• Atomic! Silent hate talk; DemGov MIA; One Percent Pete
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Holcomb and silent hate

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Gov. Eric Holcomb raised some eyebrows when he did a Q&A with GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer during the Madison County Republican Lincoln Dinner Saturday and spent more time talking about First Dog Henry than the languishing hate crimes bill. Holcomb had promised to be “vocal” pushing SB12, which lacks the demographic list he deems necessary. Holcomb may be relying on back channel talks with Speaker Brian Bosma as opposed to fully employing his bully pulpit, though time is running out. SB12 isn't expected to get a committee hearing in the House until next week, and there's an April 9 deadline looming for bills to advance or die. 

    Bosma said late last week, “We’re having conversations about what takes us off the list and what doesn’t take us off the list as well, so it would be unfortunate to go through a painful discussion and painful votes, probably, and still be at the same place next session. So, we’re trying to see what can happen.” Key point: The “next session” will be in 2020, an election year. Holcomb doesn't have an obvious opponent lining up, but Bosma might be facing a rematch from Poonam Gill.

    2. Democrats and milk cartons

    Gov. Holcomb may not be feeling the political heat. We’re hearing that dairy companies are preparing some of those “Have you seen me?” milk cartons that feature missing people, in this case a 2020 Democratic gubernatorial candidate. It’s 14 months before the May 2020 primary and there doesn’t appear to be a single Democrat preparing for a bid, let alone raising the $20,000 or so a day needed for a credible run. One Democratic insider told HPI  last month the party may opt for a “placeholder candidate” and focus on taking out Attorney General Curtis Hill. Paging Ralph Spelbring, a gadfly candidate from Elkhart who has run in just about every Indiana congressional district. We're also hearing Tommy Schrader from Fort Wayne might be available.

    3. One percent Pete

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will appear on MSNBC's Morning Joe  Wednesday. He is expected to talk about his support for abolishing the Electoral College. It will come a day after a second state poll had the mayor at 1%, in this case the Emerson College Wisconsin Poll, which had Sen. Bernie Sanders holding a strong lead with 39% of the vote, followed by Joe Biden at 24%, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 14%. The good news for mayor Pete? He’s only 5% behind  moneybags Beto O’Rourke, who came in at 6%.

    4. Indiana’s bipartisan senators

    The Lugar Center Bipartisan Index is out and Indiana's senators in 2018 were the most bipartisan in the nation. The combination of Todd Young and Joe Donnellyrates as the highest Bipartisan Index pair in the Senate from any State. Young ranked 7th, Donnelly ranked 4th. No other state comes close. Maine has Susan Collins at #1 but Angus King is #28. West Virginia has Shelley Moore Capito at #3 but Joe Manchin is #25th. Of course, Donnelly was defeated last November by Mike Braun, and it's far too early to rate his bipartisanship. In the House, things are mostly predictable with Republican Rep. Susan Brooks at the top and Democrat Rep. Andre Carson at the bottom of the Indiana delegation.

    5. Lugar rates the preezies

    The scores of the nine Democratic presidential candidates who served in Congress in the 115th are included in the Lugar Bipartisan IndexRep. John Delaney leads the pack. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has the best score among senators by far. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Beto O'Rourke also have good scores (and are almost identical). The other five Senators rank low, though Elizabeth Warren ranks quite a bit higher than the other four. Bernie Sanders comes in dead last at 100th for the second straight Congress. Sen. Kamala Harris is at 95th, Cory Booker is at 88th, Kirsten Gillibrand is at 84th, and Warren is at 69th. 

    Still no word on services for the late U.S. Sen. Birch BayhWe'll keep you posted when we hear something. It's The Atomic! 
  • Atomic! Trump's chilling 'support'; Bayh on 25th; Banks & Pete on Sunday
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Trump's chilling interview

    Here are your Ides of March power lunch talking points for the week: This is chillingPresident Trump told Breitbart News, "I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher.” What "certain point" is our president talking about? These comments come after the president's former attorney/fixer, the convicted felon Michael Cohen, hinted at an American coup d'etat in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee. “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Whew.

    This comes as Venezuelan despot Nicolás Maduro is relying on paramilitary groups like the motorcycle-riding "colectivos" to preserve his power. "I call on the colectivos; the hour of resistance has arrived, active resistance in the community," Maduro declared in a Monday speech. Context? Norm J. Ornstein, the resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, reacted, tweeting, "There is one story that should be the dominant one but it is getting cursory coverage. The President of the United States warned that if things got bad, he had the military, police & Bikers for Trump ready and waiting. The stuff of dictatorships. Normalized in today’s environment." Whew.

    2. Birch Bayh on presidential incapacitation

    The late Sen. Birch Bayh's passing comes when his 25th Amendment has surfaced in light of President Trump's erratic behavior. The 25th Amendment provides the procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation. It's the "incapacitation" part in the Amendment's Section 4 that was discussed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the bizarre days following Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. In 1995, Bayh explained, “The determination of the president’s disability is really a political question.” He said that “disability” under the Amendment would not be a medical decision left to doctors, but a political decision, left to the vice president, the Cabinet, and ultimately Congress. The irony is that a century ago in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson's two strokes left him incapacitated, a condition hidden from Vice President Thomas Marshall, who like Vice President Mike Pence, was a former Indiana governor a heartbeat away.

    3. Unanimous House vote on Mueller report

    With Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia collusion report still "imminent," the U.S. House voted 420-0 advocating its release to the public. The resolution by itself cannot force Attorney General William P. Barr to reveal more of the report than he intends, but it reflects public opinion. The U.S. Senate voted 59-41 on a resolution rebuking President Trump's emergency declaration, with 12 Republicans (but not Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun) joining Democrats. The president promised a "VETO." There won't be enough votes to override. It is fascinating to watch so many Republicans cede the power of the purse  to the White House.

    4. Buttigieg and Banks this Sunday

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg returns to the Sunday talk show circuit with an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."  And U.S. Rep. Jim Banks makes his Sunday debut, scheduled for CNN's "State of the Union."  Mayor Pete also makes his first campaign swing into South Carolina on Saturday with stops in Greenville, Columbia and Rock Hill. Despite their party differences, there's a common thread: Both serve in the U.S. Navy Reserves and both have done a war zone tour in Afghanistan. According to Adam Wren in his Indianapolis Monthly profile of Buttigieg, the two are friends and corresponded prior to their deployments. “We couldn’t be anymore different when it comes to politics, but I have a lot of admiration for him, and believe that the Democratic party would be wise to look to leaders like him and believe that he has a lot to offer,” Banks said, adding that Buttigieg's talent is making progressive policy stances attractive to conservatives.

    5. More Birch Bayh memories

    More on Sen. Birch Bayh, from Fred Nation, who called him the "quintessential Hoosier farm boy." Congressman Lee Hamilton: "He would stand, for example, at the corner of the stoplight in Nashville, Indiana when the trees were turning colors and the cars would be backed up for miles, and then he’d go down the line and shake hands with people in every car. He just never stopped campaigning." Former aide Nancy Pappas: “He was always respectful of others’ opinions and had a keen sense of how to frame issues so that people could see multiple perspectives." Former Speaker John Gregg:  "I remember Birch Bayh coming to the Sandborn Centennial in 1968 and him throwing 21 ringers in a row in a game of horseshoes."

    Thanks for reading, folks. Thanks for your trust. It's The Atomic!


    INDIANAPOLIS - There were two compelling aspects of U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh. He was a liberal senator representing a conservative state, and yet he took audacious policy stances at odds with a broad swath of his constituency that would have doomed most other politicians. In essence, this was a public servant willing to use all of his political capital to achieve compelling and enduring policy goals.

    Birch Bayh was a statesman. He crafted the most amendments (two, precisely) to the U.S. Constitution since the Founding Fathers created the Bill of Rights nearly two centuries before. Inspired by his wife, Marvella, he championed women's equality through the failed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and access to collegiate sports funding through his Title IX provisions included in the 1972 Education Act.

    Bayh, 91, died at his Maryland home on Thursday, succumbing to pneumonia. It ended an unprecedented political life, where the farmer from Shirkieville with a degree from Purdue became speaker of the Indiana House at age 34, then decided to take on three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Homer Capehart in 1962. President John F. Kennedy had adopted much of Capehart's foreign policy stances, particularly with the blockade of Cuba during the missile crisis, yet Bayh steered through to an amazing political upset with a 10,943 vote plurality.

    Subsequently, Bayh never won more than 51.7% of the vote during his four Senate races, and his opponents never had less than 46.4%, reached when the Democrat defeated former Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar in 1974.

    His Senate career began on a gamble, with many Democrats believing that Indianapolis Mayor Charlie Boswell would be the one to challenge Capehart. But Gov. Matt Welch took a shine to the House speaker, believing he would connect with younger voters. Once in the Senate, Bayh would expand that pool, authoring his second constitutional amendment - the 26th – lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

    I first witnessed Birch Bayh as a 12-year-old kid at an Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) conference in South Bend in 1968 when he was challenged by Republican State Sen. Bill Ruckelshaus. Former Indianapolis Times reporter Gerry LaFollette believed that Bayh thought he would probably lose that bid. But at the APME event, Bayh was relaxed and good natured, answering questions with ease and a laugh, while Ruckelshaus seemed intense and foreboding. When this writer asked the pair what they intended to do about pollution, Bayh acknowledged the issue had never come up. (Ruckelshaus would go on to become the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.)

    While Richard Nixon easily carried Indiana in that 1968 cycle, Bayh somehow, some way came through with a 51.7% to 48.2% victory over Ruckelshaus, a tad better than his 50.3% to 49.7% upset over Capehart six years prior. It came after Bayh created consternation within the Democratic Party, becoming a critic of the Vietnam War after he traveled to the front lines and found generals unable to describe how the U.S. could win.

    Part of the reason Bayh was able to win was his taking a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee despite coming out of the Indiana University Law School just three years prior, studying at night while he was House speaker. President Kennedy was assassinated 11 months after Bayh took his Senate oath, and there was President Lyndon Johnson at the helm with congenital heart problems and elderly congressional leaders in the line of succession.

    Bayh, with the help of key aide Larry Conrad, fashioned the 25th Amendment, which created a process for an orderly transition of power in the case of death, disability, or resignation of the president. It was ratified in 1967, with Bayh declaring, “A constitutional gap that has existed for two centuries has been filled.” 

    The irony was that it was first invoked in 1973 after Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned due to corruption charges, quickly followed by Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" where Attorney General Elliot Richardson and deputy AG Ruckelshaus resigned for refusing to fire Watergate Special Counsel Archibald Cox. Less than a year later, Nixon resigned in disgrace with the new Vice President Gerald Ford taking power as stipulated by the 25th Amendment.

    The 1974 Watergate election year found Bayh facing a challenge from Lugar, who told HPI that the cycle was an absolute roller-coaster. The scandal created a horrible environment for Republicans, but Nixon's resignation in early August had revived GOP fortunes, until President Ford pardoned Nixon. Lugar began to recover that by October, until Ford announced his WIN program (Whip Inflation Now) and that ultimately allowed Bayh to win a third term with a 75,000 vote plurality.

    Again, the liberal Bayh found himself at odds with many Hoosier voters. He had led the opposition to two of President Nixon's Supreme Court nominations. That he would win a third term was a testament to his campaign style that took him to nearly every Dairy Queen in the state, his sport coat off, his white shirt sleeves rolled up, and an easy, “aw, shucks” style. He would often be the last one to leave a Jefferson-Jackson dinner or union hall event. I saw this firsthand when Evan Bayh ran for governor in 1988, with father, son and wife, Susan, spending a night at an Evansville union hall. They were literally the last ones to leave the hall, and they made a beeline to a nearby Dairy Queen for late-night ice cream. I'll never forget sitting between the two Bayhs, with Birch saying, "Nice job, son."

    "Birch and Bill Hudnut were probably the two best campaigners in the state," LaFollette said. "Birch was a charismatic kind of guy. He was an incredible campaigner. He was a people person. He had those little dimples and a nice grin, tilted his head in earnest. The women wanted to mother him. He was a glad-hander. He was a natural at that." 

    His second term produced another Bayh policy milestone: Title IX. According to the Washington Post, Bayh credited his wife, Marvella, for his interest in the issue. “From time to time,” he reminisced in 2004, “she would remind me what it was like to be a woman in a man’s world. Without her, I would not have been in a leadership role.” He added, "In a country that prides itself on equality, we could not continue to deny 53% of the American people equal rights.”

    Bayh briefly sought the presidency in 1972 until Marvella began battling cancer, and again in 1976, where he was once favored before losing to Jimmy Carter in Iowa and New Hampshire, ending his presidential aspirations. 

    Bayh's final political fight came in 1980. Marvella Bayh had died of cancer in 1979 after having described her battle with the disease: "These years since cancer came to me have been the most rewarding, the most filling, the happiest in my life. I have learned to value life, to cherish it, to put my priorities in order and to begin my long-postponed dream of being useful in my own right."

    Evan Bayh would manage his father’s final campaign. Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan was challenging President Jimmy Carter and a tidal wave developed in the final week of the campaign, washing out not only President Carter, but Sen. Bayh and House Majority Leader John Brademas in Indiana, and Democrat Sens. Frank Church, John Culver, George McGovern, Gaylord Nelson and Warren Magnuson.

    Evan Bayh would later form the Bayh dynasty, winning the Indiana secretary of state's race six years later, the governorship in 1988, and then reclaiming his father's U.S. Senate seat in 1998. His father's 1980 campaign made a lasting impression on Evan Bayh, making him a more moderate-to-conservative secretary of state, governor and senator.

    The son never returned to the father's liberal moorings, but would win races with comfortable to landslide pluralities, unlike Birch who always squeaked through. Evan was never as audacious on policy or risky politically as Birch, a man whose contemporary, Lee Hamilton, observed has written more of the U.S. Constitution than anyone since James Madison.

    A fitting legacy for Birch Evans Bayh, Jr., a Hoosier for the ages.
  • Atomic! Bayh & Senate lions; Donnelly's job; Trump woes
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Bayh and Senate lions

    Here are your bomb cyclone power lunch talking points: The latter half of the 20th Century found Indiana producing a number of lions in the Senate, with Birch Bayhupsetting U.S. Sen. Homer Capehart in 1962, Sen. Richard Lugar entering in 1977, the future vice president Dan Quayle defeating Bayh in 1980 and then Dan Coats, a future national intelligence director in 1988. Bayh stands out in this group for several reasons: He authored two of the 27 U.S. Constitution amendments. He was the driving force behind Title IX, which opened collegiate athletes to women. Bayh never won an election by more than 5%, but he showed political courage by parting with President Johnson on the Vietnam War, and he thwarted two of President Nixon's U.S. Supreme Court nominees. 

