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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Cory Gardner holds a town hall meeting that is exactly what you’d expect it to be

Littwin: Cory Gardner holds a town hall meeting that is exactly what you’d expect it to be

For all those insisting that Cory Gardner finally hold his first town hall meeting of the Trump era, I’ve got some partly-fake news for you.

He had one. Sort of. It was Friday afternoon in Durango.

He brought with him three friends — including the state’s top two Democrats — as cover. And though he faced a largely unfriendly audience — or at least that’s how it looked on the streaming video I watched — no one laid a glove on him. In other words, it was vintage Gardner.

He dodged questions he didn’t want to answer, which was pretty much all of them. And he insisted that this fake town hall — in a small venue, with very little public notice, with Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper and Scott Tipton there taking questions — was the real thing.

I don’t think anyone in the crowd bought it. As one questioner asked as the meeting was nearing a close, “When will you be back to do a real town hall?

The answer, if it came truthfully, would probably be never. Gardner, of course, didn’t say. But if Gardner showed anything Friday, it was that he has made a huge mistake ducking these crowds. Yeah, if you held a town hall anywhere near Denver, you’d get the TV cameras there showing angry constituents, and it might get some play on national cable TV news.

But you’d also get to say that you’re not afraid to do a little small-d democracy and that you’ll answer some of the tough questions that any Republican would have to face right now.

The problem is, Gardner is afraid. And you can understand why.

He can’t defend his support of Trump. He can’t defend his role in attempting to repeal Obamacare. And he’s very unlikely to explain why he can’t talk honestly about what Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake has called the Republicans’ Faustian bargain with Trump.

Flake said that Republican politicians, and he included himself in his blistering assessment, have spent the last months enabling a president they know to be unfit for the job. Columnist Michael Gerson, former Bush speechwriter and White House aide, called Flake’s stand the “single biggest act of political bravery in the Trump era.”

Imagine Gardner taking a similar stand. OK, you can’t. Now try to imagine him saying what Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she told Trump about her vote on Obamacare repeal: “I made a statement to the President with my colleagues and with his team there that ‘I’m not voting for the Republican Party. I’m voting for the people of Alaska.'”

OK, you can’t do that either. Instead, we have the devastating photo of Gardner walking alongside Mitch McConnell as they head to the Senate floor to vote for the “skinny repeal” bill. It’s a photo you may see again. And again. It’s a photo Democrats will use to remind voters that Gardner voted for three different iterations of Obamacare repeal — one that would have robbed 16 million people of their healthcare coverage, one that would have robbed 22 million people of their coverage and one that would have, and here’s your winner, robbed 32 million people of their coverage.

So when Gardner was asked to explain “why on Earth” — as one questioner put it — he had voted to repeal Obamacare, he began his usual spiel about all the problems with Obamacare without once mentioning why any of the bills he voted for, and presumably helped to write, would improve matters. He didn’t because he couldn’t. Not with a straight face, anyway.

The crowd booed, saying they’d heard all that before. And so Gardner said one more thing they’d heard before: “Seven years ago, when I ran for Congress, I said that I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, and I’m going to continue to live up to the promise that I made. The reason is: The Affordable Care Act isn’t working.”

More boos. It turns out that a lot has changed in seven years since Gardner was waving his insurance company letter around. Trump got to be president, the Mooch happened and, along the way, Obamacare became popular. Go figure.

But Gardner, after taking a little heat, found his way back to his seat among the politicians, who had come to the meeting from a tour of the Gold King Mine with EPA Director Scott Pruitt. The mine was presumably to be the topic of the day. But the fact that Gardner was there, or anywhere, to answer questions from the crowd, or any crowd, changed the topic dramatically.

If Gardner held his own, as he seemed to, that was never really going to be his problem. Donald Trump is his problem. The Republican agenda is his problem. Taking $770 billion from Medicaid recipients in order to fund a tax cut for the rich is his problem. Standing by as Trump takes another run at the culture wars — banning transgender troops, cutting legal immigration, breaking several Boy Scout pledges — those are his problems.

The fact that Trump is polling in the high 30s — and almost certainly lower than that in Colorado — is definitely Gardner’s problem.

The cracks in Trump’s support in Washington are now plainly visible. The Senate is remaining in continuous session during the August recess so that the president can’t use the recess to fire Jeff Sessions. There are a pair of bipartisan bills being proposed that would prohibit a president (like Trump) from firing a special counsel (like Bob Mueller) without review from a panel of federal judges. In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, Congress passed sanctions against Russia — the margin was so big that even Gardner could safely join in — that were a direct rebuke to Trump.

The thing is, at some point, Gardner may well have to dump Trump. It won’t be like Flake. It wouldn’t be bravery that does it, of course. If or when it happens, it will be purely out of self-defense.

And, in any case, you wouldn’t need a town hall to give you the news. My guess is that it would be as obvious as the writing on the Mooch’s bathroom wall.

Photo via Sen. Cory Gardner Facebook

 

 

 

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

3 Comments

  1. Ann on said:

    Brilliant. He’s a knee jerk repub. Party first. He apparently doesn’t have any thoughts of his own that he’s willing to put out there. Thanks for another informative, well written piece.

  2. Don Lopez on said:

    Elections have consequences.

