The reader of these pages and listener to the Backbone Radio show who accused me of harmful negative comments (see THIS blog entry in response if you haven't read it already) sent me a follow-up, a response to my response, to which I have offered -- you guessed it -- a response.
Here is the reader's/listener's note to me:
You are an insider guy. You and Rosen both like the old polished worthless politicians we have had here in CO. Penry went to help the Norton campaign which has made one major mistake after another. Penry worked with the Dems to fix PERA which is still a mess. You and Tancredo have abandon the state to the Dems by criticizing both Republican candidates. The more time you, Tancredo and Rosen spend criticizing Maes, the harder it will be for him to run. We've all seen the polls, Maes vs. Tancredo vs. Hickenlooper is 24%, 24%, 46%. Hickenlooper wins. Tancredo is the Johnny-come-lately. He will be responsible for Hickenlooper's win.
You and Rosen are telling the voters that Maes cannot win, therefore, the voters will comply and not vote for him. Thanks a lot. My husband and I have phoned nearly 1,000 voters already on behalf of two Republican candidates. You know what we're hearing? The voters don't know who to vote for because the talk show hosts don't like them. Again, thanks a lot.
Any candidate that gets out because Tancredo wants him to is a weak candidate. I wouldn't expect any candidate to cave to Tancredo's blustering.
Yeah, I like Maes. Since you don't I guess that means you're right and I'm wrong. Well, you and Tancredo will be responsible for Hickenlooper. I hope you like him.
And my response to the commenter is as follows, apologies in advance to Mike Rosen if I misrepresented anything he has said or would say:
I understand that you need to call me an "insider" to make yourself feel more confident in your views which differ from mine. But my history and actions are simply not one of an insider. Just because I might agree with an insider sometimes does not make me one.
Rosen is one of the smartest/wisest guys around, but he and I do disagree at the margins. Indeed, he has a tendency to think that I'm an overly idealistic libertarian, but not as impractical as many libertarians, or more precisely capital-L Libertarians (i.e. members of the Libertarian party.) That said, if you're going to try to insult me by comparing me to Mike Rosen, I guess I'll just play Br'er Rabbit and plead with you not to throw me into the briar patch of the most successful political commentator in Colorado.
Yes, I prefer Jane Norton (slightly) but I've been much harder on McInnis than on Maes. Penry has, on balance, been a great asset to the state, the GOP, and conservatives, even if you don't like his involvement with Norton and even if he might have voted a way you don't like once or twice. I'm sure you know that I haven't voted for a Republican for president since 1992. (Voted Libertarian every time although I really wanted to vote Republican in '08 until we got McCain.) So just what about that proves that I'm an insider? The fact that I endorsed Norton? And nothing else matters? Seriously?
Re: Penry...Is working to try to fix PERA a sin just because you have to work with Dems to get it done?
I and Tancredo and Rosen are not responsible for giving the governorship to the Dems. McInnis is, mostly. Then the people who support Maes as if he's their Golden Calf. Sure, I wish Tancredo had done something different...but then I can't say I know what else there was to do. Hick wins with or without Tancredo in the race if either Maes or McInnis is the GOP nominee. It's not out of the question for Tancredo's involvement to cause some sort of as-yet unimagined or at least as-yet low probability change which could yet pull the bacon out of the fire. But I wouldn't bet much on that possibility and I'd want long odds. Tancredo is far from my first choice in a candidate, as I am not an immigration hawk nor am I a social issues conservative. (That said, Tom did come out for marijuana legalization, which impressed me.) But he's ahead of Maes or McInnis (obviously for very different reasons.)
The idea that voters "comply" with Rosen is silly. And the idea that they "comply" with me is downright ridiculous. Rosen and I say Maes can't win for only one reason: because Maes can't win. There is no ulterior motive. Indeed, Rosen is very aggressive in saying that he wants a Republican to win, first and foremost. I don't say that. I am a Rosen rebel, doing my damnedest to think about person over party even though it annoys Rosen slightly from time to time and even though he may think I'm making a mistake. The beauty of conservative/libertarian politics most of the time is that we don't take a disagreement as a personal affront, unlike liberals.
I won't speak for Rosen. He's obviously more than capable of speaking for himself. As for me, regarding your sarcastic "thanks a lot", your implication is that if listeners to Mike's show or mine or readers of my blog had only availed themselves of other sources of information, they'd know who to vote for. But please, tell me just what you've seen in other media which would inform Republican voters of the sort of insights or data they'd want to make the most well-informed decision. Is your suggestion that my view or Rosen's view is less valuable or even destructive simply because it does not comport with yours? Better bring back the Fairness Doctrine, Eloise style, eh?
