Gardner Talks Plenty, Answers Little in Telephone Townhall

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Why won’t Cory Gardner do in -person, live town halls? That’s easy –  if he did, he would have baffled crowds of people yelling, “What?” “Who?” “When?” and turning to each other, muttering, “What – what did he just say? It sounded great, but what does it mean?” He couldn’t handle the follow-up questions. At all. There are no “mute” or “delete” buttons for real people asking inconvenient questions in a live town hall.

I listened to Senator Gardner talk at his constituents for an hour during his tele-town hall on August 2, 2017. For the first time in all of the Gardner town halls I’ve sat through, he actually answered one of my questions.  (at 49:15 in the recording). Unfortunately, it was a question with lots of wiggle room – perfect for Gardner. On the other hand, plenty of people asked him very specific questions, and he didn’t answer those, either.

Here’s what I heard between 7:05 pm and 8:05 pm on Gardner’s telephone town hall. All questions and answers are paraphrased, unless I’m using quotation marks.

Photo: ADAPT protest, Cory Gardner’s Greeley office, July 27, 2017.

In his introduction, Gardner spewed the usual glibberish. He’s going to repair the damage of Obamacare, because so many Coloradans got their policies cancelled or had to pay fines, bla bla. He lied again about how many town halls he’s held, counting his one on one meetings with a health care CEO and stopping to get fruit for his kids at a roadside stand as “meeting with Coloradans”. Oh, and he had dinner at a ranch, and met with  Chamber of Commerce members.  Aren’t those town halls? Cory swears that counts as a town hall.

Still glibbering, Gardner talked about cybersecurity and his bill to make the “internet of things” more secure, which cook rightly pointed out is not-bad legislation.  He also talked about opening up more broadband “spectrum” in rural Colorado, and mentioned tax reform, coming to you in September!!

Then he began taking questions. Some had been submitted online, while most were live telephone callers.

1st online question (Lisa)(approx 05:40): What do you hope to accomplish with your repeated votes to repeal and replace the  ACA?

CG:: I’m gonna uphold my promise to repealandreplace the ACA with “something that will work”, mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo. Didn’t answer question

2nd online question:  What problems will be solved by moving the Bureau of Land Management HQ to Grand Junction.

CG:Greater responses, better relationships. 99% of BLM lands are west of the Mississippi, so the managers /decision makers should be, too. Plus it will create jobs. Mesa County has lots of BLM public lands. This almost made sense, but didn’t answer the question.

1st live question, John in Phillips County: (07:40) My health care premium is 1/3 of my income, it’s not sustainable. Republicans didn’t get’er done.

CG: What was your premium prior to ACA?(unfortunately, I had to edit out this because I got the phone audio from Gardner mixed in and it was unintelligible).

2nd caller: (~09:34) Cory in Crested Butte.Thanks for hearing on Eaglenet Alliance. But that 143 million for infrastructure never came in, so what about the audit, and the future?

CG: Centurylink needs oversight. Have to continue to hold people accountable, are they on target, on time.  Will keep fighting for rural broadband. Didn’t answer Cory’s question.

3rd caller: Michael in Pueblo (12:57) He’s a veteran attending PCC. Veterans with families, family members attending college are being told that there will not be grants or work study anymore. Will you look into these cuts that the Sec of Ed is making?

CG: I’ll follow up with you. Call Pueblo CC. Education budget. We have to live up to our promises to veterans. I’m all about the vets, met the VA sec just today. Didn’t answer Michael’s question about education cuts in the Trump budget.

4th caller: Bruce in Durango: ( 17:05) I’m a cardiologist here. Single payer health care would be much more efficient, cut our overhead. We could concentrate on providing health care rather than how to pay for it.

CG: I don’t support a single payer system. Cites NPR article that Sanders’ proposal would add $18 trillion to debt over 10 years. Poor Charlie Gard baby in UK, as example of gov overreach. (my note: Sanders rebuts the naysayers in same NPR article here and his proposal is here).*

Lee online question (at about 21:15 in)  Why won’t you hold a real town hall, where you can not only hear us but engage with us with feelings and empathy? When can we see and feel you doing that?

CG: I’ve held 100 town meetings in my time in Congress. Mumbo jumbo. I hope to announce a town hall soon when our schedule in Washington is figured out. I’ve met 400 people in offices. Places like Club 20 and others.  Didn’t answer Lee’s ?.

5th caller Lisa from Walcott: You confirmed Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke. They’re anti-wildlife. Why would you endorse these people?

CG: EPA are bad guys. They dumped tons of toxic sludge, didn’t make anybody whole. Bla bla bla. Have to have “balance “in endangered species act.  Zinke and Pruitt have said nice things about the environment. So it’s all good. Didn’t answer Lisa’s question.

