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Wednesday, October 27, 2021
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  • SOUTH BEND - How do you defend the Big Lie without lying? That’s a problem for many Republicans in Washington. They know, after all the failed court challenges, recounts, audits and lack of any suspicious traces of bamboo on Arizona ballots, that Donald Trump lost the presidential election. They also know that Trump continues to promote the Big Lie that he actually won. And he demands obedience in furtherance of that delusion from Republicans in the House and Senate and other elected offices around the nation. Trump stresses that his base won’t support Republicans who reject harping about a stolen election. Woe to any admitting that fraud allegations have been thoroughly and conclusively disproven. Trump warned bluntly in a recent statement: “If we don’t solve the presidential election fraud of 2020 - which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented - Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Former Sen. Joe Donnelly appears to be a perfect choice for U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Perfect for representing President Biden, described by Donnelly during the presidential campaign as someone he knows to be sincere in faith “because I know Joe Biden, and I come from the same Irish Catholic faith tradition.” Perfect for Pope Francis, who can express church concerns for moral issues from climate change to world hunger to an ambassador who knows the president and knows the faith. Perfect for Senate confirmation prospects, with quick bipartisan support from Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young, who said: “Joe is a devout Catholic and longtime public servant, and I know he will serve the nation well and represent the best of our Hoosier values.”
  • SOUTH BEND – St. Joseph County Democratic officials are aghast over the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners hiring a former Republican House speaker and other attorneys that challenged Donald Trump’s election loss to redistrict in the county. Aghast, I say, aghast! They are aghast that what they expect to be a blatant Republican gerrymander of the three commissioner districts is paid for by the taxpayers, with a commissioner-approved contract paying the attorneys up to $35,000 plus expenses. Aghast, I say, aghast! They already were aghast over the Republican-controlled state legislature’s redistricting that leaves Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski with even a slightly more favorable district in which she could win reelections for a decade. Aghast, I say, aghast! Should Democrats have been surprised? No. In the famous, oft-quoted words of William Marcy, a New York senator defending patronage clout of Andrew Jackson in 1832, “To the victor belong the spoils.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Democratic progressives seem to think they are operating from a position of strength. They aren’t. While Joe Biden got over 7 million more votes than Donald Trump – a fact, despite Trump’s protests – Democrats did poorly in congressional races, with 13 seats flipped from Democrats to Republicans, leaving Democrats with a weak and precarious control of Congress. They likely will lose control of the House in 2022. They will for sure if they make the same mistake made by Trump, costing him reelection as president. Trump concentrated on energizing his base, which he did successfully. But he rejected pleas of some of his own campaign advisers and Republican leaders to reach out beyond the base to moderates in the party and independents, particularly in crucial suburban areas. They wanted less strident rhetoric in tweets, rallies and coronavirus briefings. Democratic progressives could make the same mistake, energizing their base with uncompromising demands for all they cherish, but failing to reach out beyond to moderates in both parties and independents.
  • SOUTH BEND – Should we remove George Washington’s picture from the dollar bill? Why honor an authoritarian who mandated immunization, setting the precedent for overreaching mandates that threaten personal freedom and liberty today? Washington mandated that all Continental Army troops be immunized against some disease called smallpox. If it was “small,” was it that dangerous? So, he did worse than chop down a cherry tree. He stoked fear for political purposes, claiming smallpox was “more to dread” than the British. Treason! Washington got away with it. The stage was set for all the mandates to come for vaccinations. Parents thus are forced to vaccinate their children against all kinds of allegedly serious diseases. Polio is an example. Some guy named Jonas Fauci or something like that claimed he developed a polio vaccine in the 1950s. Parents have been forced ever since to have kids vaccinated against polio in order to start school. 
  • SOUTH BEND – The former vice president from Indiana comes across looking very good in the long-anticipated book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on the final months of the Trump presidency. I’m not surprised. The former vice president looking so good is Dan Quayle, not Mike Pence. Excerpts from the book “Peril” include revelations about Pence being less resolute than previously portrayed in refusing to overturn election certification and how Quayle helped to stiffen Pence’s backbone, telling him to do the right thing in a phone conversation prior to Jan. 6. I’m not surprised. The authors – Woodward, legendary journalist of Watergate fame, and Costa, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate emerging as a top national journalist – tell of Pence calling Quayle, who presided in the constitutional role of vice president in certification of his own loss on the ticket with George H.W. Bush in 1992. Here’s the account of that pivotal call: Pence was asking repeatedly if there was some way to follow Trump’s demand to throw out election results. “Mike, you have no flexibility on this,” Quayle told him. “None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Ready or not, it’s time for the first quiz of the new school year.

    1. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski called for President Biden to resign because he:
          a. Went along with President Trump’s deal with the Taliban to pull out of Afghanistan.
          b. Pulled out of Afghanistan amid chaos.
          c. Tried to bribe Ukraine officials to provide dirt on President Trump.

