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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 - Your odds of being killed in a car crash are one in 102; being struck by lightning, one in 15,300; dying in a plane crash, one in 205,000; being eaten by a shark, one in 4 million; or dying in a tornado, one in 5.6 million. Your odds of developing a blood clot by taking the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: Extremely unlikely. According to Reuters out of more than 8 million J&J vaccines given, only 17 developed a clot. I go over these morbidity figures as the Center of Disease Control reported earlier this week that just 25.4% of Hoosiers have been vaccinated, ranking 45th in the United States, while the Indiana State Department of Health puts it at 26.4%. Neighboring Michigan has turned into a COVID hotspot, with emergency rooms swamped with younger patients. It's encroaching into Northern Indiana, with hospitals in Elkhart and Goshen at capacity, while statewide hospitalizations were up 50% since March. Late last year, Indiana health officials were giddy over what has become a modern scientific breakthrough on the scale of the World War II Manhattan Project, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, or putting an American astronaut on the moon eight years after President Kennedy issued the challenge. That breakthrough was the COVID-19 vaccination, coming within a year. Nobel Prizes will be awarded for this achievement. The more of us who get it means the days of social distancing, mask wearing, fanless stadiums, and closed schools and businesses would soon be over.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – The headline under LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody’s sunny, smiling face in the Herald-Dispatch was this: “LaPorte officials urge everyone to get COVID-19 vaccine: ‘We’re not trying to be political.’” It’s headlines like this that really make me wonder whether the human race, which has been around in our evolutionary state for only about 10,000 years, is going to last more than the next century or two. Here we stand amidst a modern scientific medical miracle: The development, testing and implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine within a year. And what we face as a society is what is being called the “hard part,” which is getting the vaccine into the arms of about 50% of the population who have yet to receive a dose. A Monmouth Poll last week revealed “partisanship” remains the main distinguishing factor among those who want to avoid the vaccine altogether, with 43% of Republicans versus just 5% of Democrats saying this (along with 22% of independents). This “vaccine hesitancy” demographic is poised to prevent the U.S. from attaining “herd immunity.” As COVID-19 mutates and morphs, the nasty scenario is what is happening in Michigan, which has a higher inoculation rate than Indiana, but finds its emergency rooms swamped with COVID patients, becomes the norm.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We are now in the “Super Majority Era” of Indiana governance. While there have been 20 Democratic House and Senate super majorities, and 49 for Republicans over the past two centuries, never have these decks been stacked like they are today with both chambers so Republican that they can do business without a single Democrat present. According to former speakers Brian Bosma and John Gregg, current Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray are working with caucuses that are too big, with the bipartisan filters removed. As the General Assembly heads toward an April 21 sine die, Huston and Bray are attempting to shepherd their super majority caucuses (39 in the Senate, 71 in the House) on an array of issues that could alter the state’s future pandemic responses, how it deals with municipalities and manages its natural resources ranging from wetlands, to CAFOs, to 5G cell tower siting, local ordinances, as well as abortion. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – If there was a silver lining after a horrible year of pandemic, it was that the Hoosier Hoops Holyland and its ancient cathedral (Hinkle Fieldhouse, among other venues) would become the Center of the Basketball Universe during March Madness. The pandemic has been a cruel arbiter. When it surfaced in March 2020, games were literally ended at halftime, Butler’s Bulldogs had been ranked No.5 in the nation just a month before, and Indiana Coach Archie Miller was looking at his first tournament in three years at the helm. There would be no crowned champion. By the time the Pandemic March Madness unfolded last month, ominous trends began to emerge. Purdue was the lone state team to make the field. Archie Miller had been fired. Brad Stevens wasn’t interested in a move to Bloomington, even though his eighth year at the helm of the Boston Celtics was underwhelming, fueling speculation of dismissal. The pandemic field was not only missing IU, but Duke and Kentucky as well. Kansas and North Carolina missed the Sweet 16. For the next two weeks, it appeared the basketball gods were punking us. Purdue continued its March Madness futility, losing to tough North Texas State, ruining about 90% of brackets in the state. Half the IU team had entered the transfer portal. The powerful Big Ten’s nine entries quickly faded despite early round games at familiar Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena. And when the Final Four was forged, who showed up? Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson, who had been the poster boy of IU’s post-1987 futility. But then the clouds parted, a shaft of sunlight appeared, and angels began singing. Gene Keady showed up for a reunion at Bob Knight’s new Bloomington digs. Mike Woodson was lured away from the New York Knicks to take the helm at IU, pleasing The General.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – During the television age of Indiana politics, the General Assembly had been a pipeline of future governors. Govs. Harold Handley, Matt Welsh, Edgar Whitcomb, Doc Bowen, Robert Orr and Frank O’Bannon had all spent time in the dual “Cave of Winds” on the Statehouse third floor during a 40-year span. But five out of the last six governors had arrived at power via other routes, whether it was Secretary of State Evan Bayh, Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan (a former mayor of South Bend), White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels, Congressman Mike Pence or Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb. As I look out over the current General Assembly roster, only a handful appear to have the resume and a feel for the people’s pulse needed for the job, as well as a penchant for leadership. This is relevant now because the gubernatorial power is being challenged a year into the current COVID-19 pandemic. At least two bills - House Bill 1123 and Senate Bill 407 - are in play during the final three weeks of the current session that would clip the governor’s authority. HB 1123 (now Senate Bill 5) would allow for the General Assembly’s Legislative Council to convene a special session to deal with an emergency. It would provide for businesses and individuals to appeal any “enforcement action” taken by local health departments during emergencies. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – Three days after he was elected chair of the Indiana Democratic Party last weekend, Mike Schmuhl explained, “I feel like a basketball coach who hasn’t been to the tournament in a while. I’ve got to get the team back in the tourney, man, and then we’ll go from there.” Not since 2012, when Joe Donnelly won a U.S. Senate seat and Glenda Ritz upset Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, has a Hoosier Democrat won a statewide race. In about 21 months, he will meet up with the legacy of Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer, who is riding the kind of winning streak that legendary UCLA coach John Wooden would appreciate. Hupfer was unanimously elected to a second term on Wednesday and is considered a potential 2024 gubernatorial contender himself. Hoosier Republicans now control 88% of all county elected offices, all of the Statehouse constitutional offices, nine out of 11 congressional offices, 71 mayoral offices after a record 19-office increase in 2019, while it has maintained super majorities in the General Assembly.


  • INDIANAPOLIS - Former president Donald Trump was asked by Fox News Maria Bartiromo whether he believes his supporters should get the COVID-19 vaccine. “I would recommend the vaccine," said Trump, who received the inoculation in January before leaving office. "And I would recommend it to a lot of people who don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly.” Last week, a Monmouth University poll found that 56% of Republicans either wanted to wait and see further before getting a vaccine or said they will likely never get one, compared to just 23% of Democrats. A NPR/PBS/Marist found 47% of Trump voters and 41% of Republicans said they will not get the vaccine. Trump joins President Biden and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barack Obama in getting vaccinated. Those three former presidents along with former vice president Mike Pence, Gov. Eric Holcomb, Senate President Rod Bray, Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor and State Rep. Robin Shackleford, who heads the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, have joined the ranks of leaders who are publicly demonstrating that the three available vaccines are safe and effective. There is a sense of urgency on this vaccination front. The more people who get it, the closer that Indiana and U.S. gets to "herd immunity" and the chance to put this terrible pandemic behind us once and for all. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Sen. Todd Young is a political death star when he’s matched up against an opponent of congressional pedigree.  In 2010, he won a four-way Republican primary by defeating former congressman Mike Sodrel. His victory nearly wiped out his campaign war chest, but he raised $357,000 in the third quarter and overcame a $700,000 cash disadvantage to defeat Democrat U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, 52-42% in the autumn.  