6th Caller Maureen from Gunnison: (about 27:54 minutes in) (Maureen sounds like she may be elderly , ill, or have breathing difficulties – she speaks slowly, shakily, but  clearly, and  her questions were the best on the call, in my opinion:

Q1: ACA saved my life, and it’s continuing to save me. Without it, I’d be homeless. Why are you trying to take this away from me? No more than 17% supported any of these versions of the health care bill. Why do you keep voting against your constituents?

Q2: Why in God’s name are you and other Republicans acting like everything is normal? How can you support a raging narcissistic psychopath who is going to get us all killed? An out and out traitor to this country?

CG:  I’m glad that the ACA worked for you. It didn’t work for everyone. Experts say that it would greatly reduce the cost of health care.  (my note: LIE!) bla bla mumbo jumbo.

On your 2nd question, I express agreements and disagreements w President Trump .  I’ll ultimately do what I think is right for the people of Colorado.  CG avoided answering Maureen’s excellent questions.

7th caller: Richard from Clifton (32:12): I’m an 82 year old Republican. Why are you all fighting with each other instead of being unified like the Democrats?

CG: Everyone wishes their party would unite more. We have a difficult set of issues. On health care, no easy solutions. It’s personal, it’s emotional. I understand your frustration. I will look for best policies best ideas. Mumbalumba  jumbadumbah patriotic  bs etcetera thanks bla.

8th caller: Cassie in Pueblo West at 34:50: What specifically are you doing to reach across the aisle? What are you actually working with Democrats on?

CG: Examples: I worked with Maggie Hassan on rural broadband issues. I’m also working with Ron Wyden on CBD cannabinoid oil, helps children with epilepsy.

I work with Senator Bennet  (on VA hospital) and Governor Hickenlooper, Gary Peters on STEM program, flood relief. All of this was bipartisan work.  Worked with Elizabeth Warren on identifying disparities in educational achievement to finetune it.

When it comes to bipartisan healthcare, it’s pretty much just telemedicine. That’s the only way I work with Democrats on healthcare. Next question!

Online question from Erica about North Korea (at about 39:29). North Korea wants an end to the war, and reunification. Why not have a 10 sq mile buffer between N and S Korea?

CG: N Korea is the greatest threat we face. Per recent ICBM test, Colorado is now in  N Korea’s nuclear “shadow” (my note: I don’t know what that means, but it sounds bad.). They violate terms of armistice, have broken every agreement. I was in S Korea, looking over the DMZ.  First, we have to have peaceful de-nuclearization. We need a total economic embargo of N Korea, to stand up against human rights abuses. We have 28,000 American soldiers in S Korea today. We need to protect those people. (My note -NBC says 37,000 soldiers in S Korea.I had no idea). I thought CG did a pretty decent job answering this question. I nominate him for ambassador to N Korea.

9th caller: Richard from Alamosa: (42:26) Has a question about VA and the CHOICE program. Will CHOICE be funded so veterans can get care if VA is too busy?

Cory supports it, but somehow didn’t mention that the CHOICE act is underfunded, badly managed, Veteran’s groups have some serious reservations about it,  (that $2 Bn funding is “offset” by cuts to disabled veteran’s Medicare benefits) and right now it is only authorized through August. A $2Billion bill funding CHOICE for 6 more months was just sent to the President’s desk.  But hey, Cory G is all supportive of the vets, he wants you to know.

10th caller: Tom in Durango (~46:00) asked about a program to get Denver TV in 3 “Four Corners” area  CO counties. Apparently, the main issue here is being able to watch the Broncos live, instead of the Dallas Cowboys, which is what Albuquerque broadcasts.

Cory yukked it up – He’ll free the 4 corners area folks from the Cowboys tyranny.  Gardner’s on the stick, petitioning the FCC, meeting with County Commissioners.  Here’s another idea for a gig for our Senator after 2020: He could be a TV marketing exec  or a sports talk jock- (on the Trump network?) He seems to really get into this.

My online question at 49:14: Why do you think that a block grant program would provide better care than the ACA plan?

CG: This is probably the plan put forward by Bill Cassidy and Lindsay Graham (Yup) Colorado can design a program for Colorado better than Washington, DC can. Giving more power over those decisions to the state is a step in the right direction. I haven’t seen legislative language on the Cassidy / Graham bill yet. But if can empower Coloradans to do what’s best for Colorado, I think we have a better outcome.

