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Saturday, February 27, 2021
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  • SOUTH BEND – Mike Schmuhl, campaign manager for Pete Buttigieg’s meteoric rise to top-tier presidential contender, now is running to lead the Indiana Democratic Party. In November, he said he wouldn’t run for state party chair. Why did he change his mind? We’ll ask him. Q. Mike, did you decide to run after former Sen. Joe Donnelly and some other party leaders urged you to do so? A. The political landscape changed with election of President Biden, Democratic control of both houses of Congress, and events of Jan. 6. A number of people from across the state reached out over the last few weeks and urged me to reconsider. I felt backing was growing to put together a plan to win. Sen. Donnelly has always been supportive and encouraging in my efforts to strengthen the party. Q. Hoosier Democrats were shellacked last November. They haven’t won a statewide race since 2012. They continue to have pathetically small state legislature minorities. Are you volunteering to be captain of the Titanic? Or is there a way to steer this ship away from more disaster? A. There have been tough cycles for Hoosier Democrats. It’ll take strategy, planning and execution to level the playing field. Still, we’ve been a pretty balanced and bipartisan state during my lifetime. Don’t forget that Barack Obama won the state in 2008.
  • SOUTH BEND – Jackie Walorski and Fred Upton, Republican members of Congress from Michiana, both were in the national political spotlight in the debate over taking away choice committee assignments from Marjorie Taylor Greene, she of the QAnon conspiracy controversy. They took different stands on that and impeachment, too. Walorski, congresswoman from Indiana’s 2nd District, was manager of the defense against efforts of Democrats to kick Greene off committees on education and the budget after Greene suggested that 9/11 and school shootings were hoaxes and spread calls for political assassinations. As manager, Walorski presented opening and closing statements of the Republican leadership opposition to removing Greene from the committees and allotted time for Republican speakers. She had that prominent role as ranking member, top Republican on the House Ethics Committee. In opposing taking away the committee posts, Walorski stressed: “I am not here to defend Rep. Greene. I am here to defend the process.” To be clear, Walorski never has endorsed Greene’s conspiracy theories.
  • SOUTH BEND – Dear Q, It’s Jack again. I wrote to you in a column back in August. You didn’t write back. But I’m sure you know about my questions. Your QAnon followers say you know everything, including when The Storm will come to destroy the satanic pedophiles engaging in child-trafficking and child-cannibalizing and controlling our country. They don’t sound very nice. Well, Q, I guess you couldn’t reply because you’ve been really busy. I mean, QAnon was busy getting Marjorie Taylor Greene elected to Congress. She really speaks up, calling 9/11 a hoax and saying that supposed shooting of little kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax. She’s a real leader, getting a standing ovation from the House QAnon Caucus. And you relentlessly promote Pizzagate, about Hillary Clinton molesting children in that Washington pizzeria. She shouldn’t do that. You were busy predicting things like an Oct. 17 appearance of John F. Kennedy Jr. at a Trump rally. 
  • SOUTH BEND – When House Democrats began moving toward the first impeachment of Donald Trump, I wrote that Trump should NOT be impeached. He was. He has been again. Let’s consider some questions about what happened after the first impeachment and what will happen after the second. Q. Will Trump be convicted by the Senate this time? A. No. Not unless there’s something like Trump calling anew for insurgents to storm the Capitol. At least 17 Republicans must join the 50 Democrats for the two-thirds vote to convict. Well, 45 of the 50 Republicans voted not even to hold the impeachment trial because Trump is out of office. Clear message about the odds. Q. Why did you think he shouldn’t have been impeached the first time? Did you think he wasn’t guilty of anything? A. I wasn’t discussing guilt or innocence, just saying it was useless and politically damaging for Democrats to impeach Trump that first time. There was absolutely no chance of conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Indeed, he was acquitted easily on both charges, with only one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney, voting to convict on one count.
  • SOUTH BEND – “There is truth and there are lies,” President Joe Biden said in calling for national unity. “Lies told for power and for profit.” Unity is possible, even as different governmental approaches are debated, as they should be. It will be very difficult, however, to bring much unity, much civility, if there is an inability of so many, too many, to differentiate between truth and lies, between facts and whacko conspiracy theories. Former Vice President Mike Pence was at the inauguration. The Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress were there. Three presidential predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were there. That was good. Donald Trump wasn’t there. That also was good. Trump has made himself a symbol of disunity and persisted, despite the truth, with claims that he didn’t really lose. He promoted the conspiracy theories on which false claims were based. He wouldn’t have fit in with the other former presidents. He no doubt would have shown disdain for the transfer of power that the others were there to celebrate.