No candidate is going to get out because "Tancredo wants him to", nor because "Rosen wants him to" and obviously not because of anything Kaminsky says. I wouldn't expect any candidate to "cave to Tancredo's blustering either." But caving to in-your-face poll results is something entirely different. This is about reality. I'm scared to death of Governor Hickenlooper. But, I cannot in good conscience vote for either of the current Republican candidates for reasons I've made clear previously.
Dan is unqualified and Scott is disqualified.
I DID NOT SAY I DON'T LIKE MAES. I said (1) he can't win, and (2) his lack of any sort of relevant experience and even lack of more than a few months of thinking about policy means he probably shouldn't win. Dan is fairly likeable, which is more than I can say for Scott. Scott is more qualified, but as I say he's also disqualified. I don't want someone who clearly ripped off a foundation running the state. Could you imagine our governor being on a payment play to reimburse the Hasan family for basically stealing $300K from them?
This is not about "right and wrong". I never said you were "wrong" about Maes, though you have said that about me. My analysis is different from yours. As a financial market trader, I know better than most that there is almost never such thing as right and wrong when you're talking about relatively subjective analysis.
At the end of the day, I will accept absolutely zero responsibility for us having Governor Hickenlooper. That said, if Colorado Republicans have to learn a hard lesson, so be it. My son's middle name is not "Rand" for nothin'. Sometimes a lesson needs to be pretty tough for people to learn it. Maybe the Tea Party will learn not to support a candidate whose primary virtue is a complete lack of relevant experience. And maybe the "establishment" money people in the party will learn not to support some guy just because it's "his turn."
In the meantime, you and I (and Rosen) probably agree on a lot more than we disagree on and I would encourage you to keep that in mind as we fight for good government in the future.
I was interested and somewhat surprised to receive a blast e-mail from the Jane Norton campaign with this headline:
Norton, McCain to Press Case for Political Courage in Afghanistan War
Norton and Arizona Senator to Campaign in Colorado Sunday
I sent the following comment to the Norton campaign:
Very interesting strategery to highlight Jane's ties to John McCain since that tie is one of the things most used against her by the GOP base (or at least Buck supporters.) I presume Buck and friends will say "See, I told you so" and Jane will have to respond by saying "This is only about the war on terror...McCain and I agree to disagree on quite a few other issues."
I received the following response/explanation from Josh Penry:
So here's the strategy.
1 - John McCain's approval rating in Colorado is metoric. 69 percent favorable, 22 percent unfavorable, among GOP primary voters.
2 - The 22 percent who dislike John McCain almost universally agree with McCain and Norton on the war - and thus disagree with the Surrender Monkey wing of the Ron Paul movement that Buck has shown sympathies to.
3 - There are about 500,000 live ballots out there right now, many of them have never voted in a primary, but 90 percent of them voted for John McCain. The numbers are conclusive: if you want to enlarge the universe, and we do, McCain can help do it to a greater extent than anyone else.
So when Team Buck attacks McCain all week, it'll feel good. But 69 percent of GOP primary voters will disagree, and lots of voters who don't usually vote in primaries will have one more reason to pay attention - and vote Jane.+
It seems audacious, but the numbers say it's really not and we're on offense until the end.
To me, it does seem audacious, but then major political campaigns do a lot more research than I do. If they believe that being seen with John McCain is a net positive for them, it's hard for me to say that I'm certain they're wrong. But I tend to go with my gut instinct on things and my gut is that they'd better be pretty certain they're going to attract moderate Republicans with this move because they'll certainly turn off the usual core of GOP primary voters.
For the record, I have said that I lean somewhat toward the Buck statements on Afghanistan rather than towards Jane's "double down" approach. I didn't see Buck's statements as being particularly close to Ron Paul's views. In any case, a lot more people will be seeing Norton and McCain talk about Afghanistan than will read (or care about) my view on the subject, and the political impact of McCain coming to Norton's side should be quite an interesting thing to watch.
