BENNET, BUCK GET STANDING OVATIONS FOR ROLES AS BIPARTISAN CO-HOSTS
“The Odd Couples” premiered in Denver Tuesday night, a prelude to an “unlikely meetings of the minds” as a cast of political veterans, pundits and the press gathered at the Denver Press Club for a show-stopping evening of spirited bipartisanship on the eve of the first presidential debate.
The pre-debate happy hour(s) was staged by that very unlikely political duo who first starred together in rival candidate roles in the 2010 U.S. Senate race: Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck. We all know who walked away with the political Oscar that year for “Best Senate Nominee” but Buck didn’t appear to hold any grudges. He willingly accepted rave reviews this night from Bennet, who introduced the Weld County DA as ‘the honorable’ Ken Buck and urged guests to applaud his former Republican foe for his public service.
The idea for this political plot was hatched by Bennet who wanted to set the stage for ‘wayward’ local and national journalists to get together before the big debate at a theater uptown. Other protagonists in this drama included co-hosts Gary Hart and Bill Armstrong, Colorado’s two Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators who served together in the 1980s but who were unfortunately no shows at this opening night; and special guests Mike Stratton, well known and respected Democratic consultant who has appeared in several roles opposite antagonist Walt Klein, a political consultant from the other side of the aisle. Katy Atkinson came typecast as a veteran Republican consultant, and also appearing on stage during the final curtain call was Dick Wadhams, a character who needs no introduction. The popular crowd pleaser dropped by the party late in the evening as he first had to deliver a couple other command performances for audiences around town; Maria Garcia Berry, who plays queen lobbyist in Denver and who has directed many a campaign herself, also made an appearance.
Buck, who some think will return in a yet uncast role in 2014, exuded true bipartisanship when he presented Bennet with a fundraising envelope for his wife Perry, a candidate this year for the state legislature. Bennet, in an equally adept performance as a swell dude, acted like he might really make a contribution to the Republican state senate candidate as he held up the envelope so even those in the balcony could see.
Among the characters in attendance Tuesday night were Craig Hughes, who managed Bennet’s 2010 Senate campaign and who is receiving rave reviews for his role this year as an Obama advisor; Democrat Mike Melanson from Sen. Mark Udall’s past campaign; public affairs consultant Eric Sondermann, always the star of the show; and a host of other current and former scribes, including the Denver Post’s Karen Crummy, whose convincing performance as a lover of wine convinced host Bennet to open up the bar so everyone could imbibe i the free stuff; also Charles Ashby from the Grand Junction Sentinel, in typical great form; Mike Littwin, who sadly had to relinquish his star role a few months ago as Denver’s most popular newspaper columnist, and The Statesman’s own players Ernest Luning and Miller Hudson.
Refreshments included pop corn and oversized cheese puffs, the latter rumored to be Bennet’s all time most favorite snack.
NO KNOCK-OUTS BUT SOME SWIFT POLITICAL JABS
A boxing-style debate between raucous TV personalities Glenn Beck and Eliot Spitzer Tuesday night at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver provided some insight as to why so many Americans feel a strong connection to the two political pundits.
Beck — known for his conservative, often times radical opinions — tugs at the heartstrings of Americans, looking into their eyes with sincerity as he clamors for change in an America that he sees crumbling because of its current government. He would have been a great cult leader (some say he already is.)
Spitzer — a liberal who was disgraced when he was governor of New York following an escort service scandal — appeals to an America that holds out hope for a new tomorrow, in which the government is a friend and partner to the people. It’s obvious why he made a great lawyer. The former New York Attorney General has a way of proving points with evidence. (He just couldn’t defend himself in 2008 from a prostitution scandal.)
In a live event hosted by DISH Network called “War of the Words,” the two windbags spent an hour debating each other, painting stark differences between the conservative and liberal viewpoints of today. The Fillmore was converted into a boxing arena for the two, though no physical punches were thrown — just ideological and philosophical jabs.
Much of the event was about marketing, promoting DISH Network’s TheBlaze TV, of which Beck is a contributor, and Current TV, of which Spitzer hosts a show. But former 9News KUSA-TV anchor Ed Sardella, acting as a kind of boxing referee, coaxed the larger-than-life characters into addressing current events and issues that matter to the American people.
Spitzer used a series of graphs and charts to make the case for President Barack Obama, including statistics on employment and economic growth. “I believe that we as a nation are stronger than ever,” he told the live studio audience.
But a witty Beck — having left his famous chalkboard back in Dallas — had to improvise, using a Sharpie to draw a chart on his hand to illustrate his arguments against Obama’s health care reform, known as Obamacare. He said medicine is being rationed as a result of government interference.
“It always ends at the barrel of a gun… Just let the free market system work,” said Beck, dressed in jeans and a button-up shirt underneath a T-shirt of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an animated character designed by great capitalists Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney.
Perhaps the greatest difference between the two personalities came out during a portion of the debate when they were asked about the role of government.
“We know we need a government that defends us. We need a government that provides public education. And we need a government that enforces the rule of law,” said Spitzer, dressed in a drab suit.
His opponent’s remarks hit Beck like a counter punch, causing Beck to come back with his own jab. Government rarely protects the interests of the people, he shot back. Walking as close to the cameras as possible, and looking straight into the living rooms of the American people, Beck responded, “That was nuts.”
“Capitalism is great unless you unhook from morals and principles,” added Beck.
In closing, Spitzer defended Obama, suggesting that the past four years have been a boon for the nation. “We are on the path of renewed greatness, of continued greatness,” Spitzer belted out.
But Beck counter punched, claiming that America is at its most troubled point of his lifetime.
“Stand up for what you believe in, you might end up being wrong. I might end up being one of those most incorrect men ever,” said Beck. “Whatever. I stand up for what I believe in.”