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Sunday, February 17, 2019
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  • SOUTH BEND – How South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg would fare in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in Indiana is uncertain. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states will determine before then whether he is a viable contender. But one thing is certain: Buttigieg, if still an active candidate when Hoosier Democrats vote, would run away with the primary vote in his home area. That was demonstrated by the enthusiastic response for the mayor this week at the first book signing for “Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future.” A capacity crowd of 800 packed the Great Hall of Century Center to hear the mayor and buy his book. They applauded long and loud when the moderator for a conversation about the book mentioned his presidential prospects. The most significant sign of enthusiasm for Buttigieg was the willingness of those who bought the book to wait in line for up two and a half hours to have the mayor sign it.
  • SOUTH BEND – Joe Biden, a Democrat, said something nice about Fred Upton, a Republican. How dare he! So, does that rule out Biden as the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee? You would think so if you read the New York Times story detailing what Biden said in Benton Harbor, Michigan, last year. The article suggests that “the episode underscores his potential vulnerabilities in the fight for the Democratic nomination and raises questions about his judgment as a party leader.” I don’t know if Biden will run or whether he could win. That’s not the point. The point is that daring to praise a Republican, even amid the partisan hatred in our election campaigns, shouldn’t rule out Joe Biden or anybody else, especially when the praise was for bipartisan cooperation. Nancy Jacobson, co-founder of No Labels, a group encouraging problem solving rather than eye gouging in Congress, said of the “breathlessly reported” tale of bipartisan language: “This sad little vignette exemplifies exactly what is wrong with American politics today.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Takeaways from national news media coverage of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s launch of his presidential candidacy are clear. He is viewed as a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Right after his early-morning-hours disclosure of an exploratory candidacy, news that he was in the race was on morning network news and reported in the major newspapers. Think you could announce for president and get even two seconds or one sentence of national coverage? Buttigieg had extensive coverage throughout the day, even live interviews. Coverage continues and certainly will go on during his book tour in February. A key factor in this is that the mayor won by losing in his 2017 bid to be Democratic national chairman. He wasn’t selected but still gained national exposure and stature with his impressive bid for the post. Also clear from the coverage by the national news people is that they aren’t sure how to pronounce Buttigieg. Heck, even some of his South Bend constituents aren’t sure. Most of the national stories, TV and print, referred quickly to the way the mayor’s name is pronounced. Chuck Todd, host of “Meet the Press,” talked in his weeknight show about the confusion. “Thankfully,” Todd said, he goes by “Mayor Pete.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Impeachment is a dirty word. Not in the sense of coarse words in the way President Trump talks and in the way a new Democratic congresswoman talked about him, but in the sense of a word that many people don’t want to hear spoken in public. And for two entirely different reasons. President Trump and members of his unwavering base don’t want to hear impeachment spoken about in any serious way in Congress. Actually, the president uses the word himself in a scoffing way, belittling the possibility of impeachment as he rallies his base. It could become a new mantra. Like his: “No collusion. No collusion. No collusion.” A new presidential chant of choice could be: “No impeachment. No impeachment. No impeachment.” Impeachment also is a dirty word that Democratic leaders in the House don’t want to hear mentioned in public by their members. Not now. Not yet. Maybe not at all as President Trump completes what they hope will be his only term.
  • SOUTH BEND – As noted in a South Bend Tribune headline, it was: “A very busy year for your watchdog.” Yes, newspapers, despite cutbacks in reporters and coverage, the loss of circulation and advertising, and dismissal by critics as irrelevant, still perform a watchdog role. The Tribune story about that role, keeping an eye on public officials and others to spot and disclose corruption and fraud that would otherwise go undetected, focused on the newspaper’s uncovering of wrongdoing by Elkhart police and in the Elkhart County justice system. The police scandal brought the firing of the police chief and a decision by the mayor to forego running for reelection. The mess, now uncovered, can be cleaned up by good cops, informed citizens and determined civic leaders. Tribune journalists flexed their muscle in other cases from the last year as well. Among them were investigations into the sudden departure of a Transpo CEO, excuses for a vote-counting problem, and a fatal crash involving a speeding South Bend police car. That’s what newspapers are supposed to do. Long have done. Still do, though with fewer watchdogs now barking.
  • SOUTH BEND –  Democrats should nominate an avocado for president, if it offered the best chance to defeat President Trump. Campaign slogan: “Make America Guac Again.” Thus writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. A facetious suggestion, of course. Where would one find a viable avocado meeting the constitutional requirement that a president be at least 35 years old? The point Bruni is stressing is that it’s not a certainty that Trump will be defeated if he seeks reelection in 2020. So, Democrats better seek a nominee with the best chance to win, not necessarily the one with the best presidential qualifications on paper or longest admirable service to party and nation. He praised Joe Biden highly informed, affable, real and superbly qualified. And, urged Biden not to run. Because … well, how did Hillary Clinton’s “impeccable credentials” work out last time? Other political analysts also theorize that Democrats could lose again to Trump if they nominate someone beloved by sections of their party but with a lot of baggage accumulated over many years and lacking broad appeal beyond the Democratic East Coast and West Coast. They cite dangers in nominating someone like Biden, 76; Bernie Sanders, 77; or Elizabeth Warren, 69.
  • SOUTH BEND – Don’t be surprised if President Trump doesn’t run for reelection in 2020. He might not for any of a variety of reasons. This isn’t a prediction that he won’t run again. I don’t make political predictions unless it’s a sure thing. The last flat-out prediction I recall was when I said Bob would be elected mayor Mishawaka. That was way back when the nominees were Bob Beutter and Bob Nagle. And Bob won. So, I’m not predicting that Donald Trump won’t seek a second term. Just saying it’s indeed a possibility. Here are some reasons why he might not: Since Trump is so often in a foul mood, furious over any criticism, ranting and raving in angry tweets, insulting and threatening enemies he sees looming everywhere, he could decide he can’t stand the job and would prefer life at Trump Tower and his golf courses rather than frustrations in the White House.
  • SOUTH BEND – Long before all the recent tributes to George H.W. Bush, before all those nice things said about him after his death, he was moving up quickly and deservedly in the ranking of presidents. Not up there among the ones historians traditionally rate as the greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, the two Roosevelts and Thomas Jefferson. But the 41st president, defeated for re-election and leaving office with low approval, has climbed well into the top half in the ranking of presidents on lists of evaluations by historians. Sure, much of the high praise now for Bush, for his civility, decency, upholding of presidential dignity and ability to achieve bipartisan agreements at home and coalitions abroad, is enhanced by comparing with the present. But before there was a President Trump in the White House for comparison, Bush was moving up in esteem as historians evaluated what he did in a single term.
  • SOUTH BEND – This is Trumpiana. The state, with new name or old, resisted the blue wave that swept across much of the nation on Tuesday. The wave, near a tsunami in some states, brought Democratic control of the U.S. House and flipped seven governor offices from red to blue. Rolling across neighboring Michigan, it propelled Democrats to significant victories there, almost pulling under long-popular Republican Congressman Fred Upton in Michigan’s 6th District. But the wave stopped at the state line in Michiana. No blue water seeped across. Indiana was the Red Sea. Trumpiana. With the decisive defeat of Sen. Joe Donnelly and easy reelection of all seven of the state’s Republican House members, Trumpiana’s congressional delegation stands at nine Republicans, only two Democrats. Those two surviving Democrats couldn’t lose, running in House districts stacked with as many Democratic voters as possible in gerrymandering. Republicans control all offices elected statewide and retain overwhelming majorities in both houses of the state legislature, leaving minority Democrats with about as much power in the legislative chambers as they would have if they stayed home.