In the 2016 U.S. Senate primary, he defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman 67-33%. He figured he would face Hill again, but that July the Democrat stepped aside, former governor and senator Evan Bayh took his place with $10 million he had hoarded since he left the Senate six years earlier, and lost to Young by a 10-point margin. The worst kept secret was that Young would seek a second Senate term, announcing on Twitter and YouTube last week, “When you entrusted me the honor of serving you five years ago, I swore an oath to defend the constitution. I also pledged to you that I would work on behalf of all Hoosiers to deliver conservative results. I believe I’ve lived up to that and kept my word but more work remains, so today I’m announcing my reelection campaign.” With Young officially in the race, the next question would be, who will challenge this Republican? The obvious answer was former senator Joe Donnelly. His former campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, is running for Indiana Democratic Party chair against Trish Whitcomb with Donnelly’s imprimatur. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS - It was a year ago Saturday that the first Hoosier was stricken with what has become our 21st Century nightmare, COVID-19. Ten days later Roberta “Birdie” Shelton became the first known death, dying alone in a pandemic that came quickly and with great mystery. Now, some 12,633 Hoosier deaths later (and more than 517,000 nationally), we are seeing what has been widely described as a "light at the end of the tunnel." Earlier this week, the millionth Hoosier took what is nothing short of a modern miracle, a vaccination developed and tested in less than a year that is guaranteed to keep you out of the hospital and an early grave. Gov. Eric Holcomb was asked by a Brown County Democrat  reporter how we will know when the pandemic is over. "It's an almost impossible question to answer because we don't know," he responded. "What we do know is we have more control now than ever, and it's paying off. In previous surges, we didn't have a vaccination to bring down those hospitalization rates and deaths. Now we do."

  • INDIANAPOLIS — For the past four decades, I've covered the Indiana General Assembly as a reporter and monitored it as a columnist and publisher. What occurred on the House floor and out in the Statehouse hallways last week has been described as a "racial" clash. And I will tell you upfront that while there has been racial tension throughout Indiana's two centuries of statehood, this is the first time in my memory that it bubbled up so publicly at the Statehouse. It appears to have begun during a debate about a St. Joseph County school transportation bill with State Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, objecting and then walking off the House floor. State Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary had declared the United States to be a "racist nation." That was met with booing and catcalls, with Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas stalking off the House floor. Multiple reports described a hallway shouting match between State Reps. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis. "Everybody over there is racist and discriminatory," Summers told the IndyStar of House Republicans. "Those that aren't and are not standing up for what's right, they’ve got white privilege and they’re racist too." Rep. Lucas's involvement came after he had posted several racially-motivated memes on his Facebook page as recently as last summer. This came under the first-year leadership of House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, who quickly described himself as "embarrassed" by the incident, adding, "I’m committed today to increase focus on maintaining decorum, civility and professionalism in this institution.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS – There’s a reason that President Truman had a sign on his desk reading “The Buck Stops Here” that became ingrained in American culture. There’s a reason that a statue of Gov. Oliver P. Morton along with two Union soldiers guards the east entrance to the Indiana Statehouse. These reasons all point to one critical thing: Leadership. In the case of Morton and Truman, they rose to power and made crucial and astute decisions during the Civil War and World War II with no playbook. Just like Gov. Eric Holcomb and 49 of his American counterparts did beginning about a year ago with the COVID-19 pandemic. Holcomb is now faced with an Indiana General Assembly trying to whittle away what little power an Indiana governor has. There are efforts to crimp the governor’s power that he exercised 55 times via executive orders since the pandemic began in March 2020.  Included in this legislation would be exemptions for churches during pandemic shutdown orders.  “It’s just at any time during those extensions, the legislative body may say, ‘OK, the third extension we need to come back and at least have a discussion,’” said House Majority Leader Matt Lehman. Other legislation by State Rep. Bob Morris would prohibit the governor from placing restrictions on any business’s capacity or operating hours. It would block the governor from suspending elective surgeries at hospitals. A Senate committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 407, which would give a governor a 30-day executive order which he could then extend another 15 days, unless the General Assembly has convened or he calls a special session.