Imagine if Cory Gardner were to hold a town hall meeting with actual constituents during the July 4th recess. You’ll have to imagine, of course, because it won’t happen.
What’s much easier to imagine, though, is why Gardner has decided he can’t afford to face the voters. Certainly not now. He was more likely to publicly address the ADAPT disability-rights activists — who were dragged away by the cops after spending two nights at his office — than he is hundreds of citizens in a high school gym.
Because, let’s be honest, what would he possibly say? (If you were there for the Cardboard Cory town hall, you’d understand.)
We’d start with Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic Twitter attack on Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski, her (maybe fake news) bleeding face lift, her crazy low IQ. How could Gardner explain why all he could come up with in response was a less-than-outraged press statement instead of, say, demanding that Trump apologize to her, to us, to the nation, to the freaking world for disgracing the office? I’d love to hear Gardner’s answer if someone asked whether he thought Trump’s early-morning playground taunts were more third-grade level or, I don’t know, fifth grade.
You know he’d get the question about why he seems to have changed his mind about the man Gardner once called “a candidate whose flaws are beyond mere moral shortcomings and who shows a disgust for American character and a dignity unbecoming of the presidency”? And maybe more to the point, what explanation could he give for how he could blindly vote 95 percent of the time with a president who clearly has no idea what he’s talking about and who can’t begin to defend his indefensible health care bill because he doesn’t even know what’s in it?
I mean, what would Gardner say? What could he say?
You can see the problem. And so can Gardner. Believe me.
Try to picture a voter on camera asking Gardner why he thinks a health care bill should include a huge tax cut for the rich or why that tax-cut money would be stolen from future Medicaid recipients or how he could defend, much less apparently be ready to vote for, any bill that would leave 22 million more people without healthcare coverage. I know I’d be asking what he thinks of the latest Medicaid CBO projections, from which, we just learned, Medicaid spending (on children, the working poor, the disabled, nursing home residents) would be reduced by 35 percent over the next 20 years when compared to present law.
Were Republicans hiding that Medicaid number by backloading the cuts in the bill? Gardner was on the 13-person committee writing the law, even though he claims to have played only a minor role. Still, he must have known about the hidden cuts, right?
So many questions. What did Gardner think Trump meant when he said the bill was “mean” and lacked “heart”? Did that give Gardner pause? Speaking of mean and heartless, why does Gardner apparently think it’s OK to leave states with the ability to waive the, uh, burden of ensuring that people have essential health benefits? Did he think back when he was waving his Obamacare letter that this is where he would end up — backing a cruel bill being pushed by a “moral-shortcomings” leader?
What would Gardner say if you insisted on answers? What could he say?
Gardner is a champion at dodging questions. It’s what he does best. He was elected because he would insist straight-faced that the federal personhood bill he voted for wasn’t a federal personhood bill. He was elected because the Denver Post editorial board hilariously predicted he would become a leader in bringing comity to Washington. He was elected because people mindlessly hated Obamacare, and Gardner, when jumping on the issue, never let up. Now people apparently hate Trumpcare. It would seem, if Gardner was being consistent, he would hate Trumpcare, too, now that the polls blow that way. He should ask Mike Coffman for guidance.
But as good as Gardner is at avoiding questions, facing voters as the TV cameras roll is a lot different from facing the press. It’s easy to hit back at not-so-popular reporters. It’s not so easy when regular Coloradans are asking the questions.
For myself, I’d love to ask this question, or have a voter ask it for me: Why didn’t Gardner reveal his meeting with the murderous thug Rodrigo Duterte until he was caught smiling with Duterte in a photo-op? I might even go for snark and ask him if the rumor were true that he traveled all the way to the Philippines to meet with Duterte because he was researching leaders who had greater moral shortcomings than Trump?
Is it any wonder Gardner doesn’t want to be seen, in public anyway, with the public?
I saw a list the other day of Republican senators who could possibly vote against Trumpcare. There were something like a dozen on the list. They were seen as moderates or senators from states that Hillary Clinton carried or senators who can’t quite get on board with crushing Medicaid or right-wingers like Rand Paul who don’t think Trumpcare is quite mean enough.
One senator not on the list was Cory Gardner. Yes, he represents a moderate state that voted for Clinton. Yes, he knows full well that when he runs again in 2020 (with Trump probably heading the ticket) that he will almost certainly face a Democratic opponent ready to make healthcare a major issue.
Wouldn’t you love to know why every insider seems so certain that Gardner’s vote is such a sure thing? I wouldn’t expect an answer, but I’m trying to imagine how great it would be just to hear the question.
Photo by Shruti Kaul, The Colorado Independent. Tracey Randolph joins protesters against the Senate health care bill outside Sen. Cory Gardener’s Denver office on June 28, 2017.