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Sunday, August 14, 2022
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  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Todd Young prevailed over Senate tribalism – Red Tribe vs. Blue Tribe – to win bipartisan passage of legislation to compete with China on scientific innovation and production of microchips vital for everything from missile defense systems to new cars and smartphones. The Indiana Republican was co-author of the bill with Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democratic majority leader. Passage came after Young’s persistent efforts to persuade a sufficient number of fellow Republicans that it was good for America, not just a political plus for President Joe Biden, and to convince Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, not to block the vote. Seventeen Republicans voted for the $280 billion “Chips and Science Act,” approved 64-33. It provides $52 billion to microchip manufacturers to incentivize production in America, lessening reliance on foreign production that was interrupted during the pandemic and supply-chain woes. The shortage has plagued the auto industry.
  • SOUTH BEND - A political career that seemingly is destined to bring continued success can be cut short by something other than votes, something not found in polls, something not political at all. So it was with Jackie Walorski. The Congresswoman representing Indiana’s 2nd District died in a two-vehicle, head-on crash that also took the lives of her district director, her communications director and the driver of the other vehicle involved in the Elkhart County accident. With the House in recess, Walorski was back in the district campaigning for a sixth term. All the political analysts had the 58-year-old Republican rated as a sure winner, not just for reelection this fall, but for elections for the remainder of the decade in her solidly Republican district. She was indeed sure to win - politically - against a Democratic opponent without sufficient name recognition, funding or organization. Then came the something that no analyst could foresee. Walorski, never shy about her conservative Republican views, had fervent supporters and fervent detractors. Vote totals from her last reelection in 2020 showed that the former far outweighed the later. She won by 23 percentage points, carrying nine of the 10 counties in the district. She failed to carry only Democratic-tending St. Joseph County, and her slim negative margin there was virtually wiped out by a big percentage win in tiny Pulaski County.
  • SOUTH BEND – He was always there, the loyal vice president, standing right next to Donald Trump. Mike Pence, like an Oval Office decoration, was always there, to nod approval and then add profuse praise for whatever the president did or said. They weren’t standing together any more as both returned to Washington. They spoke at separate sites a mile apart. Each wants to be back in the Oval Office, each planning to seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president. They once needed each other. No more. Trump needed Pence as a running mate in 2016. The former Indiana governor, a devout Christian, offered a link to evangelicals, a group initially and understandably skeptical of Trump. Pence also provided assurances to conservative Republicans that Trump would be committed to their governmental philosophy and goals. Pence needed Trump. Pence had left Congress to run for governor, seeing it as a stepping stone to his goal, the presidency. But his popularity as governor dwindled, keeping him from seeking the 2016 presidential nomination and even threatening his chances for reelection. A key poll showed his approval rating in Indiana at only 40%.
  • SOUTH BEND – If it were not for a governor’s office meeting that “never happened,” there almost certainly would be no Four Winds Field, no South Bend Cubs, no baseball crowds downtown on summer evenings and no stadium-connected developments around the site. Although I covered the extra-innings battle in the mid-1980s over building a baseball stadium, I never knew then that the winning run was driven in by Republican Gov. Robert Orr in the meeting that “never happened.” The secret meeting is disclosed by former South Bend Mayor Roger Parent in his forthcoming book, “Getting Things Done.” Getting anything done in South Bend was tough with a “can’t do” attitude lingering from loss of Studebaker auto production. Building a stadium wasn’t just tough, it seemed impossible. Parent, though not a big baseball fan, was convinced that the opportunity to land a minor league team in a new stadium had tremendous potential for the city. It did, as we now know. But naysayers then abounded.
  • SOUTH BEND – Pete Buttigieg’s move to Michigan prompts speculation about possible future political opportunities. The transportation secretary said his official move to Traverse City, hometown of his husband, Chasten, is primarily because Chasten’s parents are there to help with care for the Buttigieg adopted twins, born last September. He will be registered to vote in Michigan and thus be eligible to run for office there. Think of the possibilities. Buttigieg could run for mayor of Traverse City and once again be known as “Mayor Pete.” Let’s rule that one out. He could run for governor or U.S. senator in a state where Democrats can win those offices. The governor and both senators in Michigan are Democrats. When asked about his political future, Buttigieg told Michigan reporters, as would be expected, “I’ve got more than enough to keep all of my energies occupied with the work of the Transportation Department.” That’s true. He deals with allocation of a trillion dollars for infrastructure improvements and the nation’s many transportation problems. The possibility of governor or senator as a stepping stone for another presidential bid would come into play only after 2024.
