Weekend Open Thread

“Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.”

–Oscar Wilde

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Jena Griswold Declines U.S. Senate Clown Car

Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D).

Late breaking this Friday evening, a press release from the Senate exploratory committee for Secretary of State Jena Griswold announcing a no-go on her possible run for the nomination to take on vulnerable Sen. Cory Gardner:

Today, Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced that she will not seek the Democratic nomination for US Senate, and remains committed to her work on voting rights, campaign finance reform, and ensuring Colorado continues to have the most secure elections in the nation. Griswold released the following statement:

“I was surprised and humbled when Coloradans began to approach me about running for the US Senate. I knew I needed to take this encouragement seriously and give it real consideration. After some heartfelt deliberation, I have decided that now is not the right time for me to run for the Senate. Last year, Coloradans gave me the honor of electing me to serve as their Secretary of State. Together, we’ve already passed bi-partisan reform to shine light on dark money, we’ve made it more accessible for Coloradans to vote, we lead the nation in election security, all of which makes Colorado a national model on democracy. I am moved by the encouragement I have received, and sincerely want to thank everyone for their support. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that Coloradans have a democracy they can believe in.”

Griswold set up an exploratory committee after a July poll showed strong early support from Democratic primary voters. The committee raised over $200,000 in just 2 weeks.

It’s a wise decision for Secretary of State Griswold, who pole-vaulted out of obscurity to win a statewide Colorado election in 2018 and certainly has demonstrated the chops to run for higher office–after perhaps spending a little more time consolidating her position, and earning by experience the gravitas to match her considerable ambition. SoS Griswold is no doubt also aware of big changes in the Senate race on the horizon. Presiding over Colorado’s elections in a pivotal presidential year is a full-time job that deserves the full attention of a qualified public servant, and that’s where Griswold is best suited today.

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Blago Getting Sprung From Colorado Prison?

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

AP reports on an Illinois political corruption story with a Colorado klink:

President Donald Trump has sent his clearest signal yet that he may be about to sign commutation papers freeing former Illinois governor and one-time “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Rod Blagojevich from federal prison in Colorado.

The 62-year-old Democrat, who was once best known and the butt of jokes for his thick, meticulously coiffed hair, is seven years into a lengthy sentence for extortion, bribery and other wide-ranging political corruption.

“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One this week about Blagojevich. He added: “I’m thinking about commuting his sentence very strongly.”

Blagojevich’s current release date is May of 2024. Since reporting to federal custody, “Blago” has been cooling his heels at FCI Englewood just south of Hampden and Kipling in suburban Jefferson County–by all accounts one of the less-unpleasant low-security facilities in the federal prison system.

Apparently President Donald Trump doesn’t really understand the details of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s case, and has a lot of details wrong that just happen to err in favor of Blagojevich. The real qualification for consideration seems to be Trump knowing Blagojevich from Blago’s appearances on Celebrity Apprentice (hint: Trump fired him).

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, Trump said Blagojevich was behind bars “over a phone call where nothing happens.” He added Blagojevich “shouldn’t have said what he said, but it was braggadocio.”

Sort of like hoping the Russians hack a fellow American’s emails! In all seriousness, though, Trump’s quid-pro-quo management style probably makes it entirely likely that he engaged in the same kind of “braggadocio” with any number of his own Cabinet and other appointments–just maybe not into a tapped phone line (that we know of yet). Also, Blago made a habit of trading appointments and vetoes for ways to beat the high cost of living–much more than one single incident.

Would Trump pardoning Rod Blagojevich be justice, or hopeful precedent for Trump?

And they still give released prisoners a bus ticket home, right?

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Cornered: Cory Gardner’s Bad Day In Wheat Ridge


Sen. Cory Gardner gives a semi-voluntary interview yesterday.

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.

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Trump Meets Shooting Victims, Talks About Crowd Sizes

I have THIS MUCH empathy

As CNN reports, President Trump is very sad that people are not viewing him as some sort of hero for visiting hospitals in Ohio and Texas in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings:

Some of President Donald Trump’s own aides conceded Thursday that his visits to two cities in mourning did not go as planned, as a new video revealed he bragged about crowd sizes while visiting patients at an El Paso hospital. [Pols emphasis]

“That was some, that was some crowd,” Trump said, according to cell phone video from one attendee. “And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, they said his crowd was wonderful.”

White House officials blocked reporters and their cameras from entering the two hospitals during his visits to Ohio and Texas this week, a move they said was out of respect for the patients’ privacy. But according to one person familiar with the President’s reaction, the President lashed out at his staff for keeping the cameras away from him, complaining that he wasn’t receiving enough credit. Aides had feared a moment like the one that is now going viral — where the President appears to focus on himself in front of those still recovering from a tragedy. [Pols emphasis]

The Washington Post has more on Trump’s troubled visits:

Inside the White House, the trip was generally seen as “not ideal,” in the words of one senior administration official, as the president spent much of the day attacking his foes and complaining via Twitter as he traveled to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso. The weekend shootings left 31 dead and dozens injured.

