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Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:28 PM
ANGOLA, Ind. – These past few weeks, we’ve seen yet another example of sclerosis in Washington, this time with the farm bill. On a topic that begged for compromise, everyone dug in, and there was celebration in some quarters even as they were spitting the ashes out of their mouths.
Next up comes the immigration package, with House Republicans overwhelmingly balking Wednesday at the Senate passed bill despite warnings from Speaker John Boehner about the political consequences.
Later this year, we’ll get another debt limit faux crisis.
It is a city of gangs who can’t shoot straight, of rhetoric akin to methane gas seeping out of a melting tundra. Gallup has congressional approval at 10 percent, yet another historic low.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo’s column on page 1 hits a number of points that are resonating. And it underscores a recent piece by conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on what he calls the “power inversion,” the rise of city states and regional governments that fill the void left by the partisan polarization in Washington.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – It was just two years ago that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence entered the Trumpian twilight zone. Those close to him saw it as a deal with the devil. Others believed it would be his clearest path to the presidency that he had coveted since his childhood. What commenced in Indianapolis, Westfield, New York and then Cleveland in July 2016 has been Vice President Pence’s odyssey, with the final chapters of how this ends unwritten, unknowable, and perhaps, unfathomable. In the Pence worldview of ambition, he was climbing into the shoes of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush, turning the “heartbeat away” office as entry into the pantheon of 45. Or, he could be consigned to Vice President John Nance Garner’s “warm bucket” of “spit” occupied by Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Gore who aspired and fell short. On July 24, 2016, in Cleveland, we heard Pence cut through the myriad of controversies surrounding the GOP nominee. “Donald Trump gets it,” Pence said in his half-hour speech in primetime. “He’s a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers. He doesn’t tiptoe around a thousand new rules of political correctness."
  • Brian Howey: 24 years of real news from Howey Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

    NASHVILLE, Ind.  – The fissures continue to appear, the dominant topical one cracking the thin crust of Hawaii’s Big Island. In the human context and the matter of whether we can keep our republic, the breaches forecast trouble, upheaval and, perhaps, cataclysm. The voices we’ve heard over the past several weeks should not be ignored. For Hoosiers, it was Purdue President Mitch Daniels who sounded alarms during his annual commencement address. “The freedoms we take for granted, the ‘blessings of liberty’ of which our Constitution speaks, are the gross exception in history,” Daniels said Friday night in West Lafayette. “Almost all of history has belonged to the tyrants, the warlords, the autocrats, the totalitarians. And tribes always gravitate toward tyrants. His remarks come two months after Chinese President Xi Jinping changed his country’s constitution leaving him in power indefinitely. On March 4, speaking at his Mar-a-Lago estate, President Donald Trump praised Xi, saying, “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.” 

