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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 29, 20175min394

Overheard in line at a Denver supermarket: “Yeah, I’m seeing them all the time on the TV news — the ladies dressed like Little Red Riding Hood.”

They are indeed becoming a staple of Colorado news coverage — on TV, in print, online — though, of course, they’re not going for Little Red Riding Hood. They are depicting characters from the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which later was made into a movie, an opera and most recently, a critically acclaimed TV series on Hulu. One part futuristic dystopian drama, one part cautionary tale, the story involves a male-dominated theocracy that has overthrown the government and subjugated women.

And now, it has become the visual meme of the moment in American politics, as well, with women in the requisite red robes turning up at assorted events across Middle America to register their solemn, silent protest. It was only a matter of time, really, given what liberal critics of the Trump administration and the GOP Congress see as eery similarities between the Atwood storyline and the Republican right’s reputed war on women.

Which is why they were on hand in Colorado Springs last week to greet Vice President Mike Pence when he stopped by to visit the Springs-based, influential conservative ministry, Focus on the Family. And this week, the handmaids were back in Colorado’s second city protesting the pending GOP rewrite of Obamacare outside the Colorado Springs office of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. Now that’s a gimmick with staying power.

It’s a maxim of politics: If a message seems to work, use it early and often.

But where did it all start? We rummaged around the Web and found a recent Boston Globe story that shed some light; it turns out the phenomenon’s origin was a promotional event rather than a political one:

It started in Austin, Texas, in March, when women costumed as handmaids gathered ominously near the South by Southwest festival, as a publicity stunt for the upcoming series launch.

“Please tell me they’re going to walk around inside the Capitol,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, joked on her Facebook page, where she posted a photo of the handmaids Hulu recruited for its guerrilla marketing effort. “It would be such a missed opportunity if they don’t. Related: Who wants to make a bunch of handmaid costumes for use this session?”

Thus, a movement was born.

The Globe recounts the movement’s first steps:

At first, the Texas activists rented costumes. Then, they began stitching — as others had months earlier, crafting pink “pussy hats” for the Women’s March on Washington. (Emily) Morgan — the executive director of Action Together New Hampshire, a political group that was formed after the November election — began networking with chapters from other states. Recently, she created a private Facebook page, called the Handmaid Coalition, to share patterns for stitching and strategies for protest with women across the country.

… In most states, women are using the costumes to protest individual bills on reproductive rights — creating a funhouse mirror image of what women’s lives might look like if their rights were stripped away.

If art imitates life, politics sometimes imitates art. Over and over again, as needed.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 28, 20174min210

We’ll just cut to the chase on the results of a new poll commissioned by Children’s Hospital Colorado — and, please, be sure you are seated. From the hospital’s press release highlighting the findings:

A recent poll conducted by a leading Republican pollster finds a “universal belief” among Colorado voters across the political spectrum that regardless of what happens with the proposed healthcare bill, longstanding Medicaid benefits for children should be protected.

The most significant of the survey’s specific findings:

85% agree that “regardless of whether Obamacare [the Affordable Care Act (ACA)] is ultimately repealed or changed, Congress should maintain the longstanding benefits that Medicaid has guaranteed children since 1965”…

Wow, keep health coverage for the poorest kids as it has been — since 1965? Who could argue with that? Presumably — though it’s not part of the survey — a similar percentage wants to maintain crossing guards in school zones. And wants to see all stray puppies and kittens adopted by loving homes.

OK, so why bother to poll on the obvious? Well, it has to do with politics — more specifically, with the ongoing debate in the U.S. Senate over its pending version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. And more specifically still — like just about everything else in the news these days, it seems — it has to do with Colorado’s Republican junior U.S. Sen Cory Gardner. The press release explains:

“Senator Gardner has been a staunch advocate in this debate for kids,” said Jena Hausmann, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We’ve asked Senator Gardner to step up and fight to protect Medicaid as a safety net for children in important ways. He has, and we are counting on him.”

Children’s Colorado publicly has expressed strong opposition to the House-passed version of the bill, and also opposes the Senate’s discussion draft. The hospital is urging Colorado’s U.S. Senators to make tangible improvements to the bill in order to reduce its negative impact on children. Senator Cory Gardner has started to get traction in the Senate with provisions that would limit the Medicaid cuts to children.

Sounds like the good folks at Children’s are employing a bit of positive reinforcement on the senator, kind of wishfully implying he is right where the hospital is on Medicaid. It’s a safe bet even he doesn’t know yet where his own threshold is on reconfiguring Medicaid.

Alongside that, it also sounds like the hospital is engaging in a bit of spin. Notice how that key polling question blurs the line between “the longstanding benefits that Medicaid has guaranteed children since 1965” and what’s really on the table in the pending GOP redo on Obamacare: the Affordable Care Act’s significant expansion of Medicaid. That’s the focus of the current, intense debate in Washington and across the country; no one is talking about eliminating the children’s benefit itself — just about where to set the bar for income eligibility. It’s a bar Obamacare set a lot lower.

