These are words I rarely use in this order, but Cory Gardner’s latest political move has really surprised me. If you haven’t heard, Gardner has caved as one of the last seven or eight Senate Republican holdouts on Lindsey Graham’s phony-baloney resolution condemning the way that Democrats are running the House impeachment inquiry.
I know that doesn’t sound particularly surprising, but it is, as I’ll soon explain.
First, you might want to note that Democrats are running the impeachment inquiry in pretty much the same way that Graham helped run the Clinton impeachment, but we’ll leave that for another day. This resolution has nothing to do with the House process — which Gardner calls a “circus” — and everything to do with Donald Trump’s feelings. As I write this, there are three hurt-feeling holdouts — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney. Don’t you miss John McCain?
The resolution is meaningless, of course, except to Trump, who insisted that Senate Republicans do something to show their unwavering support for him. This was no problem for Lickspittle Lindsey, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has aptly dubbed him. It’s just the latest in a series of shameful Graham acts of sycophancy. When Trump abandoned the Kurds in northern Syria, Graham, in a momentary lapse back into the old Lindsey, vowed that he would be Trump’s worst nightmare. But when Trump called Graham in to the White House to remind him who’s boss — literally — “worst nightmare” suddenly turned into “predictable hypocrisy.”
And so it goes.
The resolution is just another diversionary tactic — like the House Republican sit-in, featuring Doug Lamborn in a cameo role as Chick-Fil-A delivery boy — to try to make us briefly turn away from the runaway train that is the impeachment inquiry. In the latest news — real, not fake, news — former NSC chief John Bolton is reportedly negotiating with House Democrats for a date in which he could be deposed. This would, in fact, be Trump’s worst nightmare.
For all of Bolton’s flaws, I don’t think groveling is one of them. And if his testimony would be a nightmare for Trump, it wouldn’t be much better, I’m guessing, for Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pompeo. Personally, I want to see Bolton publicly testify some day just to hear him confirm, as The New York Times reported, Fiona Hill’s assertion that Bolton told her —only half-kiddingly — that he didn’t want to be part of any “drug deal” that Gordon Sondland and Mick Mulvaney were cooking up.
In any case, when I heard the news that Gardner hadn’t signed on to Lickspittle’s ploy, I may have jumped to a too-hasty conclusion. I tweeted that we know from experience exactly how it would all play out. Gardner would say that he’s studying the matter and has not yet decided how he’ll vote. And then when the resolution came to the floor, he would cave and vote for it.
And then, of course, he’d run for cover before any reporter could ask him why he pretended once again not to have known from the beginning exactly how he intended to vote. And he’ll not only refuse to return my calls. He won’t return Kyle Clark’s calls. Or Joe St. George’s calls. Or, well, you get the idea.
There was a second option I’d considered. If only 44 or 46 Republicans and no Democrats signed on, then the resolution would never come to a vote, which is, of course, Gardner’s best-case scenario. The problem, though, is that a no-vote would be a major setback for Trump. And it would mean that Gardner would be one of those blamed for the setback. You need 60 votes to pass the resolution, so it’s just so much public relations anyway. But for Gardner, it’s all of a piece in his decision to stick with Trump no matter how far underwater Trump takes him in his re-election bid.
What we know — as much as we know anything — is that Gardner desperately doesn’t want to discuss any of this. He was nationally humiliated when the video of a group of Colorado reporters interviewing him went viral. The reporters, starting with St. George, asked Gardner repeatedly whether it was appropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. And repeatedly Gardner dodged the question.
We’ve seen Gardner play this game before. But we’ve never seen it go national before. And we’ve never seen anything like it as potential fodder for Democratic ads against Gardner in the 2020 Senate race.
A few days ago, political analyst Eric Sondermann, a centrist’s centrist, wrote a piece for ColoradoPolitics saying it was time for Gardner to get off the political tightrope and call out Trump for what he is.
Sondermann wrote: “These are not normal times, Cory. A year out from the election, you have a choice to make. Do you spend the year trying to stay aloft on the high wire, coherence be damned, and hope to somehow survive against increasing political odds in increasingly difficult political terrain? Or do you take this as an opportunity for liberation; a personal declaration of independence; and a chance to speak your truth and let the chips fall?”
I knew Gardner was never going to declare independence. But now we know he’s not even going to pretend that he might.