You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.
TOP OF MIND TODAY…
► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:
It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.
Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.
At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”
Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.
► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:
President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.
The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic foreign policy. The shifts appear to sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.
Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.
Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.
► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.
As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.
► The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch — which is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.
Get even more smarter after the jump…
IN CASE YOU ARE STANDING NEAR A WATER COOLER…
► Senate Republicans aren’t proving to be very effective at playing with others, so they’re now just changing the rules instead. If they had been playing with a ball, they would have already kicked it over the fence.
► Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman has more on the absolutely idiotic legislation being pushed by State Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs):
House Bill 17-1134, known as “The Colorado Politician Accountability Act,” would establish criminal and civil liability for elected officials who have a hand in creating laws or policies that shield undocumented immigrants from federal authorities if an immigrant in that jurisdiction — “illegal alien,” according to the bill — is convicted of causing any harm to person or property.
The legislation creates the crime of “rendering assistance to an illegal alien through a sanctuary jurisdiction,” a Class 4 felony, and lays out procedures to seek charges against public officials under certain circumstances. It also would allow injured parties to sue elected officials for up $1,980,000 for personal injury and $990,000 for property damage.
Williams lamented that Democrats have derided his legislation — state Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat, called the proposal “grounded in ridiculousness, surround by ignorance, covered in prejudice and overall is tone deaf” earlier this week — while applauding the support of Republican lawmakers.
Among other problems, Williams’ bill violates the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, which holds that most public officials are immune from civil lawsuits. Can you imagine the havoc that would ensue if every public official in Colorado started getting sued because of a policy they supported?
► Congressional Republicans may continue to push forward with efforts to sell off public lands, but concerns of outdoorsmen, hunters and anglers may finally be penetrating the minds of elected officials. As the Idaho Statesman explains:
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he will withdraw a bill ordering the Interior Secretary to sell or dispose more than 3.3 million acres of public land. Chaffetz had just reintroduced the bill when his office and Instagram account were flooded with protests from angry hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts…
…When he rolled out the bill earlier this week, Chaffetz said the land serves “no purpose for taxpayers.” His bill also would open the door to sales of other lands.
But he changed his tune Wednesday.
“The bill would have disposed of small parcels Pres. Clinton identified as serving no public purpose but groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message,” Chaffetz wrote. “I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow. #keepitpublic”
The turnaround was remarkable. Chaffetz had introduced the bill twice previously and it got little attention.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner may have no problem with ignoring his constituents, but it’s nice to see that there are still elected officials out there who are paying attention to the people they are supposed to represent.
► Boulder’s science community is chewing its collective fingernails now that Donald Trump is roaming the White House.
► The Colorado Independent takes a look at what would happen to one rural Colorado hospital if Obamacare is repealed:
San Luis Valley Health Regional Medical Center in Alamosa is a small hospital with only 49 beds. But it is the only hospital within 121 miles with a labor-and-delivery ward — last year, obstetricians there delivered 435 babies — and it provides oncology, orthopaedic and emergency services. The hospital treats more than 1,000 inpatient visitors and more than 10,000 emergency room visitors each year. Most of those patients are poor and rely on Medicaid.
President Donald Trump’s determination to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provoked panic among Colorado’s health care providers, with plenty of hospitals scrambling to understand what will happen next. But the effects of a repeal will be most dramatic at small, rural medical centers like the one in San Luis Valley, where even minor budget cuts can put crucial services on the chopping block.
► President Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning and made a point to ask people to “Pray for Arnold” — a reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Celebrity Apprentice” spinoff show. Maybe Trump still thinks this is all just one big television show.
► Some Congressional Republicans and aides are starting to admit openly that a full repeal of Obamacare may not actually be possible.
► President Trump’s proposal to slap a hefty import tax on Mexico in order to pay for a giant wall between our countries has met with stern opposition from business groups. You can add the Colorado Retail Council to that list.
► If Steve Bannon were an emperor (officially, anyway), then he would certainly have no clothes at this point. We could do without seeing that picture, though.
OTHER LINKS YOU SHOULD CLICK
► Senator Cory Gardner has a new unwieldy title to add to his resume. Gardner is now the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy. So much energy they had to use the word twice.
► A Brietbart editor is creating a scholarship that is only available to white men. Because, of course.
► Almost lost in the news shuffle on Wednesday: Rex Tillerson has been confirmed as Secretary of State. Have fun explaining your boss to world leaders!