Gardner Trumped Again As Prez Crosses DMZ

CNN reports while a strange kind of history is made at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea:

President Donald Trump shook hands with Kim Jong Un on Sunday and took 20 steps into North Korea, making history as the first sitting US leader to set foot in the hermit kingdom.

Trump crossed the low stone curb separating the North and South at 3:45 p.m. local time, making his way alongside a grinning Kim into a country that’s long been a global pariah for its nuclear ambitions and dismal record on human rights.

The event, seemingly spontaneous and broadcast live, took to a new level Trump’s showman instincts and view of diplomacy as a test of interpersonal skills. Afterward, Trump said he agreed with Kim to revive staff-level talks that had collapsed after their last summit in February.

The issue of engagement with North Korea had been relegated to the political back burner for the last few months following the failed second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. And that was seemingly just fine with Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who has been forced to swallow Trump’s erratic engagement strategy out of political necessity while still trying to maintain a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record.

Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, Trump’s dramatic crossing of the DMZ into North Korea comes right after an interview he gave to Colorado Public Radio Friday in which Gardner slams the idea of another reward to Kim Jong Un–comments that, needless to say, did not age well through the weekend:

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner thinks it’s a waste of time.

“I don’t understand what a third summit would do, other than stall and give Kim Jong Un more time to continue to flaunt international and U.S. law,” Gardner said…

Gardner is concerned that China and Russia have eased their sanctions pressure on North Korea, and that since the first summit, even the U.S. has begun to allow more waivers on sanctions. The senator dismisses both meetings between Trump and Kim as full of unfulfilled promises and he’s not convinced a third summit would bring any different results.

“I don’t understand why the president would want to meet with a person who has not changed a single bit,” Gardner said. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Gardner, call your office! It’s safe to say that headlines like this one:

Are a thing of the past.

Where Sen. Gardner goes from here is anybody’s guess, but with the conservative media now lining up to shower Trump with praise for his “historic” 20 steps into North Korea to meet again with North Korea’s Supreme Leader it’s going to be difficult for Gardner to dissent publicly. Restarting talks that stalled in February is not going to produce quick results either way, so Gardner has the choice of crossing not just Trump but his fellow Senate Republicans, or finding a way to comport what he said two days ago with Trump’s actions yesterday.

We’ll update if and when Gardner figures out how to thread this political needle. Gardner has endorsed Trump’s re-election, but just in the last few days Trump has made such a mockery of Gardner from Russia to North Korea that it’s simply impossible to take this story’s description of him as a “top congressional authority” on foreign policy seriously.

He’s just another excuse-making passenger on Trump’s crazy train.

Weekend Open Thread

“We want everybody to act like adults, quit playing games, realize that it’s not just my way or the highway.”

–Barack Obama

Consensus: Bennet Did Pretty Well, But…

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Surveying the commentary following last night’s Democratic presidential debate featuring both of Colorado’s entries into the race, Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, there’s a consensus emerging that Bennet in particular did as well as he could have hoped for–perhaps even enough to transit from the 1% pack into the middle tier of candidates in this packed field. CNN’s Chris Cillizza, a good barometer of the center left, calls Bennet a qualified winner:

Michael Bennet: Look, I don’t think that the Colorado senator is somehow going to shoot from 1% to relevance in the polls based on his performance in this debate. He wasn’t that good. But, for someone who a) no one knew going into this debate and b) had limited speaking opportunities to make his case, I thought Bennet performed well. Bennet’s incredulity with Biden’s belief that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would start working in a bipartisan way if the former vice president won the White House felt genuine — and was powerful. In short: Bennet came out of this debate looking better than he went into it. Which is a win.

The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia from Miami:

The Coloradans left the South Florida art complex where the debate was held just after midnight each saying he took his chance to say what he needed to say.

Bennet, however, had a little more pep in his step.

“I was glad I was able to make the case that we desperately need universal health care in this country,” the senator told The Denver Post in an interview. He slapped the backside of his right hand into his left palm as he compared Sanders’ Medicare for All plan with his own legislation.

Colorado Public Radio notes Bennet’s decent outing but keeps things in perspective:

“Bennet got in a few good moments,” said Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver. “He definitely got across his points on some of his political reforms. He got in some pretty solid critiques of President Trump and those seemed to get some support from the audience.”