    Reaction to Bayh's death at age 91 in Washington is bringing tributes. Former House Speaker John Gregg honored Bayh, a former speaker himself, saying, "Sen. Birch Bayh was a true statesman whose legislative legacy is unmatched in modern history. America is stronger and more inclusive because of Birch Bayh. We send our love to the Bayh family and thank them for sharing him with us." Gov. Eric Holcomb said, "Birch Bayh was a trailblazer who dedicated himself to improving the lives of all Hoosiers. His remarkable legislative and personal legacy transformed the country and will live on for years to come. I ask Hoosiers around the state to join me and Janet in honoring his incredible service and by keeping the Bayh family in your thoughts and prayers." Holcomb ordered flags in Indiana lowered to honor Bayh. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski called him "a true statesman who dedicated his life to public service."

    2. Bomb cyclone arrives

    At this posting, the bomb cyclone is producing super cell thunderstorms in Paducah, Ky., and heading toward Evansville. If you're in or near the Pocket City, prepare to take cover. This looks like a day similar to the Henryville tornado a few years ago and a tornado in 2005 that killed 20 in an Evansville trailer park. A tornado watch covers southern and central Indiana through 5 p.m. and more are expected further north as this volatile day unfolds. The state is also under the threat of near hurricane force non-thunderstorm winds later this afternoon.

    3. Donnelly joins law firm

    Former Sen. Joe Donnelly will reside in Granger, with his wife working at Notre Dame University, but he's joined the Washington law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP as a partner in its public law and policy practice. "Akin Gump maintains a reputation of hosting a preeminent public policy practice and is home to a fantastic and deep bipartisan team, and joining the firm was an easy decision for me,” Donnelly said in written remarks. 

    4. Volatile day for Trump

    The U.S. Senate is poised to rebuke President Trump on his emergency declaration today. Former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn said the president is “desperate” to reach a trade deal with China and is being ill-served by protectionist advisers who have left the White House “living in chaos” on major decisions. “The president needs a win,” Cohn said in an interview with Freakonomics. And George Conway, husband to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, told Fox News that Trump is a "pathological liar," asking, “Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life?"  The answer? No. Never.

    5. Holcomb in Germany

    Gov. Holcomb's trade mission emphasized the state's ties to Germany on Wednesday. “There’s no substitute for meeting prospects and partners face-to-face and on their home soil," Holcomb said. "We’ll go from Frankfort, Indiana to Frankfurt, Germany and all points in between in our mission to bring more jobs and investment to Indiana.” Holcomb visited CEOs and U.S. military troops while in Frankfurt. Holcomb also met with U.S. Amabassador Richard Grennell. In Stuttgart, Holcomb visited the headquarters of Coperion GmbH, a subsidiary of Indiana-based Hillenbrand Inc.

    Keep your eyes on the radar, folks. It's dangerous out there today. It's The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Young with Trump; Hate crime peril; Cyclone bomb coming
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Young, Braun to back Trump on emergency

    Here are your hump day power lunch talking points: Both U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun are siding with President Trump on Thursday's vote on his emergency declaration for the border law. The resolution against the emergency is expected to pass with at least four Republicans defecting, Trump will veto and an override will fail. Then the attorneys will find a windfall when the whole thing ends up in court. The fascinating thing is how many Republican senators are willing to give up the power of the purse to Trump. The big arm twister here was Vice President Pence, who lobbied Young and won his vote with an offer for Trump to sign legislation reining in his power to declare future emergencies. So Trump wins this one, and such legislation would prevent future presidents, though House passage on that would be impossible.

    Young said on Tuesday, “After weeks of careful study and discussion, I have decided to vote to preserve President Trump’s national emergency declaration. It is clear that the President’s declaration adheres to decades-old statutes and procedures laid out in federal law, and there is no question that a national crisis exists at our southern border. I also share the perspective of those who believe presidential declarations of emergency – including the 31 other emergency declarations still in effect – warrant additional scrutiny from Congress. That is why I will be joining several colleagues in the coming days to introduce a bill that would enhance future oversight of the emergency declaration process."

    2. Hate crime bill in peril

    While Gov. Eric Holcomb is in Europe, his most conspicuous legislative priority - the hate crime bill - appears to be in serious jeopardy in the House. "Essentially there’s no bill right now," Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend, told the South Bend Tribune's Caleb Bauer. "There’s one pending in committee, but it’s not scheduled for a committee hearing." SB12 dies if there's no hearings or vote by April 9. Freshman Republican Rep. Christy Stutzman would vote for the current bill, but not one with the list. "I hope we get a chance to vote on that," she said. "But I don’t know that we will."  Gov. Holcomb vowed to be vocal about getting a bill (with a list) passed. He'll have a heavy lift when he gets home.

    3. Mayor's Pete's Final State of City

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave his final State of the City address Tuesday night. The Trib's Jeff Parrott likened the scene as "more like a popular late night talk show host who needs the crowd to finish applauding, whooping and hollering so that he can begin his monologue." Coming two days after his CNN town hall, Buttigieg reported unemployment fell to 4.1% from 11.8%, population is up 1% after losing 25% since the 1960s, and there are 15,000 more jobs. “When I go on the road, I talk about our experience as a metaphor for what needs to happen in our country,” Buttigieg said. “America needs to find ways, as South Bend has, to embrace our future without fear. America needs to seek greatness, not by dredging it up from some impossible again, but by looking squarely to the future just as our forebears did.”

    4. The coming 'cyclone bomb'

    It used to be we'd get huge wind events every decade or two. On Feb. 24, wind gusts over 60 mph were observed, with 66 mph at the Indianapolis International Airport becoming the highest non-thunderstorm wind gust reported since April 6, 1988. Thursday will bring a "cyclone bomb" with non-storm winds expected in the 50-70 mph range, particularly in western Indiana, which is close to Cat 1 hurricane strength. The National Weather Service: This cyclone bomb pressure is dropping 24 millibars in 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon over the Great Plains. The lower the pressure and the faster it falls, the more intense the storm. Roaring, potentially damaging winds will affect an enormous area. This is a potentially dangerous wind event.” The Feb. 24 storm cut power to tens of thousands of Hoosiers. Batten down the hatches and oil up the chairsaws, folks.

    5. Hoops values

    Forbes rates the most valuable college basketball teams and we are in the epicenter of hoops fortune: 1. Louisville ($50 million plus revenue), No. 2. Kentucky ($49 million), No. 3 Indiana ($35 million), No. 4 Duke ($33 million), and No. 5. Kansas ($32 million). Ohio State is No. 6, Illinois No. 9, Wisconsin No. 10, Michigan State Nov. 12 and Michigan No. 15. We love the Crossroads Classic (IU, Butler, Purdue, Notre Dame). How about the Ohio River Classic? (IU, Louisville, Kentucky and Ohio State)?

    Yes, I'm lubing up my Stihl chainsaw this afternoon. It's The Atomic!

  • Buttigieg the '1 percenter' finding money traction

    INDIANAPOLIS  — Pete Buttigieg is a “one percenter.” No, he’s not a billionaire who received a motherlode financial break in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The South Bend mayor is at that threshold in the CNN/Des Moines Register Poll, with another 1% listing him as their second choice.

    Essentially, the CNN/Register Poll’s value is that of the earliest 2020 name ID mileposts and not truly indicative of how this Democratic presidential nomination race will unfold. But on Sunday night, Mayor Pete received an hour of primetime exposure during his CNN Town Hall with host Jake Tapper. The reaction within the Democratic Party was overwhelmingly positive.

    David Axelrod, a key political aide to President Obama, tweeted, “I have rarely seen a candidate make better use of televised Town Hall than @PeteButtigieg is on @CNN tonight. Crisp, thoughtful and relatable. He’ll be a little less of a long shot tomorrow.”

    The eastern press was in the same camp. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a disavowed Republican, observed, “Mayor Pete is gifted and he’s more than this novelty act and this young candidate. I think he’s going to make some noise.” 

    “I feel like he’s a real candidate. Every time he opens his mouth, things get better,” said co-host Mika Brezinski. “I’m sort of waiting to see more.” Washington Post reporter and Notre Dame graduate Robert Costa added, “This Buttigieg town hall is worth watching. Polished and thoughtful presentation with clear answers. Underscores military experience. Of course, it’s a big field and he’s a young Midwestern mayor. But he’s using his time on stage effectively here. This is a focused candidate.” 

    Such fawning doesn’t mean there’s a mayoral juggernaut beginning to roll. It means he will likely get an earnest second look. 

    Buttigieg had the single biggest fundraising day of his 2020 campaign on Monday, according to an aide to the mayor, receiving a significant boost after a widely heralded performance during a CNN town hall. According to the Buttigieg aide, the mayor raised more than $600,000 from over 22,200 donations in the 24 hours after the CNN town hall. The mayor asked donors live on CNN to donate to his committee toward the end of his town hall. “I’m thrilled by the support we’ve received over the last day,” Buttigieg said. “We’re not accepting corporate PAC money and we don’t have the gilded fundraising base that comes with being a more established figure in Washington, so grassroots fundraising will be crucial for this effort.”

    How did Buttigieg pull off this admiration?

    On Friday in a second foray into New Hampshire, Buttigieg created a buzz by calling for an expanded U.S. Supreme Court and the abolition of the Electoral College.

    By the time he took the stage in Austin, Tex., Sunday night, he used those issues and his emerging foil –  fellow Hoosier Vice President Mike Pence –  to burnish initial impressions for a widening swath of the dysfunctional Democratic family. He also approached gnawing issues such as automation and income inequality with a nuanced, hybrid approach.

    The biggest sparks that will attract attention from Democratic primary voters were his comments on Pence. It’s a complicated relationship, with the former Indiana governor and the South Bend mayor actually forging a working relationship during the four years when both were Hoosier executives. Pence’s animosity toward an openly gay official never surfaced in that context, as the two had economic development bonds and a mutual affinity for Pence’s Regional Cities initiative.

    The mayor was asked about his origins from Pence’s Indiana. Buttigieg answered, “Please don’t judge my state by our former governor. I think those ties are so out of line from where anybody is.” Buttigieg said that Pence “divided our state” with his Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. “It was really a license to discriminate, that’s what it was,” Buttigieg said, adding, the “amazing” reaction was pushback from Democratic and Republican mayors and the conservative business community. “My hope is that same decency can be summoned from communities in both red and blue states.”

    Asked whether Pence would be better as president than Donald Trump, Buttigieg paused for a pregnant moment that became fodder for the Monday morning news shows, then said, “Both. Does it have to be? I disagreed with him furiously on things. At least he believes in our institutions and is not corrupt. But how could he allow himself to get on board with this president? How does he become the biggest cheerleader for the porn star presidency? Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?”

    That became the opening soundbite of the week. While Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kristin Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar were dealing with staffing and ancestral controversies, Buttigieg emerged as the new flavor that might bring about a long, second look. Pence-bashing in Democratic circles is vogue, and Mayor Pete has real world experience there.

    Buttigieg was asked if he favored the impeachment of President Trump. “I would like to see this president and the style of politics he represents sent off through the electoral process, decisively defeated at the ballot box,” Buttigieg responded. He added, “I come from the industrial Midwest and there were a lot of people who voted for him who voted for me and Barack Obama.” But he wouldn’t rule out pursuing impeachment if high crimes and misdemeanors are evident in the “imminent” Robert Mueller Russia probe.

    On CNN and in New Hampshire, Buttigieg made it clear that the 2020 election is more than just a referendum on the current regime. “The 2020 election is about more than just the next four years and defeating Donald Trump,” he explained. “It must address the seismic changes our nation is facing –  both globally and at home –  and ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed.”

    When a question on Venezuela came up, Navy Lt. Buttigieg pivoted toward his military career and took aim at the White House and National Security Advisor John Bolton over the Middle East. “The situation in Venezuela is highly disturbing. The regime lost its legitimacy,” Buttigieg said. “That being said, that doesn’t mean we carelessly threaten the use of military force, which it appeared the national security adviser was doing at one point. I don’t understand how somebody leading us into the Iraq War is allowed that near the Situation Room to begin with.” 

    The mayor was asked about his stance he revealed on Friday in New Hampshire when he called for an end to the Electoral College. “In an American presidential election, the person who gets the most votes should win,” he said. “We ought to make sure everybody has the same voice. In Indiana, most years we have no voice at all.”

    He also called for adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting, “What we need to do is stop the Supreme Court from sliding toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution. I’m for us contemplating whatever policy options will allow that to be possible. One of them involves having 15 instead of 9 justices, but I’m not just talking about suppose I get elected as president and daring the next president who might be conservative to throw on a couple more. That’s the last thing we want to do. What we need to do is stop every vacancy from becoming this apocalyptic battle that harms the country.”

    Noting his marriage to his husband, Buttigieg added, “I’m married because of the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

    On the concept of Medicare for all, Buttigieg explained, “The ACA made a great difference, but it hasn’t gotten us all the way there. In fact, it’s under attack by the current administration. We need to explore Medicare for all.” He describes it as making Medicare “available on the exchange as a public option. It will be more efficient and more cost-effective over time.”

    And on universal pay, the mayor said he was open to exploring the concept, noting that Stockton, CA., was giving $400 to each resident. “Maybe we ought to broaden our definition of work,” he said. “If you are taking care of a parent, or raising a child, isn’t that work?”

    On climate change, he explained, “To some extent we’re already in adaptation mode. We’ve got to reduce carbon levels by the Paris Accords.” He called for “more investment in renewables” and a “carbon tax,” though he begged his audience to understand his more nuanced approach. “That cost is going to be paid, one way or another,” he said.

    His overall theme comes back to his eight-year tenure at the helm of South Bend. “The advances we’ve made in South Bend serve as a shining example at this point in our nation’s history, especially when Americans have been offered a vision of greatness that means turning back the clock,” he said. “We need big, bold policies that are shaped by what we want our country to look like generations from now. As a country, we’re facing deep structural problems that can only be addressed by fixing the engine of our democracy. The reality is that every other important issue of our time, from gun violence to climate change to access to healthcare,  isn’t going to get better as long as our democracy remains warped. Our freedom depends on our ability to make bold changes.”

    The Buttigieg campaign now faces a two-and-a-half-month period where he will move out of exploratory mode. He will need to staff up. He will have to attract enough donors in order to make the cut for the first party-sanctioned debates in June, with 11 others scheduled in the six months thereafter.

    With septuagenarians Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders leading the early polling, Buttigieg will need to emerge as the youthful alternative in a field crowded with 40- and 50-something candidates in order to leave his “one percenter” status in the rear view mirror. 
  • Bias bill, teacher pay, gaming in second half

    INDIANAPOLIS  — The Indiana General Assembly has now moved fully into the latter half of its legislative session this year, with the crossover bills now having received their committee assignments and the first batch beginning to hit second reading. That means legislators will soon be feeling the squeeze of final deadlines in April.

    While the Republican super majorities make the whole process a little more straightforward, there are still some hot button issues that the GOP will need to work out. In particular, Gov. Eric Holcomb, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, and Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray have displayed disagreement over the passage of a bias crime law and a comprehensive gaming bill, but will also need to see to it that their party’s efforts to raise teacher pay don’t raise the ire of Hoosier educators.