  • SOUTH BEND – After President Trump, what happens to the Republican Party? Quite a topic these days. So, let’s consider some questions about whether the Republican Party will remain solidly Trumpist or will be less Trumpy and whether future GOP prospects are bleak or bright. Q. Will Republicans in Congress now pull away from Donald Trump? A. No. Here’s proof. Only 27 of 249 Republicans in Congress were identified last week as having finally acknowledged that Joe Biden is president-elect. Q. Do all those non-acknowledging Republicans think Trump really won? A. Of course not. They aren’t politically stupid. They’ve known for weeks that Biden won and that Rudy Giuliani’s lawsuits are frivolous. Q. Well, if they know Biden won, why don’t they say so? A. Because, as I said, they aren’t politically stupid. They don’t want to anger Trump and his base and suffer a loss in the next Republican primary or fatal defections in the next general election. Just saying publicly that Biden is president-elect can bring a dreaded angry tweet. Many of them, showing they are fully in touch with reality, congratulate Biden privately. Q. Does Trump think he really won? A. There is one school of thought that he of course knows he lost but is cleverly spreading the myth of mass rigging to keep his base stirred up, maybe for another presidential race in 2024, and to keep donations pouring in.
  • SOUTH BEND – While it’s not like a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski now has nearly the same job security as Amy Coney Barrett. Walorski won reelection to a fifth term by 23 percentage points, once again winning in nine of the 10 counties in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Only in St. Joseph County, largest in the district, did she trail Pat Hackett, a determined Democratic challenger. And what happened in St. Joseph County tells the story of Walorski’s job security. Democrats, knowing Walorski never can be defeated without a huge Democratic margin in St. Joseph County, once a bastion of Democratic strength, wanted a big turnout in the biggest county to overcome Walorski’s margin in the sprawling Republican territory in the district. They dream of an old-time Democratic plurality of 20,000 votes. Well, there was a big turnout in St. Joseph County, just as in most of the nation. But Hackett carried the county by just over 3,000 votes. That margin was almost entirely wiped out by Walorski’s win by nearly 3,000 votes in Pulaski County, smallest in the district.
  • SOUTH BEND – Looking ahead after what just happened – with President Donald Trump and the Democratic brand the big losers – election prospects are bright for Republicans in 2022. A diminished Democratic House majority, solidified Republican control of redistricting and the history of midterm elections point to Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives in 2022. President-elect Joe Biden was of course the big winner this time. His personal appeal contrasted effectively with the unappealing but politically formidable Trump. Biden might have been the only Democratic presidential aspirant who could have defeated Trump, just as Hillary Clinton might have been the only Democratic aspirant who could have lost to Trump in 2016. Now, Biden inherits a troubled nation, with a worsening pandemic, an economy suffering COVID-caused disruptions and a divisive split. His calls for unity are rejected by Trump and a multitude of Trump voters decrying and disputing the election results. The Democratic brand was a big loser. And that is another serious problem for Biden, even though his personal brand prevailed.
  • SOUTH BEND – With Thanksgiving here, it’s time to present the annual Turkey of the Year Awards. Recipients may cry fowl. But even if they haven’t been turkeys all year, each winner has done something to merit this prestigious recognition. The awards for 2020: The Turkey of the Year Award in political timing goes to Pete Buttigieg. Pete won the Iowa caucuses the one time there was no national spotlight on the winner because results were delayed for weeks. Kamala Harris gets a turkey for winning an office often belittled in importance. Mike Pence gets a turkey for losing an office often belittled in importance. Attorney General Curtis Hill is awarded a turkey for groping, this time for political relevance, with his letter criticizing St. Joseph County health officials for their anti-COVID efforts.

  • SOUTH BEND – Blue wave? Not in Indiana. It’s still Trumpiana. There was a purple tide, with just enough touch of blue, in the key Great Lakes states, the battlegrounds of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to turn them away from President Donald Trump and to President-elect Joe Biden. Indiana, with such a decisive outcome that it was the first state declared by TV networks for Trump, didn’t matter. Well, except that it mattered for dispirited and far outnumbered Hoosier Democrats. They had talked about, dreamed about and looked for a blue wave, not seriously expecting the state to register Democratic in the Electoral College, but with hope at least to win some other races and be relevant. The wave swept through Indiana. It was red. Bright red. President Trump won Indiana again by a landslide, rivaling his 2016 blowout victory.
