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Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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  • 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. 

  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg should run for president. Here’s why: He would have nothing to lose. He potentially would have a lot to gain. Buttigieg, I think, will run for president. And will not win. Nothing to lose? But won’t win? Is there a conflict in that analysis? No. Buttigieg twice before has won by losing. He could again. In 2010, Buttigieg, then just 28 years old, was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer. He had little name recognition initially even in hometown South Bend. He had scant financing for a statewide race and no chance, losing amid a Republican landslide to Richard Mourdock. Yes, that Richard Mourdock, the guy who went on to self-destruct in a U.S. Senate race against Joe Donnelly. For state treasurer, Mourdock couldn’t lose and Buttigieg couldn’t win in a Republican year in which no Democrat running statewide even came close.Except, Buttigieg won by losing. In running a race that more prominent and experienced Democrats wouldn’t risk, Buttigieg impressed party officials with his intellect and ability to articulate issues.
  • SOUTH BEND – I’ve always liked Dan Coats. And now I’ve been reminded why. Indiana voters liked Coats enough to send him to the Senate in three elections, but he never had widespread approval. Many Democrats bashed him as a right-winger. Many Republican right-wingers criticized him as too much of a nice guy for effective eye-gouging politics. Some just brushed off Coats as “that other Dan,” successful only as a protégé of Dan Quayle, taking offices “inherited” as Quayle moved up the political ladder. Coats always had a very conservative voting record, but he often sought to reach across the aisle for compromise. He once told me in his final Senate term, as he was deciding not to run again, that he was disgusted with the vicious divisiveness preventing compromise for a united approach to problems from the deficit at home to the “wildfires all over the world,” security threats abroad that he saw as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Coats talked straight. Still does.
  • SOUTH BEND  –  A leak in the roof is bad, nobody wants that. The leak to the Indianapolis Star of a report by four women of groping misconduct by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill at a legislative sine die (final adjournment) party was good, too. Hill didn’t want it, but it could even be good for Hill. If it had not been leaked, legislative leaders apparently would have kept it secret. They reacted initially with horror about the leak, not horror about the allegations by the women. Now, they find the reported conduct so despicable that they call for Hill to resign. The report apparently wasn’t so despicable before it was leaked to the Star. Much of the political speculation is that the damaging report about Hill, a Republican and former Elkhart County prosecutor, was leaked by Republican sources. That’s based on the animosity toward him because of his maneuvering to challenge Gov. Eric Holcomb for the 2020 Republican nomination for governor.
  • SOUTH BEND –  Elections matter. Not all elections. Russia’s vote in March didn’t matter. Reelection of Vladimir Putin was preordained. Who was permitted to run, what could be said in campaigning and what journalists could report about any of it were controlled. It was a foregone conclusion that Putin would win by a landslide and that the election would have no effect on him or his policies. But our elections matter. We can change leaders and the course of the nation. Sometimes we do, other times we stay the course. The 2016 presidential election was one of the most important ever in changing the nation’s course. It was close. Nothing was preordained. And the results mattered. A lot.
  • SOUTH BEND – With the nation split, angry and fearful even for safety of kids in their schools, with faith in institutions and the rule of law eroding, with the threat of trade wars and real wars from Korea to Iran and with a president relishing divisiveness as a sign of successful disruption, some Americans ask if these are the worst of times. Oft heard is the question: Have you ever seen it this bad? Yes. Worse. We would not have to go back to the Civil War to find a time when the nation was torn more by internal disagreements and filled with more trepidation. Just go back to 1968. That year is getting a lot of attention in TV documentaries and national publications because it now is the 50th anniversary of events then that shook the nation. The split in 1968 was worse because it involved a terrible war with casualties mounting in Vietnam. Escalation was bringing higher casualty counts rather than the victory promised by the Pentagon. Sentiment was growing that it was a no-win war with useless loss of limbs and lives.
  • SOUTH BEND – In almost any field other than politics, experience is valued. Would people facing surgery choose an experienced surgeon or one who never before operated? Would people facing a day in court choose an experienced attorney or one who never before handled a case? Would people facing a flood in their home choose an experienced plumber or a guy down the street who never had done plumbing work but promised to give it a darn good try? Many American voters these days seem to regard experience in politics and government as something negative in evaluating candidates. Even though seeing the difficulties encountered by newcomers unprepared for handling the tasks of government, often with disastrous results, the concept lingers that ignorance of government is smart, that boasting of not being a politician is a keen qualification for political office and that experience in public service is a disqualification. How this plays out in political campaigns today is shown in the race for U.S. Senate in Indiana. Mike Braun, the Republican nominee, served for three years as a state representative, winning elections to the Indiana House in 2014 and 2016 and resigning near the end of 2017 to make his U.S. Senate run. Does Braun cite this experience as he seeks the Senate seat? No. He hides it, stressing instead that he is a political “outsider,” a businessman, not a politician.
  • SOUTH BEND – President Trump has left town and TV ads by Republican Senate candidates attacking each other have disappeared. Questions remain. Q. Why did Trump fly here for a big rally in Elkhart right after the Indiana primary? A. Joe Donnelly. Q. The president took Air Force One here because he wanted to ridicule Donnelly as “Sleepin’ Joe” and “swamp person” in the Democratic senator’s home area? A. Right. Indiana’s Senate race is targeted by Republicans as crucial to hopes of retaining and even expanding their control of the Senate. They know Donnelly is vulnerable, a Democrat in a Republican-voting state that Trump won by a ton. Q. But why the hurry for Trump to bring his wrath against Donnelly so quickly after the primary election? A. Quick timing was due to those vicious TV attacks against each other by the three Republicans fighting to become the challenger to Donnelly this fall. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence came quickly to seek GOP unity against Donnelly after that primary election fight with Mike Braun, the winner, and Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer savaging each other. Braun was there to embrace Trump as his inspiration and to pledge foursquare Senate support.
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  • Lugar, Bayh warn Senate about emerging scandals
    "As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security. We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability. It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate. We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld. Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest." - 44 former U.S. Senators, including Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh from Indiana, writing a Washington Post op-ed article warning current senators about the emerging scandals involving President Trump.
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  • Weird scenes inside the White House
    The Nick Ayres saga fallout continues to be just ... weird. Vanity Fair's  Gabriel Sherman reports that last Friday, President Trump met with Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence, and out-going Chief of Staff John Kelly to finalize the CoS transition. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday. But Kelly was pressing for top aide Zachary Fuentes to get the job, Trump got pissed and leaked the story on Saturday. Ayres began getting calls from the press about his net worth estimated to be between $12 million and $54 million.

    Ayres then insisted he only wanted the job for several months. Sherman: “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said. By Sunday, Ayres not only bolted the Trump gig, but the Pence job, too, deciding to head back to Georgia. So by year's end, Trump and Pence will both be on their third chief in less than two years.

    This all comes amid rampant speculation that with scandal, House Democrat investigations and a tariff-bruised economy all looming over the horizon, who would want to work for a guy like Trump, where loyalty is a one-way street, allies get thrown under the bus, and careers can be tainted forever after folks wallow in Watergate or get the Kremlin Kramps. Trump and Pence had lunch on Monday. Wonder what was on the menu? Crow, perhaps?
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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