Long Road Back to the Middle for Buck

Today Politico examines a potential problem for Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck — an issue that we have said for a long time will be problematic for all GOP candidates for statewide office in 2010. The problem is that when you tack far to the right in order to please your base, you end up a long way from the middle, which is where you need to be to win a General Election:

He’s questioned the constitutionality of Social Security, toyed with phasing out the federal student loan program and spoken of lowering the wall that separates church and state.

Meet Ken Buck, the Colorado Republican Senate primary candidate who looks like the next Rand Paul or Sharron Angle – another tea-party-backed insurgent poised to upset the GOP establishment favorite.

Like Paul and Angle, whose post-nomination rollouts were notably rocky, the upstart Weld County district attorney carries with him similar made-for-cable-TV political baggage. And like those two, Buck’s more unconventional statements haven’t received a full vetting yet…

…Like Paul, who was pilloried for hedging on whether he would have voted for landmark civil-rights legislation, and Angle, who ended up fleeing a local television reporter who inquired about her plan for “transitioning” out of Social Security, Buck has delivered a series of sound bites that Democrats view as a treasure-trove of opposition hits.

At a March forum, he drew hearty applause after calling Social Security “horrible, bad policy” and questioning whether the federal government should be involved in administering it.

“I don’t know whether it’s constitutional or not; it is certainly a horrible policy,” Buck said. “The idea that the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe. And that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.”

During an appearance in May on a local radio program, Buck suggested that the government should not be in the business of providing student loans.

“Over time, we have to wean the American public off those,” he said.

On several occasions, he’s advocated for a closer relationship between God and government. Last fall, at a forum at Colorado Christian University, the Colorado Statesman reported that Buck “emphasized his conservative values, expressing his opposition to the principle of separating church and state.”

Throw in a call to scrap the Department of Education and Buck’s support for “birther” legislation in response to a minority that fears President Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen, and Democrats have the ingredients for a series of defining ads that could frame Buck on the fringe.

Ouch. Being compared to Rand Paul and Sharron Angle is not strong praise. To review, here’s a quick list of the problematic statements for Buck:

  • Social Security is bad

  • Government-funded student loans are bad

  • Elimate the Department of Education

  • President Obama may not be a citizen

  • Separation of church and state is bad
  • These positions may be swell in rallying support for a Republican Primary, but Buck is going to have some ‘splaining to do to the swing voters in Colorado who, time and time again, have shown their preference for the most moderate candidate.

    95 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

    1. Say Hey Kid says:

      Jane Norton will be launching a massive attack campaign against Ken Buck in the next few weeks.  Be assured that Buck’s unethical conduct as an Assistant US Attorney will be used.  Jane Norton’s husband used to head that office and is appalled by how unethically Buck conducted himself.

      • H-man says:

        Jane’s husband, an expert on ethical behavior, hired Buck as well as Gov. Ritter back in the day.  Buck’s behavior is largely being seen in the real world as no big deal.  As put by someone who wrote a comment to the Denver Post article about the strange bedfellows that Norton and Waak (who says in Politio today Norton is toast)make:

        Ken Buck has guts and he does his job where others have shirked. I met him on the occasion of the arrest of an accused killer whom Buck announced he would prosecute. The D.A. who preceded Buck refused to prosecute in spite of compelling evidence because the victims body has been hidden. Buck won’t let this killer get away with murder. Alll the carping over a reprimand is political side show. And I’m a Democrat.

        Conservative bloggers are jumpin’ off the Norton bandwagon too.  Ex Pat ex lawyer noted:

        It’s notable that Norton’s press release leaves out the nuances you made clear in your article; otherwise Jane would look like a gun control opportunist like Strickland. Good to note how consistent the Dems and Norton’s attacks are. I’m at the point of wondering whether Josh Penry is a Dem mole. She’s not had a positive aspect to her campaign since Penry took over as campaign manager. And now they’re attacking Shawn Mitchell too?

        Until this afternoon, I was leaning Buck, but undecided. Thanks again Josh and Jane, for making my decision easy


        The huge war chest?  Last time we looked it was 200K more than Buck and he is having spent on his behalf that much this week by a 527.