  • SOUTH BEND – Let’s look at the color of the counties, all 10 in Indiana’s 2nd CD. In 2016, nine were red and one was blue. That combination gave the district a deep red hue as Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski won big in reelection to her third term. Only St. Joseph County was blue that night. And even so it was a very pale blue. Walorski darn near carried the largest and most Democratic county in the district. She also won big, very big, in 2014, with a similar color scheme across the district, nine red counties, one blue. It will be a closer race this time, as Democrat Mel Hall, unlike her two prior Democratic challengers, has the resources and organization to threaten a possible upset of the entrenched incumbent. Walorski, realizing the threat and responding to it, agreed to two televised debates this time — winning the first, losing the second — and has found it necessary to hit her opponent with negative TV ads to counter the positive image Hall established earlier in the race.

  • SOUTH BEND - Opposition research enables Congresswoman Jackie Walorski to portray challenger Mel Hall in a far different way than he was defining himself all summer with his TV spots about youth on a Hoosier farm, service as a minister and experience as a successful South Bend business executive. “Oppo research,” as political consultants call it, is the search for something negative that can be used against an opponent, especially in the TV ads that seek to inflict a negative image. The search for useful information about Hall found that he had for a time lived in Washington and was an advisor on health care there for a large global law firm that does lobbying for some clients. Thus, in TV ads and debates, Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, portrays the Democratic challenger as a lobbyist, a liar and a “Washington insider.”