My intent in asking the question was to get Gardner on the record about  the latest iteration of GOP wealthcare.   Lindsay and Cassidy do indeed have a “block grant” health care proposal out there which basically punts Obamacare back to the states. The obvious problem with this is that people move around, and health care should be consistent from state to state. The Supreme Court has ruled on this “different strokes for different states” thing several times, and it’s been smacked down every time.

Anyway. Back to Mr. Gardner’s telephone town hall. It’s almost over.

Elizabeth in Wellington at 50:47 asks: I’m a geologist, hydrologist, professor. What about science? Will there be science in your budget, especially water? Water will be one of our greatest challenges in the future.

CG I support water center of Excellence in NREL. Water in Colorado is everything. I fought for 4% increase in funding for National Science Foundation. I wrote an Op Ed “Science shouldn’t be a partisan issue“, in Ft Collins Coloradoan.

My note: Cory Gardner actually is pretty pro-science – except when it comes to the EPA and climate science. There, his silence is deafening.

And so ends this town hall diary  I meant to just write a few notes, put up the recording, and call it good. Instead, I’ve written a fricking diary again.  Still, there may be a few useful nuggets in here.

As has been noted by Polsters, not everything Cory Gardner does is evil.  He’s reasonable on rural broadband, on science (except climate science and anything which decreases fossil fuel revenues). He’s OK on cybersecurity and medical cannabis.  He’ll probably get the 4 corners folks their Bronco broadcasts. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about on North Korea – but since he totally got played by Rodrigo Duterte, who knows?

Cory Gardner’s mile-wide, mile-deep blind spot is his stubborn refusal to meet with his constituents live, in a town hall setting where they get to react and boo and hiss and cheer and ask follow up questions. He wants to  control the narrative, but he can’t have control and still get elected.

He’s got to face up to his people, with our sad, depressing stories of cancer and disabilities, of accidents and “Sh*t happens”, of children with life-threatening illnesses and cognitive challenges.  He has to understand in his gut what it might be like to live without a social  safety net.   He needs to get that it’s tough to see a child suffer when Medicaid once covered her care.

He has to own that his policies are hurting us.  If he did really listen to people like Maureen tremulously telling  how the  ACA saved her life, could Cory Gardner still arrogantly say, “I know you disagree, but I’ll do what I think is right for the people of Colorado”?



About mamajama55

Teacher in northern Colorado. Nosy, curious, persistent.

9 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. The realistThe realist says:

    Great summary, mama. I listened in – it is amazing how much "filler" Gardner throws out there – blah, blah, and then lots more blah, blah. Does not even try to fake an empathetic approach toward those asking questions. Truly out of touch, and seemingly content to remain out of touch.

    Regarding rural broadband – the politicos have been talking and promising on rural broadband for at least 20 years. I'll believe Gardner on that when I see results. In order to successfully participate in the 21st century economy, broadband needs to be fully built out in rural Colorado.

    I wanted to ask him about immigration, especially #TrumpsterFire's new proposal to cut immigration in half, and prioritize those who already speak English and have high-tech skills. I'm guessing two top industries in our state – agriculture and tourism – will not agree with this proposal. They fight every year to get a sufficient number of immigrant workers for important jobs in their industries which are not filled by local workers.

  2. skeptical citizen says:

    Of course, the Nowhere Man answers Nothing.

    Thanks to Photo Shoppist:

  3. Jason Salzman says:

    thanks for reporting on this, Mamma.

  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    I have difficulty getting fired up about rural broadband. I pay for high speed internet from Century Link in Lakewood. Much of the time, my speeds resemble the old dial-up days.

    • The realistThe realist says:

      Well, you've summarized the problem – CenturyLink is blocking competitors while at the same time not providing needed high-speed service.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      I've been sparing a little bandwidth trying to figure out why Century Link sucks so badly. They lure customers in with low rates, and then they barely provide decent service. Since the caller mentioned an Eaglenet scandal and an audit on the Gardner town hall, I got curious (famous last words) and investigated.

      I found that this "build up broadband in rural Colorado" effort has been going on since 2014. Zayo, Eaglenet, Enet, and now Centurylink have been trying to build miles of cable and wire up schools and businesses. Centurylink was subsidized to do that, after its previous incarnations of zayo, eaglenet, and enet kept failing and running out of money. Hence the audit, I guess. Plus the smaller rural phone companies are not happy with how Century link is sucking up all of the business.

      So the short answer is that centurylink sucks because they are building a monopoly. If you're not willing to fork over 1/4 of your income for cable, then you have DSL, as I do, and centurylink can charge whatever the market will bear, and give you whatever crappy service they feel like.

      There's a longer discussion about rural broadband and how that gets done, but you said that wasn't something you're interested in.


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