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Sunday, September 20, 2020
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  • INDIANAPOLIS – It’s just a little over 48 hours since the call came early Sunday morning that “RGL,” as Senator Richard Lugar was known to his staff, had passed during the night. The news is still sinking in while accolades for the great man, many and varied, accumulate from nearly all quarters. With his death, a mighty titan of Indiana politics and global affairs passes from the scene. More than a few have remarked that Lugar’s passing marks the end not only of his life, but of his kind of bipartisan politics. Maybe so – supporting evidence abounds – but because Dick Lugar was quite simply the model public servant, the ideals he embodied will live on alongside his many accomplishments. Archetypes never die; they endure to be emulated.  I’m not sure that any recitation here of his accomplishments adds much to the current remembrances of his life or leads to an understanding of him as a statesman and leader. They range in impact from the personal, to the political, to the local, to the national, and finally to the truly global.  However, I might humbly offer that they are all rooted in one, plain truth: Right makes might. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS — The political tribes have succumbed to confirmation bias and the illusory truth effect in the wake of Robert Mueller’s conclusion that there is no evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Given his character and background, as well as the importance of the assignment and resources committed to its pursuit, if Mueller could have brought a criminal case against Donald Trump or anyone else in his orbit, then he would have done so. Those doubting this conclusion reject both facts and logic. Like a Japanese soldier stranded on a Pacific island who refuses to stop fighting after the surrender, anti-Trump partisans cling to Trump-appointed Attorney General Barr’s brief summation of Mueller’s key findings rather than the likely voluminous report itself. “We need to see the report!” Agreed. The American public should see the report for the health of our body politic, but partisans are not seeking Mueller’s full report to understand the truth of the matter; they are seeking a new beachhead from which to assail a duly elected president. They seek the potter’s clay of impeachment. 
     
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Perhaps not since the Children’s Crusade of 1212 have adults in power so cruelly exploited children for political ends. Today’s situation on the U.S. border is akin to that disastrous medieval enterprise led by Franco-German zealots in that we once again (centuries later) have on offer a religious rationale for decisive action unmoored from reality and from the very human kindness that Christianity espouses but we too rarely see.  WWJD? Certainly not this. Not the systemic separation of babes from their mothers nor the destruction of families as a matter of state policy. We are admonished ad nauseum that the family is the cornerstone of society – and so it is. Does this not apply to these migrants? Are their human rights not as inalienable as our own?  Jesus counseled all to turn the other cheek, but I doubt he did so in order for us to avert our eyes from a humanitarian crisis of our own government’s making. The Trump Administration has decided to enforce our country’s immigration laws with zero-tolerance. But its enforcement and, indeed, its rhetoric is not unprecedented. These immigration laws are not new; they are established through acts of Congress. Anti-illegal immigration rhetoric was deployed by both the Clinton and Obama administrations merely in more discreet, mellifluous form. (This is not a claim; it is supported by the facts. Anyone wishing to dispute them is welcome to search CSPAN’s archives for the relevant State of the Union passages. Seek and ye shall find.) 
