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Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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  • SOUTH BEND – Todd Young is the other senator from Indiana. NOT the one featured in all those TV ads with contradictory portrayal of either awful or wonderful. Nor is he cited nationally as facing the toughest Senate race in the nation –  costly, close and critical. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent seeking reelection, gets all that attention. Sen. Todd Young, the Republican who defeated Evan Bayh for the Senate in 2016, has four more years before he again faces the hot lights of election focus. But that doesn’t mean that Young isn’t making a mark in the Senate. He is. Quietly. Working on legislation. Working also on bipartisanship rather than attention-getting partisan bluster to win time on cable news shows. “I’m an independent-minded, center-right conservative Republican,” Young says. “But I went to Washington to get things done. Typically, that requires developing strong relationships with your Democratic colleagues.” He is co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
  • SOUTH BEND - When Bobby Kennedy came to South Bend on Dyngus Day 50 years ago, a highlight was his appearance at the packed West Side Democratic & Civic Club in the heart of a large, vote-vital Polish-American area. But that wasn’t the only highlight of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s South Bend campaigning in 1968. Kennedy faced a tough, nationally-watched contest, a must-win test for him. Could he capture the Kennedy “magic,” the charisma of President John F. Kennedy, his slain brother? Could he win in a Midwest state like Indiana? Could he defeat another anti-war candidate, Sen. Gene McCarthy, who had a head start in seeking the presidential nomination? Could he also in a three-candidate race defeat Indiana Gov. Roger Branigin, a stand-in for Hubert Humphrey endorsed by the state Democratic organization and The Indianapolis Star, both then powerful politically? In stories ever since about Dyngus Day, the Monday-after-Easter event that spreads now far beyond Polish-American neighborhoods, accounts focus on Kennedy swaying the crowd at the West Side Club. He spoke greetings in Polish, sang a Polish song, hailed Revolutionary War contributions of Polish patriots and even brought along a genuine Polish prince.
  • SOUTH BEND – Will President Donald Trump bring his rally show to Indiana to insult Sen. Joe Donnelly, coining a belittling nickname and worse, while also ridiculing other Democrats running for House seats? Could he stay away? Would he be wanted by all the Republican nominees? Would he help them? Hurt them? Perhaps do neither? These are questions to ponder as Indiana braces for one of the most expensive Senate races in the nation, with money flowing to TV stations for political ads as fast as those St. Joseph River waters flowed at flood stage. Also, there will be some contested House races potentially important for control of that chamber. Even if the president’s approval ratings remain low nationally during the fall campaign, thus raising the question of whether he would help or hurt candidates for whom he campaigns, it seems unlikely that Trump could stay away from Indiana. Huge race. Huge national media focus. Huge domination of news cycles. Would Trump suddenly shy away from the spotlight?
  • SOUTH BEND  – So, you think you know who won those games so far in the NCAA basketball tournament. Some of you, thinking you’re better than Digger Phelps ever was as an analyst, proudly display wins on your tournament brackets. (Not all of us of course have “W” marked all over our pool entries.) At least you know which teams won, right? In many cases you saw the outcome on TV, maybe even in person. Newspaper headlines and stories proclaim the winners. You think you know who won. You could be wrong. Remember, we’re talking about the NCAA. History revisionists in the NCAA could declare that what you saw doesn’t count. 
  • SOUTH BEND – What difference does it make? How that question was answered in 2016 helped to elect President Trump. A decisive number of potential Democratic voters in key states decided it didn’t make much difference whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, each disliked for various reasons, was president. They stayed home on Election Day; Trump went to the White House. What difference does it make? How that question is answered this November could determine whether Democrats win control of the House and whether politically endangered Democratic senators such as Joe Donnelly in Indiana win or lose. Democrats, with a shot at control of the House, are divided still in many places, replaying the Bernie vs. Hillary saga. 
  • SOUTH BEND – The shooting at that Parkland, Fla., high school was a lucky break. It came just in time. Our poor gun industry has been facing tough times, with sales and profits down. The money-making deals between gun merchants, the NRA and Congress were becoming less lucrative for one partner, the gun industry. A New York Times story on the plight of the industry, warns that Remington, one of our oldest and largest gun makers, has been talking of bankruptcy. What is this country coming to? Well, that Florida shooter could have acted just in time to make our gun industry great again. The story on gun industry woes pointed out that sales go up when there is talk of tighter gun regulations and then plummet when the threat seems to disappear.