    Bias crimes bill

    Two weeks ago, Holcomb offered his fellow Republicans a new option to tackle the hate crimes issue as he spoke to the press. Installing the federal code’s language into state sentencing guidelines, he said, would adequately fulfill the goal of getting Indiana off the list of five states without hate crime laws. “And we will do nothing new – nothing that’s not already illegal,” the governor added.

    Don’t put your money on legislators buying into that. All eyes are on the House as Senate Bill 12 now sits awaiting a Courts and Criminal Code Committee hearing, and House Republicans have been pretty reluctant to use that type of specific, list-based language all session.

    Before Holcomb’s press conference, Speaker Bosma had already indicated that Rep. Gregory Steuerwald’s approach – which is fairly similar, at least in spirit, to what the amended bill looks like – was in his view a passable compromise. Last week, he said he didn’t find the federal language option to be any better.

    What does that mean? 

    Well, Steuerwald’s original bias crimes bill, HB1093, adds to possible sentencing aggravation a consideration of whether a person committed the crime “with bias and with the intent to harm: (A) an individual; (B) a group of individuals; (C) the property of an individual; or (D) the property of a group of individuals; because of the individual’s or the group’s real or perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association, or other attribute the court chooses to consider.” By the way, if you’re thinking that sounds like a list, Bosma has referred to it in the past as “a description of categories.”

    If SB12 ends up getting amended in the fashion of HB1093, then it would certainly be more than the “two lines and a comma” approach that SB12’s current opponents have lamented. Still, the governor’s earlier remarks, and of course the remarks of Democratic lawmakers, suggest that there’s still the question of vagueness of terms and whether or not this change would get Indiana off “the list.”

    The governor says he’s ready to handle the disagreement with his fellow party members, saying, “We’re not drones, we don’t agree on 100% of everything. That’s the beauty of this building and the conversations that mature over time.” Once he returns from his nine-day trade mission in Europe, Holcomb will have to keep the conversation open with his own political capital and appeals to the public, which will surely be something to watch for in coming weeks.

    Schools and teacher pay

    As always, education has been a top priority in this year’s session, but the issue of teacher pay has been especially important. Of course, that’s not just because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Indiana is lagging behind its neighbors in this area, but also because we’ve seen the issue flare up nationally in recent years. A teacher walkout like the one that took place in Arizona in 2018 probably won’t be on lawmakers’ list of desired outcomes, though Speaker Bosma told reporters that such an occurrence wouldn’t necessarily sway him.

    “Hopefully, we don’t have any of that,” Bosma said. “I think it just complicates it, probably makes it harder to make progress on the issue,” he said, then added a reference to protests against Indiana’s Right-to-Work law. “By the way, 15,000 screaming union guys outside my window here and a couple hundred at my house didn’t stop us from doing the right thing. So, we’re going to find the right place to land on this issue regardless.”

    For now, the hopeful quick-fix solutions look like they’re in a strong position going into the second half. Holcomb’s proposal to spend $150 million to fully fund teacher pension obligations worked its way into the House budget bill and hasn’t met much opposition in the Senate either. HB1003, which sets expenditure targets of no more than 15% of schools’ education funds going toward operation costs, has also enjoyed strong support from Republicans. HB1003 is up for a hearing in the Education and Career Development Committee on Wednesday of this week.

    Also in the budget are increases to total school funding of 2.1% in FY 2019 and 2.2% in FY 2020. That’s slightly above the typical 2% mark for annual inflation, but the Senate apparently hasn’t ruled out increasing those figures. “I think we want to at least be there,” Sen. Bray told reporters, “whether or not we can get higher or not we’re going to have to take a look at.” Like with HB1003, the hope is that school corporations could take the extra money and put it toward teacher pay increases, but there would be no guarantee of that.

    Still, with advocates from ISTA (and some teachers, like the ‘Red for Ed’ protestors at the Statehouse last Saturday) telling legislators that the current proposals don’t constitute a lasting, satisfying fix, there’s a lot of pressure building. Republicans are looking to study committees and task forces to find long-term solutions after this session, and will be hoping the promise of future fixes will help them smoothly navigate these final two months.

    Gaming bill

    Speaker Bosma’s comments two weeks ago on the comprehensive gaming bill, SB552, suggested that it might be facing an uphill battle in the House. At least the casino portion of the bill, which the speaker said he considers a “major expansion of gaming.” That alone is an alarm that there’s some reluctance in the Republican caucus on that front, but when added with the recent talk of possibly splitting the bill, it’s easy to think there’s a lot of work left ahead.

    The bill addresses two issues, one dealing with casinos and relocation and the other with legalizing sports wagering, which have largely been discussed apart from one another throughout the session. Whether the bill will be split to allow only certain parts of it to survive, or to simply facilitate in-depth discussions on all aspects of the bill, or whether it will be split at all will ultimately be up to the House Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Rep. Ben Smaltz.

    Whatever the committee’s decision may be, it’s not is if SB552 is dead in the water. Bray and 28 members of his caucus didn’t have the same hang-ups when they voted in late February, and the bill also received unanimous support from Democrats. It’s been lauded as an economic boost for the city of Gary and Vigo County with the casino relocations, and for the state as a whole with sports wagering. So, proponents of the bill are bound to push back against the apprehension from some in the House.


    A single bill aims to rewrite a few standards for district-drawing before it begins again in 2021: Senate Bill 105. That bill barely passed the Senate by a two-vote margin, however, so there’s good reason to doubt its chances of survival. The bill’s House sponsor and Committee on Elections and Apportionment Chair Rep. Tim Wesco told HPI he has concerns himself. In an email, Wesco said that the bill would need “major revisions” if it moves in the House and seems concerned that it “only had minority Republican support” in the Senate vote.

    That gives the impression the bill is in a tough spot and may not even receive a committee hearing, let alone a floor vote. If it does get that far, it’s clear that it would look quite different at its final stage though those potential changes haven’t come into focus just yet. Still, whatever the fate of SB105 will be this session, it’s to be expected that the 2021 redistricting process won’t be radically different from 2011’s. 

  • HPI Analysis: Indiana journalism's thin gray line

    SPEEDWAY – There we were, seated in Claude & Annie’s Bar, four unlikely souls in a world about to be transformed in ways no one could have predicted. I remember that journalist Harrison J. Ullmann, attorney Peter Rusthoven and yours truly were drinking beer. Talk show host Mike Pence was having a Coke.

    We had just completed a taping of “The Mike Pence Show” in January, 1997, at a TV studio near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Like any small business, I struggled in those early years after The Howey Political 

    Report began publishing in 1994. Pence was gearing up his radio and TV shows. I had gone through a divorce, had custody of my two sons and needed health coverage. The internet was just revving up after it was founded 30 years ago this past week, its founder Tim Berners-Lee now calling it an “uncontrollable monster.” 

    The conservative wing of this gathering, Pence and Rusthoven, were urging the liberal Ullmann to hire this writer, ostensibly as a “conservative” voice in the leftward alternative NUVO Newsweekly. Ullmann heeded their advice, commencing a three-year run that had me writing about everything from neighborhoods seeking to purge crack dealers, Mayor Goldsmith’s drug interdiction roadblocks that almost upended the 4th Amendment in the U.S. Supreme Court, to lethal assaults inside the Marion County lockup.  Ullmann was transfixed by lead in the soil poisoning our children, Goldsmith’s phantom voting address, and the Meridian Street police riot that helped elect Gov. Frank O’Bannon.

    The journalism at NUVO could be impactful. People didn’t know the full extent of the police riot until NUVO published, verbatim, what the profane cops were yelling at women as their mob moved down the street.

    With homicides surging to record levels, we once asked Prosecutor Scott Newman what he needed, and his answer was to get the Southern District attorney to begin prosecuting gun crimes with federal penalties. Meeting with Sen. Richard Lugar in an airport hotel room, Ullmann pressed him on the billions of dollars spent on desegregation busing in Indianapolis. Lugar called it a “train wreck” and not too long thereafter federal Judge S. Hugh Dillin began lifting his busing mandate.

    Glory days

    These were the glory days of not only alternative press, but perhaps the apex of the newspaper industry on its 20th Century financial platform. The Indianapolis Star and News battled each other vociferously. The two papers probably had a combined 25 reporters, editors and photographers manning their Statehouse press shacks. There were other rivalries, such as the Hammond Times and the Gary Post-Tribune. Families owned an array of Hoosier newspapers, from the Pulliams in Indy, to the Nixons from Michigan City, Peru and an array of cities like Wabash and Frankfort. The Dille family had Federated Media in Elkhart, the Schurz family owned the South Bend Tribune and Bloomington Herald-Times and a half dozen other papers, Fort Wayne Newspapers had the Journal Gazette and News-Sentinel, there was Home News in Columbus and the DePrez family in Shelbyville. 

    These family businesses had developed since the Great Depression, some combining the Democratic paper with the Republican to create the local fact-checker and arbitrator while working as the conscience of their communities. There were journalists like Al Spiers of the Michigan City News-Dispatch who watched illegal gambling and prostitution take hold following World War II, found a law-and-order Democrat sheriff candidate, and helped get him elected. By the early 1960s, Michigan City was an “All-American City.”

    The families began to sell their newspapers after many of the founders had passed away. Corporations like Gannett and Paxson came in, and leveraged lucrative real estate deals while cutting into muscle and bone on the news staffs. The pricey Pulliam Square condo complex rises on the site of the old Star-News Building while the IndyStar has been downgraded to a mallpaper.

    In the pre-internet era, a 35% profit margin was the norm. If you wanted to sell something or hire someone, you did it through the newspaper classified section. At the Peru Daily Tribune in a town of 14,000, about 80 journalists and printers made a living wage. Last time I checked in about five years ago, there was a sole reporter at the Tribune, just a handful of employees in the building on West Third Street, and the town has shrunk to 11,000 population, while meth and heroin had set in.

    When everything changed

    The internet changed everything. 

    The Indianapolis News disappeared in 1999 after Gannett purchased Central Newspapers. NUVO folded as a print publication this past week. What’s occurred in the intervening two decades has been a decimation of local newsrooms. Only a fraction of the editors and reporters in Indianapolis are working today, with centuries of professional journalism relegated to the sidelines. The 20th Century economic model collapsed. They posted their content on line for free,  then failed to see the threat from Monster.com, Craig’s List and Match.com who took over the classifieds. They later tried to erect pay walls, regaining only a fraction of their audiences.

    According to Pew Research, the estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2017 was 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday, down 11% and 10%, respectively, from the previous year. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, 39,210 people worked as reporters, editors, photographers, or film and video editors in the newspaper industry in 2017. That is down 15% from 2014 and 45% from 2004. Median wage for editors in 2017 was about $49,000, while for reporters the figure was about $34,000.

    1,400 newspapers close

    Associated Press writers David A. Lieb and David Bauder reported this week that 1,400 cities and towns across the U.S. lost a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to data compiled by the University of North Carolina. “Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development,” AP reported. “While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children, or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer. Local journalism is dying in plain sight.” 

    Local law enforcement actually misses robust police blotter reporting, often having to try and swat down social media rumor-mongering with no local press to lend credence. CBS “Sunday Morning” reported this past weekend that scores of small, rural communities across the nation are also losing their local hospitals, while many have been ravaged by opioid and meth epidemics. In a bygone era, local journalism would have revealed the early signs.

    Five of the 10 largest media companies are owned by hedge funds or other investors with several unrelated holdings, and GateHouse, which just bought the Schurz newspapers in Indiana, is among them. Digital First Media which is targeting Gannett, and Gatehouse follow a strategy of aggressive cost-cutting without making significant investments in newsrooms, Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies news industry trends, told AP.

    Publications like the Wall Street Journal, Indiana Legislative Insight and Howey Politics Indiana, which maintained content pay walls, survived. The New York Times and Washington Post gave up their content for free, then reestablished pay walls and appear to be thriving, in part as a reaction to President Trump.

    In March 2010, NUVO published its 20th anniversary edition. I wrote a tribute to Ullmann, who died on April 15, 2000: “Ullmann’s concern about the future of journalism has, in retrospect, been justified. He became a tiny shareholder in Central Newspapers just to learn about the inner working of the Indianapolis Star-News. He predicted years before it happened that the News would close and Gannett would likely buy the Star. Family-owned journalism, Ullmann believed, was on the precipice back then, with every obituary published a subscriber never to return. His insurgent ‘White River Gazette’ didn’t get off the ground before his cancer struck, but yielded the ‘Indianapolis Eye’ and a half million investment as a web magazine that was little too ahead of its time.

    “Those trend lines have been devastatingly on target a decade beyond Harrison Ullmann’s passing. He saw a day when print reporters would carry video gear and TV guys would post written copy on websites; where Kindle and the iPad would spare the lives of billions of trees. And where the folks with ‘big hair’ on the evening news would gradually fade into the warrens of splayed technology moving from home pages to YouTube, Facebook and beyond.”

    Finding reliable news

    Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard observed the media carnage in a recent IBJ column: “The disintegration of American newspapers is proceeding at a pace that’s breathtaking and disheartening. We need to start talking about where we can find reliable news. The trend is plain for all to see. Most visible in the state’s capital have been the layoffs at The Indianapolis Star and the shrinkage of the papers that arrive on the doorstep. Shrinking the news staff has been a regular part of Gannett’s management since it bought The Star from the Pulliam family in 2000. Departures in recent weeks – some from buyouts, some from layoffs – have included such stars as Tim Swarens, Will Higgins, Greg Weaver and Gary Varvel. And the paper shrank with elimination of valuable columnists such as Ball State University’s Michael Hicks. 

    “Lest one wonder about the remaining readership, the prominence of ads for hearing aids and walk-in bathtubs tells you a lot,” Shepard continues. “The current Gannett suitor, hedge-fund vehicle Digital First, has a reputation for fervent cost-cutting. It’s hard to imagine what’s left. This is hardly an Indy phenomenon. Gannett properties like the Courier & Press in Evansville and the Star Press in Muncie have depleted to the point where their editions feature much copy traded with each other, and of course, less news about events happening in the subscribers’ communities.”

    The long battle

    It’s been a long battle. Will Higgins, who was sidelined by the IndyStar late last year, wrote in NUVO’s 20th anniversary edition about the paper’s early “situation dire” when he was editor there, to the point where he had to let go 13 of 26 news employees. “The newspaper industry is in flux at the moment,” Higgins wrote in 2010. “But it’s nothing compared to the stress of the early NUVO days. A brand new industry came our way – the phone sex pioneers, with their 1-900 numbers, cheesy entrepreneurs who preyed on the lonely, the sex-starved. They needed a place to advertise. We had a brief internal debate – very brief, actually – and took their money. “And we survived,” Higgins wrote. “Then we started to thrive. A sense of confidence came over us. We would publish next week, and the next and the next. Now NUVO is a given. I’m proud of my role in the struggle. And what a struggle.”

    A struggle that ended last week, ironically, on the 30th anniversary of the world wide web.

