Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Message from Chairman Dan Parker

Here is a holiday message from Indiana Democratic Party chairman Dan Parker, looking back at 2010's "monumental legislative accomplishments" and forward to the challenges of 2011 and 2012.

Indiana Grows by 400,000; Keeps Nine House Seats

The 2010 census shows that Indiana grew by about 400,000 (6.6 percent) over the past decade, enough to keep our congressional delegation at nine representatives, unlike many of our Midwestern neighbors: Ohio loses two seats and Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri lose one seat each. Overall, the county's population grew by about ten percent in the 2000's, and there was a shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and the West. Read more about the census and congressional representation here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Next for Bayh: Dancing With the Stars?

When asked about what the next phase of his career will be, Senator Evan Bayh jokes that he's waiting for a call from Dancing With the Stars: "I may be rhythmically challenged, but I can embarrass myself in front of the American people with the best of them.” In a retrospective interview with the Star's Maureen Groppe, the Senator is asked if he would have done anything different in his decision not to seek re-election. Here is his answer:
I would make the announcement earlier. I think it would've been better for me if I would've made the announcement the same time I went into tell the president, a year ago August, because that would've avoided all the criticism that 'Oh, he waited' and so forth. But then the pressure from the president and the chief of staff started, repeatedly asking that I reconsider my decision. So I began agonizing over it and I did procrastinate.
And is a run for the Presidency in the picture?
I don't have serving my country and helping others out of my system. That's just a part of my DNA and always will be. I think politically it's just unlikely that the stars will align at this point in time. ... It was possible at one point that the stars might align in the right way. But they didn't. And I think it's better to be realistic. There are people who just feel they can't go to their graves contented unless they've run for president. I'm not one of those people.
Towards the end of the interview Bayh admits "I'm a little melancholy right now. I'm a little nostalgic," which gives the interview an unusually candid tone. You can read Groppe's entire article on Bayh's departure here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Skillman Won't Run for Governor

Lt. Governor Becky Skillman has announced that she will not run for governor in 2012. Skillman said, "With much disappointment, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2012. My end of year physical exam revealed minor health issues." With Evan Bayh and Baron Hill declining to run on the Democratic side, and the incumbent Republican Lieutenant Governor stepping aside, Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza sees a wide opening for Mike Pence to step into the race rather than seeking the Presidency in this cycle. Read more about Skillman's announcement here.

PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: Health Reform a "Government Takeover"

The nonpartisan website that analyzes the truthfulness of political rhetoric chose the Republican slogan that the Affordable Health Care Act constituted a "government takeover of health care" as it 2010 Lie of the Year: "Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections." PolitiFact points out how the basic structure of the plan is not a "takeover":
"• Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up "exchanges" where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine."

Read more about the Lie of the Year at PolitiFact's website here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lame Duck Session Casts Historic Vote to End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Yesterday the lame duck session of Congress handed President Obama another major victory and the fulfillment of his promise to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Eight Republican senators joined all the Democrats to give the repeal a filibuster-proof margin of 65 to 31. Republicans voting for the repeal were co-sponsor Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), George Voinovich (Ohio), Mark Steven Kirk (Ill.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), John Ensign (Nevada), and unexpectedly Richard Burr (N.C.).

"This is the defining civil rights initiative of this decade," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "Congress has taken an extraordinary step on behalf of men and women who've been denied their rightful integrity for too long."

"We will be a better military as a result," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And President Obama said "It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."

Senator Evan Bayh, a long-time supporter of the repeal, had the privilege of presiding over the Senate during the historic vote. Read the Washington Post coverage of DADT's demise here.

