Month: January 2015

Gov. Pence’s Staff Makes Life Miserable For Mike

This story originally appeared on

A firestorm erupted when Gov. Mike Pence announced a plan to create a government run news service in Indiana called “JustIN.” The service, as described, would, “break news — publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion.” JustIN would also offer lighter fare, “including personality profiles.”

Republicans and Democrats alike denounced the idea. The Governor had to “clarify” his remarks, in press conferences and on WIBC. In trying to contain the damage, he has hurt his image, and, possibly, his re-election chances and potential presidential aspirations. Here are 4 problems that Gov. Pence and his staff have created for themselves:

[1] Pence looks inept

Pence, in trying to control the situation and limit the damage, called the brouhaha around #JustIN an “understandable misunderstanding.”

The release called it a news service, and said the state would be breaking news. Where, exactly, is the misunderstanding? The misunderstanding should have been corrected when the governor looked at his staff quizzically, stood up behind his desk, and asked in a loud, clearly disgusted voice, “Are you out of your mind with this idea?”

In speaking with Greg Garrison, Gov. Pence said that he learned about the memo from “press reports,” and that he only had “passing knowledge of this project.”

Those are words you hear (and laugh at) from President Obama. It’s stunning to hear this admitted lack of awareness from Pence.

[2] Pence looks like he has no control of his staff

This has a history to it. It was 2013 when Pence’s office was caught deleting negative comments from the governor’s official Facebook page on the subject of same-sex marriage. Egregious on it’s face? Somewhat, but not earth shattering. Compared to that, #JustIN might make some think all of this hubbub is just a tempest in a teaspoon.

But a careful and critical view shows a potential pattern: When given the opportunity, Pence staffers will do things that are ridiculous, and with zero potential for a positive result. When given the opportunity – which is to say, when they are not properly trained and controlled – they will propose and implement the worst ideas; Ones that are guaranteed to do the most damage to the governor’s reputation and re-election chances.

I’m sure there are good, smart, people in the Governor’s office. To paint them all with the broad brush of ineptness would be wrong. However, these are two world class black eyes for Governor Pence. He needs to gain control of his house. Probably should start with a good cleaning.

[3] Pence has united Progressives and Conservatives against him

When Matthew Tully of the Indianapolis Star and Noah Rothman of agree that his idea is awful, you have a problem. That’s not to say that what Tully or leftist site Raw Story wrote are decent or completely accurate. Raw Story called Pence the, “NPR hating, Tea Party governor” in their headline. Tully said this will allow Indiana to run favorable stories about the Koch Brothers.

Both are remarkably daft statements. And neither would have ever been looked at if Pence and his staff hadn’t given them cover. As Rothman writes, Pence’s explanation of an “understandable misunderstanding” is “cold comfort:”

If the purpose of this venue is merely to disseminate press releases to reporter and average Joe alike, there is no need for the creation of a new outlet. The “newsroom” section of the governor’s website serves that purpose just fine. If Pence’s news agency has the mission of repackaging and spinning news stories with a “voice” presumably favorable to the administration, then it would be an abomination. How would that be distinct from the objective of institutions like TASS, IRNA, or Xinhua?

[4] Pence doesn’t look Presidential (right now)

While time heals most all wounds, the timing of #JustIN effectively ends all 2016 talk – whether that talk is for the top or the bottom of the ticket.

Pence already had a tough road to the White House this cycle, and conversations with some people close to the situation pointed to Pence not heading down that path. Yet, Pence had a brilliant moment with his trip to Israel over Christmas.

He met with Netanyahu, and forcefully declined a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He referred to Israel as the Holy Land, and brought his entire family with him.

He made himself look presidential; He looked strong. He owned the media cycle for over a week. Pence had found a way to highlight himself as the kind of guy who’s in charge and in control; A guy whom you could look at and say, “Hmmmm. Maybe.”

But that was then. Now, Pence is the guy who didn’t see the clear danger of promoting anything with the words “state-run” and ” breaking news” in the same sentence, and that’s enough to destroy people’s faith in him. He can’t control his staff, and, based on his conversation with Garrison, his staff is not filled with the right kind of professionals. The concept of #JustIN, and his response, gives the opposition evergreen content to use against him. And they will.

Yes, time heals most all wounds. But there’s not enough time between now and 2016 for the White House. He should hope there’s enough time for that house on Meridian.

Brawl and Gun Shots Cause Mall Evacuation, Tony Katz was there

On Saturday night, I appeared on RTV6 to talk about being part of the evacuation of Castleton Mall in Indianapolis on reports of gun shots.

I was at the AMC theater watching The Hunger Games – Mocking Jay Part One. Late into the film, a man exited the theater, and then returned quickly saying there was a large crowd screaming and running towards the theater.

As reported by WIBC, a brawl ensued at the mall with upwards of 60 people, and attracted a crowd of over 100. During the brawl, allegedly, gun shots were heard. In my theater, we evacuated quickly and without incident.

I joined RTV6 later that night to discuss what happened.