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Monday, October 21, 2019
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  • SOUTH BEND – Note to Democrats: Be careful what you wish for. It just might come true, with unpleasant consequences. Like President Mike Pence. Many Democrats wish that President Trump would go. Quickly. Before the 2020 election. Through impeachment. Well, it appears likely now that the Democratic-controlled House will vote to impeach Trump. But that only sends impeachment charges to the Republican-controlled Senate, where chances that the president would be convicted and removed from office range from highly unlikely to none at all. Still, some Democrats hold out hope - wishing fervently - that Trump could be implicated so deeply in impeachable conduct and become so clearly unhinged that Senate Republicans would join in a two-thirds vote to remove him from the White House. If the unexpected happened, if that Democratic wish came true, Vice President Mike Pence would become president.
  • SOUTH BEND – Why Iowa? Why would Mayor Pete Buttigieg already be opening 20 campaign offices there, with 100 organizers, and with further expansion likely before the Iowa caucuses next Feb. 3? Why, in a state with demographics not typical of the nation’s population, are these caucuses – meetings where a show of hands rather than ballots can determine the count – so darn important? Credit or blame goes to Jimmy Carter. Carter, who began his presidential quest as a former Georgia governor with little national name recognition and seemingly no chance for the White House, spent two years campaigning in Iowa, attracting the attention of the national news media and drawing other contenders into the suddenly important 1976 Iowa caucuses.
  • SOUTH BEND – Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were separated by only a few feet, but by more than 40 years in age. Mayor Pete, 37, and Sen. Sanders, 78, were situated next to each other at the Democratic presidential debate Thursday night in accord with their standings in the polls. Is one too old? Passé? Is the other too young? Not ready? Is there some other candidate who’s just right, not necessarily with age but with electability? Viewers could draw their conclusions as they watched the performances of the 10 leading candidates for the Democratic nomination. It’s a diverse group. And the different approaches of Buttigieg and Sanders were shown clearly as they stood side by side in the long and tense debate.
  • SOUTH BEND – “It’s the economy, stupid.” That’s the famous admonition to Bill Clinton’s campaign staffers attributed to James Carville, the colorful Clinton strategist in the 1992 upset of President George H.W. Bush. Bush, a very good president, especially in foreign affairs, handling so well the collapse of the old Soviet Union, had “unbeatable” approval ratings a year before. Well, it was the economy, or rather the perception of the economy and what Bush was doing about it, that enabled Clinton to win. Two points of clarification: 1. The headquarters message posted by Carville actually had no “It’s.” It was simply, “The economy, stupid.” 2. The brief recession during Bush’s presidency actually was over, recovery underway before the 1992 campaign started. But Carville was right. Clinton won. The perception of how the economy is doing and what the president is doing about it is a potent political factor in presidential politics.
  • SOUTH BEND – Let’s look at some questions about the top 10 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and their competition for the first time all together on the same debate stage. Q. How did it get down to a top 10 appearing on one night? A. After those first two rounds of debates, in which a field of 20 qualifiers was split for two nights of debating in Miami and then Detroit, the Democratic National Committee made qualification harder, including needing to reach at least 2% in four major polls conducted nationwide or in early primary states. Q. Good decision? A. Of course. It’s time to get down to serious competition among candidates with the most realistic chances for the presidential nomination so that voters can focus on them without distraction from some others with no chance at all. Q. Did Mayor Pete have any difficulty qualifying? A. No. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg qualified long ago through both the required number of donors and rankings in many polls. Q. Will Buttigieg have a chance to shine in this debate with all the other top contenders on Sept. 12 in Houston? A. A chance. Probably a limited chance.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete won’t be on the ballot in South Bend this fall. James Mueller will be there as the Democratic nominee for mayor. And Mueller has a problem. How does he run for mayor after he’s already won the election? Mueller, who frequently is asked just that, says he will campaign door-to-door extensively, paying special attention to the two districts in South Bend where he lost in the Democratic primary in May. He trailed significantly in the 2nd and 6th districts on the city’s West Side but won decisively citywide with pluralities in the other four districts. “Some people think I’m mayor already,” Mueller says. At some of the doors where he already has knocked, Mueller hears things like: “What are you doing here? You don’t have to sweat it.”