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin

    “And while I’m generally anti-filibuster, I make one exception for any and all years in which Donald Trump is president.” – Mike Littwin

    }{

    Since losing narrowly to Senator Bennet in 2010 Republican Rep. Ken Buck has been little more than a punchline for Mr. Littwin who refers to him as Ken “high heel sneakers” Buck (insert wild, uncontrollable hysterical laughter here).

    But on August 01, 2017 (mark that date on your calendar) Mr. Littwin devoted an entire paragraph to Rep. Buck’s criticism of Congressional Republicans. Minus, of course, the “high heel sneakers’ nickname

    “We got a hint of that from, of all people, our own Ken Buck, who wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post headlined, “The Republican Party is dead.” And while the piece is mostly a hit on the Republican-controlled Congress, particularly the Senate, Buck never mentions Donald Trump. But it’s the very lack of any Trump mention that’s critical here. Buck doesn’t defend Trump from his attack. He ignores him, except for this telling aside: “What can we do? More than anything else, we need a vision, someone who has a message and a plan to unify this country. Instead, we’ve assembled a ‘B-team’ of messengers who distract the nation with frivolities.”

    Mr. Littwin offered no explanation as to why he suddenly valued the opinion of a man who for the last seven years he has mocked and ridiculed. Of course, no explanation was necessary since all of Mr. Littwin’s views are transient and conditional shifting almost hourly. In seven years his opinion(s) of Rep. Buck shifted more frequently than his love-hate-love relationship with former FBI Director James Comey. And if next year Rep. Buck decides to run for state attorney general—-as he suggested last month he would—-Mr. Littwin’s opinion(s) will shift once more. Or twice more. Or…..well, you get the idea.

    And the fact that Rep. Buck criticized his fellow Republicans is hardly earth-shattering news, here’s what he said in 2010:

    “What I keep hearing is we have sent Republicans to Congress to change Washington, and instead those folks have been changed by Washington.”

    Maybe Mr. Littwin forgot about that quote although he did mention it in his Denver Post column. But he is getting on in years.

    But his use of Rep. Buck to criticize Republicans does indicate the profound political bewilderment Mr. Littwin has experienced since last November 8th when President Trump demonstrated not only how deeply flawed Hillary Clinton was as a presidential candidate but how little Mr. “I’ve-always-had-a-pretty-good-handle-on-politics” Littwin actually knew about politics much less where the handle was. Mr. Littwin was so bewildered that the day after the election and in the very same paragraph he admitted that Mrs. Clinton was a flawed candidate but lost the election not because of her many flaws but because, um, the “country (was) still apparently unready to elect a female president.”

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    On Saturday Mr. Littwin attacked (surprise! surprise!) Senator Cory Gardner for, among other things, voting to repeal Obamacare which—-according to Mr. Littwin “would have robbed 16 million people of their healthcare coverage, one that would have robbed 22 million people of their coverage and one that would have, and here’s your winner, robbed 32 million people of their coverage.”

    Here’s what The Federalist’s David Harsanyi, a former colleague of Mr. Littwin’s at the Denver Post, says about those highly suspect CBO estimates:

    “You’d think someone would have written a comprehensive factcheck of the Democrats’ lie that 26 million people will “lose” their health insurance due to repeal bills. Six Pinocchios! Who knows? Maybe factcheckers will get around to pointing out that 16 million of the 24 million people Democrats claim will have their coverage snatched away are people who will choose not to buy it in the absence of a penalty. No doubt, factcheckers will point out that around six million or more of those 24 million who will supposedly have their coverage “taken” from them are people the CBO just assumes would have left Obamacare markets anyway. You know, baselines and all.”

    The odds of seeing that David Harsanyi quote in Mr. Littwin’s column are roughly the same as Mr. Littwin winning a Pulitzer. On second thought, he’ll win a Pulitzer first.

    And it’s doubtful, as Mr. Littwin claims, Senator Gardner is concerned that if, “he held a town hall anywhere near Denver, you’d get the TV cameras there showing angry constituents, and it might get some play on national cable TV news.”

    After all, Mr. Littwin himself has said, “cable TV news is generally a blight on the media landscape”.

    While Mr. Littwin continues his obsession with polling, “The fact that Trump is polling in the high 30s — and almost certainly lower than that in Colorado — is definitely Gardner’s problem.” he continues to ignore that Democrats are even less popular than President Trump. This from Vox:

    “Yet the Democrats face an uphill battle to gaining power again. Trump is unpopular, but he’s more popular than the Democrats. (Sound familiar?) A recent poll has a 40 percent favorable rating for Trump, but only 35 percent for the Democratic Party. An April 2017 poll surprisingly found that Trump would win in a rematch against Clinton. Democrats haven’t gained in popularity or gained in party identification. The Republican Party as a whole hasn’t been this powerful since the 1920s. The Democrats have collapsed in state governments, now controlling only 31 of 98 state legislative chambers. Some rethinking is necessary.”

    And there’s more bad news for Democrats, this from the Washington Post:

    “In November, Republicans solidified and/or expanded their majorities at all levels of governance, and it looked as if things couldn’t get worse for Democrats. Except, it just did.
    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday he is leaving the Democratic Party, just six months after taking office, and becoming a Republican. An extra twist of the knife for Democrats: He did it alongside President Trump, at a rally in West Virginia.”

    Maybe he’ll mention that in his next column or maybe, and this is the more likely scenario, he’ll completely ignore it because, after all, if Mr. Littwin doesn’t acknowledge it then it didn’t really happen.

    Right?

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Green light a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2017

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