If McCain seems to help Norton -- which will require Norton to fend off questions about McCain's positions -- or at least prior positions -- on amnesty, cap-and-trade, campaign finance restrictions, etc. -- that will imply some combination of (1) voters believing in McCain 2.0 rather than the RINO we all knew him to be just 18 months ago, and (2) voters believing that Jane Norton is not a female John McCain when it comes to unpopular policy positions among the GOP base. (I have steadfastly maintained from my first meeting with Jane that she is far more solidly conservative than McCain and unhesitatingly distanced herself from him on at least those three issues mentioned above.) McCain seems to be selling McCain 2.0 well enough in Arizona that he leads his primary challenger, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, by 20 points in the most recent Rasmussen poll. (Hayworth is not a particularly appealing candidate for many reasons, however, and even though I dislike(d) McCain enough to argue against him during the 2008 presidential election, I still like him better than Hayworth.) McCain also leads his Democratic opponent by 19% in a poll released yesterday -- a poll which shows that the Democrat leads Hayworth.
Finally, given the relatively daring nature of this move by the Norton campaign, it reinforces my view that this is probably an extremely close race, notwithstanding (or perhaps made even more clear by) the alternating poll results, one showing Jane ahead, then one showing Ken Buck ahead.
Indeed, I'm thinking that all three major primaries (GOP Senate and Gov, and Dem Senate) will be decided by less than 5 percentage points and guessing the results at this point is little better than flipping a coin. I am rooting for Jane, though I don't think Buck is a bad guy or a bad candidate. I'm rooting for McInnis and Maes both to lose, though I suppose if I had to want one of them to win the primary it would be McInnis because I think there's a very slightly higher chance that he'll then agree to get out. And I'd rather run against Bennet than Romanoff just because if Romanoff knocks off an incumbent, he'll have some additional momentum.
A friend of mine commented on the McCain visit "If he can talk Sarah into coming, I might actually show up." Norton would indeed be very fortunate if Sarah Palin would give a full-throated endorsement such as she implied with her "Pink Elephants" comments a few months back, though I sorta think she would have endorsed already if she were going to. If she proves me wrong, that could be a game-changer in the race...much more than McCain could ever be.
Just after 40-year incumbent Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) was charged with 13 ethics violations by the House Ethics Committee, my friend and astute political analyst Christopher Sanders said to me "Just watch, they'll try to make this about race."
The next day we learned about an ethics charge filed against Maxine Waters (D/moron - Los Angeles).
And the day after that, Christopher was proven right, as this Politico article shows; members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are claiming that the focus by the Democrat-created (and leftist-approved) Office of Congressional Ethics on black House members is representative of racism. Of course, the far more likely reason is that these members of Congress are somewhere between negligent and corrupt -- and closer to the latter.
It's interesting to note that two Republican House members have resigned after ethical questions whereas Charlie Rangel, whose acts would get most people a huge fine or even jail time, indignantly says he's not going anywhere. Maxine Waters says she has not broken an House rules despite (allegedly) being caught trying to use her power to help a bank which her husband was an investor in and a Director of. (Sorry for ending that sentence with a preposition.) The both chose a "trial" rather than a settlement.
To the extent that I've seen racism so far in the Rangel case, it's the fear-of-being-called-racist pro-black racism exemplified in the OCE panel's suggesting that Rangel's punishment for repeated tax fraud and intentionally erroneous financial disclosures should be a reprimand. Can you imagine what they'd propose for a Republican white guy? And then Rangel had the cojones to apparently reject a settlement offer which was probably along those lines.
One member of the CBC said that there is a "“dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans." You're absolutely right there is. And the standard for African-Americans seems to be much more generous, taking two years to file charges against Rangel whom everyone knew committed these violations at least a year ago. Indeed, I wrote an article about Rangel's ethics problems almost a year ago for Human Events.
And yesterday, "The Prowler" wrote a fascinating article for the American Spectator laying out much deeper corruption not just among CBC members but perhaps by the CBC itself. I highly recommend reading the article.
The country would be much better off without Rangel and Waters, the former a corruptocrat of the worst sort and the latter being one of the biggest loudmouths and Marxists in Congress, with nary two brain cells to rub together, at least in the part of the brain that understands economics.
But this is about much more than losing two losers. It's about, as Christopher pointed out, the potential impact on black voter turnout in November.
Let's assume for the sake of discussion that blacks will not anytime soon vote Republican in large numbers. So their choices are to vote Dem or not vote. To the extent that blacks see Congress as racist for going after black Representatives, and because the ethics panel cannot be portrayed as a Republican Star Chamber (it has 4 members from each party and is chaired by a Democrat), black voters could be demotivated from voting in fairly substantial numbers.
Indeed, Waters and Rangel may be counting on this fear to get Democrat panel members to let them off with the gentlest possible slap on the wrist, or an outright acquittal.
