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Thursday, July 29, 2021
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  • SOUTH BEND – Three years ago, in a column published on July 29, 2018, I wrote that Pete Buttigieg, then mayor of South Bend, should run for president. Shows what I know about politics. Mayor Pete ran for president. He lost. He could instead have easily won a third term as mayor. And he would not now face pressures of dealing with the nation’s roads, rails, airports and bridges and seeking a trillion dollars to fix them. Actually, I said in that column that I thought Buttigieg would indeed run for president, “and will not win.” But he would win by losing. I never thought Buttigieg would win the presidency in 2020, although it seemed possible after his spectacular showing in Iowa and New Hampshire. Even before that, he had some chance. If Donald Trump could be elected, who couldn’t be president? Buttigieg became one of the finalists for the Democratic nomination.
  • SOUTH BEND – Joy would abound in post offices throughout the land if it were not for the “De” before “Joy.” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Donald Trump’s appointee last year in strategy to sabotage delivery of absentee ballots, still directs the postal slowdown we all experience. President Biden can’t fire DeJoy. That can be done only by a nine-member Postal Service Board of Governors, all of whom until recently had been appointed by Trump. Slowly replacements are being confirmed. It takes time. “Get used to me,” DeJoy told critics at a congressional hearing earlier this year. He’s not planning to go anywhere but to stay on, playing a part in Trump’s revenge. He’s unpopular with many Republicans as well as Democrats in Congress. They all hear complaints from constituents about slowdowns in postal service and concerns about further cutbacks. Many families had problems last Christmas with packages arriving after the holiday even though mailed in time for promised pre-Christmas delivery. My family did. 
  • SOUTH BEND – History will be kinder to Mike Pence than were the hecklers shouting “Traitor!” at him at a conference of religious conservatives last week. Much kinder than the insurrectionists chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” as they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. He may not go down in history at the other extreme either, as the man who “saved American democracy,” as Pence was described in a recent national column. How Pence is portrayed in history books decades from now will depend in part on what he reveals in his own book. He contemplates that now, back home in Indiana in his just-purchased mansion in Carmel. More could depend on revelations in the anticipated book on the 2020 campaign by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post. Actually, Pence isn’t likely to give himself as much credit as he deserves for carrying out his constitutional duties as vice president, doing so despite Donald Trump’s demand for him to reject results of the presidential election.
  • SOUTH BEND – Three reasons why Republicans are very likely to take control of the House next year involve things over which Democrats have little or no control. There is, however, one reason why Democrats might be able somehow to hang on to their slim majority. And they do have better prospects of at least holding on to the 50-50 Senate tie. Reasons for Republicans winning control of the House: First, history is on their side. The party out of the White House almost always makes big gains in the first midterm election in a new presidency. In those midterm elections since the end of World War II, the average loss for the president’s party has been 29 seats. Democrats lost 63 seats in the 2010 midterm after election of President Barack Obama. Republicans lost 40 seats in the 2018 midterm after election of Donald Trump. Because Democrats already lost seats in 2020, even as Joe Biden won the presidency, Republicans need only a net of five seats to win the majority. Democrats can’t go back to 2020 to win more seats.
  • SOUTH BEND – U.S. Sen. Todd Young is a Republican who is unafraid of reaching across the aisle for rare bipartisan passage of major legislation. And he doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the presidency and the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol was criminal.  Indiana’s senior senator co-sponsored the legislation aimed at strengthening America in competition with China in technology, science and cyber research and development, providing nearly $250 billion to do so. It passed 68-32 in the Senate last week and is likely to win House approval and be signed into law by President Biden. The bill, described by the New York Times as providing “the most significant government intervention in industrial policy in decades,” won Senate approval only after a battle of amendments. Opposition came from some Republicans expressing fear of too much government intervention in the economy. Nineteen of the 50 Republican senators voted for it, with Young as co-sponsor helping to bring the extensive bipartisan support. “Our party is changing,” Young said in an interview in South Bend. “Our party is coming to understand there are certain federal investments that are essential, as long as they are made in a targeted and responsible fashion.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Due to delay in completion of the Census, gerrymandering for congressional and state legislative districts will be rather late this year. The Indiana General Assembly moved its final adjournment deadline to Nov. 5 to have time to receive official data and play the gerrymander game. Better late than never? Good government groups in Indiana and other states would prefer never. They of course want redistricting, the once-a-decade drawing of new districts to reflect population shifts. But they never want to see another gerrymander. In gerrymandering, the party controlling the state legislature draws districts for Congress and the legislature that are designed to elect as many members of that party as possible. Districts sometimes have strange shapes as the prevailing party links together areas that vote for the opposition, surrendering those districts, but making more districts “sure bets” for their side. Gerrymandering usually works. In Indiana, where Republicans drew the districts after the 2010 Census, the GOP has built up super majorities in the state legislative chambers. Statewide totals for legislative races show that Democrats still would lose control of the chambers in a fair, nonpartisan redistricting. But Republicans wouldn’t always have super majorities, where Democrats have little voice and couldn’t even break a quorum if they all left the floor.
