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Thursday, March 23, 2017
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  • FORT WAYNE – As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised change, just as his predecessor Barack Obama had done. People generally want someone to blame for their problems, and we all choose different targets. I, for example, prefer to blame liberals. “Draining the swamp” in a non-Washington context has historically meant the draining of swamps to control mosquito populations to combat malaria. Ronald Reagan is often credited with using the term in the political way to refer to the concentration of power in Washington, thus combining the historical swampy conditions of the governmental area of original Washington and likening the overuse of power to malaria. But he was not the first to do so.  Winfield Gaylord, a Milwaukee socialist politician, wrote in 1903: “Socialists are not satisfied with killing a few of the mosquitoes which come from the capitalist swamp, they want to drain the swamp.”  Fellow socialist, journalist and politician Victor Berger of Milwaukee wrote in his Berger’s Broadsides (1912): “We should have to drain the swamp – change the capitalist system – if we want to get rid of those mosquitoes.” Hoosier socialist Eugene Debs credits Berger, the first Socialist member of Congress, with recruiting him to socialism.  Neither Reagan nor our current president meant draining the nation of capitalism. The problem with such aggressive attacks on the “establishment” is that the slope to the “swamp” becoming the institutions of our nation – a republic, capitalism – is very slippery.
  • FORT WAYNE – Earlier this week, I went to the license bureau. Back when mastodons roamed our state, (before Mitch Daniels became governor) it was a miserable experience. Generally, now I do it on-line and even on a crowded Tuesday morning it is about like a grocery store on a Saturday.  When Mitch took over the state government with radical plans to run it like a business, he quickly became “Ditch Mitch.” His popularity dropped to incredibly low levels. The Democrats perceived a bright political future that could recapture Indiana, going back to making it great again. Gov. Daniels brought in people not trained to go slow. They thought “tactful” meant taking people who resisted change and using tacks to pin them on the wall. After suffering through nasty publicity which impacted his strategy somewhere between zero and zero percent, he emerged after eight years as “Saint Mitch.”  When Mike Pence became governor, he was in a difficult position.
  • FORT WAYNE – Winning an election is one thing; winning political legitimacy is another. The current debate about crowd sizes, popular versus electoral vote, and fake news all revolve another equally salient point: Elections in America are anchored on Election Day results but that is just the start of a continual battle for “political legitimacy.”  This process will continue during an entire administration, but the first stages are the most important in establishing basic legitimacy: Election Day and debate about the results, transition, and inauguration and the first 100 days. When Trump raised doubts as to whether he’d accept the election results, the media went apoplectic and the Democrats mocked him. Trump won, and then many on the left refused to accept the results, challenging them way past any legitimate concerns about fraud. Fair observers realized that this unwillingness to accept the election totals was a fundamental challenge of the integrity of the voting process.
        
  • FORT WAYNE – When I proposed to Diane back in 1974, I told her that life with me would not be boring. That it was not. (I also said I wouldn’t run for political office but I failed in a few other things as well.) When Mitch Daniels first discussed with me that he was going to run for governor, I raised some political concerns about his big city slicker and corporate background. His response was that he was going to “out small town me.” You know, he said, I come from a small town too. I asked how big. He said something over 10,000 people. I snorted, “That’s a big city.” Of course, Mitch (the populist first name), went RV’ing to every burg in the state, lost all his suits and ties, and even used populist green as his color as opposed to the ubiquitous Republican red, white and blue. I was impressed. My hometown of Grabill had under 500 residents and couldn’t grow much because it was surrounded by Old Order Amish farms (not the liberal Amish with a top on their buggy).  A friend unfairly described the church I grew up in as being founded by a group of men who gathered together, made a list of everything fun in life, wrote “NO” across the top, and then said “now we have the foundation for our church.” When Mitch Daniels was elected governor, Indiana government was rather antiquated.  License bureau jokes have disappeared from our lexicons.