  • SOUTH BEND – It’s now as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. The mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., was just another reminder of who we are. After myriad tragedies of gun violence in America – at a school, church, concert, store or location anywhere from sea to shining sea – we hear the same claim: “This is not who we are.” It is who we are in the American shooting gallery. What happened in Highland Park wasn’t some isolated incident. More than 220 people were shot and killed over the Fourth of July weekend. And that weekend wasn’t that different from others this year. There have been 315 mass shootings across the nation since Jan. 1. That number will be higher by the time you read this. There have been some 22,500 deaths caused by gunfire. The frequency of mass shootings is uniquely American. No other country experiences this. It is who we are.
  • SOUTH BEND – What if they actually did hang Mike Pence? The threat to the safety of the former vice president is clearer now, with Jan. 6 Committee testimony. And Pence looks better and better in his refusal to act illegally to overturn the presidential election results. We know new details about the pressures on him and about the target painted on him by the angry Donald Trump. “All Mike Pence has to do is send them (certifications) back to the States, AND WE WIN,” Trump tweeted. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Pence showed the courage to begin the ceremonial process of accepting certified results from the states. And then the courage to stay at the ransacked Capitol to complete it. Pence refused to leave the Capitol, as the Secret Service urged, after he was whisked from the Senate just before the violent mob stormed into the chamber. He stayed and returned to complete the certification and assure peaceful transfer of power in accord with the Constitution. We learn that it was Pence, not Trump, who finally called for the National Guard to restore order. Trump was regarding the rioting as his best hope of halting the certification of states won by Joe Biden and retraining his presidency. Real danger for Pence? Well, the violent mob invading the Capitol injured some 140 police officers, some of whom died. The insurgents were deadly serious. Deadly. Chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” weren’t just for laughs. They even erected gallows, noose affixed. Just kidding?

  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor James Mueller was talked into running in 2019 as the candidate to carry on the legacy of “Mayor Pete.” Mueller wasn’t his own first choice or even on the list as he worked with Pete Buttigieg to find a mayoral replacement for the man then seeking the presidency in a quest that put South Bend and its “Mayor Pete” on the national political map. Although not one to seek the spotlight and more comfortable with governmental policy than politics, Mueller was talked into saying “yes” after some other prospects declined, and he easily won for mayor with all-support from Buttigieg. Now as mayor, Mueller is in the spotlight. It’s not always comfortable there as cities all around the nation are awash with guns and a mass shooting tragedy can occur anywhere. It became tougher when the state legislature just took away a police tool in eliminating the requirement for a permit to carry a gun. Also, there was the frustration of delay in so many things during two years of pandemic.
  • SOUTH BEND – If an 80-1 longshot can win the Kentucky Derby, can Democrat Tom McDermott win the U.S Senate race in Indiana? Upsets do happen, in politics as well as in sports. But chances of McDermott defeating Republican Sen. Todd Young this fall in Indiana, where no Democrat has won a statewide race in a decade, appear worse than those faced by the Derby winner. Rich Strike at least began the race from the same starting line. McDermott starts from way back, in name recognition, funding and organization. And he’s running on an unfavorable bright red track in a red state carried twice in landslides by Donald Trump. Still, McDermott could be a winner in losing, just as an underdog sports team wins respect and encourages its fans about the future by competing impressively even though a championship is out of reach. That’s the realistic hope of Hoosier Democrats. Also, of course, you never say never, no matter the odds.
  • SOUTH BEND – Most of us think cannibalism is in bad taste. So, it’s the perfect issue for culture wars. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis stoked culture wars and boosted his Republican presidential nomination prospects with a law to crack down on teaching sexual orientation in kindergarten through grade 3. No more kindergarten teachers grooming kids with sexual orientation topics. No more first graders being taught the LGBTQs instead of the ABCs. One little problem: There were no reported cases of kindergarten or early-grade teachers doing such things. Nor was anyone advocating that the little kids be indoctrinated with sexual topics. So what? That’s not the point. The strategy in culture wars is to create an issue, even if no problem exists. You sucker opponents into expressing outrage over your tactics, creating an impression that they actually support the supposed evil. Then you stand defiantly in their way, a patriot worthy of hefty campaign contributions.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mike Pence keeps looking better. “I’m not getting in the car,” Pence said defiantly as the Capitol riot raged. Those words now are focused on by the committee investigating the effort to overturn the presidential election. That statement of determination to stay and complete certification of election results is described by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a committee member, as “six of the most chilling words in American history.” As the committee zeros in on what happened and what was at stake, Raskin finds it clear that Pence, in staying and insisting on completing certification on the night of that Jan. 6 insurrection, halted the chilling prospect of a coup aimed at preventing peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution. That quote from Pence, who feared being whisked away on orders from Donald Trump’s Secret Service supervisors if he got in the vice presidential limo, appeared in “I Alone Can Fix It,” a book written by two Washington Post reporters.
