About Ken Buck’s Super Classy Obama Sighting…

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Last Thursday, Rep.-elect Ken Buck described to his social media followers an encounter with President Barack Obama at the Washington, D.C. pizza joint We The Pizza. As you can see above, Buck had a pretty negative reaction to the mere sight of the President, which can be reasonably interpreted as not encouraging partisan gridlock-wise. You might also reasonably ask what exactly about the nation's first President of color elicits such a physical reaction from Rep.-elect Buck, to which he and his defenders will respond indignantly. Why should Buck even dignify that with a response?

Judging from just this Tweet, we expect most will have a reaction based mostly on their pre-existing view of Ken Buck. If you like him, you'll be inclined to interpret this charitably. If you don't–maybe you remember from the 2010 Senate when he said being gay is like alcoholism, or the story about that rape victim's "buyer's remorse"–you're probably doing to assume the worst.

On Facebook, it should be noted that Rep-.elect Buck elaborated a little more:

Perry and I were having lunch at We The Pizza near the Capitol before catching a plane. Secret Service shut down the restaurant and Pres Obama joined us for lunch. Obama was preceded by 20 Hispanic students for a photo op. Lost my appetite [Pols emphasis] but got a great story to share. Obama needed 35 Secret Service agents for a piece of pizza. I hope Michelle doesn't find out the Pres was eating bad food.

So, we're going to be as charitable as we feel we possibly can be, and give Buck the benefit of the doubt that the "20 Hispanic students" had nothing to do with his loss of appetite? Let's leave that at "we hope so." Some of our readers will not, and we honestly don't blame them. 

Unfortunately, there is a more basic problem here.

As the AP reports, those "20 Hispanic students" were not Hispanic.

Hours before addressing the nation on immigration, President Barack Obama left the White House for lunch.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were taking in a midday meal with young people from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota. [Pols emphasis] They were dining on pizza and burgers at adjoining restaurants on Capitol Hill; We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery.

That's right, it's the age-old pitfall for the racially insensitive, the brown skin=Hispanic fallacy! Knowing this little detail makes the charitable interpretation of Rep-elect Buck's comments we theorized above, about losing his appetite at the sight of Barack Obama and/or whatever relationship his loss of appetite may have had to those 20 Hispanic Native American students, substantially more difficult. There's really no way Buck comes out of this without some kind of ugly side in plain view–it's just a question of how ugly.

And he hasn't even been sworn in yet, folks.

Weekend Open Thread

"The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones." 

–Cheryl Hughes

Latinos Slam Hickenlooper’s “Path To Citizenship” Dismissal

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, the controversy over Gov. John Hickenlooper's remarks earlier this week, in which he appeared to dismiss the aspirations of immigrants to obtain American citizenship, appears to be growing. After giving Hickenlooper a suitable period to retract his comments, the Colorado Latino Forum has run out of patience, issuing a strongly-worded statement this afternoon:

As the nation's Hispanic community Friday celebrated President Obama's executive order sparing 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Colorado Latinos expressed their frustration with another politician — the state's Democratic governor…

"The Colorado Latino Forum is extremely disappointed in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's recent statement regarding Latinos and citizenship," the statement began.

"The Colorado Latino Forum has long underscored that access to a path to citizenship is a key value that must be included in any meaningful future comprehensive immigration reform package that Congress debates.

"We are disappointed that immediately following his narrow re-election in which our community voted overwhelmingly for Governor Hickenlooper, his first comments regarding Latino issues demonstrate that he is out of touch with our community's priorities and values."

What we've heard is that just about every Latino interest and immigrant rights group in the state has called Gov. Hickenlooper's office to express their displeasure over what he said, and there has been no satisfactory response. The fact is, an eventual pathway to American citizenship for otherwise law-abiding, long term immigrants is a central goal of immigration reform proponents–who are deeply skeptical of the various "guest worker" programs that have been proposed as alternatives. We don't think Hickenlooper was trying to disparage immigrants' motives, but his statement that the "vast majority" of immigrants simply want to "get paid over the table" and "don't care about a pathway to citizenship" could be interpreted disparagingly. Either way, it's directly at odds with what immigration reformers are advocating for.

Whatever his intentions, this comment — and a wealthy, white politician purporting to tell a minority community what they really want — isn’t sitting well with Colorado’s Latino community…

Bottom line: the pressure may be off Hickenlooper electorally for four years, but since his re-election we've been wondering if that might result in more rigorous accountability from his left–on a variety of issues where Hickenlooper has run afoul of base Democrats, or even good politics. There has been a tendency this election season to pull punches on Hickenlooper, so as to not assist Bob Beauprez's campaign.