…According to trends from Google, Hickenlooper and Bennet were the least searched candidates during the second Democratic presidential primary debate. Near the end of the night, one New York Times reporter quipped “Only so much room for two Wesleyan grads from Colorado.”

Ouch. No really, if fellow Coloradans want to take offense at that kind of bullshit Ivy League snobbery, it’s allowed. But there’s not much either candidate can do about it. It’s fully expected that both Sen. Bennet and Gov. Hickenlooper will stay in this race through the next round of debates set for July 30 and 31 in Detroit–debates they have already qualified to participate in. After that, of course, the next round of debates will have a higher standard for qualification. At this point, failure to make that cutoff will mark the practical end for a number of presidential campaigns.

For both Colorado’s presidential aspirants, it’s all or nothing now with the latter still the most likely outcome. But it does appear that Bennet took better advantage of last night’s opportunity to get on the radar, and that’s to his credit. Now he’s got one month to turn that crack into an opening.

So Bad It’s Good: Watch The “Official” Polis Recall Video

Have you ever wondered to yourself while sitting in front of your home computer, “could I make a gripping political ad?” We have some bad news–without experience, preferably some professional training or (God forbid) a college education in video production, the answer is most likely no. Once in awhile somebody stumbles into a good concept Blair Witch Project style, but generally speaking the cutting room floor of political history is littered with bad, sometimes really bad, amateur video.

So it goes with the above minute of low-res mashup footage and extremely dramatic royalty free music, fresh from the struggling “Official” Polis recall campaign and bad enough that a high school student would lose points for turning it in. But lest you think this was a volunteer effort, the campaign actually lists an expenditure of several hundred dollars to a “videographer.”

That’s right–apparently they paid for this.

On the other hand, here’s something we already know about the Polis recall campaign–since anyone who possesses “political experience” either knows it’s a fool’s errand or is taking part only to siphon off the campaign’s money. Given the likelihood that all of the competing Polis recall operations will be footnotes in history by Labor Day, preserving this example of their low-budget folly for posterity was the least we could do.

Endorse This? Trump Clowns Cory Gardner on Russia

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

CNN reports from the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, where President Donald Trump just met with Russian President Vladimir Putin both privately and in public–and finally, to Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado’s profound relief, strongly warned the Russian president to not meddle again in American elections–the way every investigation including the recently-concluded Robert Mueller inquiry has determined without question they did in 2016…

As you probably know by now, that’s not what happened. CNN in fact reports:

President Donald Trump issued a breezy warning to his Russian counterpart Friday against meddling in US elections, laughing and smiling as he told his counterpart not to interfere.

“Don’t meddle in the election, please,” Trump said, smirking and wagging his finger at Putin. He only raised the matter after being questioned by reporters whether he would issue a warning…

When he made his playful admonishment against election interference, Putin sat beside him laughing. Trump’s aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also smiled. [Pols emphasis]

According to an AP poll released June 19, 63% of Americans have “major concerns” about the possibility of foreign interference in the next election. The same poll says that 44% of Americans don’t think the Mueller report exonerates Trump on coordinating with Russia, and another 31% aren’t sure. That Trump would be this cavalier with the Russian President about an issue so many Americans are legitimately concerned about is politically unfathomable–or at least would have been before Donald Trump.

For Sen. Cory Gardner, this should be a political crossroads. Although Gardner has steadfastly refused to close the logical loop from Russian interference in the election to its goal, which was the election of Donald Trump, Gardner has tried to compensate with bellicose rhetoric about the threat posed by Russia in the vaguest possible terms–even as Gardner has drawn closer to Trump politically ahead of the 2020 elections. In April, Gardner introduced with much fanfare legislation that to “determine” is Russia should be on the list of state sponsors of terrorism–legislation we have to assume now Trump will never sign. And here’s what Gardner said about the Mueller report:

The report also confirms what we already know, Russia interfered in our election. I will keep up the pressure on the Putin regime and pursue additional sanctions – they cannot go unpunished.”

Senator Gardner has been an outspoken critic of Russia and President Putin and has been a leader in Congress on punishing Russia for their efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and other illegal activities around the world.

With Trump’s latest humiliating mockery of what Gardner claims he believes took place in 2016, and a strong majority of Americans are worried is about to happen again, the cognitive dissonance that has allowed Gardner to condemn Russian interference on behalf of Trump in 2016 while endorsing Trump’s re-election in 2020 is coming to a head. Gardner is extremely adept at evasion of the media, especially when contradictions like this one are dominating the news cycle.