  • SOUTH BEND – Money isn’t everything. But it sure is something. I have often cited that political truism in analyzing campaign finance reports. Keep it in mind as we look today at money raised, spent and still on hand as reported by candidates for Congress in Indiana’s 2nd District. Most impressive in year-end reports to the Federal Election Commission is the fundraising of Mel Hall, former chief executive officer of South Bend-based Press Ganey. Hall did better in fundraising by far than the other two main candidates for the Democratic nomination. He even raised more in fourth-quarter contributions than Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the Republican incumbent seeking a fourth term. The nationally influential Cook Political Report noted Hall’s successful fundraising Thursday in moving the 2nd District from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican” in its evaluation. It upgraded Democratic chances also in other districts where a Democratic challenger outraised a Republican incumbent. The other two main candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination are Yatish Joshi, owner of GTA Containers in South Bend, and South Bend attorney Pat Hackett.
  • SOUTH BEND – The endorsement of a candidate by a prominent political figure is kind of like the endorsement of a commercial product by a prominent celebrity. There usually is no solid proof that it was of monumental help, even though it seems to have a positive effect. There sometimes is a situation where it backfires and hurts. Jared Fogle became a celebrity whose endorsement still haunts Subway. There always is a quest by candidates and product marketers for praise in attention-getting endorsements. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly will be praised and endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden at a fundraising event Friday in Indianapolis. That endorsement, though not with monumental effect, will help Donnelly in two ways. l It will raise money he needs for what will be one of the costliest election contests in the nation this year. In addition to getting the contributions from those attending, the Donnelly campaign also will profit from asking its supporters around the state to donate $20.18 to win a chance to personally meet with Biden. It will link Donnelly with one of the most popular Democratic figures, someone quite acceptable to Hoosier Democrats and not frightening to the independents and Republican moderates Donnelly must sway to his side in order to win in a red state President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points.
  • SOUTH BEND –  Here are key factors that will determine whether U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Indiana Democrat seeking a second term, will win in one of the costliest and most important election contests in the nation. Donnelly’s Image: Republicans will hammer hard to shatter Donnelly’s image as a moderate who reaches across the aisle for compromises. They will portray him as really a partisan Democrat who votes the party line, opposing the agenda of President Trump and supporting liberal causes, except in a few votes to trick Hoosiers into believing he is less partisan.
  • SOUTH BEND – Fake news is real. And ubiquitous. Through the air it travels, in squawk radio spiels, convincing the gullible of fake plots and conspiracies of which they become terrified. Over Facebook it spreads, prompting the recipients of biased and unfounded accounts to send them on to “inform” a multitude of others. In the mail it arrives, with an appeal to contribute to fight what is fake, something like our courts enforcing Sharia law. From the White House it tweets, dispatched by the tweeter-in-chief to claim that the real is fake and the fake is real. With fake news hither and yon, it becomes difficult to figure where the truth lies and where lies distort the truth. Which is exactly what purveyors of fake news want.
  • SOUTH BEND – Eric Holcomb is a better governor than Mike Pence. Polls show that Hoosiers agree with that. Pence was sagging in approval ratings and faced a tough race for reelection as governor back when he escaped to the national stage as the Republican nominee for vice president and then was elected to that office on the winning ticket with Donald Trump. Holcomb was elected governor in 2016 after a series of startling political developments: Named lieutenant governor to fill a surprise vacancy, selected as the Republican governor nominee after Pence was picked for vice president, and then winning over a Democratic front-runner amid the Trump tsunami in Indiana. He now is popular in the polls; a Politico/Morning Consult poll shows Holcomb with 53% approval, just 21% disapproval. Holcomb’s State of the State address shows why he is more popular as governor than Pence. His low-key, pragmatic approach, avoiding partisan rhetoric and divisive issues that appeal to some political base, was welcomed by the legislators with whom he must work to get things done.