  • SOUTH BEND  –  Bullets don’t care. Nor do military-style weapons from which they fly. Assault rifles don’t care whether they are used to kill little kids in a school, teens in their high school, worshipers in synagogues and churches, shoppers at that El Paso Walmart or people enjoying a weekend in Dayton’s entertainment district. The shooters care. They want to bring death, grief, terror. They plan for this, hope for this, seek recognition for this. How many elected officials – those who could act to restrict use of uncaring assault weapons spewing uncaring bullets – care enough to act? Care at all? The answer to that is what happened in El Paso and Dayton. We become numb to news of mass shootings. There have been more mass shootings than days of the year so far in 2019. As of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there were 255 mass shootings, incidents with at least four people shot. The Dayton carnage was especially shocking for me. Nine were killed, dozens injured in 32 seconds of rapid fire of uncaring bullets from an uncaring military-style weapon used by a shooter seeking mayhem and martyrdom. This occurred in Dayton’s Oregon District, the city’s entertainment district, with fine restaurants, trendy bars, interesting shops and historic structures. Just the night before in that popular area, my son, Steve, executive producer in TV news there, my daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and my granddaughter, Claire, walked by Ned Peppers, the bar the shooter tried to enter to kill so many more. 
  • SOUTH BEND  – The next round of Democratic debating will be different. The number of presidential candidates participating will be trimmed from the 20 competing in the first two rounds. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg already makes the cut and will be on stage again in the Sept. 12-13 debating in Houston. Questions? Q. Who won in the Wednesday night debate in Detroit? A. Donald Trump. Q. How did Mayor Pete do in the Tuesday night debate? A. Quite well. He wasn’t the winner. Elizabeth Warren came off the best. But Buttigieg stayed above the level of personal attacks against other Democratic candidates that made the Wednesday brawlers look petty. And he actually directed his criticism at Trump policies, not at Democratic policies of the past.
  • SOUTH BEND – They took the bait. Just as President Trump knew they would. Just as he made it almost impossible for them not to snap back, snap at the bait. Just as he planned. So, there they were on television, all four of them, the ultra-progressive Democratic congresswomen who stir controversy in their own party caucus. There they were with saturation coverage for days, appearing as the face of the Democratic Party. And right after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had somewhat successfully pushed them farther from the spotlight, portraying them as rogue rather than representative of the Democratic House caucus. Pelosi did so out of concern that their strident calls for impeachment and insistence on pushing for what now is politically impossible could endanger chances of Democrats retaining control of the House. Trump baited a Twitter trap, insulting the four congresswomen of color and telling them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested” countries “from which they came.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete, though on the defensive over what he called “a mess” in his own city, survived the first round of Democratic presidential debates. He suffered a dip in the polls, a significant dip, but not a disastrous one for someone who started as a long, long longshot. Others fared worse under the pressure. Look at Beto O’Rourke, falling toward the point of elimination, and Joe Biden, plummeting from a huge lead to his new position as a shaky front-runner. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will continue as a significant contender at least through the first series of primaries next year. That’s guaranteed by his amazing fundraising success, with over 400,000 donors big and small, and $24.8 million raised in the past three months. He has funding to go on with a national campaign as others drop out with nothing left to finance a realistic effort. OK, Mayor Pete stays significant and is sure to continue as a contender. How significant? How far? If he is seen in the role of a humble piñata, with political activists taking swings at him as the national news media conclude that he really isn’t that popular or effective as a mayor, his significance and the length of his race as a serious contender will lessen.
  • SOUTH BEND –  South Bend police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill was proud that in 19 years as a cop he never shot anyone – never once fired a shot in the line of duty – even though mostly working in the late night when violence peaks. Until . . . O’Neill is the cop in national news, caught up in coverage of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. He shot and fatally wounded Eric Logan, a man said by O’Neill to have forced him finally to shoot someone in a him-or-me, life-or-death situation in which Logan approached threateningly with a raised knife. White cop shoots and kills black man. That’s how it played. And that’s what happened. But it wasn’t like one of those cases elsewhere where some white cop fires a barrage of shots into the back of a black man who is running away. O’Neill fired two shots. One hit Logan – in the stomach, not in the back. Police reports say Logan, after being shot, threw a knife that struck O’Neill with a glancing blow. Still, was it justified? And how has Mayor Buttigieg handled the situation? The mayor handled it well in the Democratic debate, as well as he could, admitting problems in failing to recruit black police officers, expressing sympathy over the death but not declaring a verdict on the shooting. He didn’t fold as a result of his city, about which he boasts, being portrayed now as a mess of racial strife. 