        • OuiserBoudreaux says:

          ..is just another workday.  No big deal.  People don’t care about this stuff.  They don’t want anyone tough on crime, so instead they will embrace a prosecutor who abandons his assigned duties to assist criminal defendants.  Such a libertine view of crime and punishment is what the PEOPLE want.

    2. Republican 36 says:

      and some of his positions are going to hurt him.

      Student Loans He must be kidding. There are millions of Americans with college educations today who could have never earned their degrees without student loans, including me and my children. Of course, Mr. Buck attended Princeton, an ivy league school so he probably didn’t have to worry about paying for an education the way most of us had to. By taking this position, he is condemning eligible students, who lack funds, to a less satisfying life and he is harming our long term economic prospects which in the ends directly impacts our ability to defend our nation and way of life.

      Social Security Let me get this straight. He thinks the federal government has done a poor job of administering the Social Security system which has been operational since 1938. He wants to turn it over to the private sector, the same group that all but destroyed our 401(k) retirement plans in 2008. I’m for diversifying my retirement savings and that includes leaving the money I’ve paid into Social Security in the system. Turning Social Security over to the private sector is not a good idea.

      Separation of Church & State Mr. Buck wants to undo what our Founding Father (and Mothers for that matter) did when they adopted the U.S. Constitution which enshrined the principle that religion is a matter of personal consciousness, not a policy of the government. Our founders knew the result of combining the church and the state was the cause of horrendous sectarian wars in Europe and one of the primary policies brought forth by the Enlightenment was the idea religious beliefs should be a matter of personal choice and not a policy of the state. That is why the Founders stated in the original Constitution adopted in 1789: “But no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualificaiton to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  See Article VI of Constitution. Mr. Buck apparently believes the Founders were wrong. He needs to answer a few questions, including how he would combine church and state and whose theology would he adopt (i.e. Catholic, evangelical, Hebrew etc.) He is advocating a very divisive and dangerous policy.

      Birther Mr. Buck apparently endorses the Birther position, at least for purposes of the primary but again that is a divisive and silly issue. He recently said in Douglas County that the Birther issue is over but the fact he even embraced it at one point establishes he is willing to take irresponsible positions just for political advantage. It indicates his lack of judgment.  

      • H-man says:

        Do you want to be troubled by quoting what he said and when he said it?  Nah.

        Let’s just make shit up so we can all agree he is a Waak job, just like Waak told us.

        Dishonesty is so much easier.

          • H-man says:


            No need to add a layer of possible misinformation.

            • Republican 36 says:

              Nothing in the article you cited disproves or refutes any of what Politico cited as Mr. Buck’s positions. In the Stateman article he didn’t make any statement about Birthers, Social Security, Separation of Church and State, student loans, or the U.S. Department of Education.

              On June 16, 2010, in the middle of the Statesman interview, Mr. Buck was asked about why he left the U.S. Attorney’s office and he refused to discuss it. He tried to sluff it off as a smear tactic by Ms. Norton’s campaign but as we all now know, he did have an ethics problem while he was a federal prosecutor. Less than two weeks ago, Mr. Buck was still trying as hard as he could to hide the facts surrounding the investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice into his unethical behavior.

              I guess I should ask my original question again. You seem to know where Mr. Buck stands on the issues cited in the Politico article and you imply his positions are different than the ones cited in that article. Please let me know where he stands on social security, student loans, the U.S. Department of Education, Separation of Church and State, and the birther question.

              • bjwilson83 says:

                Should answer your questions. Or you could just read the whole article.

                • Republican 36 says:

                  At this juncture all we have are Mr. Buck’s statements that his positions revealed in Politico concerning the Separation of Church and State, the student loan programs, Social Security program, the Birthers and U.S. Department of Educaiton were either taken out of context, were made during a period of sleep deprivation, due to memory loss, or he attempts to avoid any direct response by deflection.

                  So I ask the question again: What are Mr. Buck’s positions on these issues? Since you and H-man know, please let the rest of us in on what Mr. Buck believes.