  • FORT WAYNE – When emptying out the basement of my Mom’s house after she died, we found a partially rotted chest of items meant to help our family survive a Russian nuclear attack.  It was from the 1960s, a period when all sides took Russia seriously. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan had the temerity to call the Soviet Union the “evil empire.”  Liberals back then were upset that Reagan had such hostile views. In fact, Democrats and liberals in general were rather Trumpian about Russia. They wanted closer trade ties, more exchanges, and closer cooperation with Russia, not saber-rattling opposition. Current liberal protestations have the “I’m shocked, shocked” resonance of the scene in Casablanca. Democrat electors requesting CIA briefings illustrate precisely why the people in Trump orbit have discredited the CIA.  Democrats have turned it into a branch of the DNC. Do Democrats who blame alleged Russian email leaks for Hillary Clinton’s defeat realize how ridiculous they sound? Hillary Clinton, in spite of warnings, set up an email server to get around the official system. She not only exposed her political emails but also classified material to being hacked. Then, while under subpoena to turn her e-mails over to Congress, she brazenly destroyed thousands of them. The Clinton campaign and its supporters have no ethical standing to complain. Zero.
  • FORT WAYNE – A generation ago, as the recently elected chairman of the Indiana College Republican Federation, I was included in a small birthday celebration in the lieutenant governor’s office for the incumbent Richard Folz. I recall Folz, possibly puffing a cigar, talking in glowing terms about how much he missed looking out on the beautiful Ohio River. Our family vacations consisted of going to north into the land of the sky-blue waters, so I hadn’t really considered brown water as being that attractive before, which is why it stuck in my memory. Then there was Seth Denbo. That year I spent a fair amount of time around him for a kid from northern Indiana. Being around him was like living in the books I read about political bosses.  As the Republican southern boss in Indiana, Denbo was there for Folz’s birthday lunch.  I’m not actually certain who told me to read “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics,” but I prefer to think it was Denbo. Regardless of who did, Denbo and the others took the time to explain to me, the newcomer, the importance of the spoils system and rewarding friends in politics.
  • FORT WAYNE – Many were predicting that when Donald Trump lost, he would form his own television network.  Instead he won, and has taken over all the networks and all other media as well.  He is a marketing machine. 1.) Trump is terrific at promoting his brand. That is what he’s always done.  Members of the media have incredible angst over whether or not their constant coverage of him led to his victory.  Yet they know that Trump has an intuitive ability to sense how to insert himself into every hot story.  In old-fashioned media lingo, he sells newspapers. Trump is financially helping them at a time when media needs all the help they can get. Thus the angst. 2.) Trump uses his skill tactically, not just randomly. When there is a bad story about his personal life, or finances, he tweets some greatly exaggerated statement and media leaps at the bait.  For example, the New York Times did a story on his financial conflicts but Trump tweeted the allegation that millions of illegal voters had deprived him of a popular vote victory.  His supporters jumped to his defense, critics poured out scorn and outrage, which buried the more substantive story.
        
  • FORT WAYNE – Every election results in individual and categorical winners and losers that impact the longer-term future of politics. Here are a few of my selections. Indiana winner: The Pence/Coats establishment. It directed the quasi-slating of the victorious state ticket: Todd Young for Senate, in part by moving Eric Holcomb out and into position to become governor; Suzanne Crouch as lieutenant governor; Curtis Hill as attorney general; and Jennifer McCormick as superintendent of education. In political years, especially by Indiana standards, they are “fresh faces” ready to ready to rejuvenate the brand.  Indiana loser: An exhausted Democrat re-tread brand. Evan Bayh is one of the most decent men to represent our state, but coming back after clearly moving to Washington and becoming Big Bucks Bayh was a huge mistake, and his biggest mistake was trying to deny those changes. John Gregg had a detailed list of what he wanted to accomplish, and is generally considered “affable” when not nuking his opponents. The problem is that Gregg’s solutions, and Bayh’s, were the same liberal re-tread ideas that Hoosiers had passed up long ago.
  • CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. – It is hard to say which is the bigger shock: Todd Young’s large lead over Bayh or Eric Holcomb being in a tie with John Gregg. This WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana poll released on Friday will certainly have national reverberations. Essentially it suggests that while Young needs to not take his pedal off the floor, pushing until the end, that the Democrats will not capture this Senate seat. As the polling trend had been suggesting, they should have focused in other states. Essentially Republicans have closed ranks in Indiana, just as they appear to be nationally. The national fault line has fairly evenly divided the country.  Donald Trump is admired by only a fraction of the GOP but the same holds true for Hillary Clinton within the Democrats. In fact, her enthusiasts among Democrats may be less than Trump’s within the Republicans, though those who dislike her within the Dems may be fewer nationally. In Indiana, the anti-Clinton sentiment is much more intense than the national anti-Clinton sentiment. Not only is this state more socially conservative but more anti-international trade (e.g. NAFTA), pro-coal and pro-gun. None of which helps Clinton. She has neither the charm or hope that President Obama offered, and he did not openly promote international trade as Bill Clinton had done. Furthermore, talk radio has been pounding on the Clintons for 20 years.  
        
  • FORT WAYNE – It was around 2 a.m. on a cold January night in Washington. Looking down at the White House from our room at the Hays-Adams Hotel, the lights were dim outside but it had a glow coming from the lights within. I was about to go live, worldwide, on BBC’s morning news show. The evening before, President William Jefferson Clinton had delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress. “These are good times for America” he had told us. His message, however, had been overshadowed by the press conference the day before in which he famously said: “I have not had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  The producer explained that many of the newer democracies around the world, mentioning Russia in particular, watched the BBC shows to explain what was happening in U.S. politics because they found American news made too many assumptions about what they understood. Most listeners had no clue who other legislators were. So keep it simple. So as I prepared to go live worldwide, I thought I was ready because I had already done this many times on their major shows. Like always, there was some chitchat first with the news producer in London. The focus was on Clinton’s speech and briefly on whether the Monica mess would impact his ability to govern. But I was not ready for the first question. Que music. Host comes on. Introduces who I am and then asks something like this: “Why are Americans so moralistic that you get all upset when a president drops his pants in the White House? Why should he have to apologize?”
  • FORT WAYNE – The second WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll provides additional good news to every television station as well as other Indiana media, because if you think you’ve seen a lot of candidate ads for senate and governor, wait until you see what is coming. Congressman Todd Young has come from far behind to, at worst, within 1% of the early assumed winner, former governor and senator Evan Bayh. The race that may decide who controls the United States Senate is essentially tied. Former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg holds a two-point edge over Lt. Gov. Holcomb, but that means that they also are basically tied in the race that will determine which direction our state will head. Even the presidential race has tightened a bit, and there are some signs that while Donald Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence, are still likely to defeat Hillary Clinton here, the race could tighten even further. 
  • FORT WAYNE – In 2004 I had the unique distinction of participating in what was certainly among the most disastrous debates ever for a federal level candidate. The Democrats had nominated Maria Parra. She was a Michael Moore-style liberal but certainly an otherwise qualified candidate. Parra had an MBA from IU-Bloomington and had a successful business career in the health care field. Our debate was to be held in the studio at WPTA-TV in Fort Wayne taped “as live” with no audience. This was different than all other debates that I’d ever agreed to participate in, but her campaign insisted on the conditions. The Democrats wanted Andy Downs of IPFW as sole host as opposed to the normal panel we had at debates. When I arrived at the station, it became clear that her campaign had invited all the local media to observe. Whatever my weaknesses are, one of them was not an unwillingness to talk to media, so I didn’t care, but the constant changing of conditions without consultation was getting irritating. However, she didn’t make it through her opening statement. She took off her microphone, got up and went to her staging room.  Andy and I sat there stunned.  I remember Andy saying, “What should we do?” as did the producer through our earphones. I immediately said, “Keep your voices down, the media can hear us.” So I softly said I was willing to do whatever was necessary because the entire nation was likely to see this tonight if we didn’t fix this immediately. Our area would be the laughing stock of the country.
  • FORT WAYNE – The major shift in the WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll taken this week from earlier polls is crystal clear: Todd Young has closed the wide margin that Evan Bayh once had in the Senate race. The Gregg-Holcomb race for governor remains extremely close.  Donald Trump, as other polls have shown, has a large lead in Indiana. Two months ago, when Evan Bayh first announced that he was going to run for the Senate, the first poll had him up 54-33%. Since that time he has been under heavy criticism for his Washington D.C. residency and lobbying ties in all forms of media. A Monmouth poll had Bayh’s margin down to 48-41%. The WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll shows it has now fallen to 44-40%. However, the underneath numbers suggest more serious problems ahead for Bayh.