    2. After the Florida State game, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly:
          a. Called for expanded capital punishment.
          b. Praised sportswriters for their sense of humor.
          c. Referred to an old joke about a team’s poor execution.
  • SOUTH BEND – That upcoming special session of the Indiana General Assembly for redistricting is the subject of many words, spoken in legislative hearings, written in editorials, and uttered in presentations by citizen groups. But what’s the word about what will happen? Q. Will the Republican-dominated legislature refrain from partisan politics in drawing districts to reflect 2020 Census population changes? A. No. Q. So, will they draw districts that slither around like a salamander, just as in the first described gerrymander, named after Founding Father Elbridge Gerry, who drew the salamander shape in his redistricting plan while governor of Massachusetts? A. No. Q. Wait. Will they or will they not gerrymander? A. Gerrymandering now is defined as drawing districts to give a political advantage. They will do that. They will gerrymander quite skillfully. But with computers to analyze each precinct change, it’s possible to draw partisan districts that are compact, no salamander shapes of the type Gerry drew in 1812. Q. Then will most of the new Republican-drawn districts look nice and compact? A. Yes. Current districts, drawn in the Republican-controlled gerrymander after the 2010 Census, were mostly nice in terms of being compact, and very nice politically for the GOP, leading to continuous super majorities in both houses of the state legislature and election of Republicans in seven of the nine congressional districts.
  • SOUTH BEND – The Trump vaccine is amazing, developed more quickly and with more effectiveness than once thought possible, already saving hundreds of thousands of lives here and around the world. The former president’s Operation Warp Speed for vaccine development deserves praise from all in this divided land, including from Democratic critics who scoffed at the name and warned that Trump could be dangerously rushing development to save his faltering reelection bid. So, give Trump some credit. But wait. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t boast about the speed and effectiveness of the Trump vaccine or urge unvaccinated Americans to take the life-saving shots. On Saturday at a MAGA rally in Alabama, Trump was booed when he mentioned the vaccine. “And you know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. You’ve got to do what you have to do,” Trump said. “But I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.” Some boos rang out from the crowd, who were largely maskless. “No, that’s OK. That’s all right. You got your freedoms.” And in a strange twist, vaccination rates are much lower in states Trump won than in states he lost.
  • SOUTH BEND – Indiana is not a good neighbor. It’s a deadly neighbor, exporting guns to gangs in Chicago, where every weekend and on many weekdays, too, a blizzard of bullets threatens and often kills little kids as well as intended gang targets. Most Hoosiers aren’t complicit, of course, but there is blood on the hands of those, including a lot of state legislators, who proudly point to the state’s lax gun laws that make buying a gun so easy, so fast, sometimes with no questions asked. They say they want it easy for “law-abiding” citizens to get guns for protection, for hunting, for collecting. Nothing wrong with those purposes, if those were the real purposes of all the purchasers. Too many have no intent to abide by the law. They want to get away with murder. “Straw purchasers,” as they are called, obtain in Indiana many of the weapons used in violence in Chicago, where stiffer regulations make it more difficult to buy guns.
  • SOUTH BEND – How many Americans believe the Big Lie? A lot. I hear from some when I write about the Big Lie that Donald Trump actually won reelection and soon will return as president, following vote “auditing” and searching for bamboo in Arizona and “discovery” of massive vote fraud in other states. After a column about a company called Cyber Ninjas conducting its pro-Trump Arizona “auditing,” including testing for bamboo on ballots to see if they came from Asia, and pursuit of other nutty conspiracy theories, a reader had this evaluation: “You are a liar.” Those who want to believe QAnon theories about Trump’s presidency being restored – though predictions on dates for this keep getting missed – aren’t going to be swayed by facts. But belief in the Big Lie that Joe Biden actually lost isn’t as widespread as sometimes portrayed. Most Republicans in Congress, even ones who voted against accepting the certified election results, know better and will say, perhaps reluctantly and in terms to avoid angering the Trump base, that Biden won and is president.
  • 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.
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  • Mayor McDermott won't hire unvaccinated Chicago cops
    "This mayor is not interested in the head cases from Chicago coming to the Hammond Police Department. Officers willing to throw their career away over a political issue? I just don't want that. The number one killer of police officers across the country right now is COVID-19. If you're willing to throw all that away over a shot, during a pandemic; if you're that rigid, I don't really want you in the Hammond Police Department, I'll be honest with you. Because I imagine you're going to be a pain in my ass a couple years down the road also and you're going to be a pain in the chief's ass. You can't be a police officer and not take orders from the mayor." - Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., on his Left of Center podcast, reacting to U.S. Sen. Mike Braun's call to welcome unvaccinated Chicago cops to Indiana police forces. McDermott is seeking the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2022, seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Todd Young.
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