  • SOUTH BEND – In a recent Washington Post analysis of the top 10 prospects for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is ranked second. Of special interest in the evaluations written by Post political reporter Aaron Blake is Buttigieg moving up from a prior analysis to be listed ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris, now No. 3. No. 1 of course is President Joe Biden. The incumbent president almost certainly wouldn’t be turned away by his own party if he seeks reelection. Why was Harris dropped down a slot, with Buttigieg moving ahead of her? Because “it’s not at all clear” that Harris is using the vice presidency effectively as a launchpad and “she’s done little to change the perceptions that harmed her 2020 (presidential) campaign,” including messaging problems. Because Buttigieg, who ran so impressively in ’20 with a background as South Bend mayor, would in ’24 have “more heft” as a Cabinet member, secretary of transportation.
  • SOUTH BEND — I write about politics. So, columns on Easter Sunday for decades were about political significance of what happens in South Bend on the day after Easter, Dyngus Day.cDyngus Day is big in the South Bend area, where many residents of Polish descent live. It’s a festive event with roots going back to mass baptisms when Christianity came to Poland more than a thousand years ago. I would write on Easter Sunday about famous political figures, including presidential candidates and a past president, coming on Monday to campaign at Dyngus events.cNot so for the past two Easters. There was no traditional Dyngus Day to write about. No state and national political figures coming to meet throngs of celebrants at the West Side Democratic & Civic Club. No throngs. No festivities at the club where Bobby Kennedy captured such wild enthusiasm in 1968. He would go on to win the crucial Indiana presidential primary _ and would have won the presidency, had he not been assassinated so soon thereafter.
  • SOUTH BEND — Donald Trump is right. If he were still president, the situation would be far different in Ukraine. If Mike Pence had ignored his Hoosier values of truth, justice and the Constitution and cooperated in overturning the election results, Trump could now be president. There would be no danger of armed conflict between Russia and NATO over Ukraine. There would be no NATO. Trump contended throughout his first term that NATO was outdated. He belittled and insulted leaders of European nations in the alliance. He was reluctant to support the collective-defense agreement known as Article 5. By now in a second term, he would have pulled out of the alliance and scuttled it. There would be no suggestion from a President Trump that Vladimir Putin is a butcher and must go after Russia invaded Ukraine. Trump praised the “genius” of Putin as Russia amassed troops for the invasion. And he wouldn’t let a little thing like Russia seeking to dominate its neighbor ruin his bromance with Putin. Hey, he pulled out of Syria and let Russia dominate there.
  • SOUTH BEND - The U.S. Senate just did something that the Indiana General Assembly couldn’t do in a century of legislative disputes over how to set the clocks. The Senate gave unanimous approval for a time bill. Unanimous approval for putting the nation permanently on daylight saving time. No changing clocks to spring ahead and then fall back. No concern about some northern areas experiencing pitch darkness until about 9 a.m. on some winter mornings. In the long Indiana legislative history of battling over where to locate time zones and if or when to observe daylight saving time, a unanimous vote was as likely as unanimous approval of a resolution urging victory for either IU or Purdue in their Old Oaken Bucket football game. Indiana lawmakers often were split over time bills right down to adornment. Actually, back in Hoosier history, a split once continued in the Indiana House after adjournment. A filibuster prevented a vote on a time bill until the official midnight deadline to adjourn the session. But proponents of the bill moved back the hands of the official clock in the chamber. And the bill passed in early morning hours, with the official clock saying it really wasn’t too late. The Senate unanimous? It’s another case of the official record showing something not exactly real. The sponsor of the bill pulled a fast one on fast time.
  • SOUTH BEND – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact here and around the world will have an effect on our crucial congressional elections. Although final answers won’t come until voting in November – and much will happen before then – we can ponder questions about possible effects. Q. With President Biden’s approval ratings edging up and former President Trump’s prestige going down, does that mean Democrats will retain control of the House? A. No. For reasons of history, math and Democratic blundering last year, it still appears that Republicans will win the House, although perhaps not with as big a margin as previously forecast. Q. How about the Senate? A. Democrats have a fighting chance of retaining control at least through another Senate tie. The chance improves, but future events, including Republican primaries, will be important. Q. Did Trump’s strange bromance with Putin, continuing with praise for Putin’s “genius” in moving to claim more of Ukraine, affect public opinion? A. Yes. As Putin demonstrated his murderous intent, Trump’s praise of him as a strong, smart leader hurt Trump’s prestige. It brought back memory of Trump holding back defense armaments from Ukraine, his surrender of influence in Syria to Putin and his threats to pull out of NATO. When Trump looks silly, Biden looks better.