        
  • FORT WAYNE – The challenge of this year’s gubernatorial election is different. Contrary to feelings inside most campaign bubbles, almost no one is paying attention and few voters care about the race. This helps both Eric Holcomb and John Gregg because both begin as relative unknowns to most but party loyalists. Name identification is not the same as having an image attached to it. It helps Holcomb because attempts by Gregg to connect him to Mike Pence don’t work except to appeal to hard-core Democrats. The obsession with all things Trump, and secondarily with all things Hillary, means that voters at this point connect Pence with Trump. While Trump/Pence could lose in Indiana, it certainly doesn’t appear so and my guess is that Indiana would be one of the last states to go even in a Democrat tsunami. So why would you tie Holcomb to Pence. What could matter, if Holcomb capitalizes upon it, are his even closer ties to Mitch Daniels. Daniels is a popular and respected figure, possibly more in memory than at the time. It would make Gregg appear to be running against both Pence and Daniels.  On the other hand, Gregg has a different problem than Holcomb. For someone who served in his first elective office 42 years ago and was Indiana House speaker in the last century, he also remains a relative blank slate.
  • FORT WAYNE - Of course it is important to remember that we aren’t even half-way through August in this seemingly interminable election cycle.  Normally we’d say that people are on vacation, voters don’t focus until after Labor Day and many not until October, many have little or no knowledge about the candidates, blah blah. However, nothing about this election year is normal. About the only things left to know about the Clintons are: 1.) what groceries they bought the second week of July in, say, 1977; 2.) how unfaithful has Bill Clinton continued to be; and 3.) what did Hillary delete from her e-mails. We know more personal things, true and alleged, about the Clintons than about any two people in American political history.  As for Donald Trump, he’s like Elvis, bigger than life and heavily mythical. Trump’s conned people his life. In everything. He’s the loud-mouthed guy almost everyone knows, who got financially lucky or was crooked but not caught, and then flaunts his wealth obscenely.  Everything he owns, wears, says and even marries says: “Hey, look at me. I’m insecure.” Bullying and blaming others are just other manifestations of insecurity. What we don’t do is make such people President of the United States. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is learning that even nominating such a person potentially has implications beyond just losing the Presidency. Trump is like a virus that can permanently weaken the whole party.
  • FORT WAYNE – The Democrats have given us deja vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra in this time warp. Clinton.  Bayh. Gregg. Even the Russians are back. This year Indiana and national Democrat Party have chosen to offer voters a full slate of retread tires. Hillary Clinton, defeated by Barack Obama eight years ago, has re-emerged. She was impatiently tapping the table, chair and floor waiting for the Obama interlude to end so we could bring back the glorious days of the Clinton Era. At least Hillary offers the historic chance for America to establish that failure is not because you are a woman or a man. Failure in governing is not because one is white, black or brown. She has already proven that women can use unfair methods to get nominated. Now Hillary wants the opportunity that liberal ideas are the problem, not gender or race.  But this is an undeniable fact. No one should underestimate the inspiration she is far beyond just grown women. The fact is that little girls across this nation feel differently about their potentials this week. That isn’t just Democrat hyperbole.  In Indiana, the Democrat retreads offer no such breakthroughs. They are just old tires. Bayh has launched his campaign with an attack ad on Todd Young’s supposed desire to destroy Social Security.

  • FORT WAYNE – In yet another bold move, the Indiana Democrats have announced that former Gov. Henry Schricker will be pulled out of deep retirement to replace John Gregg as their 2016 candidate for governor. Polling was clearly showing that Gregg’s previous campaign stressing his moustache had been working better than his current ads.  “Many of us thought John had lost his creative edge and just turned into a complainer,” said one disgruntled Democrat. “We needed somebody wearing a white hat.”   Some snarky Republicans pointed out the fact that Schricker is dead and couldn’t even vote for himself. Democrats quickly countered that they consider Starke County, Schricker’s current residence, part of the Region where such things don’t matter. They also noted that Hoosier voters seem to be more focused on name identification than any other variable this year. The Schricker strategy to bail out the gubernatorial race was a by-product of the amazing initial excitement generated among Democrats of Evan Bayh’s return from the politically dead to force Baron Hill out of the Senate race.
