September 17, 2018
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Kavanaugh allegation & denial

Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Our first reaction to the anonymous high school era accusations leveled at Judge Brett Kavanaughwas akin to an assertion by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the notion of “youthful indiscretions”  providing a scandal shelf life. Lord help many of us if we had to answer various prep and collegiate behaviors in a by-gone era as society has evolved. Over the weekend the accusation, with all three principle characters allegedly wasted at the time or keeping the allegations silent for four decades, seemed difficult to validate. But withChristine Blasey Ford stepping forward and describing the assault and willing to testify at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, this case may take as extreme of a twist as we saw with the Hastert legacy (he served 13 months for a sexually related bank fraud conviction dating back to when he was a high school wrestling coach and then a blackmail attempt).

In a Washington Post interview, Ford alleged that in a summer house party in the 1980s, with Kavanaugh and a friend “stumbling drunk,” while his friend watched, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth. So the drama plays out in wild fashion, with a Judiciary Committee vote on Kavanaugh scheduled for Thursday. Kavanaugh said this morning he was willing to testify on the matter, adding: “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday." So this has the makings of a Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill showdown, possibly this week. 

All eyes are on Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, seen as the most likely dissenters on Kavanaugh due to Roe v. Wade, and out-going mavericks Jeff Flake (who called for Ford’s testimony to be heard), along with Bob Corker, who called for a delay of the committee vote. Collins said she was “very surprised" by the accusation, but, "I don't know enough to create the judgment at this point.”

2. Jam the Kavanaugh nod through

There was speculation this morning that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has spent his leadership career hoping to steer SCOTUS to the right, will jam the Kavanaugh confirmation through no matter what. That’s our bet (and we can guess Merrick Garland would probably agree). But it could come at a political cost as Senate Republicans are watching female suburban voters flee the party. Fox and NBC/Marist polls have the Indiana Senate race as a pure tossup, while new CBS Polls in Missouri and Montana, once likely GOP pickups, as tossups. Could the Kavanaugh allegations, on top of President Trump’s horndog behavior and the immigrant border separations become another bridge way, way too far for that vital voting bloc?

3. Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton ad

Sen. Joe Donnelly’s campaign is airing an ad on his authoring the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act. It’s a move designed to further sway that female bloc of voters. The ad features Sexton’s parents, Jeff and Barb Sexton of Farmland, who lost their son, Army Spec. Jacob Sexton, in 2009 when he shot himself in a Muncie movie theater during a 15-day leave from his Indiana National Guard unit in Afghanistan. Sexton’s father talks in the ad about his son’s death and praises Donnelly for the legislation that requires the U.S. military to keep mental health records of soldiers. Barb Sexton can be seen saying that she wears her Gold Star “above the heart.” 

4. President Trump’s legal peril grows

When Paul Manafort copped a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday, President Trump is finding many of his top friends and allies all flippers  these days. That tends to happen when “loyalty” is simply a one-way street. It’s a big deal, according to a number of legal experts ranging from Kenneth Starr and Alan Dershowitz (a Trump ally) to Norman Eisen. Manafort  joins a flipper list that includes former attorney/fixerMichael Cohen, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, and publisher David Pecker. Starr called it a “very significant breakthrough”  on ABC’sThis Week. Dershowitz was on Meet the Press  and called it a “big win”  and a “big get” for Mueller. Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics counsel, flatly predicted that President Trump wouldn't "survive" Manafort's testimony.

5. Task Force 1’s 100 rescues

With at least 17 dead in the Carolinas due to Hurricane Florence, Indiana’s famed Task Force 1 has made over 100 water rescues  in New Hanover County, N.C. WIBC  reports the force’s spokesman Mike Pruitt saying, "It was one of the scariest sites I have seen in my 35 years in public safety. Hoosiers should be extremely proud of this team as they approached the flooding with great professionalism and skill and went back into the flooded neighborhoods time after time, pulling the elderly, children, parents, dogs and cats from a very grave situation.” Yes, Hoosiers are proud  of this special task force.

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