Bennet Leans “Yes” As Iran Deal Opposition Sputters

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Politico:

Critics of the Iran deal believed the August congressional recess was their best chance to scuttle the nuclear accord, as wavering lawmakers returned home to angry protesters and a barrage of TV ads. The longer the deal hung out there, they figured, the worse it would be for President Barack Obama.

Instead, the monthlong break has been a major bust…

The anti-deal side also enlisted prominent former lawmakers, like ex-Democratic Sens. Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu, to head up opposition groups, ginned up letters from retired military leaders and sent well-connected donors and activists to personally meet with Democrats still on the fence.

None of it has worked. Instead, a parade of House and Senate Democrats — even in red states — came out in favor of the deal. That eight-figure TV ad campaign has moved few, if any, Democratic lawmakers, and dovish groups like MoveOn.org are experiencing a surprising victory.

Iranian Shahab missile.

Iranian Shahab missile.

Early in the month of August, the question being debated by the pundit class was whether President Barack Obama could marshal enough support for the “P5+1” nuclear weapons agreement with Iran to prevent an override of his veto of what everyone expected would be a motion of disapproval passed out of the GOP-controlled Congress.

Today, a veto override looks completely out of reach, and the question is now whether President Obama will have to veto anything. Key to that question is an undecided ally of Obama’s and Senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet–whose caution stems from being one of the only Democratic Senate seats being protected in 2016, and may just now be getting comfortable with the idea of supporting the agreement as the opposition fizzles:

Iran deal opponents need only four of 14 undecided Democratic senators to put President Barack Obama in the awkward spot of vetoing an attempt to scuttle a crowning foreign policy achievement. That’s set off a complicated race between hawks and the White House to win over an eclectic group of senators, each with his or her own particular concerns…

The sole vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection in 2016, Bennet faces an added layer of pressure that’s made him a prime target for both sides ahead of the Senate vote in September.

The first-term senator hinted this week he’s leaning “yes.”

“I have come to the conclusion that there is not a better deal available,” he said at an energy event in Denver, though he added he’s still making up his mind. “We are faced with a lot of bad choices now because we eliminated a lot of choices along the way.”

Bennet’s slow arrival at support for the Iran nuclear agreement may not go down as a profile in courage, but it’s very important to the White House’s whip count going into any vote on a resolution to disapprove the treaty. Even as opponents to this agreement have dramatically ramped up the scare tactics through the August recess, warning in hyperbolic terms of the risks of negotiating with Iran, they have failed to develop the kind of meaningful pressure to either peel off supporters of the deal or turn a sufficient number of undecided lawmakers into opponents.

In the end, if Congress can’t even pass a bill disapproving the Iran treaty, let alone override its inevitable veto, the extreme fearmongering rhetoric used to oppose it is going to look awfully silly. And they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. By failing to stoke enough opposition to kill the deal, and also failing to offer any alternative beyond the broken status quo or war against Iran, the treaty’s mostly Republican opponents have made themselves irrelevant to the final outcome.

This Really Isn’t That Complicated, Brauchlerites

George Brauchler and TwitterThis is not a story about the death penalty.

This is not a commentary on the American legal system.

This is about a very simple, logical, and straightforward concept that seems to be eluding Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and his political defenders who have been working hard to move the goalposts in the wake of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial. Brauchler did not get the outcome he was seeking in the trial, and any attempt to spin this as something other than a political loss is nonsense.

We normally don’t pay much attention to the inane crayon scribbles over at Colorado Peak Politics, but their recent rantings about Brauchler and his political future are actually a pretty good example of the absurdly illogical spin that we’ve seen in the last week or so.

We’ve written several times in this space that Brauchler’s political future was dealt a severe blow when an Aurora jury declined to recommend the death penalty for convinced shooter James Holmes (Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ultimately sentenced Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure). The politically-ambitious Brauchler made a controversial decision last year to seek the death penalty for Holmes instead of accepting a plea deal that would have sent Holmes to prison for the rest of his life. Reaction was mixed to Brauchler’s decision, because accepting a plea agreement would have saved millions of dollars in taxpayer money and spared some of the victims and their families who didn’t want to relive that fateful night in July 2002.

Politically-speaking, Brauchler had a lot to gain from a successful death penalty prosecution, and you can’t seriously argue otherwise. It’s only logical, then, that Brauchler would lose some political luster if he did not get the verdict he was seeking. We’re not talking about anybody (other than Holmes) being viewed as a moral loser here — this is strictly politics, laid out from the perspective of a political blog

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Get More Smarter on Monday (Aug. 31)

Get More Smarter

How’d that Labor Day prank work out for you? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says that Colorado will join in a multi-state lawsuit in an effort to stall President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. As the Denver Business Journal reports, Coffman is going heavy on the right-wing rhetoric:

“The rule is an unprecedented attempt to expand the federal government’s regulatory control over the states’ energy economy,” Coffman said. “The EPA appears unwilling to accept limits set by Congress in the Clean Air Act and instead is pushing its agenda forward through regulatory rewrites that overreach its legal authority.”