  • SOUTH BEND – Back in early December, I described the Republican gerrymander in St. Joseph County as “a beautiful thing,” in political terms, for what it was designed to do. Any questions? Q. Do Democrats still think it’s ugly, even with a possible negotiated agreement on some County Council districts? A. Yes. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Gerrymanders always are admired by the party drawing partisan districts, abhorred by the party that’s victimized. Q. Has the St. Joseph County gerrymander turned out to be beautiful for Republicans? A. Yes, in terms of advancing three main goals, although there are unintended consequences. Q. What were the goals? A. First and foremost for Republican Commissioner Andy Kostielney, redistricting plan author and up for reelection this year, was moving Jason Critchlow, a serious Democratic challenger, out of his district and giving it more Republican flavor. Q. How did that go? A. Critchlow, a former Democratic mayoral contender who amassed substantial campaign financing to challenge Kostielney, decided against moving his family to the newly drawn district and instead is running for township trustee. And the district has more Republican voters.
  • SOUTH BEND – This column is for the birds. For all of our feathered friends that perished mysteriously last summer. And for the organization with a strange name, Birds Aren’t Real, that seeks to explain a conspiracy against birds by our own government. You remember those summer headlines: “Songbirds are dying across Indiana, and experts still don’t know why.” Could the explanation be found in the conspiracy theory of Birds Aren’t Real, a movement with credibility matching that of QAnon? Here’s the theory: The U.S.  government practiced bird genocide. Why? So real birds could be replaced with drone replicas flying all around to spy on us, listen to what we say, track where we go and record with whom we associate. The sparrow we think we see is a drone. Birds aren’t real. Although these theorists contended that all real birds already were gone, some apparently survived until last summer. Then they were doomed, falling to the ground all over Indiana, with befuddled experts never suspecting that the government did them in.
  • SOUTH BEND - History will be kinder to Mike Pence than to Donald Trump. In new vindictive attacks on Pence, Trump clarifies for us and for history that he wanted Pence, his loyal vice president, to overturn the election. Not just delay certification for more recounts of recounts to satisfy the nation that election results were valid. He wanted the valid results, certified by all the states, to be overturned so he could stay in the White House. Loyalty goes only so far. For Trump, loyalty goes nowhere in terms of reciprocation.  He calls now for an investigation of why Pence would not reject the Electoral College results. Lock him up? Pence wouldn’t because he couldn’t. He had no constitutional power to throw out the certified election results. And loyalty to Trump ended when the demand was to forget the Constitution and the facts and create chaos to enable Trump to hang onto power.  In a statement blasting Pence, Trump acknowledges his goal and reason for unrelenting pressure on Pence, even inciting mobs to attack the Capitol as they shouted: “Hang Mike Pence.” Trump declared, punctuated with an exclamation point, that Pence “could have overturned the Election!”
  • SOUTH BEND – Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this week means nothing in forecasting weather for the next six weeks. Anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists could argue, I suppose, that Phil must be accurate, what with all of science and logic discounting him. But whether or not you believe in the groundhog and things like horse dewormer as a COVID cure, it is true that shadows cast around Groundhog Day two years ago forecast the climate for the Democratic presidential nomination race. Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2020, came the day before the Iowa Democratic caucuses. And shadows cast by those caucuses, even with final results delayed and diminished in national attention by incompetent tabulating, provided a forecast of what the next six weeks would bring in the nomination race. Bernie Sanders, then regarded as the front-runner in Iowa and nationally for the nomination, lost in the vote to a young former South Bend mayor.
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  • Brooks excoriates Rokita over child rape case
    "We are confident of Americans’ ability to work through the issue of abortion now that the Supreme Court has returned it to the democratic process. But it’s crucial for law enforcement to stay above the partisan fray. A case in Indiana leaves us deeply concerned on that score. Initially, some doubted news reports that a 10-year- old Ohio rape victim had traveled to Indiana for a legal abortion. There were also unsubstantiated claims that the physician who performed the abortion had failed to report the abuse of a child and the abortion performed on a girl under 16, as Indiana law requires. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita rushed precipitously into this fray. He told Fox News he was investigating the physician and 'was looking at her licensure.' This, after admitting he hadn’t examined evidence that she complied with reporting requirements. Even worse was his inflammatory rhetoric: 'We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor,' he said. Despite the arrest and confession of a defendant in the rape, and news accounts documenting the physician’s timely reporting, Mr. Rokita continues to say publicly that he is investigating her. The justice system’s legitimacy requires that law enforcement be fair, deliberative and ethical. Government investigations should remain confidential unless and until a defendant is charged, with respect for the presumption of innocence and government’s burden of proof. A baseless investigation, if disclosed publicly, causes the target reputational damage, humiliation and loss. We are appalled that, by his own admission, Mr. Rokita announced his investigation before gathering the most basic facts."- Former Indiana congressman and district attorney Susan Brooks and John Tinder, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
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