Mike Coffman: All Over The Map on ISIS

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

With last week’s terrorist attack in Paris, France still dominating the news today, we wanted to take a closer look at the statements of Colorado’s foremost member of Congress on matters of foreign policy, Rep. Mike Coffman, and figure out what his position on how best to confront the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, you know, really is. Over the weekend, Coffman made it clear that he blames the Obama administration in some measure for the Paris attacks:

Looking back at Coffman’s public statements as the civil war in Syria slowly evolved into a multinational war against ISIS, though, it’s a lot harder to understand exactly what Coffman means in terms of the United States failing to show “leadership.” In fact, President Barack Obama has apparently tried to do just that on numerous occasions, but Coffman’s response has consistently been to oppose Obama’s actions–even at the risk of contradicting himself. Back in 2013, Coffman was interviewed by the Denver Post’s Tim Hoover on the subject of intervening militarily in Syria:

On this week’s edition of The Roundup, editorial writer Tim Hoover interviews U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora. Coffman explains why he has so far opposed military intervention in Syria, calling the conflict an “intractable” and “sectarian” civil war…

In January of 2014, as ISIS began to loom larger than the pariah Syrian government as a threat, Coffman told local radio host Dan Caplis he would not support anything beyond advisors to combat either:

Certainly an advisory role, but certainly not anything beyond that. And that’s if requested. I think we have to be very careful once out about reentering that particular conflict. I would say, in terms of regular troops on the ground, absolutely not.

Then in June of 2014, Coffman again urged President Obama not to send even advisors to assist the Iraqi Army fighting against ISIS:

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting that he suspend sending any U.S. military personnel to assist the Iraqi Army until the U.S. is successful in putting pressure on the Iraqi government to establish a process of political reconciliation with the disaffected Sunni Arab and Kurdish minority populations in Iraq. Last week, President Obama put forward a plan to send up to 300 U.S. military advisors to assist the Iraqi army and to assess the situation on the ground with the Iraqi army and their ability to fight Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) led opposition forces. Coffman is a Marine Corps combat veteran and is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq Wars.

“The only feasible solution is a political reconciliation. Any further U.S. military assistance must be strictly preconditioned on a fundamental change in the Iraqi government, which will send a clear message to both the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds that they will have a voice in the formation of a new government and their respective provinces will receive an equitable distribution of the oil wealth of the country,” wrote Coffman in his letter.

But by September of 2014, Coffman had turned hawkish once again, claiming without much elaboration that President Obama had done “too little” to “take the fight” to ISIS:

“President Bush did too much, getting us involved in a costly and unnecessary occupation, but President Obama has done too little to take the fight to those who seek to do us harm. [Pols emphasis] I agree with President Obama that a political solution is necessary to dismantle ISIS and know how hard that will be from my time in Western Iraq with the Marine Corps in 2005 and 2006. But we have ignored this threat for far too long. We cannot continue leading from behind.”

A day later, Coffman appeared to contradict himself once again in an interview with Bloomberg News:

“There has to be a political solution; there’s not a military solution alone for this,” Representative Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television. He said he doesn’t support U.S. troops on the ground.

By February of this year, though, Coffman was changing his tune again. Are we the only ones who smell an “evolving” position that is consistent only insofar as it is inversely proportional to the Obama administration’s position?

Certainly, as an Iraq war veteran, I wouldn’t want to see U.S. forces on the ground as the maneuver ground element. I want I want to see indigenous forces on the ground, but we’re going to need special operators from time to time to take out high-value targets. We are going to need to give them air logistical and advisory support, and that is going to take some elements of boots on the ground. [Pols emphasis]

Bottom line: what we see from Coffman in his “evolution” on confronting ISIS is not a well thought-out process, but an opportunistic game meant to oppose whatever the Obama administration supports at any given time. There is no question that Coffman has opposed taking military action against ISIS in the past, even opposing reinforcing the Iraqi government with American advisors as you can plainly read above. If Obama announced today, for example, that he was sending more advisors to help the Iraqis fight ISIS, it’s easy to see Coffman going right back to complaining.

Because Coffman’s statements appears to only be consistent in that they oppose Obama. There’s nothing you can extract from Coffman’s own statements on this issue that even look coherent, let alone like “leadership.”

As much as any other angle, that should be the story whenever Coffman opens his mouth.

These People Won’t Be the Next Lieutenant Governor of Colorado

But can the next Lt. Governor do THIS?

But can the next Lt. Governor do THIS?