But this is too much. Trump and Putin are laughing. At Cory Gardner.

Friday Open Thread

“Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.”

–Jonathan Winters

Democratic Presidential Debate 1, Night 2 Open Thread

For Colorado’s presidential aspirants Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, tonight’s the night to shine! The same is no less true for all those other folks, but our local boys have everything to gain tonight and not much to lose.

Your personal definition of “make us proud” may vary, but here’s hoping they do.

Buck: Trump Has Done an “Outstanding Job” of “Trying to Clean Up” Obama’s Immigration “Mess”

(Orwellian stuff – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck said Wednesday that when it comes to immigration, the Trump Administration has done an “outstanding job of trying to clean up the mess of past administrations.”

“The mistreatment of children really tugs at the heartstrings,” Buck told KFTM radio’s John Waters Wednesday (Listen below). “But this administration really has done an outstanding job of trying to clean up the mess of past administrations.”

Buck is echoing false statements by Trump, who’s also said past administrations launched the policy of separating children from their parents at the border.

But fact multiple independent fact checkers concluded that Trump, in fact, instituted the blanket policy of prosecuting parents and separating them from children, as part of his “zero-tolerance” approach to the border. It was at least publicly rescinded by the president after a national outcry, but loopholes remained, causing further outcry.

“There is a lot of misinformation,” said Buck.

Some of it is coming from Trump himself, who told NBC Sunday that he “inherited separation from President Obama” and that “I was the one that ended it.”

“When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together,” Trump told Telemundo Thursday.

Buck defended U.S. border control personnel, suggesting that they have no ill will toward immigrant children.

“I’ve met with the people that supervise the border,” Buck said on air. “They have children of their own. They have a heart for children. And they are just overwhelmed by the number of children that are being sent across the border.

Buck voted against a bill, passed mostly by Democrats Tuesday, that would provide $4.5 billion to address the humanitarian crisis on the U.S. border.


Polis Recall Descends Into Chaos

For several months now, we’ve been closely following the competing efforts working toward the possible but highly unlikely recall of Gov. Jared Polis–a campaign that would be unprecedented in size and expense, and so far hasn’t attracted even a fraction of either the financial or popular support that would be necessary for a successful outcome. That hasn’t stopped a number of local conservative political usual suspects like Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler from raking in the dough providing “services” to the campaigns. In recent weeks, however, the early split between two principal Polis recall groups further has blossomed into still another group hoping to put previous highly negative press behind them and unify the fractious groups into one cohesive effort.

Into this mess wades local reporter Sandra Fish for the Colorado Sun in a must-read story today that diligently follows up all of these confusing characters and storylines, bringing readers to the undeniable conclusion that the campaign to recall Gov. Polis is, as we’ve maintained all along in this space, a financial black hole where the “backlash” against Colorado Democrats for daring to win an election in 2018 is headed to die. There is no way that we can adequately recount the full details of this nearly 2,000 word story, so make sure you click through and read it all:

Juli-Andra Fuentes, who leads the Official Recall committee, confirmed the current situation. She said she estimates it will take at least $4.4 million, and her group won’t initiate the recall process until it has more money, enough volunteers and a candidate to replace Polis…

Some GOP political observers say the gargantuan effort to recall a governor in Colorado — especially one who spent $23 million from his own pocket to get elected — requires more financial and strategic resources than any of the groups appear able to marshal.

“They’re good people,” said Jon Caldara, a prominent Polis critic and president of the Denver-based libertarian Independence Institute, referring to those behind the recall efforts. “I don’t think anyone really believes they’re going to recall Polis.” [Pols emphasis]

Jon Caldara.

Given the fact that Caldara’s organization has directly profited from the fundraising for the “Official” Recall Polis campaign by hosting the transaction page and charging fees more than double that charged by GoFundMe, this frank admission that no one “really believes” the Polis recall will succeed is nothing short of astonishing. We noted earlier this month that the “official” campaign appears to have migrated away from Caldara’s Freedomfy site to another platform with (presumably) lower fees. Perhaps they realized Caldara’s not really there to help?