As of today, it looks like Hickenlooper's second honeymoon is over.

GOP Responds to Obama Immigration Action…With Lawsuit About Healthcare

We wrote earlier this week about the immigration issue and President Barack Obama's pending executive order to address the topic as Congress refuses to act. Here's the final paragraph from our post on Wednesday:

There's no way around it for the GOP: When they take control of both the House and Senate in January, they can either move forward with immigration reform or not. There is nobody left for Republicans to blame if they don't take action themselves. The GOP painted themselves into a corner with inaction on immigration, and the only way out is to make their own footprints. Ultimately, if Republicans don't actually move on the issue, 2016 voters aren't going to care why they failed to act with their Congressional majority — as Yoda might say, there is only "do" or "do not."

Facepalm city in Congress

Sigh. As CNN reports, House Speaker John Boehner just…WTF?

House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he has sued the Obama Administration in federal court over its decisions to make changes to the President's health care law, which congressional Republicans argue were unconstitutional.

The move was expected for months — the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to approve the lawsuit in July. But Boehner had trouble retaining a law firm that would take the case because of the political furor over the controversial health care law…

…News of the lawsuit came just minutes after Boehner held a press conference on Friday to respond to the President's plan to circumvent Congress in order to make sweeping changes to the nation's immigration system by executive order.

The one-two punch from Boehner marks a new era of tension between Republicans who will officially take over Congress in January, and the President who has signaled that despite his party's losses in the midterms, he plans to proceed with his agenda without GOP cooperation. [Pols emphasis]

As CNN points out, Boehner struck out — twice — on trying to find a law firm to sue over Obamacare until convincing a George Washington law professor to take the case. But the very fact that Republicans would allow this lawsuit to become their de-facto response to Obama's executive order on immigration absolutely boggles the mind.

Aside from making some folks in the Tea Party happy, what do Republicans possibly think they can accomplish here?

Who Did The Shutdown Hurt Most? Colorado Springs.

militarymoney

As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Wayne Heilman reports–we've talked at length in this space about the harm done to Colorado's economy during the GOP-engineered shutdown of the federal government in October of 2013. At one point late last year, it seemed as though the shutdown was going to do real damage to Republican electoral prospects in 2014. The issue did come up in the recent elections, but the principal target Rep. Cory Gardner overcame whatever damage those ads may have done.

In tourism-dependent communities like Estes Park, the shutdown of the national parks cost the local economy millions of dollars from cancelled bookings. The shutdown resulted in some delays in the federal government's response to the devastating September flooding along the Front Range. And, says the Gazette today, furloughed soldiers and federal employees in government-heavy Colorado Springs lost income, which cost the entire region economically:

The area's income per person rose just 0.2 percent, or $81, from 2012 to $41,250, according to a report released Thursday by the agency. In 2012, per-person income rose 2.1 percent from 2011.

The national average for 2013 was $44,785; the Colorado Springs number is $3,535, or 7.9 percent, lower – the biggest gap between local incomes and the national average in data since 1969.

The prime reason for the area's poor showing: a $110.8 million decline in earnings by military personnel and civilian federal employees, largely the result of furloughs and other cost-cutting measures put into place during the federal government shutdown in October 2013.

The area has about 36,000 troops on active duty and 13,500 federal civilian workers. About half of the civilians were off the job without pay during the shutdown.

The irony of staunchly Republican El Paso County taking one of the hardest hits from the October 2013 shutdown is obvious. And the numbers don't lie: this is a much bigger economic hit than Colorado's tourism economy took. That this clearly destructive and preventable action did not have any discernable impact on the 2014 elections, either in El Paso County or across the state in the U.S. Senate race, reflects one of the great conundrums of American politics today (see: Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas?).

We don't have the solution, but here is one of the clearest examples of the problem you're likely to ever see.

Ken Buck Really Doesn’t Like President Obama

As Tweeted earlier today–a little ad hominem, don't you think?

We get that Rep-elect Ken Buck was not elected on a Barack Obama lovefest platform, but they ought to be able to eat pizza in the same pizza joint, right? Not that we should have expected much better from Colorado's most rightmost member of Congress by a mile, but a little pretend comity would probably help the two of them, you know, run the country.

We're just saying.

Lamborn’s Latest: Free Trade=Forced Trade!