Last week’s surprise news that Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia will soon resign from office has led to some natural speculation about Garcia’s potential replacement. Governor John Hickenlooper will reportedly name a replacement LG sometime within the next few weeks, and that person will need to be confirmed by a highly-partisan Colorado legislature.

Aside from being the next person in line to serve as Governor in the event that the big office is vacated before the next election, we couldn’t tell you a whole lot about what the LG actually does on a daily basis. We could tell you even less prior to 2010, when Hickenlooper expanded Garcia’s role by also naming him head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The LG’s office has not historically been a stepping stone to…anything in Colorado politics

The Colorado Statesman is running a couple of online polls speculating about the next name to get the LG title (here’s Poll 1, and here’s Poll 2). While we haven’t heard much about who might get the nomination from Hickenlooper, there are a few names from the Statesman polls that we can probably already cross out.

If Hickenlooper chooses an LG from the ranks of the state legislature, there are three Democratic lawmakers in the Statesman polls that can probably go ahead and cross themselves off of any list: State Rep. Crisanta Duran, and State Senators Linda Newell and Angela Williams. 

Back in May 2015, Duran, Newell, and Williams all signed onto a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper stating that they had “lost confidence” in the leadership at the Department of Human Services and urging Hickenlooper to make leadership changes at DHS. We’re not going to use this space to debate the relative policy merits of the DHS letter; from a political perspective, you’re not earning points with your Party’s own Governor when you publicly sign your name to a letter questioning his decision making.

Linda Newell, Crisanta Duran, and Angela Williams

Linda Newell, Crisanta Duran, and Angela Williams

This would hold true in any state, or any organization, for that matter. When you give somebody in your professional circle a public wedgie, you probably shouldn’t hold out any hope that you might get a big promotion 6 months later.

On the flip side, it makes sense that state Sen. Mike Johnston would be on the Statesman’s list of potential LG candidates. Johnston and fellow Democrat Millie Hamner are two high-profile legislators who did NOT sign onto the DHS letter last spring. If you are Gov. Hickenlooper and you’re thinking about who to select as your Lt. Governor, you’re probably going to start your search with people whose support you don’t need to question. That’s not just politics — that’s human nature.

It’s possible — perhaps even likely, given recent historical trends — that Hickenlooper will pick a Lt. Gov. who is not a sitting legislator. Both Garcia and Barbara O’Brien, Gov. Bill Ritter’s LG, were working outside of state government when they were selected as running mates. But if Hick does decide to go with someone already under the Gold Dome, it’s going to be a Democrat — and it’s going to be somebody Hickenlooper knows will stand behind his decisions.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Nov. 16)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowYes, we know you feel itchy and burning; it’s still not plantar fasciitis. 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).



► In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, Republicans in Colorado and throughout the country are going bananas with fear mongering. President Obama spoke out against calls to prevent Syrian refugees from emigrating to the United States, as the New York Times reports:

Mr. Obama grew especially animated in rebuffing suggestions by some Republican presidential candidates, governors and lawmakers that the United States should block entry of Syrian refugees to prevent terrorists from slipping into the country.

“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife,” Mr. Obama said. He added: “We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”

Without naming him, Mr. Obama singled out a comment by former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, one of the Republicans seeking to succeed him, for suggesting the United States focus special attention on Christian refugees. “That’s shameful,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not American. It’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

Back here in Colorado, Denver-area residents held a gathering of support over the weekend for victims of the terrorist attacks. Colorado universities are reporting that all of its students studying overseas in France are believed to be unharmed.


Texas Senator Ted Cruz may be surging ahead in the race for the Republican Presidential  nomination. Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King has given Cruz his nod of approval.


► There was a Democratic Presidential debate on Saturday that nobody watched, and the campaigns are griping about the scheduling. We don’t disagree, but how did we ever get this far? Why would you ever schedule anything of importance for a Saturday night television audience?


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Terror Grips Colorado Republicans

eiffel-111415As the world comes to terms with the horrific terrorist attacks on Paris, France this past Friday evening, responses from Colorado Republicans run the gamut from level-headed to…well, not so much. We’ll start with a rare moment of praise for Sen. Cory Gardner, whose statement in the immediate wake of the attacks showed commendable restraint:

“The people of Colorado and the United States stand firmly beside our oldest ally, France. We mourn those lost and pray for their families. And we are united with all Parisians as they unite against this senseless violence.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, unfortunately, couldn’t resist taking a potshot at the Obama administration on FOX News:

From Sen. Laura Woods, set to compete in Colorado’s hottest state senate race next year, more or less full-blown panic:

And don’t even get Jonathan Lockwood of leading local conservative group Advancing Colorado started:

Really, please don’t get him started:

It should be noted that the latter outburst from Lockwood is apparently in response to President Barack Obama arriving a few minutes late for a moment of silence in honor of victims at the G-20 conference in Turkey. To characterize Mr. Lockwood’s reaction to that minor infraction as over the top is a considerable understatement.