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – When Donald Trump sent out a tweet in July 2016 saying that Mike Pence would join him on the Republican ticket, it commenced one of the most extraordinary political odd couples in history. Here was the evangelistic, conservative Midwestern governor linking up with the profane, Manhattan billionaire. Friends of Mike and Karen Pence warned them of the risks in joining the volatile Trump, whose personal history is littered with spoiled professional and personal relationships, with many ending with either “You’re fired” or in a legal suit. No one could have predicted that the eventual rupture between President Trump and Vice President Pence would end in a literal life or death scenario. But when Trump unleashed his mob of insurrectionist supporters on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, that’s what occurred. On Saturday, the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump 57-43 (67 votes were needed to convict) with U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun voting not guilty. Seven Republicans - Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse and Richard Burr - voted to convict. According to video and testimony heard during Trump’s unprecedented second impeachment trial this week, the president’s mob was just seconds and steps away from the vice president, wife Karen and daughter, security video revealed. A bloodthirsty crowd was seeking revenge after being goaded by President Trump into attempting to subvert the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – For those of us in Indiana who know Mike Pence, Wednesday’s video timeline was absolutely chilling. It is by chance that he survived the Jan. 6 insurrection, that this didn’t become a mass casualty event. The mob was just seconds and steps away from the vice president, wife Karen and daughter, security video released during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial revealed. A bloodthirsty crowd was seeking revenge after being goaded by President Trump into attempting to subvert the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. U.S. Rep. Stacey Plaskett, one of the House impeachment managers, stated, “According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court, the group that was with him at the sack of the Capitol confirmed  they were out to murder anyone they got their hands on,” Plaskett said. “Here’s what the FBI said: ‘Other members of the group had talked about what they had done that day. Anyone they got their hands on, they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi, and they would have killed Mike Pence if they had gotten the chance.’ They were talking about assassinating the vice president of the United States. During the course of the attack, the vice president never left the Capitol. He never left the side of his family.” “They were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were just feet away from the doors of this chamber where many of you remained at that time,” Plaskett said.

    INDIANAPOLIS – The fissure snaking through the Republican Party comes down to what appears to be Donald Trump’s chaos wing, and Mike Pence’s constitutional GOP. And in Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Ind., the party loyalty appears to be divided. As former president Trump faces his second impeachment trial beginning Feb. 8, this much has come to light: Beginning in early October through the Nov. 3 election, Trump plotted with key aides. Once the “red mirage” of an early Trump lead had been forecast before much of the mail-in vote was counted, Trump planned to declare victory Election Night until Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden that gave him the Electoral College victory, according to “fly-on-the-wall” reporting from Axios’s Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu. This would become known as “the big lie.” In late December, a TV ad by the Lincoln Project aimed at an audience of one –Trump - suggested that Pence would essentially be the one who would terminate his presidency. “The end is coming, Donald. On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin,” the ad’s voiceover said. Trump’s efforts to, as he put it, “overturn” the election reached a crescendo on Jan. 6. According to Axios, Trump called Pence late that morning to take one last shot at bullying the vice president into objecting to the certification of Biden’s victory. Unsuccessful in convincing Pence to join this conspiracy, President Trump goaded his supporters at a “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse that he had promised would be “wild” into a march on the U.S. Capitol. Pence was presiding in the Senate over what had been a perfunctory congressional counting of Electoral College ballots certified by the 50 states.