Four other aides, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, described the trip in similar terms.

We have nothing more to add here.

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No Comment Cory: A Snapshot of Silence

UPDATE: Cory gets caught:

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Invisible Cory GardnerIf you can find him, Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) generally won’t wade into specifics on any subject related to politics or public policy. This is weird, because discussing politics and public policy is pretty much the definition of his actual job.

Trying to figure out where Gardner stands on any issue of substance is a near-impossible task. Gardner’s favorite questions are of the rhetorical variety; the rest of them he just refuses to answer altogether. We’ve seen so many examples lately of Gardner declining to comment to reporters — or outright running away from them — that we started keeping a list.

Below we detail examples of Gardner and his office refusing to comment on a variety of subjects. This is just in the last month.

(Note: All emphasis/bolding is ours)

 

July 16, 2019

We’ve mentioned this before, but this segment from Kyle Clark of 9News is a perfect place to begin:

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.

 

August 6, 2019

Deja vu!

CLARK: We’re still hoping to talk with Colorado’s Republican Senator Cory Gardner about this. His staff and his campaign team are not acknowledging our requests for an interview.

 

 

June 28, 2019

Alex Burness of the Colorado Independent actually saw Gardner in the flesh, but couldn’t get a comment:

 

July 10, 2019

Westword tried in vain to get a response from Gardner for a story about a lawsuit seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act:

Democrats have pressed Gardner, widely viewed as the most vulnerable Republican senator in the 2020 election, to take a position on Texas v. Azar, but he has repeatedly declined to comment, most recently claiming in May that he hadn’t seen a brief filed by the Trump administration in support of the lawsuit. Gardner’s office did not respond on Tuesday to multiple inquiries regarding his views on the lawsuit.

 

July 17, 2019

Here’s the Associated Press on a story about reactions to President Trump’s racist tweets last month:

“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. 

 

July 19, 2019

The Greeley Tribune would like to ask some questions about a pending visit from Vice President Mike Pence to raise money for Gardner:

Phone calls to spokespeople for Gardner regarding further details of Pence’s visit were not returned.

 

July 22, 2019

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette had no luck reaching Gardner’s office in reaction to being called out by state Rep. Tom Sullivan:

A Gardner spokeswoman was asked for a comment in response to Sullivan’s comments about the senator but did not provide one. 

 

July 24, 2019

The Vail Daily had some questions about a controversial wilderness bill supported by Gardner:

A spokeswoman for Colorado Republican Gardner, who has yet to sponsor a significant wilderness bill during his time in office, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

 

July 26, 2019

It’s not just you, Vail Daily. Here’s Westword making an attempt:

A spokesperson for Gardner did not respond to questions regarding his stance on the CORE Act or his plans to introduce a companion version of Tipton’s bill.

 

August 2, 2019

The Colorado Independent had some fundraising questions for Gardner:

Gardner’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

 

August 5, 2019

The Denver Post and the Boulder Daily Camera get bupkis:

Gardner condemned the weekend attacks in a statement but his office declined to comment on Trump’s red-flag idea Monday.

 

August 4 & 5, 2019

Bring us home, Kyle Clark:

 

 

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Colorado Hate Crimes Continue To Rise In Trump Era

Colorado Public Radio’s Avery Lill reports:

A new report from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management shows reported hate crimes in the state are again on the rise after declining from 2016 to 2017.

The state reported 185 cases of hate crimes in 2018, almost doubling the 96 cases in 2017.

Most of the crimes, 112, were based in racial bias. There were 32 victims of sexual orientation and gender identity bias, and 26 of religious bias. Anti-Semitic crimes continue to rise.

The most common hate crime offense was intimidation, followed by assault and then vandalism.

Larry Mizel.

Although “increased collaboration” between law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes could be responsible for some of the increase, as Lill reports, it’s difficult to accept that nearly doubling the number of incidents from 2017 to 2018 can be fully explained by this. In particular, relatively new racist organizations like Identity Evropa (now known as the American Identity Movement) have been active locally planting stickers and racist literature near downtown areas and Colorado college campuses.

The most obvious conclusion to draw from this uptick in hate crimes since 2017 is the election of Donald Trump as President has empowered already hateful individuals to act on their beliefs. This conclusion is of course hotly disputed by Republican supporters of President Trump, which locally includes such reputedly anti-racist figures as developer Larry Mizel, Trump’s 2016 Colorado finance director who also serves as the chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Wiesenthal Center’s mission is to “confront anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism,” and promote “human rights and dignity.”

These words either have meaning or they don’t, right? Someone should ask Mizel–and insist on an answer.

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Springs Police Killing Rocks Colorado Politics

De’Von Bailey.