It’s not our intention to belittle any genuine shock felt over the terrorist attacks in Paris, which given the nature of events there is to a significant degree completely understandable. We understand that an attack of this magnitude will certainly be a factor in many debates about American policy, and the role of Colorado politicians in shaping that policy. The number of current stories this event affects that we’ve been talking about in this space range from the debate over the threat posed by ISIS to the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to facilities in Colorado.

But there is some rhetoric that, we should all be able to agree, simply does not help anybody.

Get More Smarter on Friday the 13th

gmsfriday13thHappy Friday the 13th, knock on wood! 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).


Politico reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of onerous new abortion restrictions in Texas, a major development in the nonexistent “War on Women.”

The timing of the decision, likely next June, is expected to drive voter turnout, galvanizing those on both sides of the abortion debate to turn out for a presidential candidate who shares their views on one of the nation’s most polarizing social issues.

The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, is expected to turn on whether the Texas law — which imposes sweeping construction requirements on abortion clinics and requires providers to have hospital admitting privileges — is “an undue burden” on women’s access to the procedure.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the clinics, called the case the “most important abortion rights case in nearly 25 years.”

► GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump continued his withering rhetorical assault on his closest competitor Ben Carson this week, but as The Hill reports, the good somnolent doctor is not returning fire:

Speaking at a press conference after a town-hall event in South Carolina with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Carson repeatedly passed on opportunities to kick back at Trump, who has sought to frame the retired neurosurgeon as deranged and has mocked the stories Carson has told about his temper as a young man.

Responding to questions about Trump’s attacks, Carson said voters are “sick and tired” of the “politics of destruction,” and sought to redirect the line of questioning to more substantive issues.

Oh come on, our popcorn isn’t even ready yet.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Klingenschmitt says Gardner is doing the “Bob and Weave Dance”

(Finally some fireworks in the race to succeed Bill Cadman – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt likes to come out swinging at his various targets, including, now, his Republican opponent for state senate, Rep. Bob Gardner.

Showing off his media skills, Klingenschmitt posted an entertaining video today, labeling Gardner a “liberal” and featuring Gardner doing the “Bob and Weave Dance.”

Klingenschmitt: My opponent for the race for State Senate District 12, Bob Gardner, has just started performing this Bob and Weave Dance to perfection! Here’s a quick example. If you’re following this Colorado Springs election, you know we’re both Republicans. And I’m actually conservative and Bob Gardner is a liberal who pretends to be a conservative.

Klingenschmitt’s undercover video features Gardner saying he supports the principles of liberty, but Chaps points to the Principle of Liberty website, which lists Gardner as receiving an F in 2013 2014.

“Don’t believe ratings systems that are odd, distorted,” Gardner apparently says in Chaps’ undercover video.

Chaps calls that statement an examaple of the Bob and Weave Dance–and he wants an apology from Gardner for allegedly calling Chaps a liar.

Chaps concludes with, “Unlike you, Mr. Bob-and-Weave Gardner, I don’t dance.” (But we know Chaps does throw poop.)

County Commissioner again accuses Obama of promoting charter schools with ties to Turkish cleric

(What a swell primary this is going to be – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

A Colorado Springs county commissioner, who’s considering entering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, is again alleging that President Obama backed a national education program, in part, as a way to establish U.S. charter schools linked to a Turkish Islamic cleric.

“One of the reasons that President Obama was actually looking at and amenable and actually kind of agreeable to, if you will, Common Core was, that would be a way to influence and infiltrate and open up charter schools to able to have the Fethullah Gulen charter schools, which were bringing teachers over from Turkey,” said El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton Monday on KLZ 560-AM.

Littleton did not cite her evidence for this, but it reflects what she said at a conservative conference in March, as reported by Scott Keyes of ThinkProgress.  It’s not clear what Common Core, which is an education curriculum, has to do with establishing charter schools in the United States.

Followers of the reclusive Gulen, many with Turkish ties, have opened charter schools worldwide over the past decade, including over 100 in the U.S.  They focus on math and science, in keeping with Gulen’s notion that devout Muslims should not teach religion but science instead. “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God,” he sermonizes, according to a CBS investigation.

CBS discussed allegations that the Gulen schools are exploiting foreign-born teachers and the charter-school system for profit–and that the schools are secretly “promoting an Islamic agenda.”