Or…the EPA and the federal government might just think it’s a good idea to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

► Colorado Republicans may be reconsidering a plan to opt-out of choosing a nominee for President in 2016. Thanks a lot, Rick Santorum.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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GOP’s Caucus Poll Rectal/Cranial Inversion Deepens

clueless-poster-artwork-alicia-silverstone-stacey-dash-brittany-murphy-smallRemember when the Colorado Republican Party’s executive committee led by embattled chairman Steve House decided to nix the party’s caucus night preference poll last week?

As could easily have been predicted, the reaction from the party’s activist base has been considerably less than positive–and with the state party already in disarray after a failed palace coup attempt and subsequent infighting over alleged financial troubles, news that the party was canceling the foremost opportunity for Colorado to weigh in on the GOP’s burgeoning presidential field was fuel for an already raging metaphorical fire.

And as the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, the stated rationale behind the decision might be, well, just pain wrong:

A controversial move to cancel the GOP presidential poll at the 2016 caucus is facing new questions that may lead to reconsideration of the Colorado Republican Party’s decision.

Mike Kopp, one of two RNC committee members from Colorado, told The Denver Post on Friday that the party misinterpreted how the new national rules work…

Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum.

As the story goes, House and top GOP officials were “worried” that the winner of the party’s caucus poll might drop out of the race before the party’s nominating convention. This is a nice way of saying that the state’s Republican faithful caucusgoers have a tendency to pick losers like Rick Santorum, who beat out eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney in Colorado on caucus night in 2012.

But says Republican National Committee member Mike Kopp, whom we would expect to have made the right phone calls to know what he’s talking about, says a recent rule change by the national GOP would not oblige those delegates to vote for a candidate no longer running. Because, you know, duh!

But Kopp said that rationale is incorrect. He said national party rules allow delegates committed to a candidate who quits to go elsewhere. “You can unbind your delegates if the candidate is no longer in the race,” he said.

Kopp missed the GOP executive committee meeting Aug. 21 when the vote was taken. But knowing what he knows now, he opposes the decision. The new system, he said, means the “delegates get to vote their conscience, but the downside is you leave tens of thousands of potential Republican straw poll voters on the sidelines.”

He said the move “basically negates” the state’s importance in the 2016 political primary contest…

Bottom line: the present situation is an outcome that nobody wants. Republicans certainly do not want to be relegated to flyover status in the upcoming GOP presidential primary, and to be honest, Democrats relish the opportunity to send in the trackers. Especially in light of the decision being factually clueless, it’s simply a public relations disaster for party chair Steve House and the state party executive committee any way you slice it. It will remain a sore point in an already fractured party going into next year’s elections.

Because of course the real intent was to squelch the rank and file. And of course that’s going to backfire.

Local GOP Operative Steps Down From The Gifted Class

GOP operative Caleb Bonham, who is somewhat less creepy than this photo suggests.

GOP operative Caleb Bonham, who is somewhat less creepy than this photo suggests.

Folks in the business will recognize the name Caleb Bonham, a local conservative activist and graduate from Colorado State University, who made the jump from the bush leagues of our local Revealing Politics blog to the quasi-big time of the conservative online ranks with his work for the Campus Reform project of the D.C.-based “Leadership Institute.” Campus Reform has spent a great deal of time in recent years attempting to police college campuses for what they see as “liberal bias,” as well as raging against such terrible burdens placed on strapping young college men as the University of Minnesota’s new affirmative consent policy for sexual relations between students.

Because obviously, real men know when no means yes! We digress.

Today, Bonham announced his last day with the Campus Reform project, and the launch of his new Denver-based consultant business with fellow local Republican usual suspects Kyle Forti and Lee Hopper. Hopefully this isn’t a demotion, but you never know when folks decide to join the consultant class:

Friends, today is a big day for me. Today I get to close a wonderful chapter in my life as Editor-in-Chief of Campus Reform.

It was a fun and hectic ride. We accomplished so much. I am especially proud of the leaders we assisted along the way – over 60 correspondents nationwide – activated, trained, and empowered to bring change and better equip themselves to thrive in life…

Kyle and Lee Hopper have done amazing things in Colorado and together, the three of us, are excited to bring our creativity to a new venture servicing the corporate and political space.