Whether Medicaid’s expansion was warranted or not is of course a philosophical question; whether Congress should change that standard again is a matter of politics. And the Children’s survey findings don’t seem to offer much substantive guidance in that regard.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 21, 20173min332


So, maybe all us Coloradans at last can stop our worrying, OK?

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office even provided a video clip of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confirming for Gardner in a committee hearing Tuesday what Gov. John Hickenlooper had concluded earlier this year: that Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Southwest Colorado isn’t going to lose its designation.

President Trump directed the Interior Department in late April to begin reviewing designations of national monuments created since 1996 that are greater than 100,000 acres. Trump has challenged what he maintains was an “egregious abuse of power” by the Obama administration in designating some of the monuments. Ancients, however, was designated by the Clinton administration in 2000.

Western Republicans like Colorado’s junior U.S. senator from Yuma seem to have been saddled with the responsibility for assuring the public that our treasured natural wonders aren’t in peril in the era of Donald Trump. After all, he is their party’s standard bearer, and his push to revisit a host of environmental and public lands policies of the Obama administration — while generally cheered on by the GOP — has left some Republicans like Gardner in a ticklish position. They have to walk the line between their broad support for the administration’s initiatives and their need to stand up for the likes of parks and monuments, treasured by Coloradans of every political stripe.

A press release from Gardner’s office Tuesday makes that clear:

Gardner has been a strong advocate for protecting Colorado’s public lands, and recently received the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award. In May, Gardner and Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-3) sent a letter to Secretary Zinke requesting “any review of Canyons should conclude that no changes to the designation are necessary.”

Democrats have very publicly wrung their hands over the administration’s policy pronouncements on public lands and other environmental issues, knowing it’s ultimately up to the Republicans to dispel fears. Of course, the Dems have been eating it up. (“Hey, don’t blame us. He’s your president!”)


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 13, 20175min238

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement today welcoming the end of a 13-year Chinese ban on U.S. beef imports — reminding voters he’s all in for international trade that benefits his home state even if his fellow Republican in the White House is a trade hawk:

“As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, I am continuing to urge the Trump Administration to explore new trade opportunities for America’s agriculture community in Asia, and this is an important step forward … Colorado’s farmers and ranchers will see positive economic gains from this decision, and everyone involved with finally getting the ban removed should be applauded.”

Gardner’s office also noted in the news release:

Gardner has long been a supporter of opening up new trade opportunities for Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. He recently spoke on the Senate floor about the agriculture crisis in America and explained how an increase in trade will benefit Colorado’s agriculture community.

Trump administration Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the agreement with China this week reopening that country to America’s favorite red meat; the ban was imposed by the Chinese in 2003 following a case of mad cow disease.

While everyone welcomes a new market for selling American goods abroad, free trade of course is a two-way street. Its supporters, like Gardner, generally advocate keeping U.S. markets open, too, so U.S. consumers can benefit from cheaper goods. Yes, even Chinese goods. That’s probably where Gardner and the administration don’t always see eye to eye.

Last month, Gardner voted against confirming Trump’s pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who is a longtime critic of free trade. Gardner at the time contended Lighthizer’s policies, “could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers.” Gardner’s reference today to his own efforts “to urge the Trump Administration to explore new trade opportunities” seems tacitly to acknowledge his differences with the White House.

The administration has been more antagonist than enthusiast on free trade in general, and Perdue and other administration officials chalked up this week’s breakthrough to the Trump team’s get-tough, “fair trade” stance. That was Lighthizer’s spin:

“The President’s firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the United States has made this new U.S. beef export opportunity possible.  I encourage China and all countries to base their requirements on international standards and science.  America’s ranchers are the best producers of beef in the global economy, and they can compete and succeed wherever there is a level playing field.”

At any rate, Colorado’s cattle ranchers should be beaming. The U.S. is the world’s largest beef producer, and Colorado ranks 10th among the states in total number of beef cattle.

According to a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the top four current markets for Colorado beef exports are Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea. In 2016, he said, Colorado totaled $423 million in beef exports outside the U.S.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 9, 20174min367

A leading voice of Colorado business statewide, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, pretty reliably leans Republican on most of its policy stances even as it tries to maintain good relations with both parties at the statehouse. But there’s one issue — international trade — that divides the GOP itself in the era of Donald Trump. And CACI seems to be doing its level best to influence that ongoing debate with input from the businesses that create most Colorado jobs.

The freshman Republican president’s heartburn over free trade, and standing trade agreements in particular, are well-established. Yet, the business world’s reliance on overseas markets has been a cornerstone of the GOP’s economic vision for generations.