                  • bjwilson83 says:

                    Buck has never been a birther; that’s a ridiculous rumor. He wants to scale back the Department of Education gradually, rather than eliminate it immediately like Jane Norton. He realizes that Social Security and other entitlements are unfunded liabilities and something must be changed, because they are broken. I can’t speak for the campaign, but that’s my take based on what I’ve heard from him.

                    • parsingreality says:

                      Do you know what “up” and “down” mean?

                      SS in its present form is solvent until +/- 2040.  Just like Reagan and the Democratic congress did, it will get tweaked once more, at least, before then.

                      I know it’s crude and getting redundant, but truly, you are a fucking idiot.  

    3. bjwilson83 says:

      Why don’t you be fair and include the next page of the article discussing Buck’s response to those allegations? He is nowhere near as extreme as the article makes him out to be.

      • bjwilson83 says:

        In an interview, Buck told POLITICO he did not recall making many of the statements attributed to him and sought to walk back some of his more provocative comments.

        He said his remark about separating church and state was taken out of context, that he’s been “extremely careful” about calling for the elimination of federal programs in an “abrupt way” and that the “birther” issue has never been a focus of his campaign.

        He initially denied ever saying Social Security was a “horrible policy,” but after POLITICO presented his campaign with evidence of his statements, Buck called back to clarify his position.

        “I’ve been on the road for a year and a half, and there are times where I want to get out of some place and get some sleep and I have made a statement that is not consistent with what I have said before,” Buck said. “It is a very long process and having a camera on you, there’s definitely instances where I could have chosen my words better.”


        • TCU2011 says:

          Did not recall…and sought to walk back some of his more provocative comments

          That doesn’t sound good.  Regardless of his extreme views though, he’s gonna beat Norton.

        • Republican 36 says:

          He is now trying to weasel out of what he has said through memory loss, the affects sleep deprivation, deflection (without denying what he said – birther & social security issues), and his statements were taken out of context.

          For example, Mr. Buck needs to explain, specifically, how he was taken out of context on the issue of church and state. In other words, he needs to explain specifically how he views the separation of church and state.

          At the moment, he is attempting to have it both ways. First, he said what he said and his meaning was clear, and now, he wants us to believe, by implicaiton, that he holds a different view without letting us in on what he specifically means. In that way, he can continue to appeal to the right wing people while simultaneously attempting to take the edge off his hard right rhetoric without really doing so. His prior statements are going to haunt him.  

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            Will Mr. Buck stand by his positions today that he took in front of the crazy lunatics in the Tea Party or his he suddenly going to become the second coming of Scott McInnis and pretend he has been a moderate all along like winky wink Scott Brown?

        • Voyageur says:

          the “birther” issue has never been a focus of his campaign.

            The birther issue is pure right-wing cuckoo clock stuff.  to say it has never been a focus of his campaign presumably means he humors the lunatic fringe by quietly agreeing with them and hopes those of us who live on this planet won’t notice.

          • dwyer says:

            The tea party is more popular than the democrats….WTF.

            Buck is not going to position himself to the center….you will see Hickenlooper move to the right…

            Buck has a deep western voice….bennet/romanoff sound like scared altar boys…..

            I say Senator Buck…gd.

          • Genius says:

            I was sleepy?  Really?

            So he favors “birther” legislation but it’s not “the focus” of his campaign.  i feel better now.

            Apparently, he tried to lie his way out of this story, but the reporter had the goods on him so he had to “call back to clarify his position.”  

            Really confidence inspiring performance by Mr Buck.

          • ajb says:

            and then immediately disowns his own remarks when someone calls him on it? Smells like integrity to me!

            So which does he really believe? Why would you say something if you didn’t believe it in the first place? Besides, none of those positions are at odds with “true conservative” ideology, are they?

            • Froward69 says:

              “integrity” that sticks and squishes into the pattern on the bottom of ones shoe.

              the type that induces the gag reflex trying to scrape it off with a stick.

              Thats ken Buck.