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

A press release this week from Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, famous for his almost total inability to pass legislation in Congress, announces his latest big idea:

Today I introduced H.R 5727 to thwart efforts by Palestinian organizations to pressure different corporations, companies and educational institutions to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. Sadly, just yesterday we heard that some in the European Union are drafting new regulations with a similar aim. These attacks and the falsehoods being spread about Israel are harmful to any honest effort to bring peace to the region.
 
My bill will require that any prospective contractors with the U.S. Government will certify that they are not boycotting a country with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement. The bill also includes penalties for false certifications, including the ability to ban companies that breach its parameters from doing future business with the U.S. Government. Our government business practices should not play any role in harming our greatest ally in the Middle East.
 
Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where all men and women enjoy freedom regardless of their faith or ethnicity. In fact Jewish owned factories and companies in Israel and in Judea and Samaria are among the chief employers of the Palestinian community. Palestinian workers get equal pay and equal treatment and enjoy benefits.

We respect the great sensitivity of the debate over Israel and the occupied territories under her control inhabited by Palestinian Arabs. Setting that aside for a moment, it's worth noting that the United States has free trade agreements was many more nations than Israel, who would presumably also be shielded from boycotts by American companies also doing business with the federal government under Lamborn's bill. So everyone's clear, that includes the free trade agreements in place today between the United States and Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, and Singapore. There is also a pending trade agreement with many more nations proposed as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

So, next time the King of Bahrain decides it's time to brutally crush a protest movement, or things get nasty in Nicaragua again human rights-wise, or Singapore breaks out the rattan cane on another punk American vandal…no boycotts, folks! And to make sure the greatest possible chilling effect is achieved, Lamborn's bill is worded broadly to ensure both federal contractors and anyone "owned or controlled by the [contractor] is not a 'boycotting person.'" Which could cover a lot of people unrelated to the federal contract in question.

Bottom line: it's another in-all-likelihood stillborn bad idea from Doug Lamborn–so bad, in fact, that we think he may have actually thought of it himself as opposed to it being written by a lobbyist.

Hickenlooper Unfiltered Again–The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As Americans wait to hear from President Barack Obama this evening on the subject of immigration reform executive orders, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Colorado's recently re-elected Gov. John Hickenlooper yesterday–and some of Hickenlooper's remarks are raising eyebrows today. As reported by WSJ's Reid Epstein, Hick began with some indirect criticism of Sen. Mark Udall's unsuccessful re-election campaign that we think is shared by many Democrats:

“We stayed on the economy the whole time,” he told Wall Street Journal reporters and editors Wednesday. “We kept coming back to the economy. These are objective sources ranking state economies across the country and we are in the top four of every major assessment.”

Mr. Hickenlooper’s victory explanation came as an inherent rebuke to Mr. Udall, who lost to Republican Rep. Cory Gardner after running a heavily negative campaign focused on social issues. Mr. Udall skipped an appearance on his behalf at a Denver fundraiser – and Mr. Hickenlooper said it was a mistake to reject a visit from the president of the United States.

“My gosh, the president of the United States calls you and you’re going to say ‘No,’?” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “The president of the United States calls and asks for your time, I think generally you should find a way to do it.”

We wanted to start with this comment from Hickenlooper about Mark Udall's decision to avoid President Obama even as Obama campaigned in Colorado on Udall's behalf, because we think it's dead-on. In retrospect, we do not believe that hiding from Obama helped Udall in the least. On the contrary, the Democratic base cheered pictures of Hickenlooper and the President shooting pool together at the Wynkoop Brewery.

The consensus view since the election is that Udall's intense focus on abortion and women's reproductive issues–particularly when that came at the expense of articulating Udall's own case for re-election–was a major strategic blunder. Hickenlooper was criticized during the campaign for refusing to "go negative" against his opponent, who had an enormous wealth of negatives to work with. Instead, Hickenlooper stayed positive, focused on the state's strong economy recovery, and in the end was vindicated by re-election in a very strong Republican year.

So there's that, and we think a lot of readers will agree. But then Hickenlooper turns to the issue of immigration, apropos with Obama's announcement coming tonight. And Democrats waiting nervously since the election can reset their counters–the number of days without a major trip off the proverbial reservation by Hickenlooper is once again zero:

Immigration: Mr. Hickenlooper predicted Mr. Obama’s executive action, to be announced Thursday, will “be very combustible.” He proposed that instead of pushing Congress to enact last year’s Senate legislation, the White House should give up on the path to citizenship that has most inflamed opponents to an immigration overhaul.