As a startup local business, we’re happy to give DCO Consulting some free promotion. And we’ll say in all honesty that Bonham is a true asset to the conservative activist industrial complex. Just last weekend, he spoke on a panel at the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit in Columbus, Ohio–and the subject was “How To Talk To Millennials.” As you can see from his photo of the audience,

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 1.18.21 PM

AFP really benefits from Bonham explaining “how to talk to millennials.”

Because apparently they don’t have any.

Welcome home, Mr. Bonham. You’re going to fit right in.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Aug. 28)

Get More Smarter

Tell your co-workers to have a nice Labor Day weekend, then count to see how many of them show up on Monday. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released documents detailing the moments before and after the Gold King minewater spill on Aug. 5. The EPA says the presence of metallic sediment in the Animas River is among their primary ongoing concerns related to the spill.

 

► The Aurora Theater Shooting Trial has ended, and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler now has to decide if he wants to campaign for a U.S. Senate seat that virtually every other Colorado Republican has refused. If Brauchler decides against a Senate bid, which seems likely, the GOP will start picking names out of a hat to oppose Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado’s Death Penalty Teeters on Brink of Irrelevance

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s editorial board says “the death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired.”

There will never be crimes any worse than those committed by Holmes and Lewis. There may be crimes that are their equal in cruelty, but how often are they likely to occur? And why should those criminals be put to death if Holmes and Lewis were not?

Is the death penalty really only for people who commit crimes of similar magnitude who are neither mentally ill nor the product of childhood abuse? How often do such monsters come around?

The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn’t happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.

—–

sir-mario-owens-nathan-dunlap-robert-rayThe Denver Post reports on the final decision yesterday by a jury in yet another Colorado death penalty case, this one in Denver related to the murders of five people in October of 2012 during a botched robbery attempt at Fero’s Bar and Grill:

When a Denver jury on Thursday spared a convicted mass killer the death penalty, a confused silence enveloped the courtroom. Dexter Lewis, who stabbed five people to death in 2012, will spend the rest of his life in prison…

Almost three years after Lewis joined in on a robbery that spiraled into a gruesome massacre, the case came to a blunt and dazed ending.

After deliberating for less than three hours Thursday, at least one member of the jury of 10 women and two men found that the details of Lewis’ life that suggested mercy — including chronic abuse and neglect — outweighed the heinous details of the crime that suggested death.

The decision yesterday to sentence convicted murderer Dexter Lewis to life in prison instead of the death sentence sought by prosecutors comes just weeks after a jury in Arapahoe County failed to agree on a death sentence for the killer in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre. Both of these high-profile cases represent circumstances that the prosecutors believed merited the ultimate punishment. But in both cases, at least one juror could not be convinced, and that ended the question of imposing a death sentence.

Lethal injection chamber.

Lethal injection chamber.

Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent opines today that these outcomes further delegitimize capital punishment as a viable means of seeking justice, even as public polls show the idea of capital punishment still enjoys broad support in this state:

If Lewis and Holmes don’t get death, who does? It’s with that question — and with the near-certain answer — that the conversation almost certainly has to end…

Colorado has executed one person in the past 48 years. It currently has three people on death row. There’s no deterrence argument left, if there ever was one. For that matter, it’s hard to see where there’s a justice argument left.

It’s a punishment that is used so rarely — with decades-long waits on death row for the few assigned there — that any execution now seems to be little more than random, an accident of time or place. And a random punishment, as Supreme Court Justice Steve Breyer recently wrote, can’t, by definition, be just. He called it “the antithesis of justice.”

…John Hickenlooper made that decision himself in the case of Nathan Dunlap, granting him a “temporary reprieve” rather than letting an execution go forward. He didn’t say that Dunlap deserved any form of mercy. He wouldn’t even bring himself to use Dunlap’s name. Hickenlooper said his problem was with the system of capital punishment and whether it delivers the justice that it promises. He said you can’t have an imperfect system and also have justice.

The imperfections are there for all to see, in matters of race, gender and class. It’s no wonder that only seven states executed anyone last year. The botched execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett led the Nebraska legislature, of all places, to end the death penalty there, even overriding a governor’s veto to make it happen.

There’s little question that the outcomes of these two high-profile death penalty cases will affect the debate over capital punishment in Colorado next year: in the legislature, and maybe at the polls as well. It’s worth remembering that at the same time Gov. John Hickenlooper was contemplating a reprieve for the “Chuck E. Cheese killer,” which he granted in May of 2013, his office helped scuttle legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. There were a number of factors that went into Hickenlooper’s tapping the brakes on repeal of the death penalty in 2013, not least the already very ambitious slate of bills that had passed that year–including the hotly controversial gun safety bills that would later provoke recalls against Democrats state senators.