    When Howey Politics began publishing in 1994, there were probably 20 to 25 political columnists writing regularly across the state, from Rich James at the Post-Tribune to Dick Robinson at the Terre Haute Tribune-Star and Dale Moss and Mary Dieter with the Louisville Courier-Journal. Those ranks have shrunk to just a handful, myself and Jack Colwell in the South Bend Tribune, Marc Chase of the NWI Times, economist Morton Marcus in about 20 newspapers, Mark Bennett in Terre Haute, John Krull with the Statehouse File, and the IBJ Forefront section, which has restored Mary Beth Schneider back to the ranks. HPI publishes James and Michael Hicks, yet another IndyStar refugee. These are the writers who, as they used to say, “know where the bodies are buried.” We connect topical events of the day to the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and the ‘00s.

    The thin gray line
    This is the thin gray line. With Matt Tully’s passing (and no replacement at the IndyStar mallpaper), as well as Amos Brown at the Indianapolis Recorder (with no prominent voice emerging there), with the end of the IndyStar’s daily editorial page, and with newsrooms shrinking to the point where a newspaper in a 200,000 population county no longer has a court reporter or covers trials (think of the news we’re not getting just on that front), Indiana is not too far away from losing the link between the past, present and future. In previous eras, young reporters and editors would replenish the ranks. Today, IU folded its journalism program. Current J programs send more graduates into flackdom as opposed to reporting and editing.

    Politicians are already moving beyond the press. Pence declared for governor not with a press conference in 2011, but with a Facebook video. His brother, U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, and U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth don’t field media calls.

    When you ponder the collapse of the press, imagine how the methamphetamine or opioid crises might have been discovered and mitigated well before the public health data screamed us beginning in 2014? Well before the social costs mount into the tens of billions of dollars. We’ve gone through a generation of rare public corruption scandal at the Statehouse. But once the Bob Segalls and Rafael Sanchezs of the world are sidelined (and what’s happened to newspapers is about to happen to local network affiliates), once the watchdogs are put down, it’s only a matter of time before corruption and acute political polarization follow.

    Shepard asks the inevitable question: What are news consumers to do? He answers, “We can help the larger situation by paying attention to places where the news is actually improving. A stalwart that qualifies as broadcast and digital is Gerry Dick’s Inside Indiana Business. The show on public broadcasting works alongside regular web postings. Supporters include law firms, banks and the Indiana Chamber. A formulation is being built by Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations, now led by Mark Newman. IPBS has added news staff to provide coverage offered through 17 stations serving most of the state’s markets. 

    “We’re also benefiting from stronger contributions from many broadcasters and Chalkbeat, and by players like Ed Feigenbaum, Brian Howey and Abdul-Hakim Shabazz,” Shepard observes.

    Golden era ends

    Jack Colwell, who began reporting for the South Bend Tribune in the early 1960s, told HPI, “There is no going back to the Golden Era of newspaper journalism. Yet, there is desperate need for solid journalism to provide the facts vital for voters in a democracy and to alert the public to ignored crises and wrongdoing.”

    Colwell asks, “The answer? We search. We still have no answer. The first step is to draw attention to the problem and support real news, whether online, on TV or still in some places on the printed page.”

    Some talk of establishing not-for-profit journalism foundations, such as The Texas Tribune, the MinnPost in Minnesota and Voice of San Diego.com as a way of keeping a watchdog in place. Morton Marcus wonders about government-funded journalism, mentioning the BBC model and not so much Gov. Pence’s “JustIN” state run news agency that some saw as a Fox News lite state propaganda site.

    That day at Claude & Annie’s came in a bygone era. Pence’s boss, President Trump, has relegated much of us to “fake news” and “enemies of the people” while presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway talks of “alternative facts.”  What we can’t fully understand or appreciate is with the watchdog in full retreat, when will there be a day of reckoning and how disruptive will it be? 
  • Mayor Buttigieg gains traction with his CNN town hall

    INDIANAPOLIS - South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's first foray into cable primetime found him talking not only about his views on Medicare and the Electoral College, but about Mike Pence and the Hoosier body politic.

    Buttigieg took his presidential exploration to a CNN town hall with host Jake Tapper Sunday night, a day after a CNN/Des Moines Register poll showed him with 1% in an Iowa poll, far behind frontrunners Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

    On the first question, he was asked about his experience. Buttigieg responded, "One thing you never hear of is a city shutting down because of a disagreement on policy. Experience is one of the best reasons for me to run. I have more experience under my belt than the president. That's a low bar, I know that. I also have more executive experience than the vice president. Experience is what qualifies me to have a seat at the table."

    Buttigieg was asked if he favored the impeachment of President Trump. "I would like to see this president and the style of politics he represents sent off through the electoral process, decisively defeated at the ballot box," Buttigieg responded. He added, "I come from the industrial Midwest and there were a lot of people who voted for him who voted for me and Barack Obama."

    The mayor was asked about his origins from Vice President Mike Pence's Indiana. Buttigieg answered, "Please don't judge my state by our former governor. I think those ties are so out of line from where anybody is." Buttigieg said that Pence "divided our state" with his Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. "It was really a license to discriminate, that's what it was," Buttigieg said, adding, the "amazing" reaction was pushback from Democratic and Republican mayors and the conservative business community. "My hope is that same decency can be summoned from communities in both red and blue states."

    Pressed on whether Pence would be better as president than Donald Trump, Buttigieg said, "Both. Does it have to be? I don't know. At least he believes in our institutions and is not corrupt. But how can you get on board with this president? How does he become the biggest cheerleader for the porn star presidency? Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?"

    The mayor was asked about his stance he revealed on Friday in New Hampshire when he called for an end to the Electoral College. "In an American presidential election, the person who gets the most votes should win," he said. "We ought to make sure everybody has the same voice. In Indiana, most years we have no voice at all."

    He also called for adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting, "What we need to do is stop the Supreme Court from sliding toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution." Noting his marriage to his husband, Buttigieg added, "I'm married because of "the grace of a single vote on the US Supreme Court."

    On the concept of Medicare for all, Buttigieg explained, "The ACA made a great difference, but it hasn't gotten us all the way there. In fact it's under attack by the current administration. We need to explore Medicare for all." He describes it as making Medicare "available on the exchange as a public option. It will be more efficient and more cost effective over time."

    On the concept of universal pay, the mayor said he was open to exploring the concept, noting that Stockton, CA., was giving $400 to each resident. "Maybe we ought to broaden our definition of work," he said. "If you are taking care of a parent, or raising a child, isn't that work?"

    Buttigieg's performance was widely lauded. David Axelrod, a key political aide to President Obama, tweeted, "I have rarely seen a candidate make better use of televised Town Hall than @PeteButtigieg is on @CNN tonight. Crisp, thoughtful and relatable.  He’ll be a little less of a long shot tomorrow."

    Washington Post reporter and Notre Dame graduate added, "This Buttigieg town hall is worth watching. Polished and thoughtful presentation with clear answers. Underscores military experruebce. Of course, it’s a big field and he’s a young Midwestern mayor. But he’s using his time on stage effectively here. This is a focused candidate."

    He also caught the Twitter attention of @GOP: "66% of Hoosiers have never heard of the Mayor of South Bend & 2020 Dem Pete Buttigieg. Instead of focusing on his town's sea of potholes & sky-high crime rate, Buttigieg has spent years ignoring his duties as Mayor of South Bend & focusing on launching a Presidential campaign."

  • Atomic! Mueller speculation; Banks seeks report; Primetime Pete
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Banks wants Mueller report airing

    Here are your Friday power lunch talking points: Fridays tend to be the day Special Counsel Robert Mueller drops indictments and other actions as speculation swirls in Washington that his report is "imminent." Of course, it's been "imminent" for about two weeks now, with former CIA director John Brennan speculating earlier this week that today could be the day  because next Friday is the "Ides of March" which, of course, was the day in 44 BC of Julius Caesar's demise in the Roman Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Jim Banks continues to push for a public airing of Mueller's Russia collusion probe. Banks, R-Columbia City, tweeted Thursday, "As rumors swirl on Capitol Hill that the release of the Mueller report is imminent, I renew my calls to have the complete report made public immediately  for the American people to review." A CNN poll in February revealed 87% want the report publicly released. In an unscientific online poll by the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 86% of the 301 respondents favored release of the report. Of course, Vigo County is a bellwether when it comes to presidential support.

    2. Primetime for Mayor Pete

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will get an hour of national exposure when he appears at a CNN Town Hall at 9 p.m. Sunday. Buttigieg has been featured on a number of talking head shows over the past two months since he kicked off his Democratic presidential exploration, but this appearance comes at primetime  and will last an hour. It comes on the heels of a coast-to-coast book tour where he has discussed his life story in "Shortest Way Home."  He has made forays to Iowa, New Hampshire and California, but has yet to register in any polls.

    3. Only 20,000 jobs

    Is the economy beginning to cool off? Perhaps. Experts predicted 180,000 new jobs in February, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a paltry 20,000 jobs  this morning. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8%, from 4% in January. 

    4. Purdue and notorious pharma

    Purdue University made it clear on Thursday that it has nothing to do with a pharmacy company that has been implicated in the opioid pandemic. The university released a statement saying, "Purdue University is not and has never been affiliated in any way with Purdue Pharma. The pharmaceutical company was founded in Manhattan in 1892 by John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham as the Purdue Frederick Company with an obvious fixation with middle names. Purdue University was founded in 1869 as Indiana's land-grant institution, named for benefactor John Purdue.

    5. Emergency pressure

    The Washington Post is reporting the White House is ramping up pressure on undecided senators on the coming vote on President Trump's emergency declaration aimed at enhancing southern border security. Indiana Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun have expressed skepticism of the declaration and relinquishing the congressional power of the purse, though both support more stringent border security. Both are undecided. Senator, Vice President Pence is on the line ....

    Have a great weekend, folks. It's The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Tax reform backfire; Brooks targeted; Young pans GND
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Back firing tax reform

    Here are your Thursday power lunch talking points: President Trump and congressional Republicans believed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 would an enduring legacy and popular. But the public never bought in, with a Gallup Poll last October showing 46% disapproved, 39% approved, 64% did not see an increase in take-home pay, while 51% say they haven't been helped financially. The first concrete indicator of how wrong they were occurred last November when Democrats gained 40 U.S. House seats. They portrayed the cuts as a boon for the wealthy, with just slivers for the middle class.

    Don't be surprised if the next six weeks bring about more Bronx cheers and bad poll numbers. Why? The federal deficit which is approaching a trillion bucks at $913.5 billion and that is directly related to the tax reforms and increasing federal spending. And this is with a good economy. Those numbers will continue to explode if we enter a recession, let alone a deep recession. Then there's April 15, the tax filing deadline. That's when many Americans will learn where they stand year-to-year, and we're already hearing that tax refunds are diminishing and more folks will be writing substantial checks to the IRS.

    2. Rep. Brooks in the crosshairs

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is making noise about targeting U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, as her 5th CD took on a purple hue last November. So is Emily's List, which put her and 41 other Republicans on its target list. The 5th CD is +9% Republican in the Cook Partisan Index, but Sen. Joe Donnelly carried the district last November in his loss to Sen. Mike Braun. Here's how Brooks portrayed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act when it passed the House in November 2017: “This is a historic day for the American people. Hardworking men and women have been burdened by our country’s broken and outdated tax code for far too long. And to ease that burden, today, the House of Representatives voted to provide Americans across the country with a fairer, simpler and modernized tax code that prioritizes the needs of families and encourages job creation throughout the United States. Relief is on the way." There is persistent talk in GOP circles that Brooks might pass on reelection in 2020, though Brooks won a tough GOP primary in 2012 and has easily been reelected ever since.

    3. More support for hate crimes law

    Add the Indiana Technology & Innovation Association to a growing list of Hoosiers pushing the General Assembly to pass a hate crime bill that would be signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb. “Passing a fully inclusive bias crimes statute demonstrates to our employees, our prospective employees and our community that Indiana is a safe and welcoming place for them to live and work,” said CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Chief Analytics Officer Bob Stutz.

    4. Sen. Young pans Green New Deal

    U.S. Sen. Todd Young is no fan of the Green New Deal. "The words unaffordable, unattainable, unrealistic come to mind, as I think of this 'Green New Deal' that's been proposed," Young said. "Sixty-five thousand dollars per American household per year is what it's estimated to cost. Hoosiers would be interested that were this to be implemented, they would have to tear down their houses and rebuild their houses. They may have to ride their bike to work because they can no longer take automobiles. We're gonna give Democrats an opportunity to vote for this legislation, which I think is reflective of the broader shift to the left we see in the national agenda of the Democratic Party."

    5. Trump says a Democrat can't 'legitimately' win

    As I wrote last week, Michael Cohen is a liar, his pants are ablaze, and he admitted to Congress that he acted on "threats" requested by Donald Trump numbering "500" in the 10 years of his employment (that's about one per week). But the one chilling thing he said last week before the House Oversight Committee was this: “Given my experience working for Mr Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Yikes! On Wednesday, Trump said that Democrats "have zero chance at winning legitimately"  in 2020. A candidate like Joe Biden can't win legitimately? Really?

    OK, this is the last snow storm of this winter, right? Right??? It's The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Braun follows up; Coal comeback? Gov to White House
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Braun takes aim at health costs 

    Here are your hump talk power lunch talking points: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun spent his 2018 campaign talking about the escalating costs of health care and promised to use his "real world experiences" as CEO of Meyer Industries to do something about it. Today Braun introduced the Drug Price Transparency Act (S. 657), the Accelerated Drug Approval for Prescription Therapies Act and the Efficiency (S. 658), and Transparency in Petitions Act (S. 660). “Before being elected to the U.S. Senate last year, I spent 37 years building a business in my hometown, hiring hundreds of Americans and taking on the insurance industry to give my employees quality affordable healthcare while covering pre-existing conditions,” Braun explained. “I’m offering solutions to address rising healthcare prices  by adding transparency to our drug pricing, clearing the backlog on pending drug applications at the FDA, and providing oversight and accountability within the healthcare industry.” 

    On the Drug Transparency Act, Braun explained, "The goal of the bill is to lower prescription drug prices and out-of-pocket costs for consumers  by encouraging pharmacy benefit managers to pass discounts from drug manufacturers directly on to consumers and bring transparency to prescription drug market. The intent of the rule is to lower out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter and add needed pricing transparency to the market." On the Accelerated Drug Approval bill, Braun said, "Under this bill, the FDA Commissioner or HHS Secretary would have authority to approve a drug if the FDA confirms 1) the drug is lawfully approved for sale in a developed country and 2) is not banned by any current FDA standards." 

    2. Trump, Holcomb and coal

    President Trump, and to a lesser extent Gov. Eric Holcomb, campaigned on the virtues of reviving coal. Trump lauded coal miners at an Evansville MAGA rally last August and told a West Virginia crowd earlier that month, “I’ve turned West Virginia around, because [of] what I’ve done environmentally with coal” by ending President Obama's clean power plan. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes that West Virginia's GDP grew at 0.0% in the third quarter of 2018. U.S. coal consumption hit a 40-year low. Jobs in coal stood 51,000 at the end of 2016 and at 52,700 today. Here in Indiana, White Stallion Energy LLC is closing a mine in Warrick County, idling 80 employees, while NIPSCO announced it is retiring four coal-fired units at Wheatfield by 2023 and Michigan City by 2028. NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris: “We have the opportunity to invest in balanced options that will deliver more cost-effective and cleaner energy for our customers." Bottom line: The coal comeback looks to be a bad bet.

