment; Spike in people dying in their homes; Rep. Hollingsworth says reopening economy worth risking death; Historic fall for U.S. retail; Banking execs tell Trump more testing needed for public confidence; Conferences tell Pence football can’t happen until campuses reopen. In the Daily Wire’s “Nation” section, there were stories of “hundreds” of protesters against Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, and “thousands” rallying against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home orders. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN that sports and concerts in Tinseltown would not return until 2021. “Nothing I’ve heard would indicate that we’ll be in those large, thousands-of-people gatherings anytime soon, and probably not for the rest of this year,” Mayor Garcetti said.
  • INDIANAPOLIS — The economic carnage of this pandemic is without historic parallel. Just this past week ArcelorMittal idled another blast furnace in East Chicago, Hoosier Park Racino at Anderson and the Tropicana Casino in Evansville furloughed a combined thousand employees, as did the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Cummins, Honda and Toyota all extended plant shutdowns through May 1. The half million small businesses across the state find themselves on the brink of oblivion, risking hundreds of thousands of Hoosier livelihoods. Last week Indiana endured 134,000 unemployment claims. Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne told the Northwest Indiana Times, “Prior to March of this year, the highest number of claims that were filed in a one-week period was the week ending Jan. 10, 2009, about 28,000.” That was during the Great Recession of 2008-09. Folks, these are Great Depression type statistics. Which begs these questions: How does America restart the $22 trillion economy? And while the coronavirus pandemic is stressing medical systems across the nation, the number of total positive cases in Indiana were 8,236 and deaths were 350 on Monday, this coming in a state with 6.85 million people. 
  • 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.
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  • Holcomb delays reopening; says COVID 'on the prowl'
    “Nationwide, collectively, cases are at a peak level. We have to accept the fact that this virus is on the prowl and it’s moving, even within our borders. We are living on virus time, so to speak.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, announcing a shift in the reopening of Indiana's economy during the pandemic, which has surged to 52,000 new cases on Wednesday. He said that Indiana has moved to "stage 4.5" after initially signaling a full reopening by July 4. The restrictions remain until at least July 17, just a few weeks from the scheduled reopening of state schools, universities and fall sports, Indiana cases have remained relatively flat compared to 36 other states, but new hotspots in Evansville and the Lafayettes have joined Elkhart County. Holcomb and Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box urged Hoosiers to wear face masks in public, but did not make it mandatory.
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  • Trump answers Hannity question on what he'd do if elected to a 2nd term
    “Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before - I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.” - President Trump, answering this question from Fox News' Sean Hannity at a Wisconsin town hall Thursday: “What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?”
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