  • SOUTH BEND – Many in America look with trepidation toward what will unfold in 2018. Anger grows in a nation divided into uncompromising camps. Threats arise from overseas. What of conflict in Asia? What of turmoil over rights here at home? The president, way down in the polls, simply is not believed by large segments of the population, especially the young. Well, that’s also the way it was as events unfolded in another year, 1968, half a century ago. Fears were realized in that year of trial for America, but the nation overcame the horrors of war in Vietnam, assassination of popular leaders, violence in the streets and questions about whether democracy could prevail. The good news is that if the nation could survive all that, it surely can overcome the divisive situation now, even if some of the present fears are realized. The president then was Lyndon B. Johnson, different than President Trump in many ways, especially in dealing with Congress. LBJ was a master of bipartisan compromise, winning passage of key legislation, including a civil rights act that had seemed to be a political impossibility. But Johnson sank in the polls as death tolls mounted in Vietnam. Many Americans, including young men of draft age, didn’t believe anything he said about a path to victory or a way out of the Vietnam quagmire.
  • SOUTH BEND – For the final time in 2017, Ralph the Republican and Donald the Democrat met Friday to sip coffee and argue politics at the place they meet almost every weekday morning. Ralph, there first, shouted a greeting as Donald headed to their usual table. R: Happy New Year, Donnie. Should be happy, what with our Republican Congress giving you a big tax cut. D: Yeah, Ronnie, with the deductions they’re takin’ away, maybe there’ll be enough to buy a bagel here some morning. R: Guess you don’t know economics. All the cuts gonna get the economy booming, more jobs, more money for everybody. D: Well, Ronnie, I know that trickle-down stuff never works. Look at what the Bush tax cuts did. R: If you wanna talk about failed economic policies, how about Obama? Slow recovery.
  • SOUTH BEND – The question was this: At a time of bitter partisan division, would a decisive number of voters in solidly Republican Alabama vote for a Democrat rather than a pedophile? The answer in Alabama was “yes.” So, what does the stunning election of a Democrat in a state President Trump carried by 28 percentage points mean for Indiana? Potentially a lot. But exactly what, a year from the crucial 2018 elections for the Senate and House, is far from certain. First of all, no pedophile, no horrible choice like Roy Moore, is likely to be the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Indiana. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democrat seeking reelection, still will face a formidable Republican challenge. But neither Donnelly nor Democratic nominees in Hoosier congressional districts need now to shudder at the prospect of Trump coming to campaign against them as very weak, very sad, so dishonest. They might welcome it if Trump continues with low approval ratings and the lack of political clout that he had in Alabama.
  • SOUTH BEND – That wasn’t a tough vote. It was easy for Sen. Joe Donnelly to vote against the tax package hastily offered in decorative Christmas wrappings by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Polls show that a substantial majority of Americans regard the package, despite the decorative wrappings, to be more in the spirit of Scrooge than of Christmas. A Quinnipiac University poll finds that only 29% of Americans approve of the plan. By 61% to 34% they believe it favors the rich over the middle class. Bipartisan analysts, looking at economic facts rather than political claims, find the package would add from $1 trillion to $l.5 trillion to the national debt, leaving an even higher bill for future generations and likely to force painful cuts everywhere, including in Social Security and Medicare. Some tax deductions popular with the middle class would vanish. So would their tax cuts, set to expire instead of being made permanent like the corporate cuts. Why would Donnelly vote for that? He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. He didn’t.
  • SOUTH BEND – With the fall semester ending, it’s time for a quiz. It’ll test your knowledge and sense of humor.

    1. Mark Zuckerberg came to South Bend to see:
         a. A Notre Dame football game.
         b. The city’s nationally noted progress.
         c. Homeless under a viaduct.
         d. How Mayor Buttigieg’s name is pronounced.

    2. “I always asked their mother’s permission.” This was claimed by:
         a. Harvey Weinstein.
         b. Charlie Rose.
         c. Donald Trump.
         d. Roy Moore.
  • SOUTH BEND – They would rather vote for a pedophile than a Democrat for the U.S. Senate. That’s what some Alabama Republicans say about the race between Republican Roy Moore, accused of sexual exploitation with a 14-year-old girl and other indiscretions in pursuing teens, and Doug Jones, who confesses to being a Democrat, a moderate one, but still a Democrat. Not all Alabama Republicans are saying that. Some say they don’t believe the accusations by the women who accuse Moore. Some denounce Moore and call for him to get out of the race. Some are unsure, saying they couldn’t support him if he did those things, but maybe he didn’t. Then there are those who say flatly that even if Moore is guilty of the sleazy conduct the women describe, they still would vote for him before they would vote for a Democrat. How many fall into each category will determine the outcome of the special election in Alabama on Dec. 12.
