Monday Open Thread

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

–Christopher Hitchens

Seriously, Did Republicans Fire All Their Editors?

We took note Friday of a TV spot targeting rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood from the Republican Senate Majority Fund–an expensive production and ad buy that couldn’t even spell the targeted candidate’s name right. If it’s worth producing and distributing before the eyeballs of thousands of voters, it should go without saying that it’s worth the essential step of copyediting.

This weekend, we’re treated to another spectacular GOP proofreading failure, once again being distributed to live voters in Greeley’s House District 50 by Republican candidate Brian Thuener:

Seriously folks, how the hell does that make it into the hands of actual voters? We understand that typographical errors happen–after all, this is a blog. We commit them all the time. What we wouldn’t do is allow such elementary errors to be printed and then distributed in campaign literature–or in the case of a TV spot, aired to thousands of voters.

Too many more such incidents, and the “amateur hour” impression this kind of thing leaves won’t be a coincidence anymore. It’ll be part of the narrative of 2018.

Tailhook Scandal Resurfaces for Stapleton Running Mate Lang Sias

Walker Stapleton (left) introduced running mate Lang Sias at the Wings Over the Rockies Air Museum in Denver on July 11, 2018.

As John Frank reports today for the The Colorado Sun, Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Lang Sias played a not-insignificant role in the infamous Tailhook scandal of the early nineties. We’d encourage you to read the entire story for yourself, but we’ll try to summarize the key points here as best we can.

For those of you who don’t remember the Tailhook scandal (or were too young to recall the story, or maybe not even alive yet), let’s pause to recap. Tailhook was a major national story at the time and remains one of the biggest black marks in the history of the American military. The name stems from “The Tailhook Association,” a private organization for Navy pilots that held an annual “conference” in Las Vegas that brought 5,000 current and former aviators together for a drunken bacchanal. The most disturbing accounts include multiple allegations of sexual assault – women were reportedly forced to walk a hallway called “the gauntlet,” where they were groped and fondled – as well as reports of prostitutes performing sex acts on military members in front of an entire room full of people.

To understand how out of control the Tailhook parties had become, consider this line from a Department of Defense (DOD) report in 1993: “Investigative activity to date has confirmed more than isolated instances of men exposing themselves, women baring their breasts, shaving of women’s legs and pubic areas, and women drinking from dildos that dispensed alcoholic beverages.” [Pols emphasis]

As Frank explains for The Colorado Sun:

In total, a Pentagon report determined that 117 officers were implicated in one or more cases of assault, indecent exposure or conduct unbecoming an officer and 51 additional individuals made false statements during the investigation. “Furthermore, several hundred other officers were aware of the misconduct and chose to ignore it,” the investigation concluded.

In 1997, William McMichael published a book about Tailhook titled “Mother of All Hooks,” that included extensive detail from testimony made to DOD investigators and plenty of references to Sias. In 1991, Sias was a naval pilot with the VAF-83 squadron, also known as “the Rampagers.” Sias was not disciplined for his involvement with Tailhook, though the scandal essentially ended the career of his commanding officer, Robert Stumpf.

Now, here’s how all of this becomes a problem for Sias:

In order to reach the Tailhook Conference, Sias and Stumpf flew in an F/A-18 jet from a naval base in Florida to a military airfield in California that was a few hours drive to Las Vegas. We don’t need to explain why taking a military jet to a giant party is a bad look. Sias and Stumpf shared a room at the Las Vegas Hilton, where the parties took place. Sias was among those in attendance when a pilot received oral sex from a prostitute in front of a room full of people – an incident that later became a focal point of the DOD investigation.

Rep. Lang Sias (R-Arvada)

During the DOD investigation, Sias told officials that he didn’t remember seeing Stumpf in the room when another pilot was with the prostitute. Stumpf later admitted to being in the room, which didn’t do much for Sias’ credibility.

Fast-forward 27 years, and Sias remains pretty tight-lipped about the entire incident. As Frank reports for The Sun:

But Tailhook is a topic Sias is not willing to discuss in detail. In an interview this week, The Colorado Sun asked Sias at least nine times in a 17-minute interview about what he saw at Tailhook, but Sias refused to directly answer each time. Instead, he repeated iterations of the same line.

“I was never accused of doing anything wrong ever by anybody at any time,” he told The Sun and its television partner, CBS4. “You’ve seen my records, and there’s no way that I would have the fitness reports that I have … if there were any blemishes on my record.”