  • SOUTH BEND — For Pete’s sake, what’s happening? Why are Bernie Sanders and President Trump attacking the mayor of South Bend? Why did right-wing conspiracy activists fake that the mayor assaulted a college student? Why is his signature achievement of fixing up or tearing down 1,000 vacant and deteriorating old houses in 1,000 days portrayed as a failure because it didn’t eliminate crime, wipe out poverty and cure cancer? Easy answer: Because South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has come out of nowhere — national political types regard South Bend as nowhere — to become a top-tier contender for the Democratic nomination for president. OK, he’s a star in the major leagues in his rookie season. But that doesn’t mean he will win the World Series. It’s a long season in baseball. The presidential selection season is even longer. So, why did the Sanders campaign attack Mayor Pete for likening Sanders to Trump?
  • SOUTH BEND  — Mayor Pete won another South Bend election. This one wasn’t so big. Or was it?

    While Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday, his candidate’s name was. James Mueller, his candidate, his choice to be his successor as mayor, won the Democratic mayoral nomination, tantamount to being elected mayor of South Bend. Mueller, with 37% of the vote, won with a double-digit percentage margin over the nearest competitor in a nine-candidate field that included four other candidates considered viable. Not bad for a candidate who came from nowhere. Well, he of course came from somewhere, from the Buttigieg administration, where he was the mayor’s chief of staff and then executive director of a key development department. But, politically, from nowhere. Mueller began the race with low political name recognition, no cultivated political following and lack of political campaign expertise. He hadn’t planned to run. Didn’t at first really want to run. Buttigieg told victory celebrants Tuesday night that Mueller “answered the call when it was not the most comfortable or obvious thing to do. It’s why, even though he’s not the cigar-chomping, back-slapping politician that some people might expect, and neither am I, he is exactly the right person.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Democratic primary election voters on May 7 will likely pick the next mayor of South Bend, the successor to Mayor Pete Buttigieg. There are nine candidates for the Democratic nomination, five of whom are viable. The winner almost certainly will be elected mayor in the general election this November. A Republican hasn’t won the mayoral election since 1967, and recent GOP efforts in city elections have been pathetic. The leading contenders based on their ability thus far to get out their messages and attract significant support are: James Mueller, Buttigieg’s former chief of staff, who has the most significant support of all, an endorsement from Mayor Pete. He also has the most funding, according to campaign finance reports, enabling him to continue to send out his message widely in mailings and on TV. Television advertising could be especially effective this time.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete was presented with a “POTUS Pete” shirt, bright red letters on white, as he was introduced Monday at Dyngus Day festivities at the West Side Democratic & Civic Club. Some in the enthusiastic crowd packing the old club, traditional center for Dyngusing and where Bobby Kennedy campaigned for president, were initially unsure of the meaning of the lettering, referring to Washington alphabet lingo for President of the United States. But they all knew that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is making a big splash nationally in his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. And they couldn’t miss all the national news media coverage, TV camera crews and all. Buttigieg told the crowd that he had urged journalists covering his events in Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere to come to South Bend for Dyngus Day to witness the celebrated event in his hometown.
  • SOUTH BEND – Cold and pouring rain usually is viewed as nothing positive, even as a disaster, for planners of an outside event. But those conditions were a factor in the positive national news coverage of the announcement of presidential candidacy by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The announcement was planned for Sunday at a major downtown intersection, with nearby streets blocked off, providing space for a crowd of up to 10,000. It seemed likely that the crowd would be the largest in 51 years for a political rally in downtown South Bend. Maybe it would even top the crowd of an estimated 6,000 at the legendary 1968 Dyngus Day rally as Bobby Kennedy spoke on the steps of the courthouse. That has been regarded as the largest gathering ever for a downtown political speech. Then came the forecast for terrible weather. The forecast proved accurate. So, the decision was made to move the event inside, but not to some auditorium. The announcement was switched to an inside site that hardly seemed inside at all. No heat. Leaks in the roof getting many members of the audience wet as the rain continued.