Bayh Receives Intelligence Distinguished Service Award

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, has awarded Senator Evan Bayh the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal. Clapper said Bayh received the medal "for his tireless efforts as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to provide the Intelligence Community with the authorities and resources necessary to protect America, and for his commitment to service members, military families and veterans as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee." Read more about this honor for Senator Bayh from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Evan Bayh Delivers Last Speech on Senate Floor

Today Evan Bayh delivered his final speech on the Senate floor. Below you can see a brief clip of it and some remarks by Sheila Klinker. To see the entire 16-minute speech click here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recount Commission Dismisses Dems' Secretary of State Petition

On Sunday the state's Recount Commission voted two to one (along party lines) to reject the Democratic Party's petition that Charlie White not be seated as Indiana Secretary of State because White "accidentally" claimed to still reside at his former wife's residence and wasn't legally able to vote in the precinct in which he voted in the May primary. (Not living at that residence also meant that he was serving illegally on on the Fishers town council.) Democrats are considering an appeal. Current Secretary of State and Congressman-elect Todd Rokita was on the panel and voted against the petition. Secretary-of-State-elect White is facing a felony voter fraud investigation by two Hamilton County special prosecutors appointed in Hamilton County; they expect to present their case to a grand jury in February. Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.

Further bolstering White's claim of mistakenly stating his place of residence, Rokita has ordered a statewide investigation of the extent of such errors. "I want an analysis (to) see if we have a statewide voter registration problem, or if we just have human error," Rokita says. The fact that White materially benefited from his "human error" seems not to raise issues about his intention with Secretary Rokita as it does with Hamilton county prosecutors. Read more about Rokita's proposed investigation here.

Shopping with the Mayor

Several Lafayette children will have a brighter Christmas thanks to Mayor Roswarski's Shopping with the Mayor program, now in its seventh year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Diplomat Richard Holbrooke Dies at 69

Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and the Pakistan, died today from complications of a torn aorta. Holbrooke, whose diplomatic career began during the Vietnam era, was best known for the Dayton Accord that ended the Bosnian war. He was one of the world's most visible diplomats. President Obama referred to him as "simply one of the giants of American foreign policy." He continued, "America is more secure -- and the world is a safer place -- because of the work of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances." Senator John Kerry observed that Holbrooke's "life's work saved tens of thousands of lives." Read more about Richard Holbrooke's career from CNN here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bayh Won't Run for Governor in 2012

"After careful consideration, I have concluded that the appropriate decision is not to be a candidate for governor of Indiana in 2012," retiring senator Evan Bayh said in a prepared statement today. Bayh cited the welfare of his twin boys as a primary reason for his decision: "As I've said since the day my children were born -- when I was governor -- my most important job is being a good father. My boys are now in high school, and in my judgment, a run for governor at this time in their lives would be potentially very disruptive."

But he also indicated that elective office was not what he planned to pursue for the rest of his career:
"I've been privileged to be in elective office for 22 years and was first elected when only 30 years old. Serving the people of Indiana has been the honor of my life. . . . But as I said when I announced my retirement from the Senate, there are many honorable ways to contribute to society -- creating jobs, growing a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning, or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor. I'll continue to serve, but my contributions will take a different form and on a different stage."
Read more from the Chicago Tribune here. And here is Bayh's entire statement on his decision.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

President's Weekly Address

Here is President Obama's weekly address about (surprise!) his tax cut plan.

"What Are You Guys Up To?"

Yesterday's impromptu press conference with Presidents Obama and Clinton was truly off-the-cuff. After their White House consultation,President Clinton wanted to make a statement of support for the Obama tax plan. The two Presidents headed to the White House briefing room, only to find the door locked. Here's how the New York Times reported what followed:
They [Obama and Clinton] turned around and found a junior staffer sitting outside of the office of Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.

“Do you know how to open up the briefing room?” Mr. Obama asked the staffer, Katie Hogan.

“Yeah,” Mr. Clinton said, “can you help us unlock it?”

Hearing that, Gibbs walked out.

“I said, ‘what are you guys up to?’” Mr. Gibbs recalled later. “President Obama said, ‘we’re looking for some reporters.’”

“What have you guys got on your mind,” Mr. Gibbs –- always cautious — countered.

