Opinion

BIDLACK | Gardner-Coons bill shows bipartisanship, somehow, is still alive

Author: Hal Bidlack - September 4, 2018 - Updated: September 4, 2018

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Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

Did you hear that news report about the foreign government that sent enemy soldiers to Colorado? It seems they attacked a couple of local businesses and even tried to sneak onto Peterson Air Force Base. These foreign troops were guileful and clever, and they managed to spy on several Colorado-based Target and Walmart stores. Pretty scary, right?

Happily, I can report that the above attack did not occur. There are no Russian or Chinese or other foreign troops in Denver or Parachute or Pueblo. As it turns out, we have a pretty good defense against actual foreign invasion by hostile soldiers. But a recent Colorado Politics story – which was also a headline story in the Gazette — authored by long-time and expert reporter Tom Roeder, highlighted an important bill in the U.S. Senate, sponsored by our own U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware. The bill, S.3378, represents an important step forward in the battle against cyber invasions by hostile powers, and would compel actual action by the White House in response to things like the Russian attack on the 2016 election, and the apparent ongoing efforts to influence the 2018 contest and beyond.

The article is important for two reasons. Primarily, of course, it offers an important fix to a problem that is, frankly, far more important than Mr. Trump accepts. The Gardner-Coons bill “would force the White House to acknowledge cyber-attacks, placing attackers on a list that is published and regularly updated. It then would require a response, including cutting off enemy states that attack the U.S. from foreign aid, American trade and access to global financial markets.” As Roeder points out, the issue of cyber security is one of the most important threats we face, not only from countries like Russia, China, and North Korea, but also from rouge terrorist groups and hackers.

So, if passed and signed by a likely-reluctant President Trump, we’ll enter a new era that respects the threat of cyber attacks in new and important ways. That is a good thing, to be sure.

I’m not in the habit of praising Sen. Gardner, as I disagree with him on most things. But I’ve always tried to put country first, and when a good bill, like the Gardner-Coons bill appears to be, is put forward, I will give credit where credit is due. So, thank you Sens. Gardner and Coons.

But as important as this issue is, there is an even more important point being made here. In the most hyper-partisan Congress since the 1850s, there is still quality bipartisan work being done. Bipartisanship still exists, but mostly if nobody is looking. And that’s both encouraging and kind of sad.

As the nation mourns the passing of Sen. John McCain, one of the most commented upon aspects of his life in the Senate was his willingness to cross the aisle to work with people of the opposite party to get things done. Tragically, virtually every story that mentioned that bipartisanship also noted that such cooperation was largely extinct in today’s Congress. These days working with your political adversaries isn’t noble; it’s treason.

Which is why the Gardner-Coons bill is so special, even when it is routine. You see, most of the time, most of the Congress does, in fact, work together. Much like an iceberg, most congressional work is done below the surface. My old boss, Sen. Bennet, worked and continues to work regularly with GOP members on important legislation. When I was a staffer for him, I had the phone numbers for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn on speed dial, right next to the button to call Sen. Udall’s people. I talked every day with Mr. Lamborn’s veteran affairs staffers to coordinate our work on behalf of veterans. That same cooperation continues, when it can, all the way up the chain of command, all the way to the senator or congressperson.

This cooperation is critical, and it is how much of the government works. But all too often, that cooperation is endangered when it gets publicized, because far too many members of the electorate (I’m talking about you, Mr. “the other side is un-American” Voter). I’m guessing that the Roeder story will win Mr. Gardner some praise (like mine above) but I also posit that there will be some on the hard-right who will be angry that Mr. Gardner cooperated with Mr. Coons at all.

As a nation, we must embrace bipartisanship whenever we can. We are Americans first. Disagreement is not disloyalty, and sometimes, cooperation is honorable. Plus, it might keep the Russians out of King Soopers, and that’s a good thing, unless it’s dressing.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.