Littwin: Ken Buck bravely goes where all informed people fear to tread

Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck at a candidate forum in Denver on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. (Photo by Rachel Lorenz for The Colorado Independent)
Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck at a candidate forum in Denver on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. (Photo by Rachel Lorenz for The Colorado Independent)

One of the first things they teach you in column-writing school — OK, there aren’t really any column-writing schools, but, as the saying goes, if you buy the premise, you buy the bit — is that there’s no point in writing the obvious take, meaning something with which everyone agrees.

But I’ve learned over time, and particularly in the last few years, that there is no longer any take — no matter how obvious — that passes this test.

And to prove the point, I give you Rep. Ken Buck, who is not only the benighted congressperson from Colorado’s 4th CD, but, simultaneously, the in-way-over-his-head chairperson of the fast-sinking Colorado GOP. 

It is Mr. Buck who has boldly taken up the cause that the best way to fight off the novel coronavirus pandemic is to do virtually nothing. Yes, it’s definitely out-of-the-box thinking, if you want to call it thinking.

Buck goes all in, telling The Denver Post that “You don’t shut restaurants for 30 days… I have no problem with (stopping) sporting events or things that don’t impact our civil liberties and don’t impact everyday life. Those are things that I think we can suspend for a period of time. But it’s just craziness to shut down businesses or parts of the economy that are absolutely necessary.”

He says it’s an overreaction. Sure, he says, we have to protect the sick and elderly, but let’s allow others to gather in large groups so that the ultra-contagious virus can spread among those gathered and then be transmitted to the old and the sick. Four people have died from the virus so far in Colorado — one was a man in his 70s from Weld County, a Buck constituent. And Buck may not have noticed, because, well, he’s Ken Buck, but the latest information from the CDC is that nearly 40 percent of Americans hospitalized for the virus are aged 20 to 54.

It’s not just old people at risk. It’s not just sick people at risk. It’s everyone at risk, as we learn in the latest count from Italy, where 3,405 have died and they’re running out of space in the morgues. The number of coronavirus cases in America has doubled in the last two days, presumably due to more testing. In California, they’re projecting that 56 percent of the state’s population — meaning more than 25 million people — could eventually be infected with coronavirus. Here is how bad it’s gotten: Even in Texas they’ve shut down the restaurants (yes, including barbecue), the schools, the bars and are limiting gatherings to 10 people.

Those who actually know these things say that unless we flatten the curve — someone, please Google this for Buck — thousands of Americans will die, maybe tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands. Buck’s knee-jerk response is meant to be a civil libertarian stance, as if Patrick Henry would be saying today, “Give me liberty to stop in for a burger or give me death.”

If Buck were just a right-wing back bencher whose commentary — “What we have done is turn public policy over to the doctors,” he told The Post, as if doctors weren’t the right people to consult in a pandemic — would normally be of little note except to those who have repeatedly elected him to Congress. But there is the matter of the Colorado GOP. He is the person state Republicans have inexplicably chosen — out of all Colorado Republicans — to lead them back from the abyss.

So, here’s leadership, Buck style.

When last seen, Buck was making a fool of himself by posting a video daring Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke to take the AR-15 he keeps in his office as a tribute, I guess, to the right of people to use weapons of war. “If you want to take everyone’s AR-15s in America, why don’t you swing by my office in Washington, D.C., and start with this one,” he says in the video while wielding the gun, which his office later said was actually inoperable. O’Rourke tweeted back that Buck is making his case far better than he could.

That was at about the same time Buck was one of only two House members to vote against the first coronavirus relief package and then was one of 40 to vote against the next relief bill, which he called a “boondoggle.”

Is this the official Republican Party line? It’s not Donald Trump’s party line. It’s not Mitch McConnell’s party line. Even Sean Hannity has backed away from this kind of thinking — even while saying he always took coronavirus seriously. (Yes, seriously.) I don’t think it’s Cory Gardner’s, either, but I’m not sure because, as I may have mentioned, he doesn’t take my calls and, anyway, he’s self-quarantined.