  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly is seeking to turn Mike Braun’s blue shirt inside out, seeking to make the Republican challenger look funny, phony. Braun’s trademark blue shirt was positive attire for him in defeating two formidable Republican congressmen in the GOP primary. He contrasted his open-collar look with cardboard cutouts of the congressmen, each with coat and tie, Washington lookalikes. His TV ads on that theme, blue-shirt outsider from the business world vs. Washington suits, were acclaimed as best in the Indiana primary, key to his victory. Blue shirt giveth. Could blue shirt taketh away? The Democratic Senate Majority PAC, supporting Donnelly, has countered Braun’s claim as an open-collar-blue-shirt kind of guy, mocking him in a series of TV ads as really a millionaire businessman mistreating workers and falsely denying selling “Made in China” stuff.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete Buttigieg says a Democrat running against President Trump should avoid making the campaign all about Trump. But he isn’t ready to say whether he will seek to be that Democrat, the presidential nominee, or perhaps seek a third term as mayor of South Bend. Or do something else. In an interview in his political headquarters near the County-City Building, Buttigieg set this timetable: Until Nov. 6, he will concentrate politically on helping Democrats win, traveling on weekends for speaking engagements and hosting fundraisers. He expects this week to announce recipients of contributions from his political action committee. Help will go primarily to young congressional candidates (average age, just under 38) with a chance in Republican and swing districts. Then he will “settle on a personal direction by about Thanksgiving and be ready to make that public pretty soon after that.” By then, he said, “I’ll need to tell the community whether I’m seeking a third term as mayor.” He has ample funds and high popularity for reelection. A third term certainly is his if he wants it. If he decides not to run for reelection, he wouldn’t simultaneously announce a presidential bid or other future endeavor. “Whatever I have to say about South Bend will stand on its own, and then we’ll take things from there,” he said.
  • SOUTH BEND  – Very close. That’s what the polls tell us about the race for the U.S. Senate in Indiana: Republican challenger Mike Braun vs. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent. Very important. That’s how the race is viewed nationally, as the once seemingly impossible chance for Democrats to win control of the Senate as well as the House seems at least possible. Very expensive. That’s obvious to anyone seeing myriad ads bought by the candidates and groups seeking to support or to destroy one or the other. Polls showing a close race aren’t surprising. They just confirm what long was expected, that Donnelly, popular in the state even with many Republicans because of his moderate approach, would have a fighting chance to win, even though President Trump carried Indiana by 19 percentage points.
  • SOUTH BEND – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski predicts that national TV will focus first on Indiana’s 2nd District on election night. “We’re a bellwether for the country,” Walorski told supporters at the grand opening of her campaign headquarters in Mishawaka last week. The Republican incumbent, seeking a fourth term, said that results in her race with Democratic challenger Mel Hall “will dictate what happens the rest of the night. And they’ll dictate that Republicans have swept. There was no Democratic wave.” Her enthusiastic supporters cheered those predictions. One of the predictions wouldn’t be disputed by Hall. He also sees the district as a bellwether. With Indiana results in early – we are often the first state declared by the networks in presidential elections – it’s likely that the 2nd District will be in national focus soon after the polls close.
  • SOUTH BEND – Maybe the Weekly World News (WWN) stopped publishing too soon. Wouldn’t that once flourishing supermarket tabloid be popular today, what with such widespread belief in fake conspiracies and pontificated falsehoods? The WWN was a weakly weekly, in terms of journalism. In fact, it wasn’t journalism at all. It wasn’t news at all. It was fiction, strictly fiction, portrayed as news, with sensational headlines that attracted shoppers glancing at the array of supermarket tabloids at check-out lanes. It ceased publishing 11 years ago, although it and its famous covers still can be found on-line. The WWN hit 1.2 million readership in the 1980s. There were so many memorable headlines: “Elvis Is Alive”; “Severed Leg Hops to Hospital”; “Saddam and Osama Adopt Shaved Ape Baby.” My favorite was the cover story about the demise of a woman with a mink coat who was bitten to death when the animals came back to life and did her in. There was a photo. Photographic proof.
  • SOUTH BEND – In a recent speech prior to Sen. John McCain’s death, Sen. Joe Donnelly described the drama in the chamber as McCain gave his famous thumbs down on the effort of Senate Republican leaders and President Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, with ACA provisions now becoming more popular and health care a top issue in upcoming elections, McCain’s vote now can be seen as saving Republicans from even higher health costs during the Trump administration. But most of the Senate Republicans, denouncing the ACA as “Obamacare” and wanting to be rid of it, didn’t at that time see anything positive about McCain’s negative vote. Nor did the president. His anger over McCain’s vote simmered on, seen in his reluctance even to lower White House flags to half staff after McCain’s death. The thumbs-down vote on repeal came in the early morning hours of July 28, 2017. Donnelly and the 47 other senators on the Democratic side of the aisle were voting “no” on repeal.
  • Jack Colwell: Indiana and the 1968 DNC in Chicago

