Bibi Netanyahu’s Israel; Steve House’s CO GOP; Apollo Global Management’s Denver Post

John Tomasic: Hi debaters. Welcome back. Let’s begin with Israel, the country that has at least 47 Republican Americans working as loyal diplomatic emissaries from inside the U.S. Senate.

Bibi looks to have won in what some are calling a terrible fear-mongering campaign — even though he didn’t mention Ebola even once, as far as I know. It now looks like former Likudnick Moschi Kahlon, leader of the breakaway Kalanu party, is the king maker. What do we make of the events. What does it mean for Obama and the GOP Congress?

Mike Littwin: It was a very close election, which can often lead to, yes, demagoguery. And Bibi is just the guy to do it. He went to the dark side, the very dark side. He warned that Arabs were going to the polls “in droves” and that Likud voters better get out there, too. The inimitable Jeffrey Goldberg, the balanced Middle East expert from the Atlantic, called it his Southern strategy, evoking Lee Atwater. And then, of course, there’s the dumping of the two-state solution, which will be a disaster diplomatically for Israel. How is America going to react to that? Can America still defend Israel as enthusiastically in the United Nations?

Elliot Fladen: Obama was accused of being more in for Bibi than Cory Gardner was for Ryan Call. On the former, though, there is a lot more at stake than for the latter.

Dan Haley: When did support for Israel become such a partisan issue? It’s ridiculous. Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East and Netanyahu won a huge victory with a much larger winning percentage than any polls predicted. What does this mean for Obama? He needs a little time to adjust his policy – whatever it is. It’s so unclear to me.

Mike, that was not a close election.

Littwin: I got a tweet from Cory Gardner complete with his “I Stand With Israel” flag. Do we stand with Israel when Bibi rejects a two-state solution?

Fladen: Bibi supports a two-state solution. Israel and Jordan.

Littwin: Dan, that was a close election.

Haley: Apparently whenever the left loses an election — no matter the country — they can’t believe it’s based on their ideals. It must be the other guys’ shenanigans. Any word on Diebold voting machines actually recording votes for John Kerry as votes for Bibi?

Fladen: I just thought it was really comical that for a day or two half the Democrat Party was urging prosecution under the Logan Act – an Act where there has not be an indictment since 1803, where there has never been a successful prosecution anyway, and which the government had said a few decades back wouldn’t even apply in the exact situation at issue. We are so far away from the days of “Dissent is Patriotic” that it is becoming difficult to remember we once had a president named George W. Bush.

Haley: Better question: Does Obama support Bibi? This nonsense of the White House congratulating the Israeli people for holding a democratic election – as if they’re incapable of doing such a civil thing – and not congratulating the clear winner is so condescending.

Littwin: Dan, it has been made into a partisan issue when Republicans invite Bibi to Congress to rip Obama. You saw strong Democratic supporters of Israel put into a real bind by that move. As a liberal Jew who grew up giving money to plant trees in Israel, I have some understanding of how the issue has been made partisan.

Fladen: I didn’t view Bibi’s speech as ripping Obama. Instead it was requesting a harsher deal for Iran.

Haley: Do we need to rehash the separate but equal branches of government argument from last week?

Littwin: Elliot, you might want to do a reread. It was condescending, a plain-view suggestion that Obama was too naive to negotiate with Iran and needed to be warned of the dangers.

Littwin: No, just asking what America’s response should be to Bibi’s rejection of two-state solution?

Fladen: Mike, if Obama took Bibi’s speech as an insult, then that just is another sign that he is too thin-skinned to be an effective president.

Littwin: Are you guys doing a Cory on me? The big issue following the Israeli election is the state of the two-state solution. Thoughts?

Fladen: He supports two states: Israel and Jordan.

Doing a “Cory”: noun – derived from actions of Cory Gardner in the 2014 Colorado Senatorial election of fully answering every question asked of him in the most forthright manner imaginable.


Haley: I think it still is Israel’s official policy. That said, I’ve seen nothing in my lifetime that gives me great hope that there’s some viable path to a two-state solution that brings peace to Israel and Palestinians. I see talks, failed talks, terrorism, more talks, more terrorism.

Littwin: Elliot, exactly. I should copyright that.

Being a copyright/patent troll seems like as good a way as any other of supplementing one’s income in an era of declining newspaper revenue ;-)

/heavy sarcasm

Littwin: I think Bibi made it very difficult to support his policies, including his rejection of the two-state solution. Paul Waldman wrote a very interesting piece the other day in the Washington Post, asking whether Republicans would be quite so supportive of Israel if lefty Israel Herzog had become the prime minister.

Haley: So, Mike, what should Obama do now?

