Years ago, my late journalist colleague Harrison J. Ullmann, of NUVO Newsweekly, used to chide the Indiana General Assembly by frequently calling it “America’s worst legislature.”
After watching the three-ring circus in Washington, in institutions we call the White House, the House and the Senate during the past two months, I’ll take the Indiana General Assembly any day. When it comes to civility, transparency and earnest policy making, the Indiana Statehouse comes off as a haven of mature leadership compared with the so-called “big leagues” inside the Washington beltway.
Can you imagine Gov. Eric Holcomb making fun of a disabled reporter or calling out “Lyin’ John Gregg?” Can you imagine Senate President David Long swearing on the chamber floor or saying he could go shoot someone on Meridian Street and win more votes?
In contrast, our nation’s capital is a circus. This past week, we’ve watched FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers essentially debunk Trump’s allegation that he was wiretapped by President Barack Obama. We also learned the FBI launched an investigation last July into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government on the 2016 presidential election.
We also learned that Trump’s first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.
Don’t want to take my word for it? The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board observed on Wednesday, “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."
In contrast, our new governor, Republican Eric Holcomb, appears to be an earnest public servant in the first two months of his administration. If Holcomb tells us something, my inclination is to believe him. He has given no reason to think otherwise.
The American Health Care Act, written by House Speaker Paul Ryan and embraced by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, at this writing, teeters on the brink of defeat in the Republican-dominated House. President Trump told House Republicans, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done.”
Mike Allen, on his Axios website, observed of Trump’s 2018 election threat: “True enough, but these members also could lose their seats and the House majority if they do vote to pass the bill currently being considered. So they're left with a terrible choice: Vote against Obamacare repeal after campaigning on repeal for seven years, or vote to cover 24 million fewer people and potentially raise premiums for senior citizens.”
In contrast in the General Assembly, House Bill 1002, a plan to fund the state’s infrastructure needs over the next two decades (not the next two election cycles) was developed based on a wide array of metrics developed by Purdue University and other research institutions. It was unveiled in 2016, with parts of the plan passing and road maintenance money flowing to dozens of local communities during the past year. It is poised for passage in the Senate after emerging from the House.
Our Hoosier Republican leaders don’t lie. Neither do their Democratic counterparts, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane. They don’t denigrate their opponents, racial minorities or women. They conduct business on the House and Senate floor with civility and maturity. They don’t swear. They lack the rancor that marks daily business in Washington.
Are they perfect? No. Are there still controversial bills that push credibility? Yes, of course, but none of that is a legislative priority. In the legislative sausage making, there always will be.
I’ll take our Hoosier leadership crew any day over the national circus we are subjected to in Washington.