  • SOUTH BEND — Four years ago, at this point before the presidential election, a columnist wrote of a widely popular sentiment, an oft-heard response to a campaign that drove down approval ratings of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The widespread sentiment was this: “I’ll be so happy when this election is over.”  But the columnist warned, “Don’t bet on that.” That columnist was me. So, despite what’s suggested in kind, thoughtful emails from militia types and conspiracy advocates, I sometimes can get something right. When the 2016 election was over, joy wasn’t ubiquitous among all who said they would then be “so happy.” A majority of voters was not happy at all. The majority, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes, selected Clinton, but the unhappy reality for them was that Trump carried key states and won in the Electoral College, where it counts. Some who didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump also were not “so happy.” Some had voted for the Green Party nominee, who had no chance except as a spoiler, and then realized they could have been decisive in some of those key states if they had instead voted for Clinton, an environmentalist who wouldn’t have dropped out of the Paris climate accord and repealed environmental regulations.
  • SOUTH BEND — Let’s look at election prospects in Indiana, Michigan and the rest of the nation after a chaotic first presidential debate, the superspreader in the Rose Garden, that spread even to President Trump and the vice-presidential debate. Q. Who’s ahead? A. Joe Biden. All the polls show it. Biden stretched his lead after Trump’s unhinged debate performance and again when the president, who scoffed at masks and the seriousness of the coronavirus, wound up hospitalized with the virus. On Thursday, Nate Silver, the guru of presidential forecasting, moved Biden’s chances of winning up to 85%. Q. With the election so close, is Biden certain to win? A. No. Q. What could happen? A. A lot. More surprises no doubt lie ahead. As president, Trump can and undoubtedly will spring surprises. Something totally unexpected could sway opinions. Remember how the FBI director’s surprise announcement of allegedly new Hillary Clinton emails was devastating at campaign close in 2016. Also, consider what that 85% chance of winning means.
  • SOUTH BEND — So often in a political debate, it’s not something said on issues, the actual words, that has the most impact with voters. It’s how a candidate looks and acts while saying it. Thus it was that the first presidential debate, although ridiculed as a train wreck, a miserable mess, and justifiably so, was a campaign event with potential impact on the presidential election. While analysts focus now on what President Trump said about the Proud Boys and what former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t say about expanding the Supreme Court, most of the millions viewing the debate focused on neither. Most never had heard of the Proud Boys and didn’t hear the reference amid the chaotic exchanges of three people talking at the same time. Most weren’t waiting anxiously to hear about the number of justices. Trump lost an opportunity to gain support he desperately needs to catch up when he looked so angry, so red-faced, as he acted in such a bullying way, shouting over efforts of Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News to be heard. It wasn’t what he said  that was rambling, hard for viewers to follow. It was how he said it as he raged at Biden and Wallace.
  • SOUTH BEND — South Bend always is in the national news as home of a top contender for president or Supreme Court justice. Always? Well, just think of them all in national headlines over the decades before now. Before former Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses, becoming a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Amy Coney Barrett, appeals court judge and Notre Dame law school professor, becoming a top contender and then final choice of President Trump for nomination to the Supreme Court. Those others? There was Schuyler Colfax, House speaker and vice president in the days of Lincoln and Grant. Then a bit of a gap. OK, South Bend, though home over the decades for outstanding people in many fields, hasn’t been thought of as the cradle of the nationally prominent for the highest political or judicial posts in the land. Not really a stepping stone.
  • SOUTH BEND — Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than Democratic candidates for statewide office in Indiana receive. Dangerfield, the late comedian who constantly quipped that he got no respect, actually was a winner in the entertainment field. The Indiana Democratic candidates all have been losers in recent elections. Republicans currently hold all six Statehouse executive offices and both U.S. Senate seats, everything elected statewide. One Democratic candidate for statewide office this time has a chance. Just one. It’s a chance only if there’s ticket-splitting by enough of the majority of Hoosiers who are expected vote for Republicans at the top of the ticket, President Donald Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb. The one Democrat with a chance is former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, the party’s nominee for attorney general, an office a Democrat hasn’t won since 1996.