    3. Holcomb meeting with Trumps today

    Gov. Holcomb will join President Trump and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump at the White House for the inaugural meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which meets from 2 to 5 p.m. today. Trump created the board to encourage the private sector and educational institutions to combat the skills crisis by investing in and increasing demand-driven education, training, and re-training. “Indiana’s greatest asset is our people, and my focus is on ensuring all Hoosiers have the tools they need to find meaningful work and careers,” Holcomb said. “I’m thrilled to see Indiana gaining ground. We will continue to support those seeking education and training, so that everyone has a pathway to success.” The number of Hoosiers with education beyond a high school diploma reached 43.4% in 2018, bringing Indiana closer to its 60% attainment goal by 2025

    4. North Korea's nukes

    After his first summit with Kim Jong Un last June, President Trump declared, "Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." He became livid at Nation Intelligence Director Dan Coats after the former Hoosier senator told Congress in January, "We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities  and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival." What followed was the collapse of the Hanoi summit, a cancelled luncheon, with Trump quickly flying home while a brooding Kim faced a two-day train trip. What happens when the Dear Leader, chosen by God (we're talking about Kim) is humiliated?  According to the Wall Street Journal: "North Korea is restoring a missile launch site it previously claimed to be dismantling as an overture to the U.S." Paging Dennis Rodman.

    5. Budget deficit approaching a trillion

    Federal tax collections are falling and spending is up, with the WSJ  reporting the government ran a $310 billion deficit from October through January, compared with $176 billion during the same period a year earlier, a 77% increase. The budget deficit rose to $913.5 billion for the 12 months ended January, or 4.4% of gross domestic product. The U.S. posted a $891.2 billion merchandise trade deficit in 2018, the largest in the nation’s 243-year history. The trade gap with China also hit a record $419 billion.

    Have a great day, folks. It's The Atomic!
  • Atomic! 'Witch hunt' ramp up; 'Dying of Whiteness'; Cig tax
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Overplay Example 1, congressional Democrats

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Instead of waiting for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to release his Russian collusion findings and pressing for its public release, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is launching a "sweeping" probe of President Trump, his campaign, his organization and his family. It issued 81 document requests spanning from Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, David Pecker and Steve Bannon to Cory Lewandowski and Allen Weisselberg. If there are impacts on any Hoosiers, the list includes the Trump Campaign, the Trump transition team headed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.

    What could go wrong for Democrats?  ABC's George Stephanopolous asked Chairman Jerry Nadler, "Do you think the president obstructed justice?" Nadler: "Yes, I do. It's very clear that the president obstructed justice." To which President Trump responded, "It's all a hoax."  Trump allies characterized all of it as an expanded "witch hunt." On the public relations front, there is traction for the White House. Trump's approval has risen to 46% in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll. The subtext here is a growing movement to impeach. In 1974, the specter of impeachment of President Nixon allowed Democrats to pick up 49 seats in the House (giving them a two-thirds majority) and four in the Senate for a 60-seat majority. But in 1998 as the unsuccessful impeachment of President Clinton was taking shape and the GOP expecting a tsnuami, the party lost four House seats and failed to pick up any in the Senate. So Democrats should be cautious of what they seek.

    2. Overplay Example 2, the Republicans

    Nationalism meets mortality in the new book "Dying of Whiteness"  by Vanderbilt physician and sociologist Jonathan M. Metzl, who identifies several public health trends related to white identity politics. These policies made life sicker, harder, and shorter in the very populations they purported to aid, with white gun suicides soaring, life expectancies falling, and school dropout rates rising. One epidemiological chain goes like this: Whites without opportunity in the hinterlands drop out of high school at ever higher rates with “failure to attain a high school diploma correlated with nine years of life lost, in conjunction with rising rates of smoking, illnesses such as diabetes, and missed doctor visits.” Want to guarantee a disaffected white rural populace? Slash the education budget, as former Kansas governor and Trump appointee Sam Brownback did and drop out rates rose. Metzl examines rising rates of suicide by gun, noting that from 2009 to 2015, “white men accounted for nearly 80% of all gun suicides in the U.S., despite representing less than 35% of the total population.”  Republican governors in states like Missouri and Tennessee refused to expand Medicaid due to vitriolic GOP opposition to Obamacare. In Tennessee, opposition to Obamacare “cost every single white resident of the state 14.1 days of life”  with many white Tennesseans, Metzl writes, “voiced a willingness to die, literally, rather than embrace a law that gave minority or immigrant persons more access to care.”

    3. An Indiana example

    To his credit, then-Gov. Mike Pence did expand Medicaid via HIP 2.0, where more than 400,000 Hoosiers enrolled. But here's an Indiana example of Republican policy negatively impacting its citizens. According to the CDC, Indiana's 21.8% tobacco smoking rate  trails only red state West Virginia (26%), Kentucky (24.6%), Louisiana (23.1%), Tennessee (22.6%), Arkansas (22.3%) and Mississippi (22.2%). Despite these stats, the effort to triple the cigarette tax to $3 a pack was rejected in the House. Senate President Pro Tem Rob Bray has "no doubt" the tax will be raised "at some point." But not this year. Why wait? Bray concedes to WIBC's  Eric Berman that atax hike would lower smoking rates, as the "Raise It 4 Health" coalition has argued. But he says there's no sign of "enthusiasm" for the proposal in either the House or Senate. Why, why, why?

    4. Mayor Pete back in Iowa

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg stumped through Davenport to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids on Monday, making his pitch as a Millennial mayor. “I think when you’re a mayor of a city, really of any size, you have that on-the-ground, front-line government executive experience that’s so so relevant, understanding not just how to capably run an administration or establish good policies but also to bring people together and how to call people to their highest values when times get tough," Buttigieg told theCedar Rapids Gazette. "To me that’s the essence of executive leadership. I think when you have a field that’s really spread thin, I think that’s really good turf for newcomers and underdogs. I get that I’m both of those things. I think I represent a very different messenger.”

    5. McConnell predicts emergency defeat, override

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says President Trump's emergency declaration will be defeated in the Senate, with four Republicans vowing to vote for the resolution. This is before we know how undecided U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun will line up, but both have expressed reservations about the decree. “What is clear in the Senate is that there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval, which will then be vetoed by the president and then in all likelihood the veto will be upheld in the House," McConnell said. The the federal courts will intervene. The big winners? Attorneys.

    Stay warm, folks, Spring is almost here, right? Right??? It's The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Trump approval; Mayor Pete in Iowa; Manufacturing up
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis 

    1. Trump & Co. by the numbers

    Here are your freezing cold power lunch talking points: After a sensational week where President Trump saw his talks with Kim Jong Un collapse, the "rat" Michael Cohen testified before Congress, and Trump hugged the American flag and called the Robert Mueller probe "bullshit" at CPAC, the NBC/Wall Street Journal  poll puts the president's approval at 46% (up 3% from January) and his reelect at 41% (compared to 45% for Barack Obama, 52% for George W. Bush and 38% for Bill Clinton, all of them reelected). The top groups approving of Trump: Republicans (88%), rural residents (60%), whites without college degrees (60%), men (54%) and whites overall (54%). Mining down further, 58% don’t think he’s been honest and truthful regarding the Russia probe; and 60% disapprove of his national emergency declaration to build a border wall.

    With his disapproval at 52%, the top groups who are alienated include: African Americans (88%), Latinos (64%), women (61%), those ages 18-34 (57%), whites with college degrees (55%) and independents (51%). “It’s a 45-55 against the president at this stage of the game,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. Republican pollster Bill McInturff: “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race." Democrat Fred Yang: “Another lesson we painfully learned from 2016 is that elections are a choice between candidates and not a referendum on one candidate.”

    2. Polling and Mayor Pete

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is taking his Democratic presidential exploration back to Iowa today with stops in Davenport, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. He has yet to register in any polls, but the NBC/WSJ  survey has some good news for him. On "desirable characteristics," being a gay or lesbian comes in at 68/30% totally enthusiastic/comfortable or opposite; and 56/40% for someone under age 40. Here's the bad news for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on someone over age 75, it's 37/62%, and for a socialist, 25/72%. So that's doubly bad news for the Bern. CNN is hosting Buttigieg at a 9 p.m. Sunday town hall broadcast from Austin, Tex. So Mayor Pete is headed for primetime.

    3. Democratic field expands

    Like the universe, the Democratic presidential field continues to expand, with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee launching a campaign based on climate change over the weekend, while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper jumped in today. Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign over the weekend. NBC/WSJ Poll offered this nugget as Vice President Pence lashed out as "socialism" at CPAC last Friday: 18% of all Americans say they view "socialism" positively, versus 50% who see it in a negative light. The numbers for capitalism are almost the exact opposite: 50% positive, 19% negative.

    4. U.S., China trade deal nears

    President Trump might actually break into a plus 50% approval if a trade deal with China materializes. The Wall Street Journal: "China and the U.S. are in the final stage of completing a trade deal, with Beijing offering to lower tariffs and other restrictions on American farm, chemical, auto and other products and Washington considering removing most, if not all, sanctions levied against Chinese products since last year. The agreement is taking shape following February’s talks in Washington, people briefed on the matter on both sides said. They cautioned that hurdles remain, and each side faces possible resistance at home that the terms are too favorable to the other side." Trump is preparing to host Chinese President Xi Jinping around March 27 at Mar-a-Lago.

    5. Manufacturing in vogue

    Indiana Manufacturing Association President/CEO Brian Burton had to like these numbers from the Wall Street Journal: U.S. manufacturing employment has risen for 18 straight months, the longest stretch of gains since the mid-1990s. Employers have added 274,000 non-managerial manufacturing jobs since July 2017. Overall employment in the sector peaked at 19.6 million people in 1979; today, the industry employs about 12.8 million, but that's up from a nadir of 11.5 million in 2010. Of course, Indiana is the most manufacturing intensive state in the nation. Burton is reminding Gov. Eric Holcomb and lawmakers that in Indiana, manufacturing still has more clout than the high tech sector. Speaking on that front, Gov. Holcomb is heading to France, Germany and Belgium this week  for his latest trade mission.

    Thanks for reading, folks. It's The Atomic!

  • HPI Interview: Donnelly surveys his career, but won't be running

    NOTRE DAME — Don’t expect to see Joe Donnelly on the ballot any time soon. When we sat down with him at Rohr’s tavern at the Morris Inn here, we asked about his political future. Specifically, we asked about the 2020 gubernatorial race where there is no obvious Democratic candidate. During the current General Assembly session with Republicans gutting a hate crimes bill and snuffing redistricting reform, only 2012 and 2016 nominee John Gregg is commenting (on Twitter), and he is not appearing to be taking steps to make a third run.

    Would Donnelly consider a challenge to Gov. Eric Holcomb?

    “I am not looking at any other races,” Donnelly responded. Asked if he would rule anything out, the former U.S. senator politely deflected, mentioning his immediate task would be to get his snow blower running again. So the answers were present tense, perhaps leaving the door open while time drains away. Perhaps.

    In this Part II of our interview with Donnelly, we asked him to list the highlights of his dozen years in Congress, six both in the House and Senate. All four of his terms found him dealing with momentous change. He was instrumental in lobbying President Obama to rescue the domestic auto industry and, especially, the Chrysler complex in Kokomo that was part of his 2nd CD. He was a constant presence to Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and by mid-2009 Obama helped orchestrate the Chrysler/Fiat merger. 

    As fate would have it, Donnelly defeated Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the 2012 Senate race, with Mourdock’s attempt to derail the merger and forcing a liquidation of Chrysler becoming a factor. Donnelly said that if Mourdock had succeeded, or Obama hadn’t stepped in, Indiana would have faced a depression.

    Donnelly’s other major legislative accomplishments included the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Act and the 2018 Right to Try Act that President Trump signed last fall, allowing people with lethal diseases to try experimental drugs.

    As for the Indiana Democratic Party, Donnelly says he is keeping in touch with key people. But with last year’s defeat, his status as titular head of the party has left a vacuum, with neither U.S. Reps. Andre Carson or Pete Visclosky, or any of the big city Democratic mayors filling that void at this point.

    Finally, we asked Donnelly how Hoosiers should react to the coming report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the Russian collusion investigation. Donnelly was emphatic in his response, saying Americans “are entitled to see this report.”

    Here is Part II of the HPI Interview with Sen. Joe Donnelly that took place Jan. 18 at the University of Notre Dame:

    HPI: Let’s talk about your congressional career.

    Donnelly: I look at how lucky I was to have the chance and I know it sounds like a broken record, but it’s so true – how lucky I am and grateful I am that the people of the 2nd District gave me the chance and then the people of the state for giving me the chance. When I came into office, Iraq and Afghanistan were in flames. When I went there in late June or early July of 2007, we were sitting in a meeting with our U.S. ambassador as mortar shelling was going on into the Green Zone. I remember the U.S. ambassador telling us, “We’re in the safest room in the place.” You’re sitting there talking to him and you’re hearing explosions as we talked about the path ahead. That was right when General Petraeus was beginning the surge and he was explaining it to us. 

    HPI: So you went through those corkscrew landings to fly into Baghdad to avoid the flak?

    Donnelly: Yeah. 

    HPI: What was that like?

    Donnelly: You didn’t want to eat before you left. 

    HPI: What do the Air Force pilots advise – eat bananas because they taste the same going up or down?

    Donnelly: (laughs). I was so privileged. I was in Iraq about five times and Afghanistan about five times with the goal of trying to bring them to honorable conclusions, and we did that in Iraq and I hope we’re doing that in Afghanistan. Almost all of our men and women are home. In my first eight months in office in the House, we lost eight young men, about four times the national average. And every one, you see the families and you see the little kids and dad’s not coming home, not coming in the door to pick them up. It burned in me that we need to get these young men and women home and conclude this honorably. We were able to do that. It didn’t end perfectly, but you felt in your heart what you had to do.

    HPI: With the auto rescue of 2009, what would have happened if Chrysler and GM had liquidated?

    Donnelly: We would have been close to a depression economy in Indiana. There were a lot of people who put a lot of time into that. But if you look at some of the books that were written, I would chase Rahm Emanuel all around Washington because he was President Obama’s chief of staff. I said, “You have to keep Chrysler alive, you have to. I’ve got 5,000 people who are working there.” It went down to about 100. There were 4,900 people who all had mortgages in the same town or just outside the county who had no alternative job opportunities that would have been available in Kokomo. You have everybody saying, “Chrysler is done.” Not only the auto industry, but Chrysler. I begged the president. I would laugh and say, “You know Mr. President, I am not too proud to tell you I am begging you to at least give them a shot. I am not asking you to give them a handout. I am asking you to give them a shot.” Even a lot of the president’s advisers were telling him to kill Chrysler. Rahm in one of the books that was written talks about Chrysler said, “That’s Joe Donnelly’s district.” And the economic adviser would go, “No, no, no, noooo.” And he said, “That’s Joe Donnelly’s district. No. 1, we owe it to the people there and No. 2, give Joe a shot to get this done.” And the president stepped up. It was probably 50/50 at best from his own advisers in a Democratic administration to save Chrysler. And he put on tough restrictions and said “Everybody has to clean up their act, across the board, from management to unions, everyone had to clean up their acts. But I’ll give it a shot.” It went from over 5,000 employed, to 100, and today there are over 9,000 people working there in Kokomo. I am incredibly grateful to the president and his team for having the faith and taking a shot because I knew those people could do it because they are such hard workers and such good people. All they ever asked for was a chance, not a handout, but a chance.