CBS interviewed a teacher who claimed she was exploited, but CBS couldn’t confirm these accusations regarding Islam, reporting that “we looked into this and Islam is not taught at all.”

But Littleton implies that religious education is taking place at a Colorado charter school, which she allegedly visited, with ties to Gulen.

Littleton: “When I went in, it was apparent to me that the some of the pictures and things had been taken off in the walls. And they practiced, you know, some of the Muslim practices that are taught in the Koran, is what I observed when I was there.”

In March, Littleton told ThinkProgress that these charter schools teach students to “hate Americans.” This may or may not connect with her belief, expressed at a Alliance Defending Freedom Conference in July in Colorado Springs, that churches should prepare to “respond biblically” to disasters like “martial law.”  Anyway, when I hear back from Littleton, I’ll ask her about this, too.


Gitmo Follies: The Sheriff Who Wouldn’t Sign

La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith.

La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith.

In our discussion of the campaign promise by President Barack Obama to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and settle the status of the remaining 112 “enemy combatants” imprisoned there since the Bush administration, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the Durango Herald’s report yesterday–about La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith, and his decision not to sign a letter penned by right-wing Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith (no close relation we know of) opposing the transfer of any Gitmo detainees to federal facilities in Colorado:

On Monday, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith made public the petition, which states the sheriffs are “concerned that utilizing current civilian prisons in our state would significantly – and unnecessarily – endanger our citizens.”

The letter goes on to say that housing the detainees from Guantanamo, started in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, would attract terrorist “sympathizers who would mount an attack … or commit other acts of terror.”

“[Sean Smith:]…We’re very far removed from it. I’m focused on what’s going on with the citizens in our county. If I felt like it would create adverse risks for us, I would get involved.”

Supermax already holds some of the nation’s most dangerous terrorists, including Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Ramzi Yousef, who coordinated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. [Sean] Smith said the presence of those high-profile criminals has never posed a danger to La Plata County.

County sheriffs from all corners of our state signed Justin Smith’s letter. The letter cited a range of concerns from the logistics of transporting the detainees to the risk that the facilities might be subject to terrorist attack. But as this story does a better job of pointing out than many other recent reports, Colorado is already host to some of the world’s worst terrorists at the Florence “Supermax” federal prison.

The other problem with the sheriffs’ objections to transferring Gitmo detainees to Colorado is, as La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith points out like Captain Obvious, that Colorado is a really big state, and most of it is not anywhere near anything relevant to this question. La Plata County has nothing to fear–and neither does Sedgwick County or Mesa County. Or Routt County or Yuma County or…you get the idea, right?

In its way, all of these dozens of elected politician county sheriffs signing this letter, including many whose jurisdiction would be in no way adversely impacted by the transfer of Gitmo detainees to Colorado, betrays an underlying political motive that significantly undermines their credibility. After all, Sheriff Justin Smith was one of the ringleaders in the so-far unsuccessful Independence Institute-powered lawsuit by many county sheriffs against the 2013 gun safety bills–along with former El Paso County Sheriff “Shirtless” Terry Maketa, who we’re not supposed to talk about now that the county is settling the lawsuits left in his wake.

Anyway, with Larimer County’s Sheriff Smith making headlines with his splashy but meaningless letter, we wanted to acknowledge this act of profound sensibility by La Plata County’s Sheriff Smith. Our sheriffs in Colorado may be politicians, but they don’t always have to act like it.

Friday Open Thread

“Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant–it tends to get worse.”

–Molly Ivins

Ryan Frazier is Running for Senate, For Some Reason

UPDATE #2: Local conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics is very excited about the diversity of the growing field of GOP Senate candidates–perhaps a bit too much so? Their post on Ryan Frazier’s entry into the race originally stated:

Republicans now have recruited two blacks, [Pols emphasis] one Hispanic, a woman (maybe), and a fresh face (maybe)…

Since edited to read:

Republicans now have recruited two black guys, [Pols emphasis] one Hispanic, a woman (maybe), and a fresh face (maybe)…

We assume because we stopped referring to African-Americans as “the blacks,” you know, several decades ago. This is the same blog that assigned the label “Hispanic” to a candidate from Calcutta, India last year, so we guess this racial stuff just isn’t their strong suit.

We’re happy they’re happy, though.


Who has one thumb up and no chance at winning a U.S. Senate race? This guy.

Who has one thumb up and no chance at winning a U.S. Senate race? This guy.

UPDATE: This is Ryan Frazier in a nutshell. His campaign announcement video says that “after nearly 8 years, Senator Michael Bennet has only made things worse for you.”