  • Jack Colwell: 2017 Turkey Awards (Alternative Fact Edition)

    SOUTH BEND – With Thanksgiving almost 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 2017: A Turkey of the Year Award goes to Brian Kelly for bringing Notre Dame football back so fast from the disaster of ’16 that Irish fans thought they really were playoff caliber – until chained by Miami. For denying reality, Kellyanne Conway receives a spinning turkey for describing fake news as “alternative facts.” Ever hear of a three-headed turkey? There is one. The St. Joseph County commissioners get an award for their leaf pick-up – or rather leaf-them-alone program. In motion pictures, the turkey goes to Harvey Weinstein. In television news, the winner is Bill O’Reilly. The Factor is the same as above.
  • SOUTH BEND – Republican strategists plotting to defeat Sen. Joe Donnelly have attacked the incumbent Democrat as standing in the way of President Trump’s agenda. Q. Will that strategy change after the results of the election Tuesday, especially with the anti-Trump flavor of the big Democratic wins in Virginia? A. No. At least not yet. Q. But will the Republican nominee who runs against Donnelly really want to be viewed as foursquare for Trump’s agenda? A. Right now, the two Republican congressmen regarded as top contenders for the party’s nomination, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, battle for support of the Trump base, so sizeable in the presidential vote in Indiana, with both claiming to give that foursquare support. Each tries in an already nasty battle to find some inkling of disloyalty to Trump by the nomination opponent.
  • SOUTH BEND – “I’ll never speak to you again,” said Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, in an angry call to Robert Costa following Costa’s story in the Washington Post about Trump’s refusal to give a definitive answer on the birther issue. Speak, however, he would. Often. During the campaign and after. Even calling from the Oval Office to give Costa an exclusive about the decision to give up on a Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare: “Hello, Bob. So, we just pulled it.” Costa, who spoke informally Thursday with University of Notre Dame journalism students over lunch and in a question-and-answer session, is regarded as the national political reporter who best knows President Trump. Costa, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate, is a national political reporter for the Post, an analyst for NBC and MSNBC and moderator of “Washington Week” on PBS. How did he get to know Trump so well, sometimes the only reporter flying on Trump’s campaign plane? It wasn’t with puff pieces. Costa told of one time when he spent the day with Trump during the campaign, finally getting the promised exclusive interview on the plane.
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  • Former Sen. Coburn endorses Mike Braun
    "I am pleased to support and endorse Mike Braun, Indiana Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Like myself, Mike is a social & fiscal conservative who supports term limits. As a successful businessman, Mike brings the very knowledge and background that is badly needed in our U.S. Senate today. Mike's opposition to deficit spending and pork barrel projects together with his proven leadership abilities will make him a highly effective U.S. Senator." - Former Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, endorsing Mike Braun for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination. Braun said, "I'm beyond honored to have earned the support of one of my idols in the U.S. Senate, Tom Coburn.”
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  • A changing tide on medicinal marijuana
    CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has changed his mind on medical marijuana. He writes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a hardliner against pot, saying, “I feel obligated to share the results of my five-year-long investigation into the medical benefits of the cannabis plant. Before I started this worldwide, in-depth investigation, I was not particularly impressed by the results of medical marijuana research, but a few years later, as I started to dedicate time with patients and scientists in various countries, I came to a different conclusion.”

    And that conclusion? “Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally. I realize this is an unconventional way to reach you, but your office declined numerous requests for an interview, and as a journalist, a doctor and a citizen, I felt it imperative to make sure you had access to our findings.”

    Gupta’s special report on “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pill” airs at 8 p.m. Sunday. It comes as James Higdon writes about “Legal Marijuana’s Big Moment” coming when former Republican House Speaker John Boehner “flipped” on the topic and became an adviser to a medicinal marijuana group. As the late John Lennon might have put it, strange days, indeed. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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