Fish reports that the campaign finance complaint we originally wrote about on June 17th has been dismissed by the Secretary of State, not terribly surprising given its amateurish literally handwritten composition. But the Sun’s own investigation confirms major problems with the recall committee’s reporting, including multiple unexplained corrections to fundraising reports with respect to Freedomfy fees in particular and in numerous cases donations appearing to lack proper itemization. Any future complaint can build on this much more credible investigation, and if not written in crayon should go over better with the Secretary of State.

Despite all of this uncertainty and the admission that they won’t be able to kick off their campaign on schedule, Fish reports the “Official” Recall Polis is warning its 41,000+ supporters to not sign on to any other petition or ally with the competing campaigns. There’s nothing stopping any of these groups from simply pulling a petition and starting their 60-day clock to collect the over 600,000 valid voter signatures required, but once a voter signs any recall petition the first petition turned in is the only one that will count.

As Sun Tzu famously observed, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” From the outset the desire of Colorado Republicans for retaliation against Democrats after their victory in the 2018 general elections at all levels has been stymied by infighting and terrible political judgment. Republicans frittered away crucial weeks when they arguably possessed momentum from the legislative session pursuing a recall against the worst possible target in Rep. Tom Sullivan, and now a longshot recall against Polis that might have at least had utility coat-tailing a couple of legislative recall petition drives is mired in division and scandal.

Bottom line: Jon Caldara is right that Gov. Polis won’t be recalled, and legislative recalls at this point are a distraction from the general election getting closer every day. If all of this doesn’t amount to a compelling argument for Colorado Republicans to give it up and start focusing on the next election where majorities are actually in play, it’s tough to know what does.

Thursday Open Thread

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte

Aurora Congressional Candidate Will Let His Trump Flag Fly

(Promoted by Colorado Pols, because why the hell not)

If you were watching then U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) during his failed re-election campaign last year, you know he took every opportunity, especially toward the end of his campaign, to criticize Trump, trying to convince voters in his Aurora district that he wasn’t a Trump Republican.

Casper Stockham, the newly minted Republican who’s running in Aurora, thinks Coffman made a big mistake, and so he’s planning to carry the Trump flag on the campaign trail as early and often as possible.

The Colorado Times Recorder spoke with Stockham, an uber driver and motivational speaker, about his pro-Trump strategy, and here are a few excerpts from the interview, edited for space considerations.


Democratic Presidential Debate 1, Night 1 Open Thread

UPDATE: We just noticed this, so apologies if we’re late to the party. One of these men is Democratic Presidential candidate John Delaney. The other is former President Gerald Ford.

It’s okay if you’re kinda creeped out by this. We are, too.




10 will enter, 10 will leave. And our Colorado boys tee off tomorrow.

Conservative Leader Disappointed That Gardner Won’t Say If He’ll Attend Gathering

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A leading conservative activist says it’s “disappointing” that U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) has yet to decide if he’ll attend a giant conservative gathering next month in Colorado.

Gardner has been a featured attraction for years at the Western Conservative Summit, Colorado Christian University’s (CCU) annual gathering of conservatives.

Last year, he even starred in the event’s promotional video, which was incessantly mocked online by progressives.

But this year, he won’t say if he’ll attend, according to Jeff Hunt, who directs CCU’s Centennial Institute, which runs the event. And Gardner did not return a call for comment.

“We have invited him, and we have not got a definitive answer yet, and you know, that is disappointing,” Hunt told KNUS’ Randy Corporon this month. “You know, we’d like to have him [at the Western Conservative Summit].”


Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 26)

Elephants are for sale (this is not a metaphor, though it certainly works as one). 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.


 Former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress — and the rest of the American public — regarding his investigation into President Trump and friends. As the Washington Post explains:

The House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, in an announcement late Tuesday, said that “pursuant to a subpoena,” Mueller has agreed to appear before both panels on July 17. Mueller, who oversaw the 22-month inquiry, is perhaps the one person lawmakers and the nation have been wanting to hear from the most…

…Mueller will testify in back-to-back hearings before the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and the House Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).

The long-awaited testimony comes as nearly 80 House Democrats have called for opening impeachment proceedings against Trump, arguing that he has ignored the Constitution that he took an oath to defend while repeatedly refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations.

President Trump is quite clearly worried about this news, as he demonstrated in a rambling interview with Fox Business on Wednesday morning. recaps the madness:

…hours after news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress in a public setting on July 17, President Donald Trump called in to Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show for a lengthy phone interview that was especially unhinged, even by his standards.