            • How can we forget Norton’s TEA Party house meetup promises?  Buck is catering to the same crowd – the activists that will vote in the GOP primary – and he’s had to make the same noises.

              Now he’s backpedaling as he sees the general election looming ahead of him.  I think in the past it was easier to do this, but with everything now easily recalled on digital video, I think it will hurt anyone making statements like these that go beyond simple partisan disagreements and into things that people care about (Social Security…)

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        that Buck doesn’t pretend to be a moderate.  Aren’t you done with pretending that a broad appeal to moderate voters is a waste because you want Kenny boy to vote as a right wing extremist and not be apologetic.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Mr. Right of Right Wing Extremist doesn’t morph into another ordinary politician pretending to care about moderate positions.  You should be pushing Buck to push the envelope of what is moderate bj.  Go man go.  “Being a To the Right of Right Wing Extremists means never having to say that moderate positions and actions are good government or politics.”

        • bjwilson83 says:

          I am a right wing mainstreamist.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            and invading countries that don’t pose a threat to our national security.

            The term moderate was invented to show how far out of touch with real Americans you really are.  “I’m moderate comparged to bj and Kenny boy Buck.  The extreme in hypocrisy is believing your Pro-Life when you really get off on Shock and Awe.  Don’t lie to us about how normal and tolerant you are.

          • OuiserBoudreaux says:

            how does a thing fly if its wings are not extended to their utmost position?

            • dukeco1 says:

              that afflicts Sarah Palin. They think their “right of right wing” philosophy is far more popular than it really is.

              I think they should be called “Right Wingtips”.  

    4. TCU2011 says:

      Unfortunately that means that Buck is gonna be the candidate for the Republicans.  And his extreme right wing views are going to be his undoing against either Bennet or Romanoff.  Either one can beat Buck and will, unfortunately.  I’m not happy about it but really, Buck verses either of those two will end with a fairly easy win for the Dems.

      • Voyageur says:

        but certainly believe Bennet is well positioned as a Democratic centrist to withstand what seems to be shaping up as a Tea Party candidacy from Buck.

          Andrew might have a bit more trouble as he’s not running to the left of his legislative record and might have to dash back to the center rather abruptly.

    5. KayKayMaestro says:

      With all do respect to our friends at Pols.  Seems to me that the ship has sailed with Mr. Buck.  Personally, I don’t see any road that will bring him anywhere near the middle.  He should just embrace the extreme track that he’s been on and hunker down.

      Regardless, the damage is done.  He is too far out on the fringe, too extreme for mainstream Colorado voters.

    6. H-man says:

      I am sure that Buck sat down with you and said the following:

      Social Security is bad

      Government-funded student loans are bad

      Elimate the Department of Education

      President Obama may not be a citizen

      Separation of church and state is bad

      Then you interviewed Michael Bennet and he said:

      Big Government is good.

      Socialized Medicine is good.

      Jobs are bad.

      Deficits are good.

      First Amendment is bad.

      Taxes are good.

      I appreciate the nuance and insight that this article sheds on things.  

      • ajb says:

        Buck did in fact make the statements that were quoted. Then Buck ran away from his own statements when questioned about them.

        The rest of your post is a bunch of made-up bullshit. You’re usually better than that.  

        • H-man says:

          You mean I could not find something out of context for each of these statements that could be summarized that way for Bennet?

          The truth is that Buck does not read from a script and that he has expressed himself on these issues thousands of times in the last 18 months.

          If you give any of these statements context and then go through how he has answered the questions repeatedly, you do not reasonably come to the conclusions stated.

          What was meant by Social Security is bad? Give me some context.  Without that it is meaningless.

          Buck a birther?  You are nuts.  I have heard him dismiss that several times in youtube videos. I don’t know where someone says they recorded him otherwise, but that is not what I heard.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            and sing LA-LA-LA while folks point out to you that earning Tea Party endorsements isn’t done with moderate positions and the Tea Party crowd are all ga-ga over Kenny boy Buck.  How can you possibly claim that Buck has anything approaching moderate positions when he struts his stuff that he is an even more insane extremist conservative than Norton.  If he budges even a thirty second of an inch on promoting a more moderate image, Norton is going to hammer him with all the money she’s got.  She has nothing to lose and who cares about the consequences in the general.