“What’s amazing to me is, a lot of young Latinos, the vast majority don’t care about a pathway to citizenship,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “They want to be able to get on an airplane and get down to Mexico City and visit their grandparents. And they want to get a job and be able to get paid over the table. Why don’t we just take the pathway to citizenship and say, ‘We’re not going to worry about it.’ Let’s have a robust guest worker system where everybody gets five years and we secure the border and we actually hold business accountable if they’re going to pay people under the table.”

There's really no way to spin these comments. Immigration reform advocates we've heard from are absolutely furious over the suggestion that "the vast majority" of immigrants don't want a pathway to citizenship. We don't think Hickenlooper intended this, but these comments could be interpreted as demeaning to the many immigrants who most certainly do want to become American citizens, and who have served as the face of the immigration reform movement for many years. Frankly, we'd like to know more about where Hickenlooper got this stuff, but in the meantime there seems to be consensus that these comments were not helpful to the larger goal of enacting comprehensive immigration reform.

We're watching, as we've seen with previous "Hickengaffes," to see this promptly walked back.

Election Day Sets New Traffic Record at Colorado Pols

We forgot to mention this earlier, but Election Day broke a four-year-old record for a single day of visitors at Colorado Pols. On Nov. 4, Colorado Pols attracted 16,632 unique visitors, surpassing the previous record set on Election Day 2010.

For the entire year, we are getting close to surpassing 1 million unique visitors.

Thank you — all of you — for your continued support of Colorado Pols. It's hard to believe, but we'll be celebrating our 10th birthday in December! We couldn't do it without you.

 

Obama’s Immigration Executive Order and the GOP’s Problem(s)

Obama Immigration Action

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation tomorrow night to reveal his plan for an executive order to address the issue of illegal immigration. The move is expected to be made official during an event at a Nevada high school on Friday. As CNN reports:

Obama's prime-time address [on Thursday] will be followed Friday by an event in Las Vegas, sources tell CNN. While exact details of his announcement aren't yet public, the basic outline of the plan, as relayed by people familiar with its planning, includes deferring deportation for the parents of U.S. citizens, a move that would affect up to 3.5 million people.

"Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for far too long," Obama said in a video posted on his Facebook page Wednesday. "And so what I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as President to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress to encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem."…

…The President declared in June he wouldn't wait for Congress to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system, initially saying he would announce changes by the end the summer. The decision was delayed until after the midterm elections, when the White House believed it wouldn't be caught up in campaign politics.

But Republicans are expressing deep anger at the anticipated move, saying unilateral action on immigration would forestall any legislative action.

Republicans are revving up the angry rhetoric machine, but they need to be careful how they respond to President Obama's executive order (EO). Every political journalist in the country knows this has been coming for some time, and the message has been clearly sent that President Obama's actions are a direct result of Republican inaction on the issue, so there's no room for Republicans to feign surprise at this point. The Obama administration has also made it clear that the President expects the GOP to move on this issue eventually; they have been up front about acknowledging that an EO should not be a substitute for Congressional legislation and should be replaced by a broader legislative change, which puts the ball squarely in the hands of Republicans once the order is signed.

While the President's EO is an important step for the immigration issue in general, in many ways this is also going to be a story of Republican inaction. As Jonathan Capehart explained in the Washington Post on Monday:

The introduction of a new report from American Bridge about Obama’s forthcoming executive action succinctly details what the president did over the course of a year to allow House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to move on the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes in June 2013…

…If congressional Republicans don’t want Obama to take action on immigration, they should move on the comprehensive immigration reform bill sitting in the House. In the meantime, as I’ve written before, if the president is going to make people mad, he might as well do it to help people and let the GOP figure out what to do with the poisoned chalice of their own making.

Reagan and Bush Sr

Presidents Reagan, left, and Bush Sr. provide cover for Obama’s pending Executive Order.

President Obama is certainly making Republicans angry, even drawing out new threats of impeachment over the pending EO. But again, Republicans need to be careful not to go too far down the rhetoric hole, because railing on and on about the constitutionality of Obama's decision puts them at odds with history. Two other Presidents have acted alone on immigration reform: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Republicans will argue that those actions took place under different circumstances, but that's just semantics; it's hard to call Obama out for something that was also done by two previous Republican Presidents. In fact, Executive Action providing discretionary relief from deportation has been used by every President since Eisenhower.