As the Denver Post’s Saja Hindi reports:

The father of a 19-year-old man shot and killed by Colorado Springs police last week says a surveillance video clearly shows his son was shot in the back while running, and he wants justice.

De’Von Bailey, 19, was shot by at least one Colorado Springs police officer Saturday in the 2400 block of East Fountain Boulevard when police were responding to a report of a personal robbery, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday. The person who reported being robbed identified two suspects, and one of the suspects — Bailey — allegedly reached for a gun before police shot him, according to the sheriff’s office. Police said they recovered a gun at the scene.

Bailey was transported to a hospital, where police said he later died of his injuries. The two Colorado Springs police officers involved in the shooting, who have not been publicly identified, are on administrative leave, per protocol.



Justin and Dustin Brooks (we don’t know which is which).

The killing of De’Von Bailey by Colorado Springs police resulted in protests that turned violent Monday after two white “fugitive recovery agents” pulled guns during a scuffle with protesters–Denver7:

Protesters Monday claimed to represent Black Lives Matter, Moms Demand Action, and friends and family of Bailey. Signs read ‘Cops + Klan hand in hand’, ‘Guns have changed, so should the Second Amendment’, ‘Blue Lives Murder’, ‘CSPD condones murder’, ‘A badge is not a free pass for murder’, and ‘Justice for Devon.’

…Additional footage from a few minutes later shows a crowd approaching two men who just arrived on motorcycles. Officers with weapons drawn detained the two men after a few minutes of shouting between the men and protesters. As officers worked to control the situation, at least one protester pushed over the motorcycles, while others continued shouting.

CSPD later identified the two men as Dustin Brooks and Justin Brooks, both bail bondsmen. CSPD said they drew handguns after one of them was struck by a protester in the crowd. Both men were taken into custody for disorderly conduct.



Justin and Dustin Brooks as they appeared at Monday’s protest (still don’t know which is which).

According to KOAA-TV in Colorado Springs, the pair of would-be bounty hunter types Justin and Dustin Brooks showed up to the protest to voice their support of law enforcement and to say that ‘All Lives Matter.'” In other words, they were looking for a fight:

“As soon as we got off the bike we went over straight to the crowd and we heard chanting of ‘Black Lives Matter’. We then said ‘All Lives Matter’ and within two or three seconds we were run up on really, really fast,” explains Justin Brooks.

Can’t imagine why! That’s all the time we care to spend discussing these two clowns, except to note their typicality in terms of the average El Paso County conservative’s viewpoint on police violence against people of color. Not every rock-ribbed El Paso County bounty hunter has a portfolio of didymophile Glamour Shots, but the attitude is pretty consistent.

What these bootylicious bounty hunter brothers did manage to do by pulling guns on protesters of a police shooting in the back of an African American teenager is help show again how pervasive the problem of racism and racial disparity in police violence really is. It takes a lot of nerve to show up at a protest against a kid shot in the back to start trouble–but more than that, it takes a culture to enable this kind of behavior.

And we all need to do better.

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Thursday Open Thread

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The Hard Truth About Suicide And Gun-Loving Sheriffs

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams (R).

FOX 31’s Rob Low correlated a data point in the renewed debate over gun control in general and Colorado’s extreme risk protection order (ERPO or “red flag”) law in particular: something so significant and troubling that we wanted to make sure it was mentioned in this space.

Supporters of Colorado’s “red flag” law say the measure is more likely to prevent suicides than mass shootings, even though it’s the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that led President Donald Trump to embrace red flag laws as a way to reduce gun violence.

In Colorado, more than half of the state’s 64 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries opposed to the the red flag law. Many of those counties have the state’s highest gun suicide rates, according to statistics provided to FOX31 by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment… [Pols emphasis]

Counties with large urban populations like Denver and Boulder tend to have lower rates of suicide by gun: 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Denver; 8 per 100,000 people in Boulder between the years of 2013 and 2017. However, Custer County averaged 49 gun suicides per 100,000 people over the same time period.

Gun rights proponents often insist that suicides involving guns should be excluded from statistics used by gun control supporters, arguing that because only the perpetrator is harmed in suicide such incidents shouldn’t “count” as according-to-Hoyle gun violence. But the undeniable positive correlation between access to guns and their use in suicides as well as crimes against other people is why ERPO laws permit the removal of guns from persons ruled to be a risk to themselves or others. Suicide prevention is every bit as important as, and in theory more likely to form the basis of ERPO requests than individuals plotting attacks on others.

With respect to the large number of elected county sheriffs who have announced their intentions to refuse to enforce Colorado’s new ERPO law, the high suicide rate in many of these same counties is going to put these politician-sheriffs in a very difficult position after the law takes effect on January 1, 2020. It won’t be long, perhaps a matter of days, before someone who could have intervened in the suicide of a family member is thwarted by a county sheriff who refuses to enforce Colorado law. It’s not a hypothetical. It’s a certainty.

And it’s not something we’d ever want to face the news cameras to explain.

