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Thursday, December 12, 2019
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  • SOUTH BEND – In their frequent emails to me, Mayor Pete comes across as more confident, more hopeful, than Joe Biden. The former vice president, though he predicts ultimate victory, tells me often that he is worried, fearful of falling behind, and really needs help. Just consider some messages their campaigns sent to me as the end of November fund-raising approached. From Buttigieg: “Hey Jack, The more people get to know Pete, the more people understand that he is the leader we need. “We know that in order to keep growing our support, we have to reach as many voters as possible. We will continue to build our teams on the ground  –  and we know that television is still a great way to deliver key information about Pete’s policies to voters in a fast and effective way. “Our latest TV ad is up on the airwaves today. It shows Pete talking about one of the issues we know is most important to voters in 2020, education and affordability.” “Watch our new television ad and chip in . . . ”From Biden: “Judith, a poll from the Des Moines Register shows us tied for third in Iowa. And if we don’t hit our end-of-month goal, we risk not having the resources to persuade more voters to support Joe. So don’t delete this email. Don’t get distracted checking social media. And please chip in $5 right away!” Why does Joe Biden call me “Judith?” Surely, he knows better. And don’t call me Shirley.
  • SOUTH BEND – National politics, usually of little significance in city elections, was an important factor as James Mueller won the mayoral race in South Bend. It was reflected in the totals in these two examples: Mueller, the choice of Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his successor, won with 63% of the vote, impressive, but short of the 80% by which Mayor Pete won reelection in 2015. Still, Mueller got more votes this time than Mayor Pete did in that reelection landslide. Election night totals showed Mueller, the Democratic nominee, defeating Republican Sean Haas by 9,261 to 5,341. Four years ago, it was Buttigieg over Republican Kelly Jones by 8,515 to 2,074.
  • SOUTH BEND – Many Republicans, and some independents and moderate Democrats, could face a real dilemma in the 2020 presidential election. Conservative columnist and commentator David Brooks recently put it this way: “If the general election campaign turns out to be Trump vs. Warren, what the heck are we supposed to do?” Brooks is indeed a conservative but no supporter of President Trump, which makes sense. Trump is no conservative. He is a big-spending, big-government, big deficit (now at $1 trillion) president constantly seeking to expand, not limit, presidential powers. But many conservatives overlook that and his character flaws because of his judicial appointments and stands on social issues. It’s far from certain that it will be President Trump vs. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • SOUTH BEND – That ancient document called the Constitution doesn’t seem to mean much anymore to many Americans, including some elected officials who swear to preserve, protect and defend it. Here is a quiz about the Constitution.

    1. The three branches of the federal government are:
    a. Senate, House and FBI.
    b. State, Treasury and Defense.
    c. Executive, legislative and judicial.

    2. Executive powers allow the president to:
    a. Grant pardons, even to Rudy Giuliani.
    b. Shoot somebody in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue.
    c. Declare war.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete Buttigieg is winning high grades from news media analysts for his debate performance last week, primarily for strong articulation of workable approaches to health care, gun controls and use of military abroad. He clashed, however, with other candidates with more aggressive approaches, such as the call of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, emerging frontrunner, on “Medicare for All.” Mayor Pete supports instead “Medicare for All Who Want It,” allowing those preferring to stick with their private health insurance plans to do so. He is running for the Democratic nomination in a more moderate lane than the “revolution” lane of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is accompanied in that most progressive lane by Warren. Clearly, the time had come for Buttigieg to get combative in debate to stake out differences and edge closer to the top tier, former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren and Sanders. Tricky to do. Could he be more combative without destroying his favorable image of being thoughtful, reasonable and intellectual? He seems to have done it. A New York Times analysis was: “Buttigieg’s biggest night yet.” 
  • 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.
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  • The Azar, Verma feud festers
    "The federal agency I lead, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is taking swift action to implement it." - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma, in  Chicago Tribune op-ed. That same day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar went on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fix News — one of President  Trump’s favorite TV shows — and claimed credit for driving the same initiative. “POTUS and I envision a healthcare system with patients in the center,” Azar tweeted from the Fox News set. “We’re fighting powerful interests to deliver honesty and transparency in healthcare.” The feud between these two Hoosiers who control more than $1 trillion in annual federal spending has transfixed The White House West wing and Washington. President Trump has asked Vice President Mike Pence to quell the Azar/Veerma feud.
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  • Into the impeachment vortex ...
    Here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this week is anyone's guess. 

    When I wrote the Sept. 19 HPI cover story - "The Double Dog Impeachment Dare"  - the Ukraine quid pro quo scenario was just beginning, becoming a full congressional/media vortex suck. Regular Hoosiers I know aren't paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

    We'll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2. Impeachment is an American tragedy. 3. Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4. Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5. If we get into a mode where we're impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed. 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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