Um, Bennet was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009. Math is not our best subject, either, but we’re pretty sure that 2015 minus 2009 equals not eight.


Politics is often a discussion about possibility and potential, largely because there are so few certainties that we can rely upon in our arguments.

And then there is Ryan Frazier.

The former Aurora city council member has reportedly decided to enter the Republican field for U.S. Senate in 2016, telling 9News that he will kick off his campaign with a video announcement on Thursday.

It would be hard to get too excited about his candidacy if you are a Republican, because we already know what happens when Frazier runs for higher office: He loses, badly. Frazier’s last two campaigns (CD-7 in 2010 and Aurora Mayor in 2011) both ended with double-digit losses, and 2010 was a very good year to be a Republican candidate.

Colorado Pols first reported back in August that Frazier was having discussions about a potential Senate run, but we were skeptical that he might really jump in the race; we didn’t think we’d ever see Frazier running for another office after his second consecutive drubbing in 2011. Here’s what we wrote back on Aug. 12 when we first heard that Frazier might be considering a run for Senate:

We don’t have many details on the “Frazier for Senate” rumor, but in some ways, it almost doesn’t even matter if the story is true or not. If anybody is seriously considering getting behind Frazier in 2016, it is a clear indication that Republicans are essentially conceding the seat to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

Late last month, Frazier left his part-time “political analyst” position at 9News because he was apparently getting serious about the Senate race, but even then we had a hard time taking the story too seriously. Ryan Frazier is not good at running for office, and we doubt he could even win a Primary against state Sen. Tim Neville. Check that — Frazier will not beat Neville in a GOP Primary.

It is unclear who exactly is behind the idea of a Frazier campaign for Senate, but this isn’t going to end well for him.

Gitmo: How the Denver Post Endorses Against Itself

(We couldn’t have said this any better – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE: Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado calls on all sides to step up and do what needs to be done to close Gitmo:

“Our nation’s reputation as a moral leader in world affairs has been severely damaged by the illegal imprisonment without trial of hundreds of people rounded up by the Bush administration in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center was a campaign promise made by President Obama eight years ago, and it’s the right thing to do today. Colorado already has some of the world’s worst terrorists imprisoned at the Supermax facility in Florence. There is no greater danger to Coloradans from transferring Gitmo detainees to our state, and we [have] so much to gain from doing away with one of the worst examples of abuse of basic human rights in American history.”

“Republicans attacking the President for trying to close Gitmo’s detention center are hoping to cover up an ugly history of torture and imprisonment without trial that they themselves share guilt for,” said Runyon-Harms. [Pols emphasis] “But it is also very disappointing that so few Democrats in Colorado are willing to stand with our President and do our part to end the shame the Guantanamo Bay prison has brought on our nation. As a Coloradan, I am not afraid of doing the right thing to restore America’s good name in the world. It’s time for our leaders on both sides to summon up the backbone needed to close Gitmo–and restore the rule of law to American foreign policy.”


Gitmo detainees.

Gitmo detainees.

When the Denver Post editorialized last September that politicians like Sen. Cory Gardner were fear-mongering on the closure of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, I remember telling a few liberal friends, who were forwarding the piece around, that one of two things would happen next: 1) the Denver Post would likely file it away and then avert their eyes when Gardner didn’t change course; or 2) the editorial board would figure out a way to give Gardner political cover.

Well look no further than Wednesday’s editorial on Guantanamo to see Option 2 on full display. Every politician who by the Post’s own description had been engaging in “baseless hysteria” and “nonsense” gets one more tsk-tsk before the attention gets turned to the Obama administration for merely considering other options before announcing a plan.

You instantly grasp the intended effect of today’s editorial by the glee with which the Gardner and RNC flacks began promoting the story after it went online late Tuesday. The Post stood silent for nearly two months as Gardner and congressional Republicans jammed the Gitmo issue into the must-pass defense authorization bill, against the Post’s own editorial position, before wading in again after the legislative fight was over.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The editorial is a bit of a repeat of a move the Post made last March when they wrapped Gardner across the knuckles in an editorial short for “grandstanding” on the Iran deal by signing an open letter to the mullahs, then inexplicably followed up with a much longer piece the very next day to dismiss the whole controversy as not a big deal.

This is classic “centrism” from an editorial perspective, but timed to give Gardner the outcome he wants. The Post can “deplore” the politicians who blocked Guantanamo’s closure in Congress, but the headline is reserved for the president trying to act. And nothing the editorial board “deplores” ever threatens to affect the process determining the newspaper’s endorsements.