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Cory Gardner Dances Around Gun Violence Question

Here come the words!

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is rarely at a loss for words on any political or policy subject. It is equally rare, however, that Gardner’s words are used to form meaningful sentences on a given topic. Gardner’s “position” on gun violence is no exception.

As we noted briefly on Tuesday, Gardner made it clear at an event in Aspen this week that he does not support any sort of legislation that could be construed as gun control. Share Blue today picks up on reporting from the Aspen Times from a Monday event in which Gardner said some stuff about the subject on everyone’s mind:

Gardner told an Aspen audience Monday there is no simple solution to the mass shootings that have riddled the country — such as the two Sunday resulting in 31 deaths — including gun control.

“It’s absolutely devastating, what we continue to see,” Gardner said. “So how do we get into this and how do we end and stop it, while protecting other people’s rights, too?”

The Yuma Republican, citing constitutional rights, said he has no desire to implement gun-control measures to curb the violence.

“I don’t support gun control,” he said [Pols emphasis], noting he has worked on issues such as school violence and bullying and is backing the proposed “Eagles Act,” which would provide more resources to the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center.

Cory Gardner and Dudley Brown of RMGO

This is maddeningly-typical nonsense from Gardner, whose answer on any important subject is basically just an extended rhetorical question. Gardner starts by asking, “how do we stop [gun violence]” as though it is a question he is actually considering; instead of attempting to answer his own query, Gardner shifts to talking about things he does not support.

Try to imagine what it must be like to have dinner with Gardner:

SERVER: Can I start you off with something to drink?

GARDNER: I don’t eat bacon.

As the Aspen Times notes, Gardner also doesn’t want to talk about President Trump:

President Donald Trump was referred to occasionally during Gardner’s appearance, including from one audience member who asked, “What are you doing to stand up to the leader of your party that spews racism and despite his denials, supports white nationalism?”

Gardner, a first-term senator up for re-election in 2020, would not directly answer the question but again condemned racism and bigotry. [Pols emphasis]

“White supremacy has no room in this country,” he said as part of his response.

“What are you doing about your president?” the person followed up.

“I am going to continue to condemn the white supremacy at every chance and every opportunity I get,” he responded.

Neat!

Gardner’s loyalties lie not with his constituents but with President Trump — whom he has enthusiastically endorsed for re-election — and with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Gardner is up for re-election in 2020, as is Sen. Thom Tillis (North Carolina) and Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa). None of this is a coincidence.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (August 7)

Welcome back to school, kids. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is visiting Toledo Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas today in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings. As the Associated Press reports:

Protesters greeted President Donald Trump’s arrival in Dayton Wednesday, blaming his incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the country, as he visited survivors of last weekend’s mass shootings and saluted first responders.

Critics say Trump’s own words have contributed to a combustible climate that can spawn violence such as the outbreaks in Dayton and El Paso, Texas.

Trump rejected that assertion as he left the White House, strongly criticizing those who say he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions.

“My critics are political people,” Trump said, noting the apparent political leanings of the shooter in the Dayton killings and suggesting the man was supportive of Democrats.

If pointing fingers healed wounds, President Trump would be our greatest surgeon.

 

► Republican politicians are starting to poke their heads up after a week of mass shootings in the United States and realizing that we have a gun violence problem on our hands. James Hohmann of the Washington Post explains the latest convert:

When the National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) for a ninth term last fall, the group noted that he’s consistently maintained an “A” rating and has been “solidly pro-gun.” Literature sent to members emphasized Turner’s opposition to expanding background checks and banning assault weapons, as well as his past vote to immunize gun manufacturers from liability and to force all states, regardless of their own laws, to recognize concealed carry permits issued anywhere else.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Turner’s daughter and a family friend had just entered the Tumbleweed Connection bar in Dayton when a gunman opened fire across the street. Nine people were killed, and 27 were injured. The congressman’s daughter ran home, as he prayed for her and the community.

On Tuesday afternoon, Turner announced that he’s had a change of heart on gun control.He said he would vote for an assault weapons ban, limits on the size of gun magazines and for a federal “red flag” law that would make it easier to “quickly identify people who are dangerous” so their firearms can be taken away.

“The carnage these military style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable,” Turner said in a statement. “I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential. … This tragedy must become a catalyst for a broader national conversation about what we can do to stop these mass shootings.”

As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Unfortunately, there is still not yet enough of a will from Republicans to seriously address gun violence. President Trump said Wednesday that he sees “no political appetite” for renewing a long-expired ban on assault rifles in the United States, though he left open the possibility that he would support calling Congress back into session to expand background checks for gun purchases. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing increased pressure to act on gun violence but has so far continued to refuse to even debate a pair of bills passed in February by the House of Representatives.

 

► Plans to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado were met with skepticism from those who worried that the real motivation for the move was to kill off the agency altogether. Those concerns are now being realized.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Mulvaney Confirms BLM Move is Really About Killing BLM

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has been trying hard to sell the BLM move to Colorado as anything but a decimation of the agency.

