UPDATE: As Political Wire reports, there is a concerted effort in other parts of the country to discourage any dissent toward President Trump:
“Arizona Republican Chairwoman Kelli Ward said she wishes GOP elected officials, specifically Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), ‘would just be quiet’ when they disagree with President Trump,” according to audio obtained by Phoenix New Times.
If Gardner has had a similar discussion, you can consider the message received.
Congressional Republicans have largely been going out of their way to refrain from classifying President Trump’s recent comments about four Democratic Congresswomen as what they are: Racist. Most Congressional Republicans are trying very, very hard to not comment at all, either because they agree with Trump or because they fear his political wrath.
On Tuesday, House Democrats were joined by four Republicans in support of a resolution condemning Trump’s racist remarks. None of Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress — Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — summoned the courage to rebuke Trump. Buck was the first of the trio to offer a flaccid response, and Tipton’s later comments were embarrassingly weak. As for Lamborn…well, it’s never clear that Lamborn is fully cognizant of anything that is happening around him.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), meanwhile, is employing a version of his go-to move, which is something that we like to call “The Gardner Shuffle.” Gardner usually handles a situation like this by 1) Trying to avoid reporters altogether, 2) Offering a completely meaningless comment at the end of the news cycle, and 3) Backpedaling on his previous comment and/or scurrying away from follow up questions.
First, the avoidance. Gardner did his best to ignore questions about Trump’s racism by pretending that he was just so busy working on the BLM’s move to Colorado that he couldn’t possibly do something else at the same time. As the Denver Post reports:
On Monday, Gardner told a conservative radio host that he was focused on other matters, declining to comment on the Trump tweets. The senator had faced flack from his many Democratic opponents, who have accused him of political cowardice for not commenting.
Colorado reporters persisted in trying to get a comment from Gardner, but to no avail. This brief segment from Kyle Clark of 9News on Tuesday is worth a watch:
CLARK: We have been trying to get ahold of Colorado Senator Cory Gardner to discuss President Trump’s racist Tweets telling American Congresswomen of color they should go back where they came from. And today, we heard this from Gardner and his staff…
At this point Clark goes silent for several seconds.
CLARK: Yeah, we didn’t hear anything from them. They aren’t responding to us.
Second, the meaningless comment. During an interview with KOA Radio on Tuesday, Gardner finally managed to eek out a response, saying he “disagreed with the President” and “wouldn’t have sent” the same Tweets. Shermanesque, it was not.
And finally, the backpedal retreat. As the Associated Press reports today:
By Tuesday, Gardner offered up a more on-point answer to the question of whether and how much he supports Trump’s racist tweets.
“I disagree with the president,” Gardner told Denver-area KOA NewsRadio. “I wouldn’t have sent these tweets.”
But asked by CNN later at the Capitol, he would not say whether he thought Trump’s tweets were racist. [Pols emphasis]
As Laurie Kellman and Nick Riccardi explain for the Associated Press, Gardner is all about doing the right thing…for Cory Gardner:
To win another term, Gardner will need to hold the votes of Colorado’s Trump-allied Republicans who remain suspicious of the senator’s rescinded endorsement in 2016, while winning over independents who reject the president but are wary of the Democrats’ agenda.
Gardner has occasionally chastised the president after controversial moments – notably after Trump praised “both sides” following a confrontation between neo-Nazis and activists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that left a counterprotester dead – and he’s carved out a distinct path on immigration. But Gardner has also voted for most of Trump’s priorities. He’s supported the president’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his tax cut, both his Supreme Court justices and several other federal judges, along with most of his Cabinet.
Gardner, who has a sunny disposition, has also embraced elements of Trump’s incendiary remarks. In a speech at a conservative gathering in Denver on Friday, Gardner, who has bemoaned Democrats’ embrace of “socialism,” slammed what Republicans describe as the leftward drift of Democrats.
And there you have it.
This is why Gardner is disliked by Coloradans of all political stripes. Cory Gardner is a used-car salesman with a fancier title. You could try to argue otherwise, but you can’t talk faster than he can backpedal.