  • SOUTH BEND — We don’t know what will happen on the night of Nov. 3 as TV networks color states red or blue, declaring winners one by one in the Electoral College, where the presidency is decided. Or on Nov. 4? Or Nov. 5? Or in weeks or even months thereafter? Well, we can be pretty sure of some things. Indiana, as often in the past, is likely to be the first state declared and colored red, Republican. That’s because Indiana polls close early, and the first substantial returns could show it is again clearly in the Republican column. Not as decisively as the nearly 20% margin for President Trump in 2016, but still for Trump. Michigan is likely in early returns to look red as well. But the networks won’t quickly declare a winner there. That’s because of the massive number of absentee votes still being tabulated. Mail-ins are likely to be more Democratic than the votes cast in person at polling places. Trumpsters and anti-Trumpsters agree on that. When all the tabulating is done, Michigan is likely to be colored blue. 
  • SOUTH BEND —  Our class will be on line today. Still too many positive tests around here to meet in person for this quiz on the presidential election.

    1. Which convention brought a big bounce in the polls?
         a. Democratic Convention for Biden.
         b. Republican Convention for Trump.
         c. No big bounce from either.

    2. Which network drew by far the most viewers during the Democratic Convention?

         a. Fox News.
         b. MSNBC.
         c. CBS.
  • SOUTH BEND — Hi Q, I’m Jack. You don’t know me. And I guess you probably wouldn’t like me. I’m a journalist. But I know you. Well, not really, because your identity is mysterious. I know, however, that you, whoever you are, promote the widely spreading QAnon conspiracy theories. That’s some wild stuff, Q. The world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles operating a child-trafficking ring? Hillary Clinton is involved in abuse of kids in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant? Pizzagate? So, Q, how did you come up with this stuff? Did you get mushrooms instead of the pepperoni you ordered for your pizza at that place? Is it all pepperoni revenge? Why do you claim that cabal leaders not only molest kids but even kill and cannibalize their victims? Is this because those leaders, the ones you cite, like Oprah Winfrey, Pope Francis, Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, also got some lousy pizza?
  • SOUTH BEND — Never before was a state delegation’s vote cast from South Bend. It was when former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the recent presidential nomination candidate, announced: “Here in South Bend, we once feared our best days were behind us. But then we reimagined our economy.” The city’s economy wasn’t the only thing reimagined. The whole Democratic National Convention was. Buttigieg announced the delegation’s overwhelming support for Joe Biden as the unprecedented roll call of the states took place from sites in the states, not as was traditional in a packed convention hall. Now, this week on TV, “The Trump Show.” The Republican National Convention also will be a virtual event, reimagined, but with a far different message. It will be all about praise for President Donald J. Trump, who controls everything at this convention. It’s his show. His party.
  • SOUTH BEND — In sports, a lot depends on the way the ball bounces. In presidential politics, a lot depends – or at least it often has – on the way the convention bounces. Traditionally, a presidential nominee gets a bounce upward in the polls after the nominee’s national political convention. Since I’ve had the good fortune in the past to cover 20 national conventions, 10 Republican, 10 Democratic, I’ve written a lot about the bounces, about the expectations of the delegates in the convention hall, about the projections of the pundits and about the actual bounce or lack thereof in the polls after delegates and pundits depart the convention site. The conventions this month will be different. Very different. No packed convention hall. No wild demonstrations of support for the presidential nominee. No balloon drop as the convention reaches a finale, with enthusiasm up as thousands of balloons come down. The conventions, still needed to officially name nominees and set a tone for the party, this time will be virtual, not traditional in a packed hall, because of the pandemic that has grown worse in this country.
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  • Carson voted for $1.9T relief bill; GOP opposed
    “A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing devastation in our communities is inconceivable. We have tragically lost more than 12,000 Hoosiers to this deadly virus. In addition, the economic and emotional toll of this pandemic is harming countess families and threatening countless futures. We have to do everything in our power to overcome this immense challenge. Democrats promised more action and more relief to meet this moment, and through this legislation we are working to make good on that promise.” U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Indianapolis) voted in favor of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which passed the U.S. House. This sweeping legislation implements President Biden’s plan to address the ongoing public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion-dollar relief bill funds aggressive action to crush the virus and vaccinate Americans, keep kids in school safer, provide $1,400 direct payments to families in addition to December’s $600 down payment. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) and her six Indiana Republican colleagues voted against the bill, saying, "As safe and effective vaccines get us closer to ending this pandemic, we should be focused on defeating coronavirus, getting Americans back to work, and helping small businesses recover. Instead, Democrats tossed bipartisanship aside for a rushed, one-sided, $1.9 trillion spending bill – with less than 9% actually going to fight COVID. There hasn’t even been a full accounting of $1 trillion in unspent relief funds, but Speaker Pelosi wants taxpayers to foot the bill for trillions more." 
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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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