Bottom line: a poll in late July, just before the verdict in the Aurora theater trial, showed that over 60% of Coloradans supported the death penalty in that case. But today, with the Aurora shooter headed to prison for life and now the killer in the gruesome Fero’s Bar massacre also spared the death penalty, the question becomes whether the death penalty still works at all: as a punishment, a deterrent, or even a workable means of obtaining satisfaction for victims. At least one Aurora victim’s relative has been vocal about the wasted effort, expense, and emotional trauma of seeking the death penalty, only for the jury to impose a sentence that defense attorneys had offered over a year before.

At the very least, you have to concede that Hickenlooper’s postponement of the one execution he would have been responsible for looks very different today after these other arguably more vicious killers’ lives have been spared. And as one of the last “civilized” places on earth that still judicially kills people, these events provide context for a debate that may really be, in the long arc of history, in its final stages.

Friday Open Thread

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

–Bertrand Russell

What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump… (more…)

Ed Perlmutter Backs Iran Nuclear Weapons Agreement

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

A press release from Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office a short while ago announced his support for the agreement between the P5+1 group of leading nations and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to prevent that country’s development of nuclear weapons:

“I support the Iran Agreement (Agreement) negotiated by the United States, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, the European Union and Iran. The U.S. and its international partners have committed to a diplomatic solution that I believe reduces and limits Iran’s ability to develop or manufacture nuclear weapons and is in America’s best interests. This Agreement should also reduce nuclear tensions in the Middle East and will make our friend and ally, Israel, safer and less prone to nuclear conflict with Iran.”

“I have reached these conclusions after reading and re-reading the Agreement and its attachments, reviewing numerous articles pro and con, attending classified and unclassified briefings, discussing the Agreement with its proponents and opponents, and listening to military and diplomatic experts, friends, family and constituents.”

“This Agreement has far reaching and historical impacts for our foreign policy and for our international security. The Agreement is a nuclear non-proliferation agreement limiting Iran’s capacity to build nuclear bombs. It is not – nor is it intended to be – a peace agreement which resolves or eliminates all threats.”

“So, despite the diplomatic progress made toward reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities under the Agreement, further steps must be taken to deter and discourage Iran from fulfilling its threats and to assist Israel in defending its national security.”

In Rep. Perlmutter’s statement, he outlines a range of additional steps he wants to see taken, including additional military support and cooperation with Israel, support for Israel in the United Nations, and continued congressional oversight of the agreement’s implementation. Rep. Perlmutter, a reliable supporter of Israel with ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was undecided on the Iran deal for some time and was heavily lobbied by both sides of the agreement during the August recess.

Perlmutter’s support for the deal is therefore a very significant development, and puts any attempt to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the GOP-controlled Congress’ fully-anticipated disapproval of the deal that much farther out of reach.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Aug. 27)

Get More Smarter

Remember when two deadly shootings in one day would have been shocking? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The first two states to legalize marijuana — Colorado and Washington — are doing a pretty good job of implementing regulations and other requirements for the legal sale of weed. From the Huffington Post:

Now more than a year after sales first began in Colorado and Washington, perhaps the most profound shift of all is the normalcy in which marijuana policy, and the revenue it generates, is seen by state government.

J. Skyler McKinley, deputy director of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) Office of Marijuana Coordination, said that Colorado officials look at marijuana the same way they look at any other commodity market in Colorado — just another place where the state gets some revenue, but doesn’t stake its whole budget on it.

“This was a lot less vexing than we once thought it would be,” McKinley said, repeating what his boss said about regulating the drug earlier this year. “It turns out government can be pretty good at this.”

► Officials in Silverton and San Juan County have asked for federal assistance in cleaning up polluted mining sites, but they want to make sure that you understand they might not want federal help. Or something. From the Durango Herald:

In a letter from Silverton Mayor Christine Tookey and San Juan County Commissioner Ernie Kuhlman, the officials state that while Superfund status should be on the table, they have not “foreclosed any options.” The federal listing offers additional resources to clean up blighted areas that could be toxic to humans.

Silverton and San Juan County have been fighting accusations that the town and county are partially responsible for the Gold King Mine disaster because they resisted Superfund status. Some in the community feared that a federal listing would be a black eye and endanger tourism…

…A recent joint resolution from the town and county stated that they would work to petition Congress for federal disaster dollars. Reports suggested that the move was a reversal, or a paradigm shift. But county and town officials say otherwise, arguing that the reports were filled with “misinformation.” [Pols emphasis]

To summarize, Silverton and San Juan County officials want to make it clear that they haven’t “committed” to doing anything specific to deal with toxic mines in the aftermath of the Gold King minewater spill. It’s good to know that local officials are still paralyzed by indecision.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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