Joey BunchJoey BunchDecember 29, 20173min745

When Henry Strauss turned 90 recently, there was no shortage of top Colorado politicos happy to raise a glass to the businessman, philanthropist, politico and friend.

His bio as board chairman of an international adoption network tells you much of what you need to know to appreciate Strauss:

Henry Strauss has had a distinguished career in business and government. He is the founder and chairman of Strauss Enterprises a property investment and Management Company. He served as Regional Administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Carter and as Chairman of the Colorado Real Estate Commission under Governor Lamm. In addition he has had extensive international business experience serving on the District Export-Import Council and on the Board of the World Trade Center. We are fortunate to have his insight to organizational operations as part of our team!

About 200 people attended a dinner to honor Strauss at The Palms restaurant in Denver, attendees tell Colorado Politics. U.S. Jared Polis draped Strauss with an American flag that had flown above the U.S. Capitol that day. He called Strauss a friend.

The crowd included Lamm, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada and other members of the state’s political class.

Strauss is a Colorado-brown benefactor to the state. He got his degree in pharmacy from the University of Colorado in 1951 and was one of the first major importers of Chinese herbal medicines, as well as real estate investment and development.

He has been a generous donor to CU, but Strauss also served on the Metropolitan State University of Denver Foundation Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2010.

He is the namesake of the Guldman-Strauss Endowed Scholarship for Metro State students studying integrative therapeutic practices who have a financial need.

The school notes Strauss “has a strong interest in the integration of all the medicines of mankind. He was one of the early progenitors of the integrative medicine program at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He contributed many of the Auraria library books which are used by students taking these courses. Also he started with twenty books and built the Florence Strauss Indigenous Medicine Collection now known as the Strauss-Wisneski Collection.”

The collection now includes more than 2,400 volumes on alternative and indigenous medicine from all over the world, the school says.

Strauss, a Democrat, didn’t have much luck on the ballot, however. He lost to Tom Tancredo in 1998 in the 6th Congressional District and came up short in the 1974 state treasurer’s race. Strauss has been a behind-the-scenes opinion leader in the party for decades, friends said.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningDecember 11, 20176min1261

Maybe the Colorado Democrats should rename the party's big annual fundraising dinner after Donald Trump, since their enmity toward the Republican president could be the only thing that unites them. Or, if the party is looking to past presidents who didn't own slaves and are unsullied by sex scandals, how about honoring Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman instead of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, as one local pundit suggests?


Clifford D. MayClifford D. MayJune 1, 20179min1731
Clifford D. May
Clifford D. May

The Islamic Republic isn’t a democracy, but a theocratic dictatorship

News must be new but it needn’t be surprising. The decidedly unsurprising news out of Iran last week: There was an election (of sorts) and the winner was Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent president. An apparently mild-mannered cleric with a beatific smile, he has presided over Iran for four years — a period of egregious human rights violations, the Iranian-backed slaughter in Syria, the taking of American and other hostages, and increasing support for terrorists abroad. Nevertheless, you’ll see him described in much of the media as a “moderate.”

At most he is a pragmatist, one with a keen sense of how credulous Western diplomats and journalists can be. He knows they won’t judge him based on such quotes as this: “Saying ‘Death to America!’ is easy. We need to express ‘Death to America!’ with action.”

In Iran, the president is not the most powerful figure. That distinction belongs to an unelected “supreme leader.” It is to the supreme leader that all government bodies report — including the 12-member Guardian Council, which approves presidential candidates. This time around, more than 99 percent of those who hoped to run were disqualified because they did not hold politically/religiously correct positions. Women also were excluded.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has had two supreme leaders. The first was Ruhollah Khomeini, a charismatic cleric with the fiery mien of a biblical prophet. The Carter administration and the mainstream media initially mistook him for a moderate as well. Anyone who had bothered to read what he had been writing since the 1940s would have been aware that he regarded himself as a jihadi and believed that Islam should “conquer the whole world.”

After Ayatollah Khomeini’s death in 1989, Ali Khamenei, who had been president, was appointed supreme leader by the Assembly of Experts, an entity whose members also are selected by the Guardian Council. Based on this it should be clear: Iran’s elections are not open, not free and not fair — even when they are not rigged as they were in 2009.

The New York Times has called Iran’s form of government “undemocratic democracy.” That’s amusingly oxymoronic but not at all precise. I would call it a theocratic dictatorship cleverly marketed to provide the illusion of representative governance. It may be helpful to compare it to the Soviet system in which the Communist Party decided which candidates could run and what elected officials could do. In Iran, substitute mullahs for commissars.

Mr. Rouhani’s main rival in this election was Ebrahim Raisi, who doesn’t pretend to be anything but the hardest of hard-liners. So should those of us concerned by the strategic threat Iran represents feel relieved about the election’s outcome?

A worshipper holds up an anti-U.S. placard during a protest rally against a Bahrain police raid on a town home to prominent Shiite cleric sheikh Isa Qassim, after Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A worshipper holds up an anti-U.S. placard during a protest rally against a Bahrain police raid on a town home to prominent Shiite cleric sheikh Isa Qassim, after Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

On the contrary: As my colleague, former CIA Iran specialist Reuel Marc Gerecht has pointed out, a win by Mr. Raisi would have been the better result because it would have made it more difficult for Western leaders “to deceive themselves about Iran’s intentions.” It also would have increased “the distance between the Iranian people and their overlords.”