  • INDIANAPOLIS - It was double take time. Entering the WFYI-TV studios for the final Republican U.S. Senate debate stood Todd Rokita. He was wearing glasses, holding a sheath of papers, standing at the counter to await escort to the green room. I had enjoyed decent access to Rep. Rokita over the years, but not during this campaign. While I traveled with Mike Braun and Luke Messer, Rokita was off limits. Perhaps this Vincennes University grad was too “elite.” But he opted to travel with a Roll Call reporter who focused her entire story on Rokita’s embarrassing “chauffeur’s memo.” I wanted to talk with Rokita about tariffs, taxes and opioids. Now here we were, eight days before the primary, together. Again. Normally in a major race like this, the candidates are scrapping for the final 2 to 5 percent of undecideds. But Rokita told me that pool is around 40 percent. An hour later after the debate, Luke Messer confirmed the number, saying, “The leader of this race may be the undecideds." In the post-debate parallel universe, Rokita, Messer and Mike Braun all claimed victory. All got a trophy. But at the traditional post-debate press conferences, only Messer showed up.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – There’s been much talk about the “pink wave” in this year’s elections with the emergence of 11 female candidates running for Congress in Indiana and more than 50 running for the General Assembly. But there is also a “green wave,” represented by rich candidates who are mostly self-funding their campaigns. And there is a green wave sweeping across Indiana’s prairies and amber waves of grain. The most conspicuous is Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun, who as of March 31 had loaned his campaign $5.5 million. In the 2nd Congressional District, Mel Hall and Yatish Joshi are seeking the Democratic nomination with thick checkbooks. In the Republican 4th Congressional District, Steve Braun and State Rep. Jim Baird have written big checks to their campaigns. And in the 6th CD, Republican Jonathan Lamb is a self-funder, running against Greg Pence, brother of the vice president. They are all following U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, the Tennessee transplant who moved in Jeffersonville in 2016. He received $3 million in loans from himself and his father in a campaign that raised a total of $3.6 million.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Vice President Mike Pence returns to Indianapolis on April 26 to tout President Trump and the Republican tax reforms. But this visit comes as his boss heads into what will likely be one of the most turbulent periods of his life. President Trump appears to be heading into the homestretch of Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is investigating payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and another Playmate from his attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, whose office was recently raided by the FBI. Investigators have recovered a trove of recorded conversations that seem to involve the President’s closest friends and advisers, prompting Trump to insist that “client/attorney privilege is dead.” And on top of all that drama, Trump is also poised to meet with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un in a summit with truly scary nuclear ramifications. Folks, this is epic stuff. An additional subplot arose over the weekend: For the first time in their fascinating relationship, Pence found himself sideways with his boss, who has a penchant for firing subordinates via Twitter.
  • SCHERERVILLE, Ind. – In the next three weeks, Hoosier Republican primary voters will have a fateful decision to make: Who will be their next U.S. Senate nominee, U.S. Reps. Luke Messer, Todd Rokita or Jasper businessman Mike Braun? And the race just heated up on Friday as Messer began airing two TV ads assaulting his two opponents. Republican primary voters are batting .500 on this crucial decision in the past two Senate races. In 2016, they chose Rep. Todd Young over Rep. Marlin Stutzman, and the Bloomington Republican did the almost unfathomable, which was to drub former governor and senator Evan Bayh. In 2012, Republicans decided to cast off U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana’s leading vote getter in history, for Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who was an arrogant nominee as his campaign alienated Lugar voters in the weeks following his landslide primary victory. He refused most joint appearances with Democrat Joe Donnelly, while Republican leaders imposed handlers in an attempt to limit his incendiary rhetoric. His October debate fiasco is often cited for his defeat to Donnelly, but Howey Politics Indiana polling had Donnelly leading all fall and I believe he would have won without Mourdock’s blunder. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – The breaking news around 7 p.m. April 4, 1968 hit our home like a stab. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., had been gunned down on a Memphis hotel balcony. The civil rights leader and pioneer was dead.  We didn’t know it at the time, but this was only the middle act of a tumultuous year. The Tet Offensive, Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s surprising New Hampshire primary campaign, President Lyndon Johnson’s stunning announcement he wouldn’t run again, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s entry into the Democratic presidential race and the Indiana primary set the stage for the King assassination. Two months hence, it was Kennedy lying in a pool of blood dying, and further, the riotous Democratic National Convention with a police mob in Chicago’s Grant Park and, finally, Richard Nixon’s razor thin victory over Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in November that laid bare the cornerstone of western civilization convulsing in turmoil with the whole world watching. Absorbing the King assassination that April night a half century ago, we immediately fixated on what was to come.
  • GREENFIELD, Ind.  – I suspect that deep in the mind of South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg rings the sounds of Jan. 20, 1961, and the voice the President John F. Kennedy on a cold and snowy day: “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.” The torch, in Buttigieg’s mind, is ready for passage once again. For the past 15 months, Buttigieg has aspired to the national stage. He’s run statewide in Indiana, losing a 2010 race for treasurer against incumbent Republican Richard Mourdock. He has since won races in South Bend, the last two general elections by landslides. He looks to Indianapolis and, while not ruling out a run for governor, sees a very popular Gov. Eric Holcomb, with no other Democrat taking steps for such a challenge.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. –  A decade ago, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson ran on a platform vowing to save every Indiana city and town. But there was skepticism. Indiana is pockmarked with communities that died when we transformed from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy a century ago. Dozens of Hoosier cities and towns face the same dilemma two decades deep into the 21st Century. Those which innovate will survive. In my home of Brown County, survival means expanding rural broadband internet.  Last Wednesday afternoon before bedlam overtook the Indiana General Assembly, Nashville Town Manager Scott Rudd sounded the alarm. He had been working with Advance Indiana Municipalities and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs on House Bill 1065, which would create a grant program to bring broadband to the “last mile.” It was floundering.  What should I do? Then I thought, “What would President Trump do?” 

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  • Lawson announces election security awareness campaign

    “In Indiana, the security of our voting systems is of the utmost importance. This public awareness campaign demonstrates to voters that proper precautions are in place to secure their vote. We take great care to prepare our election administrators for each cycle, and in partnership with counties, other states, and the federal government we are developing new answers to security concerns and election policy.” - Secretary of State Connie Lawson, announcing she will launch a public awareness campaign to build understanding of cybersecurity efforts in Indiana and help explain why voters should feel confident their vote is secure. Her Democratic challenger, Valparaiso attorney Jim Harper, believes the Indiana system is vulnerable to assault by foreign actors. Lawson explained that no piece of Indiana’s voting equipment is online. The machines and tabulators are not connected to the internet. In addition, the Secretary of State’s office has a mechanism known as the Voting System Technical Oversight Program hosted by Ball State University that tests all of the election equipment used in Indiana for an added layer of safety and security. Another tool is the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an independent entity that partners with the Department of Homeland Security and allows 24/7 access to security information, threat notifications and security advisories.

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  • What you get with TV stars, sleazebags, billionaires and Mooch
    After reading about the Paul Manafort trial, hearing of Rick Gates testimony and now the “Unhinged” book by Omarosa Manigault Newman, several observations:

    1. The Trump 2016 campaign was, well, sleazy. Not the Indiana part, but all the alleged tax evasion, the embezzlement, backstabbing and conspiracy of Manafort and Gates. Donald Trump apparently had no idea that Manafort was broke, seeking wild bank loans and promising high ranking jobs if they pulled off a miracle (which they did). The campaign vetting process appears to have been non-existent.

    2. Omarosa’s qualifications were … what? That she was a TV star on “The Apprentice”? Or was she there to check off the “African-American” box on the diversity chart? Whatever the reason, this was resume-lite and she had no reason to be in the White House where she secretly recorded her final conversation with CoS John Kelly in the … Situation Room. That sounds like a national security breach to me.

    3. This has evolved into a presidential administration of TV stars, talking heads, billionaires … and Mike Pence. Mooch, we hardly knew ye.

    Sooooo, we shouldn’t really be shocked that the ethic limits are pressed and pushed, while protocols and securities are breached.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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