    HPI: Your Obamacare vote was a ballsy vote. But you ran three times after that vote, won reelection to the House, won a Senate seat, and you didn’t lose last November because of Obamacare.

    Donnelly: I did not. In fact, it was a significant net positive this last election.

    HPI: Did it ever get approval of above 50% in Indiana? I know it did nationally in some of the Kaiser polling. 

    Donnelly: I don’t know. But this last election, if three people told me they didn’t like Obamacare, that would be a lot. 

    HPI: You were very passionate about addressing the military suicide issue. 

    Donnelly: My first piece of legislation in the Senate, and it was passed into law, was the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Act – named after an Indiana National Guard member from Farmland, Indiana, who took his life while home on R&R from Afghanistan. The purpose of the legislation was to end military suicide, and the law provided that every service member could have an annual mental-health checkup without any punitive consequences. It is now law and being implemented by every service branch, and they are working very hard to get it right. We wanted every young man and woman in our military to get the help they deserve and might need. We were able to continue improving our veterans’ services, which is a passion of mine. We opened new clinics around the state and saw the larger new VA Health Center in Northern Indiana open its doors to our vets. It is one of the most advanced vet health centers in the country. A similar center to that one will be opened in Terre Haute in the next few years, serving all our vets in West Central and Southwest Indiana. Our veterans’ services covering heath care, job training, and other areas improved each year I was in the Senate. I am still bound and determined to do everything I can in the years ahead to end the scourge of veteran homelessness and suicide. As we all know, one vet struggling is one too many.

    HPI: In the context of the 2018 Senate race, I mentioned President Trump signing the Right to Try Act. Will that be a key part of your legacy?

    Donnelly: The Right to Try legislation was also special. Laura McLinn of Indianapolis, her son Jordan, and their family helped me drive that legislation. I had a great partner in Republican Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, and Marlin Stutzman was a great teammate in the House. All the experts told me we had no chance – where have I heard that before? Ron and I worked day and night to inform our Senate colleagues and pointedly ask for their vote. I also spoke to groups on the House side to try and make sure we had the votes there. Laura and Jordan worked their magic on television, in Washington, and back home in Indiana. When Right to Try was voted on in the Senate, it passed 100 – 0. That’s what hard work and the right cause can do. Today, due to that law, people all around the United States can finally get access to experimental drugs if they have a life threatening disease. It was a great team effort.

    HPI: You served on both the House and Senate agriculture committees. Talk about that.

    Donnelly: I was able to help write three great farm bills while on the ag committee and our nation had 72 consecutive months of job growth while I was in the Senate – more jobs during every single month I was there. I was blessed to have the best staff and team you could dream of. They worked every day to make the lives of Hoosiers better. I followed Senator Lugar in this seat, and he is one of my heroes. I felt an obligation every day to make sure he could be proud of our efforts. I was so lucky to represent the people of Indiana, and to work for this country that I love so much.

    HPI: So, what’s in your future? You’re teaching here at Notre Dame. Is your political career over? How old are you now?

    Donnelly: I am 63. I’m sure you feel as young as I do. I feel like I’m in my 40s. Life gets better every year. The way I try to look at this is, how lucky was I to have had the chance? I don’t know what the future holds. I am very blessed that Notre Dame has given me the chance to teach here. I am working hard to hold my end of the deal up on that. I am cooking dinner occasionally now.

    HPI: So, you’re staying here, living in Granger. I asked you last summer if you’d come back to Indiana after your career was over. Is the campaign RV for sale?

    Donnelly: I’ve got to get it repaired, but it’s not for sale.

    HPI: Are you going to keep it?

    Donnelly: Oh yeah, if I can. I make sure I do all the FEC stuff right. 

    HPI: Would you look at the 2020 governor’s race? There’s not an obvious candidate there.

    Donnelly: I am not looking at any other races.  

    HPI: Would you rule anything out?

    Donnelly: I’m just lucky to have a chance to teach here and I’m trying to get my snow blower going these days. 

    HPI: So you might have seven or eight more years if you work until you’re 70 …

    Donnelly: I love to work. I hope I have the chance…

    HPI: Are you getting business offers?

    Donnelly: I am. I am trying to take it with reasonable time to make sure I make the right decision.

    HPI: What is your message for Indiana Democrats? They are in worse shape than when Evan Bayh surfaced in 1984. I met him when he was campaigning for Wayne Townsend for governor and he was off and running by 1986, but the party still had a presence in many counties. Today, it is only thriving in the big urban counties and college towns. It has been decimated at the county level.

    Donnelly: I am still in touch with a bunch of them. They are such good people. The party is in good financial shape. We always worked hard to make sure we had the party in a place where they didn’t have to worry. All the T’s were crossed and the I’s were dotted. People were getting paid. John Zody is doing an amazing job. We worked hard to make sure it stayed that way. We were on the verge of winning the governorship in 2016. It didn’t happen. We were on the verge of winning my Senate seat and it didn’t happen. People will go, “But you lost.” We did, but if the election were held a week out, we’d probably win both. People may go, “You weren’t that close.” Well, you know what, if we keep working hard, good things will happen. John Zody has helped set the table. We’ve got great leaders in Phil GiaQuinta and Tim Lanane. We’ve got wonderful folks across the state. I want to continue to help build the party. 

    HPI: We could talk for another two hours on President Trump and national security.

    Donnelly: One of my great passions is national security. I taught a class on it today with about 47 students.

    HPI: Did Dan Coats know what Presidents Trump and Putin talked about in Helsinki? You told me last August that he didn’t. Then we saw the presidents hand signaling each other at the G20 and they met alone again, which is bizarre and unprecedented. 

    Donnelly: I didn’t ask Director Coats. I didn’t have the chance. There’s things I can talk about and things I can’t. That obligation continues even after you leave office. I don’t believe anybody knows what was discussed in Helsinki on the American side. Everybody on the Russian side knows.

    HPI: That is stunning to me. 

    Donnelly: It’s not only stunning, it’s scary. 

    HPI: When I bring this up to folks down in Nashville, they don’t really seem to care. Even when I say the Russians are not our friends. They are not allies. It doesn’t bother a lot of Hoosiers, which is really troubling. 

    Donnelly: As we sit here today, one of our friends, Ukraine, is in a position where the Russians might be attacking their navy. The Russians turn it up all the time as far as they possibly can. They are not our friend, they are our enemy. They treat us that way. Something is sideways on what is going on in the administration right now with the Russians. 

    HPI: There is a lot of speculation on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. I hope Congress and the nation get a comprehensive accounting of what happened in 2016 and 2017. Sen. Young had advised me several times to wait for the report and don’t speculate. What would you tell Hoosiers about the next couple of months?

    Donnelly: I would tell them this: We’re American citizens. We’re entitled to see this report. We’re entitled to see what’s going on. I don’t know what it’s going to be. I said from the start, like Todd, he will do it. I don’t know what it’s going to show. It may show the president didn’t do anything. It may show other things. Let him finish his investigation and once he finishes, we’re entitled to see this. I think there’s going to be an effort to try and prevent that from being seen by the American people.

    HPI: If Attorney General Barr attempts to not disclose the report, the House Intelligence Committee can subpoena the report, right?

    Donnelly: My expectation is they would. 
  • Atomic! Young on Trump decree; Trucker shortage; Pete on CNN
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Anderson

    1. Sen. Young gauges emergency declaration

    Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: We caught up with U.S. Sen. Todd Young this morning to find where he stands on President Trump'snational emergency declaration that has lost the support of at least four Republican senators. "I haven't made up my mind with respect to the emergency declaration," Young told reporters at Carter Logistics. "I, of course, want to make sure it is consistent with the law and the constitution."

    Young explained further, "My disposition hasn't changed, informed by my own experience and by knowledge at the situation of the border now. We really do need to act to further secure the southern border. That means not just boots on the ground and investments in technology, but also investments in a physical barrier. Being a U.S. Marine back in the mid-90s, I served in the Yuma sector in Arizona, an area of heavy narco and human trafficking. In the years of George W. Bush a physical barrier was erected and trafficking went down over the next decade by 95%. This didn't used to be an ideological issue. The reason we are here is because Democrats suddenly decided post election they are going to change their position on this."

    HPI asked about the congressional "power of the purse" that could be abrogated by Trump's declaration as well as setting precedence for future presidents to declare emergencies over climate or guns. "Of course I want to protect the power of the purse," Young said. As for precedence, Young explained, "That's what we're looking at. I am going to review every conceivable statute that might be invoked under the emergency powers act. There are potentially over 100 of them. I've asked for that list of statutes from the administration so I should be receiving those in the coming days." The Senate is expected to vote in two weeks.

    2. Truck driver shortage remedy

    Sen. Young was in Anderson to announce revival of the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would allow 18- to 20-year-olds who have trained to drive "interstate" (across state lines). "As our economy continued to grow, this issue has become increasingly serious," Young said, noting that the DRIVE-Safe Act "will help alleviate the driver shortage issue by allowing qualified commercial drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 in interstate commerce." Young said that 48 states already allow this age group to drive "intrastate." Young added, "This means a 20-year-old truck driver can legally drive across Indiana from Mount Vernon from Angola, but they can now drive from Jeffersonville to Louisville, from Lawrenceburg to Cincinnati, from Gary to Chicago. It would remove the costly the burdensome impediment to commerce  by establishing a rigorous apprenticeship program." Indiana Motor Truck Association President Gary Langston added, "It is a common sense approach to one of the most significant issues we have in the trucking industry which is the driver shortage." Langston put the shortage at 50,000 and explained, "It's not just efforts to fill seats, but it is equally focused on our No. 1 focus every day which is safety." He said apprentices "will be in state of the art technology ... and they'll be with the best trained and best recorded safety drivers."

    3. CEOs back hate crime law list

    A letter from more than 20 CEOs is backing Gov. Eric Holcomb on SB12, the hate crime legislation which advanced without listing victim characteristics. “Being on this list is damaging to the state’s image, which in turn is harmful to our businesses and employees,” the letter states. “We face daily global competition for talent, and human capital is vital to our continued success. The bill in its current form is unacceptable, unenforceable and harmful  to the state’s economy.” It is signed by CEOs from Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly and  Co., Salesforce, Old National Bank, Simon Property Group, Anthem Inc., IU Health, Emmis Communications Corp., Roche Diagnostics Corp., Elanco Animal Health, Hulman & Co., Hillenbrand, Corteva Agriscience, NCAA, AT&T Indiana, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, High Alpha, Butler University, Indiana Sports Corp., Indiana Chamber, Indy Chamber and United Way of Central Indiana.

    4. Mayor Pete's CNN town hall

    CNN will broadcast a "town hall" with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9 p.m., Sunday March 10 before a live audience at South by Southwest in Austin, Tex. Other Democratic hopefuls John DeLaney will be on at 7 and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 8.

    5. A spike in violence

    It's been a violent couple weeks in Indiana. Last week, Indiana State Police Trooper Matt Makowski was shot in his Granger home by his 11-year-old son, who is facing an attempted murder charge. Evansville firefighter Robert F. Doerr was killed on Tuesday, with no arrest. And there has been a homicide spike in Gary, where 12 people have been murdered since Jan. 1, with Police Chief Richard Allen appealing to the public for help. 

    Earlier this morning, Donald Trump Jr. spoke at CPAC and was asked whether the Mueller report should be made public. He responded, "Put it all out there."  It's The Atomic!
  • HPI Analysis: Mayor Buttigieg's Indiana angles

    INDIANAPOLIS – The next president of the United States from Indiana was supposed to be a man. He would have a name like Birch, or Richard, Dan, Evan, Mitch or Mike. He would have been at it for a long, long time, with every move over a conspicuous career progression aimed at that ultimate prize of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This proving ground would unfold in the chambers of Congress, or the West Wing, or even the Statehouse second floor.

    There would be Christmas cards from the candidate with the wife and two or three kids. There would be convention keynote addresses at or near primetime, or a State of the Union rebuttal. There would be multiple appearances on “Meet The Press,” “Face The Nation” and “Fox & Friends.” We would be carrying the water for this hopeful, gauging his political instincts, watching his ties to money, fame, Des Moines and Manchester.

    In conjuring the next Hoosier to join William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln or Benjamin Harrison in the pantheon of political greatness, the point of transfixion wasn’t supposed to be on a mayor of a medium-sized city, a gay man with a husband, toiling in an office high above snowy South Bend.

    But that is where we are in this cold, blustery and endlessly unforgiving winter here in the Age of Trump, where I might remind you, anything is possible; anything can happen.

    This is where we find Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg, the 32nd mayor of South Bend, the son of parents from Malta and Scott County, Ind., a Rhodes Scholar, a Naval Reserve intelligence officer, the former globe-trotting consultant for McKinsey & Company.

    We’ve watched national commentators struggle to pronounce his last name, some opting for a simple “Mayor Pete.” When he showed up for a reading of his book, “Shortest Way Home,” at IUPUI last Sunday, a woman noted the soundbite dilemma and suggested a “JFK” or “LBJ” moniker might be more applicable than “Buttigieg.”

    To reduce Mayor Pete to “PPMB” might be flirting with peanut butter-and-jelly marketing that only Don Draper might solve with a simple “just say he’s toasted” mentality, which carries considerable risk on a windswept night in the Hawkeye State.

    “Shortest Way Home” is Mayor Pete’s story in the requisite book needed for a presidential run. He is already defying gravity, forging to No. 11 on the New York Times bestseller list even before hitting the West Coast this week. For a low-tier candidate, Buttigieg is gaining outsized exposure on the network and cable talking head shows. But George, Chuck, Mika and Joe seem impressed, vowing to bring him back should he crack into the upper single digits in the next Register or Union-Leader poll.

    “We were trying to keep our expectations low just because I’m not famous compared to most of the others,” Buttigieg told Howey Politics Indiana last Sunday a few minutes before he took the stage at IUPUI. The Hine Hall auditorium was packed and there was an overflow audience in an adjacent room listening to the audio. “A lot of these early states don’t know me, but the events in these early states have exceeded my expectations in terms of attendance. As I watch the faces rise and fall and the groups I’m speaking to, I can tell a lot of my message, especially the generational message, seems to be resonating.”