Fladen: Prosecute Hillary is the correct answer.

Littwin: Let’s separate “should” from “will.” He will continue to push a two-state solution. He will not be friendly with Bibi. He will continue to use America’s veto in the United Nations. What he should do — if he were the liberal, commie, radical Republicans like to say he is – is call out Bibi on the two-state demagoguery and make a strong statement about the settlements while saying that Israel still has America’s support despite some important disagreements. But he won’t.

Tomasic: Departing Israel, for now (sorry, all tickets must include a return flight!)… Elliot, this is for you: We Coloradans witnessed a much more fractious and bitter election here this weekend. Steve House defeated Ryan Call to head the state Republican Party. There is much to say, but what does it mean in practice. Has the state party made itself even more marginal?

Haley: I’m not sure the state party – D or R – can make itself MORE marginal. Campaign finance laws and the current political infrastructure has sort of neutered the parties when it comes to political power.

Littwin: Ding! Ding! Ding! Dan is the winner.

Fladen: A lot turns on whether Steve House can make difficult choices and be willing to occasionally disappoint portions of the GOP. The problem with the GOP is that its coalition is rapidly falling apart. Moderates who value competence vs. Tea Partiers who value principle. Libertarians who value liberty vs. conservatives who value virtue. Isolationists vs. Hawks. You name it.

Steve will be in a difficult position to try to bridge these widening gaps, especially given the inexperience of his vice chair. However, Steve is overall one of the most persuasive people I know so I think if anybody has a good shot to make the attempt it might as well be him.

Parties still matter for messaging, fundraising, and organization. What is possibly at risk, though, for the GOP is that many big donors might just take their checkbook and go home (or to an independent expenditure committee). Steve will need to use all of his powers of persuasion to prevent that from occurring.

Haley: That said, it’s always fun to watch party activists “throw out” chairmen that aren’t far enough to the left or right – even if they’ve just presided over big electoral wins. The Dems ousted their party chief after historic wins in 2004 for the more liberal Pat Waak, and Ryan Call had what should be considered a very good year in 2014: Winning a US Senate seat; winning the Coffman race (considered the most competitive in the country); winning back the state Senate; making gains in the state House. Still, not enough for some people. Of course, change isn’t always bad. These jobs aren’t for life.

Littwin: For the Republicans, I just think it confirms their problem in the state, which we’ve seen playing out in the state Senate. All the headlines from the legislature this year have been about cultural issues — many of them losers in public opinion in the state and just the kind of issues that Gardner successfully avoided in the campaign and, in fact, won in part by saying only Democrats wanted to talk about them. Well, now you have Republicans talking about them on the front page of newspapers (and, of course, influential Web sites) every day. The revolutionaries won (although I don’t think Steve House is really a revolutionary.) But Ted Harvey? And the Tancredistas? It’s pretty shocking, although not at all surprising. And as Dan says, not really very important.

Fladen: I think Ryan Call got unfairly demonized. It will be interesting to see where he lands next.

What was interesting, though, was that “retweet” by Call of Palacio. He must have been smirking so large when he did it.

Haley: Ryan is a bright guy with a good head on his shoulders and his priorities straight. He’ll do whatever he wants.

Littwin: Yep, I’m pro-rebel myself. And I’m pro-reform. But this isn’t about reforming. It reflects thinking, found in both parties, that the base is where the elections are run. I would say by returning to cultural issues, the Republicans are making nothing but trouble for themselves.

Fladen: I can see only a single exception to that, Mike – transgender issues. I think if the Dems aren’t careful and let the “Planet Fitness” situation become what the law mandates, then you will see a bit of a rebellion among voters.

Littwin: My guess is that Call remains very much a player in Colorado politics. The question is how he does that. I think being allied with Cory Gardner is the best place to be right now as a Republican in Colorado.

Haley: I would mostly agree, depending on the issue and the tenor.

Fladen: Probably not just in Colorado. I’m wondering if Cory’s aspirations are a bit larger than US Senate (not based on anything – just a hunch).

I’m wondering if he is off to the same law firm as before or perhaps a different one.

Littwin: He’s got an email account with the old law firm. that should say something.

Tomasic: We have solved the Israel question and the conundrum of the Colorado GOP and the future of Ryan Call. Now onto the insoluble: The future of the Denver Post. Something called Apollo Global Management is going to buy it for either 400 million dollars or zero dollars. Can hedge funds produce good journalism?

Littwin: Fortunately we have two prominent alumni who, for years, thought of nothing else.

Fladen: Does this mean that Anschutz has given up (the bluff?) of restarting the Rocky Mountain News?

