An underpublicized but undeniably public appearance yesterday in Wheat Ridge by Sen. Cory Gardner, who has been infamously difficult to reach by both constituents and members of the local media in
recent weeks months years since Donald Trump became President, turned into another protracted confrontation with his many critics–as the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports:
Activists and citizens turned a forum on veterans’ health care Thursday into an opportunity to give U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner their thoughts on immigration, the National Rifle Association and what they say is Gardner’s unwillingness to meet with his constituents.
At a hospital in Wheat Ridge, advocates from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, along with at least one other immigration group, ignored event organizers’ requests to only ask about veterans issues, instead quizzing the Republican from Yuma about the American Dream and Promise Act. They handed him stacks of postcards from Coloradans who support the immigration reform legislation.
Given the extreme rarity of public appearances by Sen. Gardner and the huge number of pressing national issues for Gardner to answer for as the state’s highest-ranking Republican official, it’s absurd for organizers to try to keep any public event topically focused on a single relatively uncontroversial subject like veteran’s issues. The conversation inevitably turned to the issue of guns after last weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, and the answer Gardner grudgingly gave on the topic was textbook fearful evasion:
“I don’t think people who are pro-Second Amendment are bad people. I don’t think they’re bad people. I don’t think they want crime. I don’t think people who support the Constitution want people to die,” Gardner said.
“So, we have to come together and find ways that balance our rights, that balance our protection of our communities. You did not partisanize it, please understand you did not do that,” he told the woman who asked about guns, “but there are people around the country, on both sides of the aisle, that have made this partisan. There is no Republican shooter, there is no Democrat shooter. These are extremists who did horrible things and we, as a country, have to stop this idea where we’re trying to game politics.”
Gardner’s answers were not just totally inadequate to the question, they reveal a deep underlying defensiveness about his own longstanding and presumably continuing opposition to even the most modest gun safety reform measures–like the “red flag” law passed in Colorado this year. When Gardner suggests that he doesn’t think “pro-Second Amendment people are bad people,” he’s actually begging for you to feel that way about Gardner personally. Considering that red flag laws are supported by 80% of Colorado voters and now a wave of Republicans up to and including the President, and Gardner is already on record opposing them, it’s easy to see why he’s so defensive.
After the public Q&A session At Lutheran Hospital was over, Gardner was pounced on by 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark, who has been complaining about lack of access to Gardner for…well, forever! Gardner’s trademark rapid-fire platitudes only broke down once, at about 2:03 in the video above:
CLARK: You declined to say whether the President’s Tweets at Congresswomen of color were racist…
GARDNER: Oh well I’ve said I disagree with those, I would never say that…
CLARK: Well you said that but you refused to say whether they were racist, so look, let me…
GARDNER: Kyle that’s absurd what you’re talking about. I disagree with them I’ve already said this. Ok? [Pols emphasis]
CLARK: Let me ask you this, ok? If one of your kids had told their black brown or Muslim classmate to go back where they came from…
GARDNER: Before you start bringing up my kids…
CLARK: What would you say to them? Because this is a family–you finish it.
GARDNER: Kyle, before you start bringing in my kids, which is weird, let me just say this. I’m going to do what’s right for the people of Colorado, and I’m going to make my voice heard…
Filed under “palpable tension.” Yikes! But kudos to Kyle Clark for not letting Gardner off the hook.
All told, yesterday’s outing was an excellent reminder why Sen. Gardner avoids public appearances as much as possible. Gardner’s near-total inaccessibility to local constituents creates pent-up frustration, and combines with an overreliance on comically repetitive talking points when Gardner does appear to leave a thoroughly negative impression–and a rash of negative press coverage–in his wake every single time.
It’s Gardner’s brand at this point, and it’s a big part of why he’s fixing to lose.