Okie, dokie. What about the fact that Sias flew a fighter jet across the country to attend the Tailhook “convention”?

Asked about the flight three times, Sias eventually told The Sun: “I think we behaved appropriately, and I think that’s documented in the record.”

Um…sure. And what about Sias claiming that he didn’t see Stumpf at the party?

In an interview with The Sun, Sias declined to address the apparent inconsistency. “I would simply say the record and the facts stand for themselves,” Sias said. “If I had said something that created a conflict or otherwise was illegitimate on my part that would have been reflected in my record.”

According to Frank, Stapleton’s campaign knew all about Sias’ involvement with the Tailhook scandal when he was tapped to be Stapleton’s running mate in early July.

The Great Colorado (Pay)Backfire

For most of the last eight years, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton — the Republican nominee for Governor in 2018 — has used “The Great Colorado Payback” as an excuse to get his goofy mug on television for a few weeks every spring. It’s a nice little perk for a politician looking to run for higher office; you basically get to stand in front of a camera and tell Coloradans how to collect money they didn’t know they were owed.

There’s never been much of a downside to this arrangement…that is, not until Stapleton managed to find one. Because Stapleton has been so inept in his job as State Treasurer, the Great Colorado Payback program is in complete disarray.

And that’s how Stapleton ends up with a starring role in a brutal negative TV ad like this one from “Good Jobs Colorado”:

As Long As They Spell Your Name Right, Rep. Brittany Pettersen Edition

UPDATE: Here’s a bunch of big donors to the Senate Majority Fund who we’re guessing expect the work product to be spell-checked:

Pick up the phone and demand more for your money, y’all.

—–

When they don’t, the attack ad becomes more of a punchline. A costly punchline at that. Better luck next time, Senate Majority Fund.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 14)

This will all be over in 53 days…and then we can start talking about 2020. It’s time to Get More Smarter. 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…

President Trump can start to panic now. Well, panic more, anyway.

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, will apparently cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller despite Manafort’s prior insistence that he wasn’t going to make a deal. From the Washington Post:

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is pleading guilty Friday to two criminal charges under terms of a plea deal that includes his cooperation as a potential witness for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The decision by Manafort to provide evidence in exchange for leniency on sentencing is a stunning development in the long-running probe into whether any Trump associates may have conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Manafort’s defenders have long insisted that he would not cooperate with Mueller, and didn’t know any incriminating information against the president.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said at the beginning of Friday’s plea hearing that Manafort has agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Manafort’s second trial was scheduled to begin next week. Instead, Manafort will plead guilty on two charges: Conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring to obstruct justice.

As Philip Bump notes in a separate story for the Washington Post, Manafort is now the fifth member of Trump’s 2016 campaign team to plead guilty to criminal charges.

 

► President Trump was widely criticized on Thursday for claiming that a reported death toll in Puerto Rico following last year’s hurricane is some sort of conspiracy by Democrats to make him look bad. In response, Democrats pointed to actual facts showing that they didn’t need to dream up any numbers in order to make Trump look terrible.

As Politico reports:

Emails released Thursday by congressional Democrats show correspondence between first responders that appears to undermine the Trump administration’s public reporting of the human toll from Hurricane Maria last year.

In one email, dated Sept. 29, 2017, a first responder — whose name has been redacted — describes “finding mass graves in mud slide areas,” and requests counseling support for federal first responders in the area. An unnamed Army National Guard general is included in the correspondence.

Only 16 deaths were publicly acknowledged when President Donald Trump arrived at the island days later to survey damage and meet with local officials. That number climbed to 34 hours after he left.

Independent researchers at George Washington University subsequently estimated the casualties at 2,975, a figure accepted by Puerto Rico’s commonwealth government.

Trump, of course, has regularly crowed that his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria was a YUGE success. This is probably not particularly reassuring for people on the East Coast currently dealing with Hurricane Florence.

Elsewhere, Blair Miller of Denver7 summarizes responses to Trump’s claims from Colorado’s Congressional delegation.

 

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is denying sexual assault charges from when he was in high school, as NBC News reports:

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied allegations made by a woman who reportedly said that he had held her down at a party when they were in high school in the 1980s and tried to force himself on her.