You don’t need me to tell you what kind of shape the Colorado Republican Party is in these days. The 2018 midterm elections, in which Republicans were basically swept statewide, was the party’s worst showing in modern history. Gardner, who is generally considered the most vulnerable Republican senator in the 2020 elections, is the only Republican now to hold a major statewide office.

And Buck’s response to the sweep in the legislature, you’ll remember, was to say that he would teach Democrats how to spell r-e-c-a-l-l. We know how that turned out. Let’s just say don’t look for Buck in next year’s spelling bee competition.

And it’s not just the Colorado GOP, of course. It would be amusing, if it weren’t so frightening, to see Donald Trump telling us we should listen to the experts on how to treat the virus. It’s the same Trump who has called climate change a hoax, and who, until recently, was calling coronavirus a hoax and who has been joined over the years by Republican after Republican in disputing 9th-grade basic science.

If you missed Thursday’s coronavirus press conference, it was a real show, which predictably turned into a Trump rant-a-thon. He was asked how he reconciled his statement that he knew from the start that the virus was a pandemic with his statement that the virus took everyone by surprise. His answer: “We were very prepared. The only thing we weren’t prepared for was the media. The media has not treated it fairly.”

And then he went on to say how the media —some of which (like me) are saying Trump’s constant use of “China virus” is racist — is siding with the Chinese. 

So, Trump, as we know, doesn’t take any responsibility for the lack of hospital beds, for lack of respirators, for lack of masks, for the unforgivable delay in testing or for anything else. He always fingers China — Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said it was because some Chinese eat bats and dogs, not mentioning that some American eat snakes and squirrels — not because the virus started in China, which it did, but because it is suitably foreign. And he blames the fake news media because he always blames the media.

But if Trump listened to Buck — and I doubt he does — he’d hear his right-wing fringe blaming him for a failure of leadership: “We are telling people they can’t go to church. We are telling people they can’t hold political rallies. We are telling people that, as the result of a disease that is not targeting younger populations, they can’t go to school. We are in the midst of a panic that is creating irrational responses.”

And Buck goes on: 

“We don’t have a leader. It was FDR who said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ We need leaders to stand up and say we’re going to have a measured response.” 

Yes, it was FDR who said that. Seems Buck did learn something at Princeton. FDR said those words in addressing the Great Depression. What he meant — and what Buck seems to have missed, among other things — is that Roosevelt meant we must face the danger without being paralyzed by fear. It was FDR who then launched the New Deal, something far more expansive than even the trillion-plus-dollar programs now being considered in the face of the pandemic.

Here’s a guess, which no one — not even these days — could possibly dispute. If Buck were a congressman in the 1930s, he would have fearlessly voted against every single one of FDR’s New Deal bills and called each one a boondoggle. So to Ken Buck, I say, FDR that.


  1. This is the same Mike Litwin, a lefty from the Denver Post, who I abhor and stopped taking the paper because of his EXTREME LEFT VIEWS! Bashing Trump over coronavirus???? Responded to shut it down in less than a month….flights from china, europe. etc. Hey Mike, do you have a short memory or no memory at all??? TOOK OBAMA AND CREAPY JOE 6 MONTH TO DECLARE AND EMERGENCY ON H1NI!!! You have selective memory my friend! You lefties have certainly taken over but just wait till the coffers run dry and you have no answers when big oil starts to pull out of the state…..which you so cheer! Then, health care for all, and lunches for school children will become a PIPE DREAM! And I hope you and all your liberal friends choke on it!

  2. It doesn’t speak well of 4th District residents that he’s been reelected. Fortunately, he’s not my Congressman.

  3. Actually that’s a common myth about the emergency declaration for the swine flu under the Obama Administration.

    The Obama administration declared swine flu a public health emergency six weeks before H1N1 was declared a pandemic.

    No H1N1 deaths had yet been recorded in the United States at the time of the emergency declaration.

    Where in the world did you hear otherwise?

    Golly…are there maybe other things that you mistakenly believe due to such misinformation?

  4. Buck is no different than the Oklahoma Governor who brags that he’s eating in a restaurant that is ” packed “, then declares a state of emergency days later. He’s no different than our President, who declared the Coronavirus a hoax and is now is so completely inept at dealing with it he tells the states to go and find their own medical supplies. He isn’t different from Rep. Matt Gaetz, who mocked the virus by wearing a gas mask to voting, then has to self isolate because he came into contact with someone with the virus.