Haley: Personally, obviously, I would love to see local ownership, meaning a group of investors who love Colorado and love journalism. I still think there’s money to be made, just not at the same margins as before.

Littwin: My invaluable inside sources, whom I did not bother to cite in print, told me that the hedge fund to hedge fund transfer was coming, but that the transfer doesn’t mean that the Denver Post is not going to be sold. My guess is that the Post will still be sold. The prime suspect is still Phil Anschutz, and if it is Anschutz, that would mean something very different and important in Colorado journalism. The question is whether that something, if it happens, would be good for Colorado journalism.

Fladen: It seems that Anschutz has done great things for the Gazette. I think he could do great things for the Denver Post too.

Haley: The story in the Post seemed to suggest not all properties were involved in the deal, right? What if we make a bid just for The Post?

Littwin: Hedge funds live to buy stuff, fix it up (meaning: cut costs) and then sell it. Media guru Ken Doctor says that that this could be a five-year project. I think it’s much better for the Post if, as Dan says, someone local gets hold of it, Anschutz or otherwise.

Fladen: I had the chance to see both the old and the new Gazette offices. Anschutz has really invested a lot into that paper.

Littwin: Dan, who’s we? Are you in? I can go as high as $400, which is the limit on my ATM.

Fladen: Choice between a new home in a bubble market or a newspaper….what to do, what to do.

Littwin: Elliot, you’re right. Anschutz has invested in the Gazette, which I think is a good sign. And he allows my column to occasionally run on the Gazette op-ed page, which I think is a great sign. Thanks, Phil.

Haley: OK, you’re in for $400. I’ll need to lock up a few other investors. For $400 I may be able to get you back on to Perspective, three times a year.

Haley: It would be great if The Post had local owners. I always felt, working for Dean Singleton, that he was a businessman and had to make business decisions in a tough environment, but that ultimately, he cared deeply for The Post. But regardless, I imagine folks in the newsroom would just like to get it settled.

Littwin: Let me go off topic and feed you guys an easy score. People are now talking – I’m serious – about Al Gore as a presidential candidate. Ezra Klein did it. Some guy in the Atlantic did it. I’m starting to think that the climate change has gotten to them.

Last thoughts?

Tomasic: Gore v Clinton before Clinton v Bush. It’s evidence that contemporary politics has sapped the nation of all energy and creativity and is just… dead.

Fladen: Man-Bear-Pig shall not see the inside of the White House as its resident.

Haley: ZZzzzzzzzzzz.

Littwin: I say if we nearly had Mitt Romney in the race, why not have Al Gore nearly in the race? If not, his next move should be to box Mike Tyson.

Haley: Al Gore is irrelevant. Is Fritz Mondale still kicking?

Fladen: Would you support an Al Gore/Sarah Palin unity ticket? ;-)

Haley: Holy cow. Mondale is still kicking. 87 years young. Tan, Rested and Ready, Mondale in ’16.

Tomasic: Thanks much High Nooners! It’s a mad world and it’s Wednesday — anything can happen day. So, the obvious musical choice to wrap the debate…. “Helter Skelter.”

“Look out helter skelter, helter skelter
Helter skelter, ooh!”

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litwin hnMike Littwin has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. A rapier wit.

dan haley Dan Haley is vice president of communications at EIS Solutions, a Colorado public relations firm and was Editorial Page Editor at the Denver Post, after being an editorial writer, assistant city editor and news reporter.

fladen hnElliot Fladen is a former Department of Justice trial attorney and a 2005 graduate of Stanford Law School. He specializes in commercial litigation, government transparency, and construction litigation. Besides testifying on major state ethics legislation before the Colorado State House, stories regarding his work have appeared in the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Colorado Independent, the Colorado Observer, and the Colorado Statesman. He is also an occasional guest columnist and/or contributor to the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Colorado Independent.

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.


  1. The Republicans have forged an alliance with the head of a foreign government that challenges the traditional way the United States has conducted foreign policy. The one major consequence is to weaken the President. I believe that we have been attacked when the US President was viewed as vulnerable. The first attack on the World Trade Center came in February of 1993, right after Clinton had taken office in an election that showed a deeply divided electorate. In 1998, the Republican announced impeachment proceeding in August and showed boxes of evidence being wheeled into the House on a Friday afternoon. That weekend two of our embassies were attacked in Africa. The Cole was attacked at the end of the election cycle in 2000, after a contentious campaign. There was no real response to that attack as the election results were in limbo. Bush took office as the result of a Supreme Court decision that gave him Florida by about 500 votes. He lost the popular election and 9/11 happened nine months later. I don’t believe that the Republicans deliberately want to weaken the United States, I just think that they are naive and have little understanding of recent US history.

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