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – The day President Biden was inaugurated, a record 4,131 Americans died of COVID-19. That was 4,130 more than Jan. 20, 2020, the day of the first U.S. death. Here is the most critical challenge facing Biden: Vaccinate as many of the 320 million Americans as soon as possible. While the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed helped develop the COVID-19 vaccine in record time, most of the manufactured doses haven’t been injected into the arms of Americans. And until that happens, the staggered U.S. economy won’t shake off this pandemic and return to normal. According to the CDC, as of Tuesday, 3.3% of the Indiana population had received one dose, 0.6% had received two doses. There have been 642,425 doses received, 260,310 doses injected, or 41% of the total. By Friday, 5.1% of Hoosiers had received one dose, 1.1% the second, for 839,925 doses distributed, 414,127 shots given, or 49% of the total. Nationally on Tuesday, 3.2% of the population have received one dose, 0.5% two doses, with 31,161,075 doses distributed, 12,279,180 given and 39% of doses used. By Friday, 4.9% of the U.S. population had received one shot, 0.8% the second, 39.89 million doses distributed, 19.1 million shots given, and 48% of doses used. The urgency is that the virus is mutating into a more infectious mode.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – If it were not for the rise of Donald Trump in 2016, there wouldn't be a Gov. Eric Holcomb. When that year began, Holcomb was running third in the Republican U.S. Senate primary field. His political fortunes began to improve when Gov. Mike Pence picked him to replace Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. When Republican presidential nominee Trump tabbed Pence as his running mate, Holcomb won the Indiana Republican Central Committee caucus late that July. With Trump and Pence atop the ticket, winning the state with a 19% plurality, Holcomb's 100-day campaign was swept up in that wave and he defeated Democrat John Gregg. Their political fortunes have since diverged. Trump was defeated for reelection last November, while Holcomb won a second term in a landslide. During his presidency, Trump lost the House in 2018, his own reelection last November, and he kicked away two Georgia Senate seats earlier this month with sophomoric antics, giving up the Senate majority. Under Holcomb, the Indiana GOP has thrived, controlling 88% of all county elected offices, nine of 11 congressional seats, a record 71 city halls, all of the Statehouse constitutional offices and with super majorities in the Indiana House and Senate.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday Jan. 6, the whole world will be watching Vice President Mike Pence. He will find himself in the most conspicuous set of circumstances that any Hoosiers ever has. As president of the U.S. Senate, he will preside over a joint session of Congress, taking what would normally be about a half hour to count the Electoral College votes for the 2020 president race. The 50 states and the District of Columbia have certified 306 votes for Democrat Joe Biden and 232 for President Trump. This is a critical component for this cornerstone of our democracy and the fragile American experiment: The acceptance of defeat by a losing presidential candidate prior to the peaceful transfer of power. When this process went awry in 1860, seven Southern states seceded from the Union, resulting in the Civil War and more than 600,000 deaths. The reason the world will be transfixed on Pence is that President Trump has expressed his intent to "overturn" (as he tweeted) the will of the American people. "GREATEST ELECTION FRAUD IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!!!" this sophomoric president tweeted. He told WABC on Dec. 21, "It’s the most corrupt election this country’s ever had, by far." “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted earlier this month in an appeal to his supporters. Trump's unsubstantiated allegations and his use of the Twitter pulpit have had an impact. A Fox News poll found 77% of Trump voters believe the election was stolen. A Reuters/Ipsos Poll found 68% of Republicans believe the election was "rigged." Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his allies have filed more than 50 lawsuits contesting the results, winning only one case. In case after case, judges assailed the Trump campaign for providing no substantive evidence of any vote fraud.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – President Trump is scheduled to leave office at noon, Jan. 20. He has had an extraordinary impact on the United States and Indiana and will leave behind a deeply divided nation. The 2020 election was basically a referendum on … him. As his presidency draws to a close, let’s take a dispassionate look at the metrics of his impacts: Elections: Trump won the contested 2016 Indiana presidential primary 53% (591,514 votes) to 36.6% for Sen. Ted Cruz and 7.7% for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump carried 87 counties to five for Cruz. He won the 2016 General Election 56.5% to 37.5%, with 1,557,286 votes and helped Sen. Todd Young defeat Evan Bayh 52.1% to 42.4%, and Gov. Eric Holcomb over John Gregg 51.4% to 45.4%. In 2020, Trump defeated Joe Biden 57.1% to 41% with 1,729,516 votes, carrying 87 counties. He won the Electoral College 306-232 over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and lost it 306-232 to Biden on Dec. 14. Indiana Republicans now control 88% of all county offices, 70 mayors (an all-time high), nine of 11 congressional seats, all Statehouse constitutional offices, and hold super majorities in the Indiana House (71 seats) and Senate (40). Trump approval: Trump never cracked 50% approval in Gallup. He reached 49% in January 2020. It stood at 46% in the final preelection poll. In the October Ball State Hoosier Poll, Trump’s approval was 41% and disapproval at 45%. GDP under Trump: Candidate Trump predicted Gross Domestic Product rising into the 4 to 6% range. Here’s a look at annual U.S. GDP growth during Trump’s presidency. The 2020 estimate comes from the Federal Reserve: 2017: +2.3%; 2018: +3%; 2019: +2.2%; and 2020: -3.7%.