    CHICAGO - “You killed the party,” the McCarthy kids chanted as Humphrey delegates entered the embattled Conrad Hilton Hotel during the early morning hours. And back in the 20th floor suite at the Executive House, some key Indiana Democrats were wondering if the kids were right. There was gloom at both sites. That’s what I wrote on Aug. 29, 1968, in covering the chaotic Democratic National Convention in Chicago. What happened in the streets, especially along South Michigan Avenue in front of the Hilton and in Grant Park across the way, was as significant as Vice President Hubert Humphrey winning the presidential nomination at the International Amphitheater on the southwest side. Maybe more significant. Humphrey had far more than enough delegates to defeat Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who carried the hopes of opponents of the war in Vietnam. No surprise then that Humphrey won big on the first ballot. Startling, however, was the bloody battling in the streets as well as the rancor and disorder in the convention hall, all televised to the nation.

  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly believes in campaigning. The old style of campaigning. What he calls a “grind it out” style. Meeting voters here, there, everywhere, all over the state. That’s why, during the Senate recess, the politically endangered Democrat traveled to every corner of the state and in the middle, too, on a seven-day tour that ended Thursday. Donnelly said in an interview that he found health care the No. 1 issue with Hoosiers, with strong support for the Affordable Care Act provision for insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, especially for children. And of course he reminded voters everywhere, as he did at an event in LaPorte Wednesday night, that he cast a crucial vote to keep Senate Republicans from repealing that provision along with other parts of the health care law.
  • SOUTH BEND - Readers ask why Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, agreed to three televised debates with Democratic challenger Mel Hall. She refused televised debates with the prior two Democratic challengers and won big each time. So, why change? No mystery. When refusing to debate became more damaging politically than any damage likely to occur in debates, Walorski wisely decided to “welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter most to Hoosier families.” She declined televised debate in campaigns against the prior two Democratic nominees, Joe Bock in 2014 and Lynn Coleman in 2016, because their challenges were not serious threats. The candidates were serious, of course, and tried hard. But they lacked the resources and organizations to come close. Incumbents with leads, Democrats as well as Republicans, traditionally are advised by their political consultants to avoid debates that give lesser-known challengers enhanced name recognition and a chance to hammer at some telling issue or silly mistake and perhaps catch up. 

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  • Pence visits Auschwitz for first time
    “It seems to me to be a scene of unspeakable tragedy, reminding us what tyranny is capable of. But it seems to me also to be a scene of freedom’s victory. I traveled in our delegation with people who had family members who had been at Auschwitz — some had survived, some not. But to walk with them and think that two generations ago their forebears came there in box carts and that we would arrive in a motorcade in a free Poland and a Europe restored to freedom from tyranny is an extraordinary experience for us, and I’ll carry it with me the rest of our lives.” - Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday along with Second Lady Karen Pence and Polish President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda. It was Pence's first time at the scene where Nazi Germany murdered more than 1.1 million Jews and other groups during the World War II Holocaust.
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  • Our first national park at Indiana Dunes
    It continues to amaze me how many folks from central and southern Indiana have never visited Indiana's sea, known to most of us as Lake Michigan. If you need another reason to take a couple hour trip northward on U.S. 31, U.S. 421 or I-65, thank President Trump for our first national park. It's now the Indiana Dunes National Park. The move was included in the spending package compromise that Trump signed on Friday, inserted in the legislation with the help of U.S. Sen. Todd Young and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky. 

    Visclosky said, "I also am heartened that because of the support of our U.S. Senators, the entire Indiana Congressional delegation, and numerous Northwest Indiana organizations, we have successfully titled the first National Park in our state. This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders.”

    The Dunes includes white sand beaches, trails and an array of flora and bogs, with a front row seat to the Chicago skyline. It richly deserves to be Indiana's first national park.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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