According to a report Friday in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, the woman, who has asked not to be identified, described the incident in a letter that was sent to the offices of two California Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Anna Eshoo.

The woman claimed that Kavanaugh and one of his classmates had been drinking and turned up the music in the room they were in to drown out the sound of the woman’s protests and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand, the report said.

Feinstein said on Thursday that she had referred the matter the the FBI.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Friday Open Thread

“The politicians were talking themselves red, white and blue in the face.”

–Clare Boothe Luce

Staple-thusiasm! Sterling, CO Edition

The Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA) cracks on the above photo from the Sterling Journal-Advocate, featuring GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton and a precious two attendees at Stapleton’s campaign stop in the northeastern Colorado town Monday:

Walker Stapleton’s enthusiasm gap can be summed up in one photo. When he visited Sterling, Colorado, on Monday, he drew in a whopping two people—an elected Republican official and a Republican candidate—to hear his ideas for Colorado.

Despite not doing his job and missing from work for weeks at a time while campaigning with fringe right-wing figures like Tom Tancredo, Stapleton isn’t getting his voters all that excited. Likely because his real base consists of his special interest donors.

“If Walker Stapleton hasn’t realized he’s in trouble by now, this photo should make things crystal clear,” said Democratic Governors Association Deputy Communications Director David Turner. “Everyday Coloradans aren’t buying what Walker Stapleton is selling them. He’s probably a bit more comfortable when he’s surrounded by the likes of Tom Tancredo or his special interest donors.”

For the record, that’s Jane Bauder, a candidate for Logan County commish and Josh Sonnenberg, chair of the local Republican Party. As for why nobody else showed, reports the J-A?

A planned northeast Colorado business roundtable at The Grill @ River City was short on attendees; according to Josh Sonnenberg, president of the Logan County Republican Party, several businesses in Sterling were affected by loss of Internet service Monday and that likely prevented business people from being able to break away.

We’ve been to Sterling, and “the internet was down” doesn’t seem like a very good excuse for why nobody showed up to Stapleton’s campaign event there. Logan County is about is safely Republican as it gets, and sugar beet harvest season isn’t until October.

So in the absence of a better explanation, we’re forced to agree that Stapleton just isn’t a draw.

And, well, yes, Tom Tancredo probably would be.

President Trump Hammered for Disputing Thousands of Deaths in Puerto Rico

President Trump participating in “relief efforts” in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

As the East Coast prepares to face the wrath of Hurricane Florence — predicted to be one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in decades — President Trump decided it would be a good idea to publicly dispute reports that thousands of Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Seriously.

As the Washington Post reports, Trump is getting pummeled for these ridiculous comments:

President Trump drew widespread rebukes Thursday — including from several fellow Republicans — after falsely claiming that the number of deaths attributable to Hurricane Maria had been inflated by Democrats to “make me look as bad as possible.”

In morning tweets, Trump took issue with the findings of a sweeping report released last month by George Washington University that estimated there were 2,975 “excess deaths” in the six months after the storm made landfall in Puerto Rico in September 2017.

Trump said on Twitter that “they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths” when he visited the island about two weeks after the storm.

“As time went by it did not go up by much,” Trump wrote. “Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000. … This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” [Pols emphasis]

“What kind of mind twists that statistic into ‘Oh, fake news is trying to hurt my image.’ How can you be so self-centered and try to distort the truth so much? It’s mind boggling.”

— Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

In a separate story, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker rates Trump’s claims to be completely false (“Four Pinnochios!”)

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Thursday’s Tweetstorm from Trump proves, once again, that the Big Orange Guy can always stoop lower:

This should not surprise us, but it should serve as a reminder that there is not a bottom here. There is no depth that Trump will not explore in order to further his own narcissism and victimhood. There is no conspiracy he will not embrace — or, in this case, start — in order to improve his own personal brand or further his own political narrative…

…Earlier this week, faced with the reports of the greatly expanded death toll, Trump insisted that he had done a terrific job in the country. “I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been with respect to what this is all about,” he told reporters.

That was bad enough, particularly given the fact that a) we are talking about peoples’ lives here and b) another major hurricane was barreling toward the Carolinas even as Trump was touting his own performance after Hurricane Maria.

Now Trump has gone even further — pivoting from merely defending his performance to embracing a conspiracy theory about the actual death toll from the hurricane and suggesting Democrats are secretly behind all of it. As evidence, he offers — you guessed it! — absolutely nothing.