The July announcement that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would move its headquarters to Grand Junction while most of the jobs are relocating from Washington D.C. to Lakewood, Colo., was met with initial enthusiasm before a quick dose of reality dampened expectations significantly. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) made as big a deal out of the BLM decision as he could, shifting his talking points from the move as a boom to the Grand Junction economy (which is actually only gaining 27 jobs) to more of a philosophical change of basing public lands leadership in the part of the country where most public lands are located.

Skeptics have worried that the BLM move had a more sinister motivation: To ultimately snuff out the agency altogether. As we wrote on July 17:

The BLM’s big move is probably good news for Colorado, which will benefit from the economic impact of the relocation of 85 federal jobs. The effect on Grand Junction’s economy will be significantly less than locals had hoped, however, and it’s not at all clear whether this move is a good thing for the BLM and public lands in general…

Conservation groups have always been skeptical about a proposed BLM move, worrying that the real motivation of such a change is to reduce the agency’s influence with top decision-makers in Washington D.C. 

Mick Mulvaney

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney

Jennifer Rokola, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called the move “a cynical attempt to drain the Interior Department of expertise and career leadership.” Rokala’s warning was backed up by news that a similar move of key sections of the Department of Agriculture to a new office in Kansas City was indeed part of a broader plan to gut the USDA in general. As Ben Guarino reports for the Washington Post, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is making it clear that moving federal agencies is mostly about killing them off:

In his keynote speech at the Republican Party’s black-tie-optional Silver Elephant Gala in South Carolina on Friday, Mulvaney seemed to celebrate the attrition at the agencies. “You’ve heard about ‘drain the swamp.’ What you probably haven’t heard is what we are actually doing. I don’t know if you saw the news the other day, but the USDA just tried to move, or did move, two offices out of Washington, D.C.,” he said.

As the crowd clapped, Mulvaney continued: “Yes, you can applaud that one. That’s what we’ve been talking about doing. Guess what happened? Guess what happened? More than half the people quit.

“It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” Mulvaney said. “I know that because a lot of them work for me, and I’ve tried . . . By simply saying to people, ‘You know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out in the real part of the country,’ and they quit — what a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.” [Pols emphasis]

Trump officials are planning additional shake-ups and exoduses from Washington. By 2020, more than 80 percent of the headquarters staff at the Bureau of Land Management will be moved west of the Rocky Mountains, the Interior Department told lawmakers in July. The Trump administration also wants to break up the Office of Personnel Management and split 5,500 workers among three other departments.

We made people quit their jobs! Please clap!

This was always the plan for the White House, apparently, so the only question that remains is whether or not Gardner was in on the scam from the beginning.

Well, that’s not really a question.

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Wednesday Open Thread

“You can’t allow tradition to get in the way of innovation. There’s a need to respect the past, but it’s a mistake to revere your past.”

–Bob Iger

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Hick On Glide Slope To Smooth Senate Race Landing

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

The Hill reports:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said he may still consider running for Senate in 2020 if his standing in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary doesn’t improve…

Despite his failure to gain traction in the presidential primary, Hickenlooper is widely recognized as a strong candidate to take on Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner as Democrats try to flip the Senate. He is one of several presidential candidates many Democrats have said should run for Senate and Colorado, Arizona and Maine are seen as the most competitive states for Democrats to pick up.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning, who has closely followed the end stages of former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s not-to-be-cheri presidential bid and first reported this moment of underdog clarity on satellite radio this past weekend:

“I’ve never ruled out anything,” he told SiriusXM’s Chris Frates — a former Denver Post reporter — when the Politics Inside Out host pressed him on a Senate bid. But the Democrat insisted his attention is “still 100% right now focused on being president.”

[…]

“What excites me is being in those executive positions and put a team together, I can win a campaign that people say I can’t, and then we do the things that people say can’t be done. That’s what excites me,” Hickenlooper told Frates on Sunday. “Again, at a certain point, if I can’t get myself beyond 2%, I’d be a — I’d be a fool to spend two years doing it.”

…Pressed to say whether he would rule out jumping to the Senate race, Hickenlooper responded: “I’ve never ruled out anything.” [Pols emphasis]

There are several waypoints to watch for along Hickenlooper’s transition from minor candidate in the presidential race to instant frontrunner in the Democratic primary to take on vulnerable incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020. The first and most obvious is the groundswell of support that surfaced following early rumors that such a move was in the offing as we first reported last Friday. The next is likely to come when (nominally still ‘if’) Hickenlooper fails to qualify for the next round of Democratic presidential debates based on the higher bar of support required. If he does make the cut, it would almost certainly delay Hickenlooper’s switch to the Senate race–without penalty since the national TV time in these debates is a net positive even without an uptick in polling support.