The reporters, it turned out were at a Christmas party in another area of the White House. Ms. Hogan announced the two-president press conference was beginning "right now." When one of the breathless assembled reporters asked Gibbs how soon the conference would start, he responded "They're right behind that door." Moments later President Obama ambled in, followed by Clinton. "I brought the other guy," Obama casually quipped, clearly pleased. Count on Bill Clinton to inject a little for spontaneity in the White House! Read the full Times account here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bill Clinton Steps Up for Obama's Tax Deal

Today President Obama conferred with former President Bill Clinton, presumably on the politics of Obama's deal with the Republican leaders on taxes. Then he brought Clinton into the briefing room where Clinton gave a full-throated endorsement of Obama's plan. Clinton then conducted an impromptu press conference on the economy and related issues. It's a dazzling performance. Watch the whole half-hour press conference here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Both Indiana Senators Endorse Obama's Deal

Indiana Senators Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar have both endorsed the deal President Obama struck with Congressional Republicans. Bayh said, “Creating jobs and growing businesses must be our top priority until economic growth is on a self-sustaining path. In addition,the payroll tax cut for every working American will pump $120 billion into family budgets.” Lugar, one of the first Republicans to publicly support the measure, said, “Stopping the scheduled tax increase is the biggest achievement in the bipartisan agreement, while we continue to extend a helping hand to those out of work,” Lugar said. Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Obama Defends His Deal on Taxes, and So Does Ezra Klein

In a hurriedly organized news  conference this afternoon, President Obama defended the deal he struck with Republicans regarding the extension of the tax cuts.  Here's a couple of minutes from that news conference:

In addition to the President's own words, Washington Post political analyst Ezra Klein weighed in to support the President's position, arguing that the administration has negotiated a substantial stimulus package that might not be politically popular in the short term, but will create jobs in the longer term: "If you believe that what matters for elections is the economy -- and you should -- then it's worth it for the White House to lose news cycles in 2010 if it means adding jobs by 2012."  Klein also likes the timing of the two year extension of the tax cuts: "The next fight over the tax cuts will be part of the 2012 election. And the White House believes that an improved economy and a bigger deficit will make it much harder for Republicans to support extending tax cuts for the rich. If they try, that gives Democrats both a populist cudgel and a way to take hold of the deficit issue."

Read more of Klein's analysis here.

Elizabeth Edwards, 1949 - 2010

Elizabeth Edwards died of cancer today. An attorney, an author, a committed mother, the wife and chief political adviser to Senator John Edwards, and an impassioned healthcare advocate, she posted the following on Facebook yesterday:
“I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. . . . I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."
President Obama released a statement on her passing: "In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain. Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration."

You can read more about Elizabeth Edwards in the New York Times and USA Today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dem's Challenge to White Still Alive

Yesterday the Recount Commission ruled against a proposal by Republicans to dismiss a Democratic petition that Charlie White not be seated as Secretary of State because of charges of voter fraud against him.  However, the decision was a  technical one, based on White's attorney not being specific enough in his appeal to dismiss the Democrats' suit.  Current Secretary of State Todd Rokita cast the deciding vote against dismissal.  The panel will take up the question again at its meeting next Sunday.  Read more here.

Lame Duck Watch: Joe Lieberman, Warrior Against DADT

Joe Lieberman is turning out to be one of the Senate's biggest proponents of ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the current lame duck session. Who knew? Says the former Democrat,
"Wanting to go home is not an acceptable excuse for failing to pass a bill that provides essential support for our troops and veterans and failing to take action that the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have called for."
He is convinced there are 60 votes for it in the Senate, but the Republican price is weeks of debate on the defense spending bill of which DADT is a part. Lieberman's office says the can get the vote done if the Senate will stay in session into late December--like last year's Christmas eve session to vote on health care. Read more from Talking Points Memo here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bayh Wants End to "Hypocrisy" of DADT

Senator Evan Bayh says that “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military “institutionalizes hypocrisy” and should be ended. He observes that if military units had been polled in the late 1940's “you’d have found a diversity of opinion about the racial integration in the armed services. If a minority of people had objected, following that line of logic, we wouldn’t have integrated the armed forces.” Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.