  • SOUTH BEND – The Buttigieg Boomlet continues. Here are five significant things about the explosion in national attention for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. 1. Mayor Pete now gets more space in the New York Times — lengthy articles from all around the country, frequent favorable columns, big photos — than in the South Bend Tribune. This doesn’t mean his hometown paper neglects him – not at all. But the definition of a national political boomlet includes lots of attention in the national news media. The Times, with its size and resources, competes with the rest of the national news operations to cover the Buttigieg Boomlet. And the coverage and analysis add to the boomlet. For example, columnist David Brooks writes: “Pete Buttigieg has some kind of magic right now.” He notes the mayor’s surprising showing in polls, book sales and fundraising. 2. Buttigieg has raised enough money to collect a lot more money for his presidential bid. His report of raising over $7 million means he will attract the attention of more potential donors and can afford more fundraising efforts.
  • SOUTH BEND  — We’ve got an Iowa surprise. And it’s nothing to do with a forecast on when corn will be knee-high. Too early to measure the corn crop. A lot to do, though, with measuring the crop of presidential candidates. The Iowa survey released last week by Emerson College, showing South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in third place among likely Democratic caucus goers, was a big surprise. It’s another indication that Buttigieg has become a candidate to be taken seriously on the national political stage,  even before he is officially a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Q: What’s next? A: Buttigieg plans on campaigning in New Hampshire this weekend. Q: So, he’s already looking beyond that first-in-the-nation test in the Iowa caucuses next year?
  • SOUTH BEND – They call it “flyover country.” It’s where the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee needs a safe landing if he or she is to stave off the reelection of President Donald Trump for four additional years. “Flyover country” is where Trump won key electoral votes for victory in 2016 and where he could win again. It includes states in the Midwest that were crucial. Trump pulled upsets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa and won battleground Ohio, obtaining needed electoral votes to win the presidency, even as he trailed nationally by 2.8 million in the popular vote. The “flyover” description comes from the way presidential candidates, especially Democratic nominees, so often fly over Middle America as they travel from one coast to the other for major campaign and fundraising events and national media attention. The name also refers to the perceived attitude of some nominees, especially Hillary Clinton, who was viewed in key Midwest states where she lost as flying above the concerns of voters in the middle of the country, the concerns of those in the middle of the political spectrum, the concerns of the middle class.
  • SOUTH BEND  — President Trump has been looking better. This isn’t leading to some joke about more yellow in his unique hairdo. Nor is it satire. The president’s chances for reelection have been looking better. Not great. Better. It’s true. His approval ratings, though certainly not sparkling, improved in polls after his State of the Union address, mistakenly thought by many Democrats to be a disaster for Trump. And it wasn’t just an overnight bump in ratings. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted at the end of February showed Trump with an approval rating of 46%. OK, disapproval was higher, 52%. But remember when Trump’s approval ratings were below 40%? And some pundits thought he was left with nothing but a base that was chipping away? That he couldn’t climb beyond support by just a third of the voters?
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  • Adm. McRaven: The Republic is under attack from the President
    “The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within. These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, ‘I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!’ If we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states? If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up? President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong." - Admiral William H. McRaven, former commander of the United States Special Operations Command, in a New York Times op-ed titled "Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President: If President Trump doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office." 
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  • Gen. Votel on what Kurd fighters did for the U.S.
    “Over four years, the SDF freed tens of thousands of square miles and millions of people from the grip of ISIS. Throughout the fight, it sustained nearly 11,000 casualties. By comparison, six U.S. service members, as well as two civilians, have been killed in the anti-ISIS campaign.” - U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, on the role the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up mostly of Kurdish fighters. The United States has abandoned the SDF, which is now under an ethnic cleansing assault from Turkey after President Trump gave the green light for the incursion on Sunday.
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