It was a surreal affair from start to finish. But even during its wildest moments, Bartiromo pretended to understand what Trump was talking about and acted as though he was making profound points. In that respect, it illustrated how Trump-friendly media — Fox News and Fox Business in particular — normalize an obviously abnormal president.

The tone was set immediately, as Trump conspiratorially ranted about “people [from the FBI] spying on my campaign” over Bartiromo’s attempts to get a question in.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been hemorrhaging money in recent years because of questionable spending habits and equally-questionable leadership tactics, and now its flagship television program is going off the air. As the New York Times reports:

The National Rifle Association has shut down production at NRATV.

The N.R.A. on Tuesday also severed all business with its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, which operates NRATV, the N.R.A.’s live broadcasting media arm, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

While NRATV may continue to air past content, its live broadcasting will end and its on-air personalities — Ackerman employees including Dana Loesch — will no longer be the public faces of the N.R.A. It remained unclear whether the N.R.A. might try to hire some of those employees, but there was no indication it was negotiating to do so.

The move comes amid a flurry of lawsuits between the N.R.A. and Ackerman, and increasing acrimony that surfaced after two prominent N.R.A. board members first criticized NRATV in an article in The Times in March. The separation had become inevitable: The two sides said last month that they were ending their three-decade-plus partnership.

NRATV did not have a particularly large audience, but it did often provide airtime to Colorado gun “enthusiasts.”


► The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill late Tuesday intended to provide relief to a rapidly-deteriorating situation along the Mexico border. From the Washington Post:

The House passed a $4.5 billion emergency border aid bill Tuesday, one containing provisions for the treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody that Democratic leaders added amid widespread anger in their ranks over President Trump’s handling of the crisis.

The 230-to-195 vote, largely along party lines, followed a flurry of last-minute negotiations among Democrats who said they have been horrified by reports of poor conditions at overcrowded U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities where unaccompanied children have been kept. The bill’s passage sets up a high-stakes negotiation with Trump and Senate Republicans to deliver aid days before a looming deadline.

Colorado’s Congressional delegation split along party lines, with all three Republican members voting “NO” on the measure. Colorado Public Radio has more on the votes from our state’s delegation.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Colorado Gun Nuts Mourn Loss of NRATV

Local pro-gun activist Laura Carno on NRATV.

As the New York Times reports, production of new programming at the controversial NRATV outlet operated by the National Rifle Association is ending and the channel will go dark, following a decision by the organization’s leadership after a spate of infighting between the storied gun-rights organization and its unruly media arm:

“Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, wrote in a message to members that was expected to be sent out by Wednesday. “So, after careful consideration, I am announcing that starting today, we are undergoing a significant change in our communications strategy. We are no longer airing ‘live TV’ programming.”

…N.R.A. officials had grown leery of the cost of creating so much live content for NRATV, which was started in 2016, and wondered whether it was worth the return on its investment. The site’s web traffic was minuscule, with 49,000 unique visitors in January, according to a report provided by Comscore.

Some N.R.A. board members and officials were also unnerved by the breadth of its content, which strayed far beyond gun rights and encompassed several right-wing talking points, including criticism of immigration and broadsides against the F.B.I. A show hosted by Ms. [Dana] Loesch that put Ku Klux Klan hoods on talking trains from the popular children’s program “Thomas & Friends” drew outrage from some within the organization.

Although we had no idea that the reach of NRATV was so small, the sudden end of NRATV is nonetheless significant to Colorado politics. Since its founding in 2016, NRATV has heavily featured Colorado pro-gun activists like Laura Carno of Colorado Springs in their programming. This year, NRATV has already devoted generous airtime to the battle in the Colorado legislature over the state’s new “red flag” law to allow for the temporary removal of firearms from persons ruled by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others. NRATV didn’t exist in 2013 when the gun lobby organized recalls against Democrats over the passage of gun safety bills that year, but the outlet would have doubtless played a big role in publicizing the “backlash” against Democrats in 2019 over red flag despite the law’s overwhelming popularity.

Except now, due to a power struggle at the top of the organization’s leadership and a recognition that NRATV has strayed from its core mission into multi-issue right-wing advocacy that divided rank-and-file gun owners, that’s not going to happen. Carno and friends will have to find legitimate media outlets to pitch their stories. And we don’t expect that will be nearly as accommodating as in-house paid media.

One might even say that the NRA…overreached.