  • FORT WAYNE – The next step in this presidential campaign – at least the next logical step though both likely presidential nominees regularly slip in missteps that rather overwhelm normal progression – is the selection of vice presidential running mates. There isn’t a lot of worldwide precedent for vice president with a king or queen. With Trump or Hillary occupying the throne, one conjures up a vision of a graying Prince Charles with great-grandchildren bouncing on his knee when he isn’t opening up a home and garden show somewhere. On the other hand, this is the first time in my lifetime when the presumptive presidential nominee of both parties could blow up before they even become eligible for impeachment. Voters might actually think more about the back-up plan more than normal. I will focus on the Republicans, where accepting the veep slot entails far more risk. With no inside information at all, if Trump has an “inside” even in his own head, and assuming political logic (risky), here is my order of likelihood for Trump’s veep: 1) Who knows, 2) Pence, 3) Fallin, 4) Gingrich, 5) somebody who already said “no” like Kasich, or 6) Christie.
  • FORT WAYNE – While I am more of a beer guy, or bourbon, Donald Trump has driven me to whine. If I’m not careful, between now and the fall election I could become sort of a political alcoholic filled with constant whine, whine, whine. But the only way to avoid the addiction is to totally abstain from politics, or at least have long dry stretches of Trump withdrawal while focusing on baseball.  Some days Trump makes me angry, as do Hillary and the President, but in today’s context of everyone being angry, mine hardly reaches that threshold anymore. When I raise my voice, my face slightly reddened, and make declarations, it sounds like Trump when he’s in a good mood. Or Hillary, when she’s whispering. At least the President just smirks. To be considered angry today, you really have to haul out some big verbal guns. Or threaten to use a real gun. Speaking of liberal hysteria, they holler at Trump (correctly) for turning terrorism by an Arab American into an “I told you so,” yet every shooting becomes the same for liberals. Primarily another notch on their gun control ban advocacy belt. 
  • FORT WAYNE – In some ways Trump’s campaign is mirroring James Blaine’s famous “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” campaign of 1884.  Blaine didn’t actually say the phrase, Dr. Samuel D. Burchard did while addressing the Religious Bureau of the Republican National Committee. The actual quote was: “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag.”  In other words, “Hold your nose, vote for Blaine, and let’s make America great again.”  It is fascinating that a “Religious Bureau” of the RNC even existed in 1884. “Rum” of course was part of the battle over prohibition, particularly about the immigrants from Germany and the Irish who drank too much. It was a “code word” with multiple signals. “Romanism” was the hot-button word for the waves of Catholic immigrants. The immigrants were less educated, poorer, took their jobs at much lower wages, and wouldn’t speak English.  
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  • Sen. Lanane warns of HIP 2.0 trigger and the Obamacare repeal
    “HIP 2.0 is a critical piece of public health policy for the state, and it is being put at risk under the Republican healthcare plan due to a ‘trigger’ in our state law. We are here today to urge our Republican colleagues in the Statehouse to remove this trigger, and work to safeguard Hoosiers’ health care coverage should the AHCA become law. HIP 2.0 health coverage is put at risk due to Indiana law automatically triggering a repeal of HIP 2.0 should federal funding be reduced. Without the enhanced federal matching funds for HIP 2.0, Indiana would have to allocate an extra $500 million per year in state funding to maintain the current program.” - Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, on the Obamacare repeal and a potential reduction of Medicaid funding that is part of the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. Some 430,000 Hoosiers get health coverage through HIP 2.0.
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  • Trump and truth
    The Obamacare repeal is teetering in the House. Why? Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf? President Trump’s penchant for lies is beginning to take such a toll that NBC reporter Kasie Hunt said this morning that some members wonder if he’ll even be around in a year. So when Trump threatened retribution against recalcitrant House members on Tuesday, its impact was dubious. The Wall Street Journal editorialized today: “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago.” The other emerging dynamic is that the Pence/Marc Short legislative team hasn’t done the legwork on the RyanCare bill. It could all come down to Vice President Pence, HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to round up about eight votes and keep Republicans like Rep. Hollingsworth in the fold. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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