Journalists and diplomats who make the case for Mr. Rouhani’s moderation usually point out that he is eager for improved economic relations with the West.  That’s true but his goal, transparently, is to strengthen Iran’s economy, a necessary precondition for building a more powerful military. It’s not just coincidence that the budget of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and missile development program has risen 24 percent this year.

Might a wealthier Iran become complacent? Might it lose its zeal to fight and sacrifice in order to spread its Islamic Revolution? That was what President Obama hoped and what Ayatollah Khamenei fears. To Mr. Rouhani, I suspect, it’s a manageable risk.

During his first term as president Mr. Rouhani’s most significant achievement was concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He and his silver-tongued foreign minister, Javad Zarif, persuaded President Obama to lift sanctions and turn over billions of dollars. Iran’s economy — which had contracted by 6.8 percent in 2013 and 2 percent in 2015 — last year grew by an estimated 6.4 percent. In exchange, Mr. Rouhani promised to delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program — a program whose existence he denies.

What’s next on his to-do list? My guess is that he’ll attempt to widen divisions between the U.S. and the European Union, attract foreign investment and end non-nuclear sanctions — sanctions imposed for the regime’s support of terrorism, violations of human rights and continuing ballistic missile programs.

That last task may prove challenging: After renewing a temporary waiver on U.S. sanctions against Iran’s crude-oil exports, the Trump administration last week slapped several new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran, adding to a list of more than 40 imposed this year.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, and my colleague Mark Dubowitz call this the “waive-and-slap approach” — essentially a holding pattern as President Trump’s advisors attempt to work out a comprehensive and coherent Iran policy, one not predicated on the belief that Iran’s rulers can be appeased.

Mr. Trump’s top national security advisors are acutely aware that the ambition of those rulers is to build a new Persian/Islamic empire. Already, Iran controls Lebanon through Hezbollah, its loyal proxy, powerfully influences the Iraqi government, supports Houthi rebels in Yemen and has dispatched its own forces, as well as those of Hezbollah, to defend Bashar al-Assad, its loyal and lethal client, in Syria. Iran and Hezbollah are increasingly penetrating Latin America as well.

On Saturday, around the same time that Mr. Rouhani’s victory was announced, President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia where the threat posed by such neo-imperialist ambition was the top item on the agenda. That, too, was not just coincidence.


Clifford D. MayClifford D. MayFebruary 2, 20178min476

In an inaugural address that was more purposeful than poetic, President Trump last Friday vowed to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.” I hope we can agree, across party and ideological lines, that those are worthwhile objectives. But let’s acknowledge, too, that achieving them will require a much more strenuous and strategic effort than previous administrations have undertaken. The least likely place for uniting nations: the United Nations, an organization that has never managed even to define terrorism. A few U.N. members fight terrorism day after day (e.g. Egypt, Jordan, Israel). Others, however, condone and even sponsor it (e.g. Iran). The U.N. includes representatives of both the civilized and uncivilized worlds, and cannot be said to prefer one over the other.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningJanuary 26, 20174min1056

Joining the ranks of Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright and Nelson Mandela, the Denver Elections Division has been honored by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies for developing an application that allows voters to register and on electronic tablets instead of paper. Denver’s award was for its eSign app and its Voter Registration Drive module and the category was Outstanding Achievement in International Institutional Engagement and Electoral Ergonomy.


Clifford D. MayClifford D. MayJanuary 26, 201711min462

Death, where is thy sting? For Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, it certainly didn’t come from the mainstream media. The 82-year-old former Iranian president died of a heart attack earlier this month. The New York Times called him an “influential voice against hard-liners” and “a main voice in Iran calling for outreach to the West.” The Los Angeles Times said he had been “one of the most powerful allies of moderates in Tehran.” NPR praised him as “a leading voice for reform.” The news section of the Wall Street Journal agreed that he was a “leading voice among moderate politicians.” On what basis? Ayatollah Rafsanjani was a revolutionary, one of the founders of a state in which all power is exercised by a religious elite whose reading of Shia Islam is unswervingly bellicose; a regime implacably hostile to America, Israel and the liberal world order; one that has murdered, tortured and persecuted thousands of political opponents as well as those deemed blasphemers, apostates and heretics.


Clifford D. MayClifford D. MayAugust 18, 20169min461

An unmarked cargo plane filled with $400 million in cash lands in Tehran. Four American hostages held by Iran’s rulers are set free. These revelations have sparked two controversies. First: Did the Obama administration pay ransom to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism? White House spokesmen insist that’s not what happened, there was no quid-pro-quo; Iranian officials say that’s precisely what went down. Who is more credible? More importantly, whom do you think prospective hostage-takers around the world believe? Second: Did this payment violate American law? Justice Department officials objected to the payment. Former federal terrorism prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy argues that the transaction involved the commission of several “felony law violations.” Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey opines that while the transaction was not “right,” it wasn’t illegal.