Hence, a case of the jitters among business types following the president’s declaration last month he is renegotiating 1994’s landmark North American Free Trade Agreement. That’s the trilateral pact that opened up Canadian and Mexican markets to U.S. goods, including agriculture. Vice-versa, as well, of course. Colorado commerce has benefited, too.

Today, CACI’s weekly e-newsletter to its many members around Colorado included this message:

CACI is asking our members to add comments to the official request for comment from the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) who will be submitting recommendations to President Trump for areas of NAFTA to negotiate.  Because many CACI members and the Colorado economy rely on our trade partners in Canada and Mexico, we encourage you to share formal or informal comments with the USTR about why these trade relationships are essential to your business.

Diplomatic but clear enough; the business community is worried. This appears to be one area where business and the administration are at loggerheads, at least, for now.

Some Republicans in Congress — still wary of crossing their theoretical party leader for all the usual political reasons — nevertheless have spoken up for free trade as well. Last month, Colorado’s junior Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner voted against confirming Trump’s pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who is a longtime critic of free trade.

Gardner issued a statement contending Lighthizer’s policies, “could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers.”

The administration had that one in the bag, though; Lighthizer was confirmed by overwhelming majorities of both parties despite Gardner’s vote. There’s no suggestion Gardner’s stance has hurt his standing with the president, with whom he votes most of the time.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 6, 20175min207
David Bernhardt (doi.gov)

 

When Colorado native and Washington insider David Bernhardt sat for his confirmation hearing last month following his selection by the Trump administration as deputy secretary of the interior, he inevitably drew cheers and jeers. The former from Republicans and energy industry advocates fresh from battling the Obama administration’s eight-year crackdown on fossil fuels; the latter, from Democrats and environmentalists now taking up the fight against the Trump Cabinet’s rollback of that crackdown.

Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Corry Gardner, who fits squarely within the first group, provided Bernhardt’s formal introduction to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee when the hearing convened. It was a gesture of solidarity not only for a kindred political spirit but also a fellow Coloradan.

Today, the committee voted 14-9 in favor of confirmation; Bernhardt’s nomination now faces a vote by the full Senate. Approval is anticipated given that Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber. At least one news report says

Bernhardt, nominated in April to serve as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is a career natural-resources lawyer in the nation’s Capital who also previously served in several posts at the Interior Department during the George W. Bush administration. As an attorney in private practice for the Denver-based, national law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he has represented energy, mining and other industries that regularly cause heartburn for the environmental movement.

As expected, members of the movement attended the committee hearing; perhaps less expected was that they reportedly interrupted committee proceedings repeatedly with their shouts of disapproval.

Gardner’s press office put out a statement following today’s vote:

“I’m thrilled David Bernhardt was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to become the next Deputy Secretary of the Interior … As a native Coloradan from Rifle, David has a deep understanding of Western land issues, and I’m confident his expertise and experience will serve the Department well. I look forward to continuing to support his nomination as it is taken up on the Senate floor.”

The press release also noted:

Gardner introduced Bernhardt at his confirmation hearing last month, and Bernhardt has expressed support for Gardner’s proposal to move the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters West. Bernhardt’s nomination is supported by several stakeholder groups in Colorado and across the country, including the Colorado River District, Colorado Water Congress, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMay 23, 201712min337

Following a ballistic missile test that was possibly Pyongyang’s “most advanced yet,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner joined two prominent senators in penning a letter to the United Nations Security Council urging for more sanctions to be placed on North Korea. The epic that is North Korea’s quest for a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching the


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 19, 20173min324

…And Horace Greeley himself, were he still with the living, no doubt would be on board. Gardner’s Washington office in fact sent us media types a press release today identifying those stakeholders (Greeley wasn’t included). All of which probably belongs in our “Cory Gardner” file’s not-surprising-but-still-noteworthy subfolder.

As has been widely reported, the Republican junior senator from Colorado and 3rd Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, have introduced legislation to move the federal Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to the western United States. Gardner was quoted in a press statement from his office explaining the strategy earlier this month :

“Moving BLM’s headquarters West is a common sense solution that Coloradans from across the political spectrum support. … Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is West of the Mississippi River, and having the decision-makers present in the communities they impact will lead to better policy. Coloradans want more Colorado common sense from Washington and this proposal accomplishes that goal.”

Gardner is touting Colorado’s own Grand Junction as the potential new HQ, but under the legislation, the agency could move to any of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming. Obviously, the fact that two Colorado lawmakers introduced the bill can’t hurt our state’s prospects.

Today’s press release from Gardner’s people touts the breadth and depth of Coloradans in favor of the idea; the press release includes snippets of their supportive comments, taken from letters (also posted by Gardner’s office) they wrote endorsing the BLM move.

The list of supporters includes the influential West Slope group Club 20, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Farm Bureau as well as the editorial boards of several of the state’s daily newspapers — and even a casual endorsement from Gov. John Hickenlooper, captured on video in March by the blog Western Wire.