Furthermore, Republicans will have trouble trying to make the President's EO seem more nefarious than it is. Alicia Caldwell of The Associated Press does a good job in breaking down what Obama can and cannot do via Executive Order, which largely involves deferred action through clear policies of enforcement and resource allocation. Obama can't "change the law" on immigration any more than you can, and the Administration has worked for months — along with other partners — in laying out the facts for the media to counter ridiculous charges from Congressional Republicans that the President won't work with them on the issue. Don't believe us? Check out today's editorial in the Denver Post calling on Republicans to stop complaining and get to work on their own legislation.

There's no way around it for the GOP: When they take control of both the House and Senate in January, they can either move forward with immigration reform or not. There is nobody left for Republicans to blame if they don't take action themselves. The GOP painted themselves into a corner with inaction on immigration, and the only way out is to make their own footprints. Ultimately, if Republicans don't actually move on the issue, 2016 voters aren't going to care why they failed to act with their Congressional majority — as Yoda might say, there is only "do" or "do not."

 

2015 State Senate Education Committee: Meet The Freak Show

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports on committee assignments announced yesterday by the incoming Colorado Senate GOP Majority:

Colorado Senate Republicans, who will be in charge for the next two years, have announced their committee chairs and members for the next two years.

The biggest surprise for Democrats might be the Senate Education Committee, where some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans are assigned. In other words, this is not a teachers union friendly crowd.

That, folks, is an understatement. This may not be a crowd "friendly" to unions, teachers…or students?

Senate Education
Senator Owen Hill Chair
Senator Vicki Marble Vice Chair
Senator-elect Tim Neville
Senator-elect Chris Holbert
Senator-elect Laura Woods

Where to start? Owen Hill is a stridently conservative and ambitious legislator, and with Chris Holbert arguably the least gaffe-prone of the bunch. But with Laura Waters Woods, Tim Neville, hard-right brother-in-law of Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams, and especially Vicki "Where's The Mute Button" Marble rounding out the Republican majority on this committee, Senate Education just became the go-to venue for Democratic trackers looking for embarrassing clips. Neville and Woods, you'll recall, even sent out campaign mailers that doctored the signs of Jefferson County student protesters. Wouldn't it be smashing to have one of those students show up to testify before this committee?

Of course, the ability to actually carry out whatever their education agenda might be–like the GOP-controlled Senate generally–is attenuated by Democratic control of the House and Gov. John Hickenlooper. But the choices made by GOP leadership to staff this committee to do not bode well for "working with our Democratic colleagues to build a better Colorado," as GOP Majority Leader Mark Scheffel claimed in his release.

And that, again, may be an understatement.

Tancredo aims to campaign against Christie in Iowa and New Hampshire

(No peace in our times, says The Tanc – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tom Tancredo.

Tom Tancredo.

Since the news broke on this blog Nov. 6 that he was forming a "Stop Chris Christie PAC," former congressman Tom Tancredo has been on the interview circuit bashing the New Jersey Governor and filling in a few details about what, specifically, Tancredo hopes to do with his anti-Christie PAC–which Tancredo established in response to Christie's nasty ad campaign against Tancredo this June, arguably derailing a Tancredo victory in Colorado's GOP gubernatorial primary.

Asked by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Nov. 12 what his PAC will do, Tancredo said:

Tancredo: "Were going to do whatever we can with whatever money we can garner. We will place ads. I’ll open offices if I can in Iowa and New Hampshire. We'll be there when he’s there. My whole effort is to make sure the Republicans voting in those primaries know who this guy is because I have a feeling he’s going to try present a totally different picture to them."

Chris Christie and Bob Beauprez.

Chris Christie and Bob Beauprez.

Listening to Tancredo, you get the feeling he wants his PAC to become anti-Christie central, accumulating whatever is available from whomever is available, to knock Christie out of the presidential race.

"I’ll tell you, that once you start something like this [PAC], you learn a lot of stuff about the guy, from people who don’t like him. And there are a lot!" Tancredo told KNUS 710-AM host Chuck Bonniwell Nov. 15. "Oh, my goodness! It is amazing. And they all write you, like, 'I can’t–.'  You know, 'Don’t tell anybody because he’ll  come after me! He’ll indict me!' I mean, which he has done. That has been his modus operandi."

In most interviews, Tancredo acknowledges his personal beef with Christie, whose Republican Governors' Association funneled money through another organization to attack Tancredo, but Tancredo says the real issue Christie's blue-blooded, not-so-conservative interior.

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