Barring something that at this point we have no reason to expect, though, everything we’ve heard suggests Hickenlooper’s transition from presidential underdog to U.S. Senate frontrunner is nearing certainty–and this latest interview only further reinforces the likelihood. At this point it’s about a smooth transition, and maximizing the value of Hickenlooper’s remaining time in the presidential race to position himself against Gardner.

Besides, nobody who puts in the time to run for President should miss out on the Iowa State Fair.

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It’s Official: The Colorado GOP Is Totally Out Of Control

UPDATE #2: Sen. Cory Gardner toes the Dudley Brown line, says the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

Sen. Cory Gardner took some questions in Aspen yesterday.

“I don’t support gun control,” he said of dealing with the weekend shootings. [Pols emphasis]

There it is, folks. Cory Gardner is RMGO’s man to the bitter end.

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UPDATE: Given that Dudley Brown told 9NEWS that Sen. Cory Gardner should face a primary if he supports a “red flag” law like President Donald Trump, here’s what Gardner told radio host Craig Silverman back in May:

Well, look, I think we have to prevent violence and we should protect our communities, but we can’t violate the Constitution. And you know, we cannot allow other rights and people’s — innocent people’s rights — to be taken in the name of trying to protect other innocent people’s rights. That’s not what the Constitution is about. Let’s find ways to stop the scourge of violence without harming people’s liberties.

And with that, recall how Cory Gardner was one of Dudley Brown’s early success stories (see below).

When we say Dudley Brown is the Colorado Republican Party, we mean it.

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Cory Gardner, Dudley Brown.

In the last 72 hours, events have transpired nationally that would under any normal circumstances have resulted in an instant sea change in Colorado politics. In the aftermath of two mass shootings in separate states within hours of each other that have killed over 30 people and wounded dozens more, President Donald Trump has called for the passage of extreme risk protection order legislation–“red flag” laws like the one passed in Colorado this year following the preventable killing of a Douglas County deputy sheriff.

ERPO laws enjoy overwhelming public support both nationally and in Colorado, where a 2017 survey found 80% of voters in support of laws to give family and law enforcement a court process to temporarily remove guns from people judged to an evidentiary standard to be a significant risk. It’s therefore not politically hard to understand why Trump would come out in support of them.

In Colorado, though, there’s a problem–the fact that Republicans are working to recall Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jared Polis for passing Colorado’s “red flag” law. And the word today from our local news outlets is that even President Donald Trump can’t reason with the Colorado Republican Party. The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

Dudley Brown, the director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which is suing to stop Colorado’s red-flag law from taking effect, slammed Trump’s remarks Monday. “You cannot infringe on the gun rights of millions of law-abiding Americans based on the actions of lawless madmen,” he said.

“Let me be crystal clear. Forcing universal (background) checks and red-flag gun confiscation laws on Americans would have done nothing to stop either of these murderers. They went through the failed and unconstitutional National Instant Criminal Background Check system,” Brown added.

Brown said he and his national group, the National Association for Gun Rights, will hold Trump and all other elected officials responsible for their gun control actions, regardless of political party.

It’s important to understand exactly what Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is saying here. Not only is he against red flag laws, Brown just called the existing instant background check system used for almost all gun sales today “unconstitutional.” Not the “universal” background checks that have been law in Colorado since 2013–Brown is actually asserting that all gun purchase background checks are unconstitutional.

For those of us who understand just how far out of the mainstream Brown and RMGO really are, this isn’t news. But realizing how extreme RMGO is on the issue of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is critical to grasping the next critical point: RMGO effectively owns the Colorado Republican Party. Dudley Brown actually told 9NEWS yesterday that Sen. Cory Gardner, one of ther nation’s most vulnerable Republican Senators, should be primaried if he joins Trump in supporting a red flag law. And as 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reports:

(more…)

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For Republicans, Inaction is the Only Action on Gun Violence

Washington Post Republican Response on Mass Shootings

The Washington Post (8/4/19)

At least 29 31 people are dead after mass shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Dozens more are seriously wounded. We’ll say again what we said in this space after the STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch last spring: If you want change, you need to get rid of the (largely Republican) elected officials who are doing everything in their power to maintain the bloody status quo.

As Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane write for the Washington Post, Republican leaders have been largely silent or uselessly vague in response to the latest wave of domestic terrorism to strike the United States:

The Republican Party, which controls power in Washington and both states where America’s most recent mass shootings occurred, struggled on Sunday to provide a response or offer a solution to what has become a public safety epidemic…

…Some Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, cited the influence of social media and video games or mentioned mental health problems. But on the question of how to stem the rising tide of gun violence, the overwhelming response from the party was silence or generalities. [Pols emphasis]…

…The reaction mirrored how the GOP has responded after other mass shootings whose city names have become painfully familiar to most Americans — Parkland, Fla.; Sutherland Springs, Tex.; Las Vegas; Virginia Beach; Pittsburgh and Annapolis, Md.