            There is no way (none) that Buck can morph into a thoughtful Scott Brown moderate and we now know that Scott Brown is no moderate so fooling the voters again on a fake moderate is going to tougher for Republicans to pull off.

            • bjwilson83 says:

              What about her desire to eliminate the Department of Education in one fell swoop? Buck would roll it back gradually. What about her desire to declare war on Muslims? Buck says we can’t be policing the world. Honestly, who is the extremist here?

            • H-man says:

              On the issues, Norton has been more extreme than Buck, but they are relatively close on most issues.  What resonates with the Tea Party group is genuineness and grass roots style.  Buck has been accessable for over a year and has shown up all over the state.  Six months ago Norton was too important and off in DC hobnobbing with the DC crowd, which did not help her.  Norton traveled in an entourage and spoke through others. Buck drove his own car and travelled alone.  There are lots of reasons why he has won them over, but it is overly simplistic to look at it as who is more extreme substantively on the issues.

              • Republican 36 says:

                We haven’t heard one specific refutation of the positions attributed to him, and each one of them is extreme. And now you’re admitting both Ms. Norton and Mr. Buck are extremists from the right.  The only difference is in their relative extremism.

                • MADCO says:

                  We’ll hear the ones that matter. Refutations that is.  but not until later, so late in fact that it can’t hurt him in the primary, and won’t leave enough time to correct them in the general.

          • Republican 36 says:

            Since you know that, then you can cite some proof to back-up assertions.

            • H-man says:

              How can I argue something was taken out of context if it has not been put in context.  If someone has a tape of something, produce it and we can see the context.  You are the one that is anxious to make him into a nut.  I know he is not a nut.

              If you read the Statesman article as you have indicated and you have read David’s two interviews which were posted several months ago and you conclude he is a nut, we do not share the same conclusions.  I find him thoughtful, intelligent and electable.  Time will tell which one of us is right.

              • Republican 36 says:

                You have indicated today that the Politico article is wrong about Mr. Buck’s positions on Social Security, Separation of Church and State, student loans, the U.S. Department of Education and the Birthers. Since you say so, you can certainly cite to articles or other sources that show Mr. Buck’s true positions on these specific issues. I’m reqesting specific information on these issues. Mr. Buck’s response to Politico was less than revealing, but what was most telling is what he didn’t say. He didn’t deny any of the positions Politico attributed to him. His only response was he must have been sleepy when he said that. Well if he was sleepy then, all I want to know is what are his positions on those issues when he is wide awake.  

              • RedGreen says:

                While it’s true he sounds all those things in those interviews, the point of the Politico article is that he’s saying more extreme things depending on his audience. Saying he doesn’t sound extreme when he’s talking to more general audiences doesn’t answer that question.

                • bjwilson83 says:

                  Just wondering. You might take some time to figure out what he actually says on the campaign trail, in context, before you put your foot in your mouth.

                  • RedGreen says:

                    I have heard his stump speech and lots more from Buck.

                    I’ve never said Buck doesn’t make a great impression before a general audience. (That means my impression has been that he does make a great impression, if you’re having trouble with the double negative there.) But that’s not what the Politico story is about.

          • ajb says:

            A couple of points:

            1. You can find statements taken out of context for just about any politician. An example might be Obama’s joke about golf courses that Libertad took seriously (yes, that’s setting the bar pretty low, but it’s an example).

            2. These statements weren’t taken out of context. This is about saying one thing to one audience and something completely different to another audience. Pandering is one word for it.

            3. Your made-up bullshit about Bennet is exactly that. If you want to play the “out-of-context” game, then go find something. Otherwise you’re just making shit up.

            Look, I think Buck is better than Norton. But just because I think he’s smarter and more articulate and would make a better senator doesn’t mean that I like his positions.

            And I’m always suspicious of politicians that pander. Is he a RINO or a “true conservative”? Frankly, I don’t know.