  • SOUTH BEND – Arizona’s long-running recount of ballots, searching for bamboo, special watermarks and other signs that fantasies of conspiracy are real, brings understandable laughter. Really, though, it’s no laughing matter. Jokes abound about the failed search of ballots for traces of bamboo. Why the bamboo probe? If you don’t know, you’re not up on conspiracy theories of how the election was stolen from Donald Trump. One theory of why he lost Arizona is about a plane from South Korea delivering thousands of fraudulent ballots marked for Joe Biden. If they came from Asia, maybe in a Chinese plot to oust Trump, traces of bamboo fibers would be found. Alas, no bamboo fibers were found. Maybe they should have checked for traces of Russian vodka. No! No way. This recount seeks only conspiracies against Trump, not whether Putin could have done anything to help him. What’s with watermarks? Inspection of some ballots under ultraviolet light was to check on a conspiracy theory from QAnon, the cult believing the nation is controlled by pedophiles who cannibalize kids. The Q claim is that Trump, guarding against Democratic pedophiles out to steal the election, secretly affixed special watermarks on legitimate ballots. Counters finding no watermark would know the ballot was fraudulent. Alas, no watermarks were found. Does that mean all the Arizona ballots, for or against Trump, are fraudulent?
  • SOUTH BEND –  Mark Torma, who directs a six-county program providing legal services for the needy, could soon perhaps provide political direction for a needy St. Joseph County Democratic Party. The need is clear for a party in a “Democratic” county in which all three elected county commissioners are Republicans. Torma is likely – though not certain – to be selected county Democratic chair on May 2. If he is, it will be an indication that the tone of a meeting at Mishawaka’s DiLoreto Club prevailed over the angry tone of battling factions in a divisive contest for chair in March. The private, informal DiLoreto meeting of party leaders on April 27 was just a little over two months after Democratic precinct committee members reelected Stan Wruble as chair after a contest featuring personal attacks, allegations of wrongdoing in the party and a nasty split between Wruble and South Bend Mayor James Mueller. With Wruble’s sudden announcement that he was resigning, moving to accept a position with an Arizona law firm, there loomed possibility of another contentious battle for chair.
  • SOUTH BEND – Advocates of banning sale of assault rifles to civilians always argue that nobody in the public needs one of these weapons of war. They are wrong. Brandon Hole needed an assault rifle. In fact, he needed two. Hole is the 19-year-old shooter who killed eight people and injured more as he fired away outside and then inside that FedEx facility in Indianapolis. Hole needed an assault weapon to achieve his goal, a mass shooting, a massacre, capturing attention not just at the FedEx place where he once worked but throughout the nation. With so many shootings in America, you have to kill whole bunch to get headlines nationally these days. If the young man had only a conventional handgun, he would have failed to shoot as many, to kill as many, to become nationally known. His mother reported to authorities in March 2020 that she feared he was planning “suicide by cop,” firing a shotgun at police so that they would return fire and kill him. Police took the shotgun away. But prosecutors feared the short deadline for obtaining evidence and seeking a court order and other loopholes in the state’s “red flag” law could have led to losing a case for further restrictions and forcing return of the shotgun.
  • SOUTH BEND – We know some things about the autobiography former Vice President Mike Pence is writing. We know the title won’t be one of those suggested by the late-night TV hosts or on Twitter. Some of those suggestions: “I Did It His Way.” “Lord of the Flies.” “Thank you, Sir. Can I Have Another?” Nor will there be, as Jimmy Fallon suggests, a chapter on “how his boss tried to murder him.” We know the book, first of two Pence will write in a multi-million-dollar publishing deal, is for release in 2023, as the contest for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination gets serious. Pence, of course, already is deadly serious about seeking that nomination. The autobiography timing is part of his quest. We know the book will be fiction. Wait, you say, aren’t autobiographies classified as nonfiction? Yes. And Pence’s book will compete for high ranking on the list of nonfiction bestsellers. However, autobiography authors don’t always stick with the truth. Many include a lot of self-promoting fiction. So, would Pence, seeking the Republican presidential nomination, really tell the truth about the Jan. 6 insurrection, when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, forcing Pence and his family to flee from the Senate chamber and hide?
  • SOUTH BEND – The quarrelsome contest for St. Joseph County Democratic chair, with a swirl of contentious statements, involvement by the mayor of South Bend, the return of Butch Morgan and a bitter aftermath, was like something from the past. Back when county chairs were really important, always in the news, with powerful precinct organizations slating nominees. Back when, if the governor was of the same party, chairs could manage license bureaus as their own private enterprise, operating in shabby low-cost facilities, legally pocketing profits from fees paid by motorists. Back when chairs wielded patronage power, with applicants for fire and police departments and even for summer internships in the parks requiring party blessing. In citing how things have changed, with less patronage, less power and less public recognition, I’m not seeking to belittle the big win of Stan Wruble as Democratic chair. Wruble retained the post impressively in the vote of Democratic precinct committee members, the people who select the chair. He had a lot more clout with them than South Bend Mayor James Mueller, who endorsed challenger Dave Nufer.
  • 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.

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  • Dr. Carroll on 'different pandemics'
    “To suggest that Covid-19 is an escalating emergency in the United States is not quite right. The truth is that the vaccinated and unvaccinated are experiencing two very different pandemics right now. If we don’t confront that, the nation can’t address either appropriately.” - Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, chief health officer for Indiana University, in his New York Times column "Covid is now a crisis for the unvaccinated" on Wednesday.
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