    Buttigieg had been a political operative on Jill Long Thompson’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign, then volunteered for U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly. In 2010, Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s attempts to thwart the Chrysler/Fiat merger that could have decimated Kokomo and the state’s sprawling auto-supplier network prompted him to run a long-shot challenge he was destined to lose. A couple of  months later, reacting to a Newsweek story that consigned his hometown of South Bend as a “dying city,” he ran for mayor as a 29-year-old Democrat, but his appeal went beyond his Millennial category, something he’s trying to replicate on the national stage today.

    “Interestingly, the generational message is resonating with multiple generations, which is part of the idea,” Buttigieg explained. “Not to pit one generation against another, but to build an alliance. It’s early. You can tell we are not one of the very famous candidates. We’re definitely getting a lot of visibility over the last 10 days. Profile gets you a look. Once you’ve gotten that look, what keeps people paying attention to you is if you have interesting things to say. I’m hoping our account of what progressive vision of freedom, democracy and security looks like will gain traction. It seems to be resonating well with the groups I’m speaking to. But we need more opportunities to get before more people. It’s a race, literally.”

    Hoosier origins

    The Buttigieg political origins recounted in “Shortest Way Home” take shape across the Indiana landscape, from young Pete’s days as a South Bend schoolboy in the shadows of hulking and crumbling Studebaker plants that were abandoned in 1963, to Mourdock’s attempt to consign Kokomo’s sprawling Chrysler complex to a similar fate, inspiring his decision to challenge him in 2010. There would be a weekend in 2009 at French Lick when Democratic operative Jeff Harris introduced this young, closeted Hoosier with a “Meet Pete” placard invitation.

    By the time Buttigieg entered the French Lick Springs Hotel lobby seeking an office he admitted had been a mystery to him until Mourdock attempted to kill off Chrysler, dozens of Democratic activists were asking, “Who in the hell is Pete?”

    “While I may have been an unfamiliar figure, I convinced people that my business background and education would qualify me to challenge an opponent who had just made a name for himself in the worst way,” Buttigieg writes. It rendered a campaign he embraced, taking him from Region union halls to Evansville’s West Side Nut Club with an array of artery clogging festival food ranging from turkey testicles to cheesey fries to catfish nuggets. “If a dozen Ball State College Democrats were willing to meet, so was I. A church basement in Sullivan or a one-room Farm Bureau office among the mint fields of Starke County would do fine. Over rubber chicken, ham and beans, chili or sweet potato pie, I listened to stories in one town after another coming to terms with the kind of devastation that had ripped through my own city a generation before. It might be the hottest ever race for treasurer, if there was such a thing. All I had to do was quit my job.”

    Describing the state

    Buttigieg describes the Hoosier State: “There is an invisible line that goes on a northeasterly slant across the northern third of our state. North of it, the preferred fair food is pork burgers; south, it’s chicken. Cross another line into the southern third of the state and the fare is typically schnitzel, only you call it a pork tenderloin.”

    Buttigieg’s campaign calendar meshed with the evolution of the 2010 corn planting to harvest, where he channeled Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley: “The stubble in the furries – kindo’ lonesome-like, but still. A-preachin’ sermuns to use of the barns they growed to fill.” 

    And there were those uniquely Hoosier moments, like the filling of a canoe with chicken to break a world record in Brookville, or the man in a sandwich board from Paddy’s Legal Beagle Pub in downtown Indy advertising a $5.99 lunch “speacil,” with the candidate introduction interrupted when the man said, “I’m not big on elections, I’m a monarchist myself.” His preferred candidate was Jesus Christ.

    Mourdock would defeat Buttigieg, a prelude to his rise big enough to defeat U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary two years later. “The very first time I put my name on the ballot for office, fully one million people had voted for the other guy,” Buttigieg notes. “I had received a priceless if humbling course of education, a fitting conclusion to a decade of learning” that had taken him from St. Josephs HS, to Harvard, to Oxford, the seaboards and places like Dubai, and back home again to Indiana.

    Ten weeks later, Newsweek would name South Bend No. 8 in a story titled “America’s Dying Cities,” explaining: “What is particularly troubling for this small city is that the number of young people declined 2.5% during the previous decade, casting further doubt on whether this city will ever be able to recover.” Buttigieg notes: “I had just turned 29.” The river city reaction on Facebook was one of doom and gloom, except for one classmate, who said, “If you live here, quit complaining and do something to fix this town.”

    Running for mayor

    Not long after that, four-term Mayor Steve Luecke announced he would retire. Buttigieg found a TV crew on his front door step asking if he would run. He begged off, but found support in boyhood friend Mike Schmuhl, who had run U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly’s tough reelection victory in 2010. With others encouraging a run, Buttigieg sought out two people for advice: Former Gov. Joe Kernan and St. Joseph County Democratic Chairman Butch Morgan. 

    Meeting Kernan at the gritty Joe’s Tavern where we learn the former mayor and governor doesn’t tolerate soggy green peppers on his pizza, Buttigieg writes, “After I worked up the nerve to ask him whether he thought it made sense for me to run for mayor, he stared at his basket of french fries in silence for several seconds before taking a breath and saying, ‘So much, in politics, is outside of your control.’ He didn’t tell me I should or shouldn’t, but described his love of the city and of the job. In fact he said, ‘It’s the best job I ever had.’”

    As for Morgan, Buttigieg writes of this vetting: “Butch had been very encouraging during my race for treasurer. But now, from behind his heaped desk, Butch affably made it clear that he was not going to support me for mayor if I got in. ‘I’m concerned about your age,’ he began, before ticking off a number of other reasons why he didn’t think I was the right pick. And Butch had done his homework on the local landscape to see where I might get support. At one point, I mistakenly told him I had a shot at earning the backing of Karl King, the influential author of the ‘Benchmarking South Bend’ study, whom I had come to think of as a mentor. Butch called Karl on the spot, and on that indestructible speakerphone, got Karl to make it clear he was backing (Mike) Hamann, while I looked on awkwardly.”

    Buttigieg quickly realized his dilemma, which was the potential of losing two races in the span of 12 months. “Lose twice in less than a year and you’re probably done with politics, at least for awhile. But this was home. I cared about this race even more than I had cared about Chrysler when I challenged Mourdock.”

    He said the reason was clear: “The city’s needs matched what I had to offer. The city was fearful of losing its educated youth, and I was a young person who had chosen to come home and could encourage others to do the same. Its politics were mired in the struggle between two factions of the Democratic Party, each with its own candidate in the race. I belonged to no faction and could arrive without strings attached. And the administration struggled to generate economic growth and maintain confidence in the business community, I had a professional background in economic development and was fluent in the language of business – even while having fought and bled politically for organized labor in the auto industry. This didn’t just feel like an opportunity; it felt like a calling.

    “On Saturday Jan. 29, 2011, about a week after that Newsweek article said South Bend was dying, I officially announced I was a candidate for mayor. With neither the Dvorak family nor the local party organization behind us, it was vital that we pack the room in order to show that this was kicking off a serious campaign. By the time I took the podium, the windows facing Main Street were fogged up with the breath of over a hundred supporters.” Citing the Newsweek article, Buttigieg declared, “This is not an occasion for denial, it is a call to action.” 

    It would essentially be a three-way race between State Rep. Ryan Dvorak and Mike Hamann along with two other obscure candidates. A poll weeks later showed the race tied with Buttigieg and Dvorak around 30%, and Hamann in low double-digits. “I watched the energy of my campaign change from that of a lonely project to something resembling a movement. By mid-April, there were a dozen staff members, mostly focused on organizing our volunteers.” What followed was a TV attack ad from Dvorak, with the author noting, “My campaign staff was almost gleeful that we were doing well enough to be worth attacking on television. Rather than respond in kind, I decided to stick to our plan, focus on the economy and stay positive.”

    Just after the polls closed, Buttigieg went home, climbed out of an attic window “on to a small balcony overlooking the river, when the phone rang. Dvorak was politely conceding and pledged his help in the general election. Soon Hamann called to do the same.” In seven months, after a general with just token GOP opposition, it would really be “Mayor Pete.”

    Four years later, Buttigieg would be reelected with 80% of the vote. The years 2012 through 2015 would be transformative: He would serve as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer in the Afghanistan war zone in 2014, sometimes conducting skyped meetings with South Bend officials from the other side of the globe. In 2015, he would become the highest-profile Hoosier politician to come out of the closet. By 2017, he would launch his national profile, running for Democratic National Committee chair, picking up support from the likes of former chairs Howard Dean and Ed Rendell and the accolades of people like David Axelrod. In 2018, he would marry his husband, Chasten, and then hold a meeting with former President Barack Obama about a 2020 presidential run.

    He said the political change has been one where the “belief in our city is woven into the DNA. The chance to make impact in a city like ours is enormous. The way to our hearts is not nostalgia, but are we ready for the future?”

    While critical of the current vice president, Buttigieg also lauded Gov. Mike Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative. “What they did was they set up common goals. It was available to communities only if they partnered regionally,” he explained. “They didn’t even slice up the state in nine blocks. They said, ‘You figure out what your region is and come up with a plan that shows you know how to share and then come to us. The reason this is so important is we have to get out of the model of old economic development where neighbors fought the next county over.” He said South Bend shouldn’t be stealing jobs from Elkhart, calling it “crazy,” adding that South Bend and Elkhart need to be competing together against regions in China.

    Mayors and issues

    Mayors face a pockmarked range of policy on everything from homicide rates to filling potholes. Asked by an IUPUI student how he took on a murder rate that in 2015 was 29th highest in the nation, with 17 homicides (rating at 16.69 per 1,000 people). In 2016, it stood at 21 and in 2016, at 16. Buttigieg said it declined “into single digits” in 2018. 

    He explained at IUPUI, “Gun violence starts with a shockingly small group of people ... you can find connections with those people, almost all of them young, almost all of them men. With today’s social network technology, you can literally figure out who is friends with who, who respects who, who listens to who. We can kind of predict who those 200 people are in a 100,000 (person) city, who are most likely to shoot somebody. We literally bring them into a room ... we basically we say we need you alive, safe and out of jail. Here’s what will happen if you let us guide you to social services. Here’s what will happen if you are associated with the next homicide in the city.”

    Buttigieg added that, “Let’s be honest, I’m governing in a red state and while I believe in our strategy, it feels like I’m fighting with one hand tied behind my back.” He noted a conversation with the mayor of New Haven, Conn., who also had seen a decline in murders, due in part “to common sense gun laws” passed by the state in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre. Buttigieg talked about “getting that phone call” after each homicide, and “swearing in police officers with their spouse at their side,” adding, “I don’t want our officers out-gunned on the streets.” He added that he carried “weapons of war” while serving in Afghanistan “on the orders of the U.S. president,” concluding, “There are some weapons that do not have a place on American neighborhood streets.”

    Buttigieg was asked about mayoral leadership attributes. “I heard a comment once that leaders make themselves vulnerable. When I asked a little more about what motivated that comment, the person who said it, Martin O’Malley, the legendary mayor of Baltimore ... it wasn’t talking about talking about your feelings, it was about data actually. You can share with the public how you’re doing and when you do that it creates a healthy pressure on yourself. 

    “We had so many vacant houses in South Bend, nobody could tell me how many we had,” he explained. “We started methodically analyzing data. There was a goal almost childlike in its simplicity: I went out there and said, ‘We’re going to (raze) a thousand houses in a thousand days.’ To be honest, I didn’t know completely how we were going to get it done. The moment I did that, I had a political sword dangling over my head. We put up a website where you could see how many houses we’d done. At Day 500, we’re way behind. Everybody knows it. I know it. Everybody on my staff knows it. It created the political will and the propulsion to make it a priority. So when Day 1,000 did arrive, we were at 1,122.” 

    “We don’t know how we’re going to get to those goals,” Buttigieg said while noting the Green New Deal, which he supports as a concept. “What we do know is the best year to reach those goals was ... yesterday. We’ve got to have a plan, not enough time and then race to meet that goal.”

    He added that being mayor requires “humility,” where a major initiative attracting national attention can be usurped by potholes. “We don’t have ‘alternative facts’ in local government,” Buttigieg said. He added that it is “important to have people in the office who have respect for that office.”

    On the national Democratic Medicare-for-all proposal, Buttigieg said it is important to define the framework of what that means, and explained, “The flavor I would prefer would be to take a version of Medicare and make it available on the exchanges for people to buy in as a sort of public option. If we did that right and use the purchasing power of CMS to drive down medical costs, it should be the most respected and preferred choice.” 

    Breaking the mold in the Trump era

    Presidential candidacies have been mostly by straight, older, mostly male and white people who have been senators, governors or generals. Donald Trump ignited a new formula, showing that someone outside that scope could become president. Whether Trump completely shattered the mold of presidential origins remains to be seen. But you can make the case that President Trump may have made a serious presidential candidacy by someone named Pete Buttigieg fathomable, whereas four years ago he would have been relegated to the gadfly category occupied in the past by the Sam Yortys, Alan Keyes and Herman Cains of the world.

    Mayor Pete’s South Bend story will be the thrust of his candidacy. Should he gain traction, the fact that he is gay is a category that will eventually fade into subtext the way Obama’s race or Hillary Clinton’s gender did in 2008 or 2016, or even Donald Trump’s lack of government pedigree. It will be policy, direction and rhetoric that will bring legitimacy.

    He notes in “Shortest Way Home” that by the time South Bend celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015, “progress was palpable,” adding, “I could say with a straight face that our city was experiencing not just a comeback, but something akin to a miracle.”

    Census numbers showed population increases after decades of contraction. He had once pondered blowing up the empty 25-story Chase Tower, but there’s a new owner, $30 million in investment and a new hotel there. There is a new owner of the vacated College Football Hall of Fame and another hotel going in there. Downtown investment is now at an estimated $90 million and there’s wi-fi across the city core. There’s a new owner for the South Bend Cubs baseball franchise and a renovated stadium. There’s a “smart streets” initiative. More than a thousand vacant homes have been razed. The Studebaker complex ruins are now occupied by data-hosting and analytics firms and a high-tech laboratory for turbomachinery research, drawing in aerospace companies.

    Buttigieg said that his exploratory mode will take some time. “You’ll probably see a longer runway for us than most,” he told HPI. “It’s because I want to make sure a launch event is done right. When you don’t have the same kind of fundraiser base as say, a coastal senator, you have to really methodically put the resources together to do that. Certainly all signs are pointing to an early spring launch. But it’s not going to be one of those 10 days of exploratory and then guns come out a-blazing.”
  • Statehouse: Shiny objects at General Assembly midway

    INDIANAPOLIS – If there’s a bright, shiny object in the General Assembly at the midway point, it is one that has been fashioned with red and black spray paint. It occurred at a Carmel synagogue last summer and resulted in the arrest of two western Indiana men.

    But it changed the dynamic on whether Indiana should have a hate crimes law, prompting Gov. Eric Holcomb to make it a priority, as Indiana is one of only five states without one. “It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s long overdue,” Holcomb said in December, vowing to be a vocal proponent. “I’m convinced the overwhelming majority of Hoosiers feel the same way.” 