            • H-man says:

              My problem is I can’t disprove a negative, particularly when I have not been presented enough about it to be dangerous.  I honestly don’t know what was said that is referred to by Politico and to be fair would probably need the page before and the page after the comments to have context.  Once I had that, assuming there was something there, I could probably find a place where he has said a relatively middle of the road (for Republicans) position on it.  Then we would be left with explaining the differences.

              For example, on the Birther issue, I have heard him dismiss the Birther issue as not being relevant, but can’t put my finger on which video I saw that on. Frankly, I don’t know or care whether Obama is or is not from Mars, he is our President. I think that is pretty much what he expressed.

              I think you will find Buck to be a thoughtful, nuanced conservative, but those terms at times are not that helpful.

              I would think listening to some of his interviews, and reading the interviews at Colorado Statesman and the earlier ones by David would likely be the best way to size him up.

              As to my Bennet comments, I offered those examples where I could likely find things that some poeple would see as evidence of those positions.  There is no what I would call smoking gun that came to mind.  I also don’t see any of this stuff as a smoking gun either, except to the already committed extremes.

    7. It's Me says:

      Penry said he didn’t want to become “Holtzman” when he got out of the Governor’s race.  

      But over the last four months, he’s become one of the most reviled and hated politicos in the state;  He’s the one who’s turning this race into the most bitter primary we’ve seen in recent memory.  

      He must be hoping he’ll get a job with Charlie Black when this is all over.  

      • Ralphie says:

        Just finally recognized as incompetent.

      • H-man says:

        Here is a comment from the Denver Post article on the strage bedfellows Norton and Waak beating up on Buck from blogger ex-pat ex-lawyer:


        I think this story should reiterate, as your excellent piece from this morning made clear, Ken Buck voluntarily provided these records to the DP; otherwise, they were protected personnel records. I find that refreshingly transparent and proactive.

        It’s notable that Norton’s press release leaves out the nuances you made clear in your article; otherwise Jane would look like a gun control opportunist like Strickland. Good to note how consistent the Dems and Norton’s attacks are. I’m at the point of wondering whether Josh Penry is a Dem mole. She’s not had a positive aspect to her campaign since Penry took over as campaign manager. And now they’re attacking Shawn Mitchell too?

        Until this afternoon, I was leaning Buck, but undecided. Thanks again Josh and Jane, for making my decision easy.

      • caroman says:

        It kind of sounds like right-wing chicken hawk on the grill.

        Oh, the “irony”.

    8. 6thCDwatcher says:

      is always an attractive option to the better known (Norton) candidate’s “flaws”>>>until the challenger wins the nomination and all hell breaks loose as the challenger’s “flaws” are finally (and tardily) noticed.  This is the case here with Norton and Buck—we know a lot about Norton, but virtually nothing (yet) about Buck.

    9. elephant1968 says:

      in slowly breaking down that barrier between church and state.  What is Buck’s agenda?

    10. DavidThi808 says:

      Sometimes I think no one ever reads my interviews. Ok, from April 2009

      [healthcare] did not push a specific solution other than to say single payer was not the answer and we do need to keep it in the private sphere.

      He brought up a number of specifics such as at least having Education money go straight to the local school boards rather than through the Dept of Education. So he gets the feds out of what he thinks should be a local issue. And the money remains. He was also upfront that he would prefer the federal government not even be involved in this (that whole less spending/balanced budget thing).

      October 2009

      But he also thinks the federal government should get out of K-12. He brings up the point that the federal government has gotten more and more involved in K-12 over the last 40 years – and it has not gotten better.

      I then asked Ken about immigration. He first wants to see us craft a guest worker program that is sufficient to meet the needs of our economy. He spoke quite well to the fact that if there is a lot more need than workers, then people will come illegally. He also is concerned about people having babies here which gives them a child who is a U.S. citizen. Next he talked about tightening up our border security – both borders (ie Canada too). To keep out both illegals and terrorists. He did say that the number of terrorists are few, but we want to get them.

      Not answers to all the questions, but it does answer some.

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