Trump’s ridiculous conspiracy theory isn’t just a political problem for the White House — it’s a serious albatross for Republicans in Colorado and across the country who have been embracing Trump ahead of the 2018 midterm election.

NYT Live Poll: Crow Crushing Coffman

An interesting new polling method being tried out by the New York Times and Siena College is tracking results of a survey of Colorado’s CD-6 in real time–and the results they’re showing as of now are not good news for Rep. Mike Coffman:

Now before Democrats get too excited, here’s the deal:

Most experts consider this race a tossup. Neither side needs to win any particular tossup to win control, but the party that wins the most will probably take the House. Our poll is a good result for Democrats so far.

But remember: It’s just one poll, and we’ve talked to only 387 people. Each candidate’s total could easily be six points different if we polled everyone in the district. And having a small sample is only one possible source of error.

We’ll be watching this real-time publication of polls results very closely going forward to see if this number changes, but for a few reasons seeing Democratic candidate Jason Crow out ahead of Coffman by eleven points is less of a surprise than you might think: that figure is close to the margin of victory in 2016 for both Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in this district. Trailing in a public poll is also new for Coffman; prior to this year, Coffman had never been behind in any publicly-available polling results.

As we’ve explored thoroughly in this space over a period of years, Coffman’s legendary ability to split tickets that otherwise go Democratic is what has kept him in office since almost losing the seat to an underfunded challenger in 2012. But if two years of co-branding with Trump have ruined Coffman’s ability to triangulate off his own party, it’s quite possible that he’s finished. In that event, this margin of victory would not only be reasonable, but in line with recent Democratic performance in CD-6.

Who Will Win in CO-6: Coffman or Crow?

Rep. Mike Coffman (left) and challenger Jason Crow

We’ve asked you, our wise readers, to weigh in on the outcome of the race for Governor, and we’ve asked for your opinions on the other top statewide races in 2018. Now it’s time to get Congressional.

As always, we want to know who you think will be the winner in November, not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. The point of this exercise is to track how perceptions of various races are changing (or not) as Election Day nears.

Who will win the U.S. House race in CO-6? Will Republican Rep. Mike Coffman hold off another challenger, or will Democrat Jason Crow emerge victorious?

Who Will Win the Race in CO-6?
Mike Coffman
Jason Crow
View Result

Bennet, Hick Try To Slow Trump Drilling Frenzy

Sage Grouse of the Greater kind.

AP reports via CBS4 Denver:

Top Colorado Democrats on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of rushing to open public lands to oil and gas drilling without giving the public nearly enough time to comment.

In letters to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper also asked the government not to go ahead with plans for oil and gas drilling on habitat for the greater sage grouse, a bird that Western states and federal agencies are trying to protect…

A joint federal-state program called the Sage Grouse Initiative, launched under the Obama administration, is trying to save the bird without resorting to the strict restrictions of the Endangered Species Act.

It’s ironic that, in barreling ahead with drilling in areas inhabited by the greater sage grouse, the Trump administration could thwart a somewhat controversial effort to protect the species without invoking the Endangered Species Act–by reducing the population enough to trigger the Act unequivocally! In the long run, it would be better for energy producers to cooperate with the current plan, demonstrate its success, and avoid much more stringent long-term oversight.

Unfortunately for the sage grouse, Donald Trump’s regulatory free-for-all isn’t going to last forever. And given the choice between short-term profit and long-term sustainability, energy companies will do what they will always do given the opportunity, undoing the best-laid plans of their apologists on both sides of the aisle.

The real moral of the story? Elections matter.

Sorry, that’s the answer for a lot of things right now.

Who Will be Colorado’s Next Governor? (Round 4)

Jared Polis (left) and Walker Stapleton

We forgot to post our weekly poll on the Governor’s race on Monday, so here it is. Tell us who you THINK is going to win the race for Governor.

Remember, we’re looking for your best educated guess on the outcome of this race, not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. The point of this exercise is to track how perceptions of the race are (or are not) changing as Election Day nears. For previous results, click Round 1Round 2, or Round 3.

Who gets to move into the Governor’s Mansion in January? Will it be Democrat Jared Polis or Republican Walker Stapleton?

Who Will Be the Next Governor of Colorado?
Jared Polis
Walker Stapleton
View Result