|Eric Holcomb announcing his campaign to replace Sen. Dan Coats|
It seems the powers that be are wanting Coats to resign from his Senate seat early, allowing Gov. Pence to appoint his replacement. There's one big hitch in that plan. Mitch Daniels wants his boy Holcomb to fill Coats' Senate seat. Holcomb, who lost the only campaign in which he was the candidate against a little-known state representative in Knox County, is a also a darling of the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star, which as far as I can determine exists solely to write press releases for Daniels and whatever is the flavor of the day for the rest of the bipartisan organized crime syndicate that runs Indiana as if it was a private business they operate for their own profit. Not surprisingly, Pence isn't keen on Holcomb taking Coats' Senate seat. What to do about this problem? Well, if you can't bring him over to your side, then kick him out of the way. And that's what they're doing.
A funny thing happened not quite like we've seen in Indiana in a long time. An issue known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), which passed Congress nearly unanimously in 1993, was handily adopted in 19 states in the ensuing years, including neighboring Illinois with the support of then-State Sen. Barack Obama, and which didn't even draw a single opponent to testify against it when it was first heard in committee this year, exploded as the number one issue of the session after being characterized for the first time in RFRA's more than two decade history as a license to discriminate against gay people. Gov. Pence wasn't even responsible for its initiation but quickly signed on to support it like so many Republican and Democrats alike have supported the law in the past in a bipartisan fashion.
It's one thing to credit gay rights advocates for re-purposing the law's intent for ulterior motives, but that doesn't fly unless the media is willing to run with the meme, which is precisely what happened with the Gannett newspaper leading the charge and the rest of the media simply going along for the ride and piling on in a typical media frenzy fashion. Any enlightened person agrees it's unfair to discriminate against a person simply because of their sexual orientation so branding RFRA as anti-gay was as good as recasting it as a law designed to discriminate against blacks. The Indianapolis Star knew respected legal scholars, such as Maurer School of Law constitutional law professor Daniel Conkle, a supporter of gay rights, had reviewed and signed on as a supporter of Indiana's RFRA legislation, but the newspaper threw aside all rational judgment and intentionally helped lead the state to the dark place it's been since the days when D.C. Stephenson and the KKK controlled virtually every office of any note in the state back in the 1920s through downright false reporting and over-the-top editorializing against SB 101.
By the point the manufactured media hysteria had reached top speed, Gov. Mike Pence had given his word to supporters he would sign SB 101 into law if it reached his desk, and he was a man of his word. Little did Pence know that forces had already been put into motion not just to discredit him politically as either a presidential candidate or candidate for re-election as governor in 2016. The forces have aligned and have a well-orchestrated plan to force him from the governor's office. Have people forgotten Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham and the role the Indianapolis Star's sister newspaper, The Arizona Republic, played in taking him down after he cancelled a paid vacation day for all state employees honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Just like it happened this past week, businesses and conventions began a campaign to boycott Arizona over the King holiday issue. The Republic piled on by trumping up what turned out to be unfounded allegations of criminal wrongdoing on Mecham's part for allegedly misusing government money, which led to his impeachment, conviction and removal from office. Mecham was eventually acquitted of all charges at a subsequent criminal trial, but by that point Mecham was dead meat forever tarnished as the disgraced former governor who brought embarrassment and shame to his state.
Pence has always been a media savvy politician, but he looked like a deer staring into the headlights when the anti-RFRA onslaught hit him. Legislation he played no part in writing or steering through the legislature suddenly became his baby. Even House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, whose leadership power allowed them at any point during the process to put the kabash on SB 101 before garnering overwhelming support for it from both of their caucuses and placing it on the governor's desk for signature, seemed more than happy to throw Pence under the bus by laying the blame at his feet, again with the quite willing assistance of The Star and the rest of the media, as Pence became the butt of late-night comedian jokes. To hear The Star's Matt Tully describe it, Pence in one fell swoop had destroyed everything Mitch Daniels had worked hard to build during his two terms as governor. Tully described Pence as "a stunningly ineffective leader" who was "never meant to be a governor," which contrasted quite sharply from earlier columns he penned lauding the governor's leadership on his pet issues like early childhood education. When Long and Bosma brought forward a collection of Daniels' cronies at their press conference this morning to announce their fix to this mess Pence had caused to our great state, you could picture Daniels sitting in his office in West Lafayette with a wide grin on his face.
Daniels may claim he's totally happy acting as Purdue University President and having no part of politics, but everyone who knows him best knows he can't stand not having his hands on the control switch. Coats was more than happy in his multi-million dollar retirement home in North Carolina before Daniels, Lugar, Holcomb, et al. coaxed him into moving back to Indiana in 2010 to reclaim the Senate seat he obligingly vacated to make room for Evan Bayh in 1998 simply to keep someone Daniels and company couldn't control from taking the Senate seat, which was reportedly once his for the asking when Gov. Robert Orr had to chose a replacement for Dan Quayle when he was elected vice president, an offer he turned down so he could build his wealth into a multi-million dollar fortune by trading on his political connections and power. Daniels and company are still stinging from the smashing defeat of his beloved mentor, Richard Lugar, in the 2012 primary election by Richard Mourdock, who now lives in purgatory. It was no secret they were all privately supporting Democrat Joe Donnelly in the November election that year in retaliation for that unexpected loss.
It makes all the sense in the world that Daniels would do whatever it takes to ensure his handpicked choice succeeds Coats in the Senate. If that means taking down Pence to prevent him from having a hand in the decision, then so be it. He knows Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann is in his back pocket should he succeed in forcing Pence from office, a guy he only begrudgingly supported for governor in 2012 after concluding he had nobody capable of beating him in the primary. If you doubt me, look at how abruptly he threw former Secretary of State Charlie White under the bus. Daniels first called White into his office and ordered him to give up the office to which he had been overwhelmingly elected. When he refused, he confidently told White he would be indicted, convicted and kicked out of the office in his typical take-no-prisoner fashion. Mitch was true to his word.