    Slow learners all. Republicans all.

  5. How can the likes of Buck and Trump keep their supporters? Their views views on the social issues are down right inhumane. Is there something about the mostly rural citizens of Weld County that supports their though process? I just can’t put together a line of logical thinking that could support there thought process.

  6. Buck Ofama PhD You have made me glad that I read the comments so that I can see that there are ignorant racist that live in Colorado…

  7. Let’s tied that down to dates. US started having cases in California, Texas and New York in March 2009. CD:C activated Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in 22 April. WHO declared public health emergency on 26 April. By May virus spread in all 50 states. ——-WH official stated WH taking situation seriously and monitoring developments. Pres. Obama “We are closely monitoring emerging cases of swine flu”. Obviously cause for concern, not cause for alarm. Robert Gibb , WH press Secretary said effort to get a team in place has not been hindered by lack of Secretary of Health and Human Services. President gas bit made appointments for Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration, Surgeon General, or Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ON OCTOBER 24, Pres. Obama declared H1N1 Swine Flu a National Emergency. ———-
    ———-Note: President Barack Obama never took personal control or responsibility of this delay. So we see President Donald Trump take personal control and coordination, bringing National Leaders and Economy together, to work together. AND HE IS DECLARED INEPT, UNQUALIFIED, AND IN OVER HIS HEAD. —–
    ——Please explain that to me. I just do not understand that. Virus of all kinds have been prevalent on Planet Earth, since it formed as a new Space Body, and cooled to where cells could grow and become animal, fish, howl, with growth of trees and all we have on this SPACE BODY. And this has been recorded in History, Religion but we seem to not learn. When Population increases to numbers that cannot be support, filth, trash, and humans, as well as other animals are decreased by Normal Nature. I refer now to Homeless living on the streets, with trash, diseases, filth, drug habits, so are ripe for Virus, whether by nature, or by Hostile Actions of other countries. VIRUS CAN BE WEAPONIZED, YOU KNOW. We work together, or we will perish as a country.

  8. Carl Lipe, In line with this idea, and article: How many of the hospitalizations and deaths, should be allocated to the Judges, who blocked Present Donald Trump over the last 3 years, when he tried to enforce immigration laws, as they have been written by both Democrats and Republicans, over the years? Open borders, and lack of enforcement resulted in too many coming from other countries, with their culture, beliefs, and many of those, took jobs away from native born, USA citizens whose families came legally, or many years ago. Led to the homelessness, filth, people living on the streets, with all the problems of late 20th and start of 21st Century.. Note also, those are the coastal states, where immigration occurs, and where crime problems flourish. Now with high taxes, and problems, many are moving to middle of country, and bringing their spending, taxing habits with them. Where will they move to, when same conditions reach, what they left?

  9. Computer word got me again. Now Donald Trump is President. Anyone can see he has been “present” every day, working more hours than any of those who criticize him, or his cabinet selectees.

  10. You see…that’s another perfect example of an obviously sweet person who has simply been misinformed.

    For instance, the swine flu was declared a pandemic in June and the Obama Administration declared a public health emergency on a nice Sunday in April.

    Now that you know the facts, I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s no comparison to Obama’s 67% approval winning job during the swine flu crisis and Comrade Chump’s buffoonish, bumbling, boondoggle of bullshit.

    He’s over his head…as he’s been his whole life.

  11. Well this begs the question…is there not a single crisis for which Republicans won’t try to scapegoat refugees and immigrants?

    I think not…but one can hope.