    He’s correct on the “overwhelming majority of Hoosiers” aspect, with a Realtors Poll in December showing 73% back such a law. But that’s not the majority that matters; it’s the 40 Republicans in the Senate and 67 in the House, and they are balking at the so-called “list” that was deleted from SB12 last week. Of the 45 states with hate crime laws, only Utah has one sans a list.

    The Republican governor now at odds with his legislative super majorities offered another way: Use federal code language and place it in the sentencing phase of hate crimes. Holcomb provided a history lesson: “There are folks that just are against a list. I disagree, respectfully. We have all kinds of lists. We just passed a lot of bills with lists. We have a list in the 1st Amendment.; we have 27 amendments. We have a list in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We have ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ and I will be happier when we have this list, as well. 

    “When I say that we’ve already got something that’s right in front of us, what I’m referring to is what’s already in federal law, and I will get you all the exact language and I will read it to you so that you have every word. 

    The governor then read: “Under federal law, criminal acts committed because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or because the person was engaged in a federally protected activity (voting, jury service, etc.) can be charged as hate crimes.’ This applies right now in the State of Indiana, and what I would suggest is that we take that exact language. And what is important about this is that where it is placed in state law; let’s say that we place this in the sentencing phase, not the reporting phase where we already have language, not in terms of the policing efforts, but in terms of the sentencing, what is in front of a judge. And this, ladies and gentlemen, I would submit to you will get us off the list.”

    How vocal will Gov. Holcomb get on this issue? That remains to be seen. Meeting with reporters Wednesday morning, Holcomb said, “I want a list. I want to get away from the vagueness. I’m going to spend the next two months encouraging the public... not to stop with me, not to just write me, they’ve got my vote, but they need to contact the legislators that vote.”

    That suggests a good, old-fashioned barnstorming tour where a governor goes directly to the people to make the case, encouraging folks to call or write their legislators. Over the years, Hoosier governors have opted for an array of methods to move recalcitrant legislators. Gov. Robert Orr used to keep a photo of a road grader in his desk drawer and would show it to stubborn legislators, asking something along the lines of “Do you want to see one of these in your district?” Gov. Evan Bayh vowed to stimulate the “white-hot heat of public opinion.” Gov. Mitch Daniels built a reputation in the halls of an alpha governor who could inflict pain, and he once branded House Democratic leader B. Patrick Bauer as a “car bomber” after the latter tried to deny a legislative quorum.

    Holcomb is in a different spot from them all. He has Republican super majorities, whereas Bayh had a 50/50 House to deal with in several sessions and Daniels lost control of the House for four years in the middle of his two terms. So, Holcomb is writing new chapters as these super majorities extend into an unprecedented time span. During his first two sessions, the controversies were limited, allowing all to sing, “We are the world.” Does the governor now cajole? Threaten? Brandish both carrots and sticks? Seek that federal compromise?

    With much of the rest of his agenda flowing nicely and with only the teacher pay issue posing as a possible ointment insect, how he handles this spray-painted shiny object could be the story of the final two months of the session.

    Would Holcomb use the veto? “It’s too early for the v-word,” he said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” The problem there is that the super majorities can easily override a gubernatorial veto, and that would be embarrassing.

    Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, steering through his first controversy at the helm, was asked about a veto. “We haven’t had that conversation at all,” Bray responded. Bray’s reasoning was this: “To become a victim simply because of your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, is repugnant and it’s wrong, and we need legislation that’ll help to prevent that. That’s the intent of Senate Bill 12.”

    What will the Senate do if the House somehow returns to the list? 

    “The bill’s continuing to move, we’re continuing to work on it, we’ll continue to have these conversations and I fully expect that the bill will change as it goes over to the House,” Bray said. “Like so much other legislation, when it comes back to us we’ll begin to debate again. We’re going to continue to listen to people and their concerns and what they think this bill ought to look like by the end of the session.”

    SB12 is in Speaker Brian Bosma’s court beginning next month. Bosma explained, “I’m still in favor of Rep. (Greg) Steurwald’s approach. The bill is coming to Rep. Steurwald and Rep. (Tony) Cook. Our leadership team will be working with them to try to formulate a position that is satisfactory to the majority of our caucus. And it’s my goal to pass a bias crime statute to get us off the list without a list, and I think that can be done.”

    So, the House speaker thinks the list won’t happen? “Well, I think the Senate made their desire in this regard abundantly clear by an overwhelming majority,” Bosma explained. “So, I’d say it’d be very difficult to come back from here.”

    Do you think the governor will sign a bill with no list? “I have not asked him that question yet,” Bosma said. “It’s a little early for that kind of discussion. I’ve shared with him on numerous occasions the bill that our team put together and he has not spoken disfavorably about it, although I know he would prefer a list. So, we can see where the magic of the legislative process can help us land.”

    Bosma is not concerned that the hate crime showdown could result in a RFRA redux. “This is an entirely different circumstance,” Bosma said. “This isn’t taking an action that people can characterize as discriminatory. It’s more of maintaining a status quo. I really don’t see the same impact. We’ve also seen the growth in convention business here, which was one of the big concerns during the RFRA debate with conventions pulling out. We just landed the longest and largest convention commitment of any state in the nation in history. So, we are a welcoming state, there are those who want to depict it otherwise, I think that’s a mistake. But we’ll see if we can solve this element and move forward.”

    No one hopes for this, no one wants it, but there’s always the potential for a new hate crime so egregious that it reshapes public opinion and political will within hours or days, just as the Carmel incident did last summer. That’s the risk for the conservative wings of the House and Senate. Another synagogue swastika, a fired church, or a beaten or murdered minority Hoosier can change the dynamic. 

    Teacher pay

    The other big issue is teacher pay. Gov. Holcomb is still banking on his team’s innovative plan to pay off the Teacher Retirement Fund, which would free up money for local school boards no longer covering that payment. “I’d like to see 100% of that go to teachers,” he said. 

    Just as he did last December, Holcomb wants time to fully study the issue and come up with a comprehensive and “systemic” solution. In unveiling his agenda late last year, he conjured a scenario where moving one part of the equation can have adverse impacts in other areas if not properly vetted. “We’re looking at recommendations that systemically would address, really, cultural changes that would occur from the local level’s authority,” Holcomb explained. “Which I favor, by the way. Short term, I put forward a 2-plus-2% increase to the schools with the authority, obviously, to get that to teacher paychecks.” 

    While Holcomb engaged the Indiana State Teachers Association last summer, and its President Theresa Meredith seemed on board with the multi-cycle comprehensive approach, that changed in January when she suggested job actions and other pressure points. The problem for the ISTA and the tiny Democratic caucuses is that they have so little clout. That’s why Holcomb has come up with the 2% sugar highs in the short term, while seeking a long-term solution and pushing it through in 2020, when he seeks a second term.

    Bray is on board, explaining, “Having the legislature tell school districts exactly what you need to pay teachers has been problematic, so we’re trying to come up with other creative ways to help. I think it’s a good start. Absolutely, we’re going to take a look at that. It helps make the whole conversation a little more transparent and it helps school boards and school districts kind of take a very close look at that.”

    Bray added, “We need to also continue to look here in state at things, responsibilities or obligations that we have put on schools over the years that we might be able to free up.”
    Casino move

    The Senate easily passed legislation that would allow sports betting while moving Gary’s casinos to the Borman Expressway and, perhaps, Terre Haute. There is wide support for that which will free up Gary’s Buffington Harbor for a lucrative intermodal port.

    Bosma said he considered the legislation as a “major expansion of gaming,” which is a warning sign. Bray seemed more comfortable, saying, “If you take the sports wagering this would have to be (an expansion).” As for the casino move, Bray said, “It technically is not. We’re not putting out any new license and we’re not saying there are extra tables that are going to be allowed for casinos to use.”

    As for Gov. Holcomb, he explained, “I’ll need to take a deep dive into all the details because of how the conversation has expanded and what’s included.” On the “expansion” concern, the governor said, “We need to be very mindful of that.”


    The Senate demurred on redistricting reform that would include an independent commission, as Democrats have advocated. Bosma has favored that approach and even authored bills in past sessions to that effect, but he’s not “Speaker Brian Sisyphus” and seems unwilling to haul that boulder across the rotunda only have to chase it down the hill.  Gov. Holcomb was asked about the redistricting issue and said, “We need to hold those responsible for drawing the lines accountable, and they have been, to date.” For the latent Hoosier Democrats, the GOP bullies are kicking beach sand in their faces. If they’re going to get back in the game in 2022 or beyond, they’re going to have to do it with Republican-forged maps. File this one under: Elections have consequences. So do super majorities.
  • Atomic! LiarsFest; Young, Braun's vote; Gov's midway agenda
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. LiarsFest on Capitol Hill

    Here are your hump day power lunch talking points: Today is LiarsFest on Capitol Hill. Convicted liar Michael Cohen is appearing before the House Oversight Committee at this writing. He’s already lied under oath before Congress. He was President Trump’s long-time fixer/attorney and, according to the Washington Post, Trump had lied or told half truths 8,158 times as of Jan. 21. He’s surrounded him with an array of people who have lied. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings acknowledged Cohen's problem with the truth. “I will be the first one to refer those untruthful statements to DOJ,” the chairman said. “He has a lot to lose if he lies.” Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan lashed out before Cohen testified, telling Chairman Cummings, "The first announced witness of the 116th Congress is Michael Cohen, who lied to Congress. It's the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back as a star witness. You have stacked the deck against the truth. Mr. Chairman, we are better than this." Cummings then swore Cohen in, asking if he would say "nothing but the truth, the whole truth?" Cohen answered in the affirmative. So help us, God.

    Cohen, who heads to federal prison for three years in May, paints President Trump as acting criminally while in office while being an overt racist. Cohen said, "I have lied, but I am not a liar. I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is." Cohen added of Trump, "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking withJulian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a 'shithole.' This was when Barack Obama was President. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid." Whew.

    2. Trump's emergency declaration 

    The U.S. House voted to block President Trump's emergency declaration, with the Indiana delegating voting along party lines. That might not happen in the Senate, where both U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun have expressed reservations about the declaration. Young spokesman told HPI he is "undecided." When Vice President Pence lobbied the Senate for support at the weekly Tuesday lunch, he found what Politico called "a wall of resistance." Said one GOP senator: “I didn’t think his argument was very good. ‘We’ve got a crisis, that means the president can do this.’ That’s essentially the argument.”  

    3. General Assembly at midway

    Back to sanity ... the Indiana General Assembly is at mid-point. The biennial budget passed the House and the Senate advanced gaming bills that would allow sports betting and the move of Gary's two casinos to the Borman Expressway and very possibly to Terre Haute. An independent redistricting commission looks to be a dead issue. Gov. Eric Holcomb's priorities that appear to be in good shape are funding for school safety and close to $300 million for the troubled Department of Child Services. But the hate crimes bill is in precarious shape and it will be interesting to see how Holcomb addresses that issue at an 11 a.m. press conference.

    4. Ignatius to give ISU Khashoggi address

    Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius will be the inaugural speaker in an annual address honoring slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a 1983 alumnus of Indiana State University, according to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Ignatius’ talk, “How to fix the world: The future of foreign policy,” is set for 7 p.m. April 2 in Tilson Auditorium on the Indiana State campus. The event is free and open to the public. “Jamal represented the dream that many millions of Arabs have for a more open society and a journalism that tells the truth,” Ignatius said. 

    5. A break for Mayor Freeman-Wilson

    Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson got a break on Tuesday when the Lake County Election Board bounced Jerry "Freeman" Wilson off the May primary ballot. The reason: JFW is a convicted felon, according to the NWI Times, and those folks are barred from seeking office. Last week, JFW won the ballot lottery that would have put him first on the ballot.

    We still value the truth here, folks. It's The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Trump/Pence abroad; Deadline days; ISU to honor Khashoggi
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY and JACOB CURRY, in Indianapolis

    1. Trump, Pence fanning out across the globe

    Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: President Trump is headed to Vietnam for his second summit with North Korea despot Kim Jong UnVice President Pence is wheels up for Colombia (after spending part of the weekend in Columbus, Ind.) where he will anoint Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Of the two trips, Pence seems to be on better terra firma. Speaking in Bogata, Pence is expected to profess "unwavering support" for Guaidó as the U.S. seeks to pressure strongman Maduro to exit.

    The Trump/Kim summit is trickier. Last September, Trump (literally) professed his "love" for the dictator known to kill his political opponents with flamethrowers, artillery and chemicals. "He's got a great personality," Trump said, "He's a funny guy" (quick, someone cue up Joe Pesci from "Goodfellas." Trump: "He's very smart. He's a great negotiator. He loves his people.” Trump appears to be angling for a Nobel Peace Prize (the administration asked Japan to nominate him) and intel officials are worried, with NBC  reporting: “One of the worst possible outcomes is he makes some crazy deal pledging to withdraw U.S. troops for a vague promise of denuclearization," said one former senior U.S. official.”

    2. President delays tariffs

    Citing progress on trade talks with China, President Trump has delayed the increasing tariffs from 10 to 25% after imposing previous deadlines in January and then March 1. On the face of it, this is good news for Hoosier farmers and industrialists. Trump hopes he can swing a final deal when President Xi comes for a summit in Mar-A-Lago this spring. Our concern on the tariff front is that the later deadline means Hoosier farmers will enter their planting season with no idea on what the markets will be like at harvest. They've got considerable faith that Trump has their backs. 

    3. Trump approval at 48% in Indiana 

    A Gallup poll of 1,575 respondents shows President Trump's approval in Indiana stands at 48%, while 47% disapprove. His job approval rating varied widely across the U.S. states in 2018, with 17 states giving him ratings of 50% or higher, and 16 states giving him ratings below 40%. The states most approving of Trump were generally in the South and Mountain West areas of the country, while he fared most poorly in New England and on the West Coast. 

    4. Deadlines in General Assembly

    Today is the last day for bills in the Indiana House to go up for third reading, and they’ve got just 12 to hear. One of those is the budget bill, which underwent a lengthy second reading Thursday afternoon as some two dozen Democrat amendments were shot down by the GOP majority. Another thing to watch on the agenda is a firearms bill, HB1643 authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz. The bill increases the duration of an Indiana handgun license from four years to five and requires law enforcement to conduct a background check consulting local, state, and federal criminal history data banks during the license application process. Moreover, it allows legal firearm possession on school properties provided that the person works at a place of worship on the property or is attending a service. The Senate has both today and Tuesday to clear its schedule, which contains 52 bills on second reading and 25 on third reading. The big gaming bills which would move Gary's casino are likely to be merged. There’s also SB246, which would require all referenda to take place during general elections only (or municipal general elections of applying solely to the municipality).

    5. ISU to honor Khashoggi

    Indiana State University will be honoring slain Washington Post  columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The school announced last Friday it is creating an annual address in his honor. "Jamal Khashoggi cannot be forgotten," said ISU Spokesperson Libby Roerig. "And, as a university, we value journalism as a foundation for our democracy." Khashoggi attended ISU from 1977 to 1982 and has a business administration degree from the university. He was murdered on orders from the Saudi Arabian government last October.

    Have a great week, folks. It's The Atomic!
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