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – It will surprise no semi-sentient being that the state of our politics is, well, unwell.  Abroad, the seven-decade run of Pax Americana is ending with tensions between global rivals over territory, trade and fundamental governing philosophies dangerously rising. Nationally, the conversation – such as it is at 140 characters – can be summed up as, “You don’t think like me, so you suck, etc., etc.,” and a culture of seemingly helpless victimhood pervades. Closer to home, elected state officials can’t run a legislative session to successful conclusion without getting in their own way and at least one aspirant to higher office is worried about political bias from debate sponsors and moderators to the point of self-exclusion.  In the immortal words of Oliver Hardy, once he began speaking words on film, “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us in.” Only the “you” is actually “we” (usually so in the Laurel & Hardy franchise) and WE need to do something about it before the bones of our body politic fracture further.   Many trends converged to bring our politics to this point, but as a writer who simply must insist that words have meaning, one clearly is the hyperventilating use of hyperbole in our political discourse. Another is the rise of social media which, when it comes to politics, is downright anti-social. Finally, another trend is the increasing bias in political journalism, which in the Trump Era seems to have simultaneously accelerated and degraded to the point of farce. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – This may seem like incredibly poor form, but I want to thank Omar Mateen for helping to further expose the broken politics of Washington, as a renewed and overdue debate over our civil rights took place this week.  If only the deaths of 49 innocents at an Orlando night club had not had to occur for this illuminating discussion to unfold.  If having followed the news this week you do not recognize the above description, it is because a great many citizens and our elected leaders in Washington – in the Obama administration and the U.S. Senate, particularly – have failed to comprehend the true nature of the debate in which they are engaged. And, having failed to comprehend it, they have engaged in a bonfire of inanities which has spread across the news media, cable talkshow gabblers, and so-called “social” media (which once again proves itself to be downright anti-social when controversies arise).  The question is not whether we want to prevent the next terrorist attack or mass shooting. Nor is it a question of whether the event in Orlando that Mateen perpetrated was a terrorist attack or a mass shooting. The obvious, inarguable (one would hope) answers to these questions is “of course, we do” and “of course, it was.” The real question, as President Obama has put it, is what kind of country do we want to be? 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – So, the stage is set for the November presidential election. In a nation of 320 million people, the best the two major political parties have to offer is a pair of morally vapid megalomaniacs who will spend the next several months scratching and clawing at each other in a very, very nasty national election. That’s the only rock-solid prediction one can make at this stage of Trump vs. Hillary. All the rest is informed speculation. Generally, presidential elections can be predicted by looking at the demographics and historical voting patterns of individual states, their heft in the Electoral College, the incumbent president’s approval rating, and the state of the national economy. Not in 2016, however. Politically speaking, America has stepped through the looking glass. This time last year, pundits were dismissing Donald Trump as a non-serious candidate who was running to boost his own ego and brand. They were right, but he won the GOP nomination anyway. Hillary Clinton was the odds-on favorite to win her party’s nomination – the term “coronation” was heard more than once – but none in the pundit class predicted the durability of Bernie Sanders, whose arithmetically challenged supporters (nothing in life is “free”) helped him chalk up victories right through this week’s primaries. 
  • MONTICELLO, Ind. – I know, I know; you want to read another piece on Donald Trump about as much as I want to write one, but grant this one accommodation to our shared political reality. We’re going to be hearing and seeing and reading A LOT about “The Donald” over the next six months as he heads first to the GOP convention in Cleveland this summer and then to televised debates this fall with Hillary Clinton. Buckle up, buttercup, it’s going to be a wild, wild ride. Grant this as well; all of the political soothsayers, all of the yammering heads on TV, all of the campaign pros, even the new class of predictive political data geek-demigod-gurus (e.g., Nate Silver), got Trump’s rise wrong, dead wrong. Their conventional wisdom told us that Trump would never be the Republican nominee, so we need not worry about this boorish ignoramus becoming the next leader of the free world. Wrong. Dead wrong. Worry is of no use at this time. 
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  • Coats calls for bipartisan election oversight commission
    "The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond. The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will. Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election." - Former national intelligence director and Indiana senator Dan Coats, in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday morning. 
     
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  • Woodward on why Coats didn't speak out on Trump
    Bob Woodward, the author of the new book “Rage” discussed the way in which President Trump diminished former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former DNI Dan Coats and why he thinks Mattis and Coats have not publicly spoken about the president. “It’s almost a book in itself,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday. “This was a man who was a senator from Indiana. He was retiring and he was offered this job from Mike Pence, and felt he could not say no. He went in with these Republican values and was stunned, shocked and, in a way, just ground down from Trump’s refusal to accept reality.” Woodward said that at one point Mattis and Coats talked after a National Security Council meeting. “Mattis says that Trump has no moral compass. And Coats says, ‘Donald Trump,’ their leader, ‘does not know the difference between a lie and the truth.’ They were in the latter phase of their lives. (Trump) pulled all of these stunts in a way that led them to the point where, in Coats’s case, his wife Marsha said to him, ‘Look, Dan, God put you in this job. You’re not just failing the country, yourself and your family, but God and you need to get organized.’ Trump expelled him when it did not serve Trump’s purposes.”  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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