I was wrong.
Colorado Rep. Doug Bruce’s apparent inability to utter those three words after kicking a newspaper photographer could cost him most of his influence in the General Assembly.Bruce’s fellow Republicans are annoyed with Bruce’s behavior. They are as annoyed as the El Paso County representative was with a newspaper photographer who took Bruce’s picture during a public prayer on the House floor a week ago today.
Bruce kicked the photographer and now the legislature will return the favor.
The GOP members of a House panel investigating Bruce’s assault were his stiffest critics during a three-hour fact-finding hearing Friday afternoon.
The panel recommended censure and a demand of apology from Bruce, the fiscally conservative author of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Bruce was appointed to the House to fill out the term of Bill Cadman, who went to the state Senate.
Now, because of his own arrogance, the newly seated representative can expect to be little more than a punch line in bad jokes, even within his own party.
At Friday’s hearing, Bruce droned on about a “Triple Play” media conspiracy forged by the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Denver’s Channel 4 TV to provoke and record an embarrassing action by him.
Bruce made a big deal about the lack of force he had applied with his foot to the knee of the Rocky photographer kneeling in front of him.
“The force might cause a football to fall off a tee,” Bruce wanted his brethren to understand. “This wasn’t a field goal kick.”
Bruce hoped to demonstrate, but wasn’t allowed to since sane people of any political persuasion understood it doesn’t make a difference.
Bruce’s conspiracy theory, his rationalization of obviously inappropriate behavior, his rambling dodges offered as a self-professed paragon of moral values and law and order grew not only absurd, but offensive.
“Would keeping your hands and feet to yourself be an option in this situation?” wondered the investigative panel’s co-chair, Republican Steve King of Grand Junction.
When Bruce answered no, there was no place left to go, save where you might take a petulant four-year-old.
So Bruce’s committee assignments may be in jeopardy from the House’s minority leadership. But whether or not House Republican leader Mike May does what he should and strips Bruce of committee assignments, Mr. TABOR’s credibility with his party caucus is shot. And Bruce pulled the trigger.
At Friday’s hearing King asked Bruce if he was “angry” when he kicked the photographer.
Bruce said he was “annoyed.”
“You indicated it was acceptable to kick a photographer because you were annoyed,” Republican Rep. Ray Rose then asked. “Would you consider it OK for me to kick you if I’m annoyed with you?”
Instead of answering, Bruce launched into a bizarre explanation that though he applied his foot to someone else’s knee, it was not a kick, but a “nudge.”
This came after a sergeant-at-arms who witnessed the whole incident had testified that he told his boss that Bruce “kicked” the photographer.
While insisting that he was no “wild man” and that he didn’t “lose it,” Bruce gave his enemies all the ammunition they need to blow him off as a nut job. But the real damage came from his disarming any potential allies.
“I find it appalling that Rep. Bruce tries to cloak himself in prayer and patriotism,” Republican panel member Frank McNulty told the hearing. “It’s not OK to physically assault another person on the floor of the Colorado House unless you’re threatened.”
Even if you’re threatened, the best course of action still might be to call a sergeant-at-arms.
Still, McNulty’s point was a no-brainer that showed just how little wisdom or grasp of political reality Bruce exhibited.
That likely will come back to haunt him with his constituents, but it will surely come back to haunt him with his Republican colleagues.
“I can’t justify that you have more power than the pope or Billy Graham to decree that you won’t be photographed during public prayer,” an openly peeved King told Bruce. “Rather than show spirituality, you showed violence. Republican or Democrat, I will show you no quarter.”