  12. breaking out of the bubble, perhaps you will read

    Or, being concerned about possible political bias of recent coverage, how about this story:
    April 28, 2009 / 6:57 PM
    Obama seeks $1.5 billion for swine flu as cases jump
    “California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency over the outbreak, enabling deployment of funds and personnel to fight the disease. Federal officials declared a national public health emergency on Sunday. [that would have been April 26, 2009]

    Obama, in a letter to Congress, said the $1.5 billion would give the government “maximum flexibility” as it fights the disease, supplementing antiviral stockpiles, adding medical equipment and starting preparations for a vaccine. “

  13. Answer — virtually none of the cases are due to “blocked laws” on immigration.
    * Trump did not have any particular enforcement efforts on China before this January.
    * When Trump DID put a travel ban in place, “on Jan. 31 — weeks after it was known that the coronavirus was a serious problem — the administration restricted travel for “foreign nationals who had been in China in the last 14 days.” That means that Americans — just as capable as carrying and transmitting a contagious viral infection as foreigners — had free passage between China and the U.S.”
    * Trump did not do anything about travel from other locations for quite awhile, and exempted US citizens and “green card” residents from those locations.

    Short version: as conservative Washington Times points out “There was a point at which a true flight ban might have prevented, or at least slowed, the spread to the U.S. At this point, it would likely be useless. The coronavirus is firmly embedded in the U.S. We already have the third-largest number of confirmed cases of any country, and this is with only limited testing being done.”

  14. “…….it does no good to call (COVID-19) a Chinese virus” – Mike Littwin

    “…….(President) Trump’s constant use of “China virus” is racist “ – Mike Littwin

    “If we must have an absurd debate on whether it’s racist to refer to the ‘Chinese virus,’ fine, but is it too much to ask that purportedly objective reporters not take a side in that debate? Judging from today’s press conference the answer is, ‘Yes, of course it’s too much to ask.’” – National Review editor Rich Lowy

    “Hurling the racism charge over such minor issues as disease names is silly.” – USA Today


    Playing The Blame Game was, like death and taxes, inevitable.

    It happened after 9-11 and it’s happening now but in a much more condensed, accelerated and vicious manner because it’s an election year.

    But before you can start blaming your political enemies for the destruction and loss of life caused worldwide by the COVID-19 virus you have to make people forget that the pandemic originated in China who initially attempted to cover-up the extent of the outbreak.

    CNN attempted to argue that the pandemic was not the fault of China’s communist government or bats, but “human activity.” It’s the same old we’re-all-to-blame narrative designed to deflect culpability from China.

    But playing the race card is hands down the fastest and most effective way to distract the uninformed masses and make them forget that the COVID-19 virus originated in China. Simply claim that not only is the term “China virus” racist but so is anyone who uses it and claiming racism—whether proven or not—does curtail opposing points of view.

    Of course, if “China virus” is racist so, too, are these:

    —– West Nile virus

    —– MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome)

    The next step in vindicating China is to ignore these facts:

    —– two pandemics in the last twenty years (SARS in 2003 and COVID-19 this year) originated in China

    —– according to NPR , “researchers of zoonotic diseases — diseases that jump from animals to humans – pinpoint the wet markets in mainland China (create) an environment where viruses from different species (e.g. bats) can mingle, swap bits of their genetic code and spread from one species to another, according to biologist Kevin Olival, vice president for research at the EcoHealth Alliance. When that happens, occasionally a new strain of an animal virus gets a foothold in humans and an outbreak like this current coronavirus erupts.”

    —– no known pandemic has erupted from Americans eating snakes or squirrels

    —– reports, “ The cover-up of the early extent of the (COVID-19) outbreak by (Chinese) authorities more concerned with politics than pandemics gave it critical time to spread.”

    —– a Gallup poll shows, “Opinions of China have deteriorated among each of the major U.S. party groups over the past two years, including a 14-point decline among independents, a 24-point drop among Republicans and a 25-point slide among Democrats.”

    Of course, maybe the race card is being played simply as a distraction because the larger argument has already been lost? (An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday (March 20, 2020) reports that 55 percent of respondents approve of (President) Trump’s management of the public health crisis, while 43 percent disapprove.)

    By the end of the week someone, somewhere, somehow will find a way, regardless of how tenuous, to lay the blame for the China—–oops—–COVID-19 virus on (wait for it) Tom Tancredo!


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  15. There wasn’t a “blame game” after 9/11.

    Then as now, the Republican administration was simply incompetent and making blunder after blunder while lying to the American people about it.

    Acknowledging that wasn’t a “blame game” then, and it certainly isn’t now.

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