A handful of Republican lawmakers on Sunday endorsed stricter gun controls, but most in the GOP ignored Democratic demands that the Senate abandon its summer recess and return to Washington to address the issue. The House passed two bills in February that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to consider.

Associated Press Trump mass shootings

The Associated Press (8/5/19)

After offering very little of substance on Saturday and Sunday, President Trump today endorsed calls from his daughter, Ivanka Trump, for a federal version of a “red flag” law. Generally referred to as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), these efforts are are also supported by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). Dudley Brown, the head honcho at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), which is a more-extreme version of the NRA in Colorado, immediately hit back at Trump’s suggestion.

In remarks to the media today, Trump also decried white nationalism, blamed video games for violent behavior, and offered prayers for the people of “Toledo,” which is, of course, a completely different city than Dayton, Ohio. Trump’s response certain won’t make anyone feel like the issue of gun violence is being taken seriously by the White House. Trump’s call to focus on mental illness rings hollow given his earlier efforts to make it easier for the mentally ill to get their hands on a firearm (Colorado Republicans, BTW, opposed legislation in the spring to improve mental health services in our state).

Gun violence is also not being given any real consideration by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — or #MassacreMitch, as he is trending on social media accounts — is flat-out refusing to even allow debate on two packages of gun safety legislation passed by the House of Representatives in February.

Many Republicans reacted to news of the shootings by setting up straw men that they could then pretend to take down with their own rhetoric. South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott appeared on the CBS show “Face the Nation” to make this point“A lot of folks say that prayers don’t matter. Well, I will disagree with them vehemently.”

Okay, great.

Here in Colorado, former State House Speaker Frank McNulty took a similar approach:

Americans are rightly tired of elected officials doing little else aside from offering “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, which is where Sen. Scott and McNulty miss the point here entirely. Prayer is important for many people, but it isn’t a solution to the problem of gun violence in America. Please do pray for the victims of gun violence; when you’re done, call your U.S. Senator. There may not be one single piece of legislation that could have prevented the many mass shootings over the last week, but something is better than nothing at all. We didn’t stop mandating seatbelts in cars just because that policy failed to stop every deadly accident.

The primary suspect in the El Paso shootings.

While Scott and McNulty are focused on something entirely different, at least they didn’t echo the response from Ohio State Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican who represents an area near Dayton, Ohio. Keller placed the blame for mass shootings in a number of different places — from “drag queens” to “transgender” to former President Barack Obama and professional athletes who fail to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. Guns don’t kill people; drag queens force people with guns to kill other people. And also Colin Kapernick, or something. Whatever point Keller was trying to make, the important takeaway here is that nothing in her response had anything to do with taking practical steps to deal with the problem of gun violence in America.

As for Colorado Republicans, Kyle Clark of 9News provides some important context:

Can we solve the crisis of mass shootings in Colorado and the rest of the country? It is absolutely possible…we just can’t do it with the current batch of Republicans in charge.

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Ivanka Trump: Pass Colorado’s Red Flag Law

UPDATE: The President joins the First Daughter’s call for red flag laws:

Dudley Brown, call your office.

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Ivanka Trump.

In response to the weekend’s pair of tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Ivanka Trump sent out the Tweet you can see above calling for the passage of Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws in every state–laws that would create a process to temporarily remove firearms from persons in a mental health crisis who pose a significant risk to themselves or the public.

As readers know, Colorado passed a law in 2019 establishing an ERPO procedure. The law was supported by Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, who testified that it could have saved the lives of one of his deputies who was shot and killed by a mentally ill man on New Year’s Eve 2017. Passage of that law provoked an angry backlash from Colorado Republican Party leadership and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the state’s most strident gun-rights group–who employed wholesale misinformation to build support for recalls against legislators who supported ERPO. The first target of that campaign was Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora shooting, but that campaign failed after being rejected by voters in the district and massive public condemnation.

How will RMGO and local Republicans keep the outrage going after President Donald Trump’s daughter said what Colorado did in 2019 was the right thing to do across the nation? We have no doubt they’ll find a way–but it’s going to be this much harder now with all but the most factually impervious.

And for the first time ever, we’re thankful to Ivanka Trump.

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Meta Notes: “Hick4Senate” Our Biggest Tweet Ever

We don’t normally draw attention to our own social media content, but the Tweet you can see above from Friday pointing to our post on new domains registered by Curtis Hubbard, a close political ally of Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper, apparently getting ready for Hickenlooper to make the long-desired switch from the presidential race to taking on Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado’s 2020 marquee U.S. Senate race obliges us to make an exception.

Hubbard was quick to note when asked that he registered the domains “of his own accord,” but that didn’t stop the potential word that Hickenlooper would change races from rapidly going viral–in our case resulting in the above tweet being Retweeted over 1,700 times and liked by a record (for us) over 7,700 Twitter users. In addition almost 800 replies to our Tweet overwhelmingly express joy at Hickenlooper making such a move, many offering to donate money to Hick’s Senate campaign as soon as there’s a place to do it.