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – As the Democratic presidential race wound down just as the pandemic was gearing up, there was no secret that Joe Biden had a lot of respect and affection for Pete Buttigieg. When the former South Bend mayor endorsed Biden in Dallas, the now president-elect said that Buttigieg reminded him of his late son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. "Like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod. I really mean this. I think about it." The worst kept secret in American politics is that if Biden defeated President Trump, he would select Buttigieg for his cabinet. Over the past few weeks, Mayor Pete's name was floated out as a potential United Nations ambassador, the head the Veteran's Administration, or as envoy to Beijing. His supporters preferred a conspicuous posting that would allow him to burnish his policy chops and his credibility with the Black voters that eluded him during his meteoric presidential run. On Tuesday, the word was that Biden would nominate the 38-year-old Buttigieg to head the U.S. Department of Transportation. And that is the perfect post for the first Millennial to be nominated for a presidential cabinet. Some may view DOT as a backwater for a man who aspires to be president. But I look to history and an appointment President William McKinley made in 1897, which was to install Theodore Roosevelt as assistant secretary of the Navy. That's not a posting that has been a breeding ground for future presidents.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – I am no barfly, but the contours of my social life have come inside dozens of Hoosier restaurants and taverns and social clubs. Whether it was midnight at Santino's after putting the Elkhart Truth  to bed with the presses roaring in the background, a breezy summer day on the top deck of Matey's in Michigan City, catching a couple sets of jazz at the Chatterbox in downtown Indy, or watching a Thursday night NFL game with Coach and crew at Big Woods in Nashville, these watering holes served up beer and comfort food for me, my colleagues, friends and family over the years. At the Rathskeller in the Athenaeum, when I walk in, Wayne the bartender automatically serves me up a medium Spaten lager. The Truth's election night team always met for dinner at Casey's before the polls closed. I can take my dogs for dinner at Plump's Last Shot in Broad Ripple, stop in at the institution of sorts also known as Frog Tavern on a channel off Lake Wawasee, enjoy prime rib at the Heston Super Club, debate politics and sports at Nick's English Hut in Bloomington, or grab a late dinner at Rick's Boatyard after a day of Hobie catting on Eagle Creek Res. But the pandemic has brought dark, dark days for many of our most cherished local gathering spots. According to an Indiana restaurant impact survey by the National Restaurant Association, 20% of Hoosier restaurants have closed since this pandemic began. Another 33% say they likely won't be in business six months from now.
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  • Doden first 2024 GOP INGov contender to explore run
    “I have spent the last decade focused on tackling Indiana’s greatest challenges and implementing conservative solutions that get real results for the people of Indiana. As a husband, father and Hoosier who is passionate about restoring excellence to our communities, I believe that our brightest days are ahead. While the political class tells us that they are solving our biggest problems, people tell me it often feels like they are more worried about keeping their office, or their next political career move, than improving our lives. Many leaders who know me well have encouraged me to bring my authentic, bold, no-nonsense approach to the Indiana Governor’s race. As a lifelong Republican, I am eager to support others in the party who have vision, character, and who want to see Indiana be bold. With three years before the 2024 Primary, we will work not only to win the Republican nomination for Governor, but to ensure that high-caliber Hoosiers who want to make Indiana even better have a chance to do just that.” - Republican Eric Doden, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2024 Republican gubernatorial nomination. Doden is a former CEO of the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. business organization and was appointed by Gov. Mike Pence in 2013 as president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., a position he held until stepping down in 2015. Doden is the first declared GOP contender in a field expected to include Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Attorney General Todd Rokita, Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer, and former state senator Jim Merritt.
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list


    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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