With so many across the nation watching to see what Hickenlooper’s next move will be, we figured news of these domains would provoke some interest. The explosion of positive support we saw on Friday tells us that Hickenlooper made enough of a positive impression in his longshot presidential run to remain a viable, even more desirable Senate contender for Colorado. If Hickenlooper hadn’t run for president, would there be thousands of people nationwide lining up to cheer him on to run for Senate?

One door closes, another opens.

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Kamala Harris A Big Deal In Denver

Sen. Kamala Harris (D).

Kicking off a wrapup of top-tier Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ stop in Denver Friday at Denver’s Manual High School, which was attended by thousands of enthusiastic Democrats–the Denver Post’s Nic Garcia:

Harris is a leading candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination — one of four who consistently polls in the double digits, with former Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Harris is the second top-tier candidate this year to visit Colorado. Warren hosted an April rally in Aurora. Other candidates who are polling much lower in the primary have visited or plan to visit Colorado. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, who has visited Colorado before, and Kirsten Gillibrand are hosting fundraisers this month in Colorado. The Associated Press reported Friday that Biden is expected to visit Colorado in September…

Several attendees listed Harris among the top candidates they’re considering but were still taking a wait-and-see approach.

CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann:

“I strongly believe you should judge a society based on how it treats its children. One of the greatest expressions of love that a society can extend is to invest in their education and, by extension, their teachers,” Harris told the crowd.

Harris also said, as president, she would give Congress 100 days to “pull their act together” on reasonable gun safety laws to stop school shootings.

“And if they don’t, I will take executive action,” she said as the crowd cheered. “Our children will not have to go to school to learn how they need to crouch in a corner or hide in a closet in the event there is a mass shooter roaming the halls. And Colorado knows that!”

Aurora Sentinel:

“I thought her speech was phenomenal,” said Rory Moore, making it clear that Harris is his top choice for the Democratic primary. “Her efforts reaching out to minorities, and being a woman of color herself, we need that change so badly. It’s just been typical white, heterosexual men in office. We’ve got to change that.”

After the second Democratic debates earlier in the week on CNN, Harris is polling at 10 percent, according to Democratic Party officials. At this point, she will continue on in televised debates. She’s set her candidacy apart from the others for her pointed criticism of frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden. She’s fiercely criticized Biden for his past stance on school integration as well as what she says has been poor support of women’s issues.

Last week’s debates marked the beginning of the process of winnowing down from the current unsustainable pack of 20 Democratic presidential contenders to to a group small enough to fit–and argue–on a single stage. Two leading women contenders, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Harris, have performed very well in addition to holding off blistering attacks from lower-tier candidates. It’s still early, but both Harris and Warren have held big rallies in Colorado already and clearly regard the state as a major Super Tuesday objective.

So get excited Colorado, because in this Democratic primary you’ll be very far from “flyover country.”

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Hick4Senate: New Domains Signal Big Moves In Senate Race?

UPDATE: Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s politics page fills in the details:

Curtis Hubbard, a principle at OnSight Public Affairs — a Colorado firm that has played key roles in Hickenlooper’s two successful runs for governor — told Colorado Politics he secured the domain names after Hickenlooper failed to make a splash on the first night of the second round of the debates.

Hubbard stresses that although he wants Hickenlooper to switch races, he took the step without any encouragement from Hickenlooper or his presidential campaign…

“I did it entirely of my own accord, but I continue to believe that the best thing John can do for Colorado and the country is to turn his attention to defeating Trump-enabling Cory Gardner and ‘Moscow’ Mitch McConnell,” he said, referring to the GOP Senate Majority leader who could lose his position if Democrats take control of the Senate in 2020.

We take longtime local political fixture Curtis Hubbard at his word, of course–but we’ll also be waiting, and at this point probably expecting, for the other shoe to drop.

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Eagle-eyed California political data guy Rob Pyers spotted new domains registered this week of great interest to Colorado politics:

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

A look at the WHOIS registry information reveals that purchase of “Hickenlooper4Senate.com” and several related domains were not random purchases, but registered by Curtis Hubbard of leading local political consultant group OnSight Public Affairs. Now before anybody gets carried away, there’s always the possibility that these were contingency purchases for a decision that hasn’t been finalized yet.

Or, former Gov. John Hickenlooper may be about to take the advice of a large number of local and national Democrats and take on Cory Gardner in 2020. If Hickenlooper does make the jump, he’ll be the instant frontrunner in the Democratic Senate primary–perhaps not enough to clear the field outright but certainly the favorite. Hickenlooper’s positive brand and long record of high approval in this state, as we’ve noted previously, gives him perhaps unique advantages in terms of overcoming Gardner’s sunny but deceptive public image.

If it happens, it’s the marquee matchup of 2020 in Colorado.

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