But in races around the country, especially where so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats won in districts which are relatively conservative but have plenty of black voters, and also in governor's races such as in Ohio, a depressed black turnout could make an enormous difference in our November results.
The more the CBC and other black groups squawk about Congressional racism, the better it gets for Republican candidates in November, something which wouldn't have been true when Republicans had the majority because the left would have just blamed the racist white guys rather than the corrupt politicians who also happen to be black.
After so many years of black Democrats slicing and dicing their way through elections by intimidating or "guilting" voters with the race card, it's an enjoyable irony to see them now only able to use race in a way which will hurt their own party (since there are no Republican members of the CBC.)
"Negative comments" was the subject line of an e-mail I got from a listener to my radio show last night. Since I'm not giving the e-mailers name, I'll just quote the whole note:
Your negative comments along with Rosen from KOA will be a self fulfilled prophecy to bring Hick into office. Why don't you support Maes? He is a conservative. You are acting like a typical insider. Penry is a young man who needs to learn from older men like Maes. If the GOP "encourages" Maes to leave after he wins the primary, I can guarantee that conservatives like me will leave the Republican party and this country/state will go the Dems permanently. Stop your foolish talk. Support the Republicans. Look at the big picture! Our country/state is at a turning point. If we don't get conservatives in this election, socialism will be here in 2 years.
The note was in response to my saying at least twice on the show that I've called for Scott McInnis and Dan Maes both to drop out of the race. Readers of these pages don't need me to rehash the reasons, but in short I think Dan is unqualified (and should consider running for something else first) and Scott is disqualified (and shouldn't run for anything.)
The note deserves deconstruction and destruction, so here goes:
First, the implication that comments of radio talk show hosts, whether with a relatively small audience like mine or a huge audience like Mike Rosen's, can bring down a candidate gives us far too much credit...and gives voters far too little credit. (Though you probably won't go broke betting against wise decisions by voters over time.)
Second, I already said why I don't support Maes, and just being "a conservative" is hardly enough to garner my support. Maes seems like a decent guy, but he has absolutely zero relevant experience, having never been involved in politics at any level and having a very narrow range of business experience all of which led to modest success at best. I don't hold that level of success against the man. I just don't think the sum total of his experiences and his knowledge of policy or politics make it likely that he would be a particularly capable governor. I think he'd be out of his depth, and although that sounds bad it's meant as an observation and conclusion, not an insult.
Third, Dan Maes isn't very old. And Josh Penry, regardless of what some people think of him now that he's involved in Jane Norton's campaign, has accomplished a heck of a lot for a young guy. It's not likely that Dan Maes has much to teach Josh that's relevant to this discussion, though Josh could probably teach Dan a lot.
Fourth, and getting to the important stuff, I'm sick of this threat from Maes supporters that if Maes gets out they will walk away or leave the GOP and abandon the state or nation to the Democrats. I'm not saying there's never a good reason to abandon the GOP, at least temporarily. I've done it, arguing against John McCain even while knowing that Barack Obama would be much worse. But this threat that they'll walk away if their guy voluntarily exits the race sounds like a bunch of spoiled brats who want to play only what they want to play and otherwise they're gonna take their ball and go home.
Be my guest, take your ball and go home. Sticking with a candidate who can't win just because you treated your supporting of him through an assembly to be the political equivalent of getting married is the sign of a rookie, and a petulant rookie at that. Maybe next time you'll learn to choose a better candidate and/or to be willing to change your mind when circumstances change. Just like a stock investment, it's not a marriage, and you don't get any medals for staying with a bad stock or a weak candidate for the longest possible time. All you get is poor, in monetary wealth or in the quality of government.
Fifth, I don't "support the Republicans" just for the sake of supporting a political party. Rosen says "party trumps person." Sure, it does frequently. But in these days of close elections, you don't need that not to be true for a very large number of people for issues of principle and character to end up determining an election. I'll "support the Republicans" when they deserve to be supported. That said, I was extremely supportive of Republicans running for the state legislature during the radio show, noting more than once that Colorado Republicans in the General Assembly have been, with a notable exception of the worthless Steve Johnson, much more principled in standing up against higher taxes and big government than have their counterparts in the federal Congress. Furthermore, I said that today's crop of liberal Democrats are not just the "loyal opposition" but rather, as they agree with Obama's desire to "transform the nation", they are the enemy and we Republicans must beat them. Therefore, I say to the commenter, that opposing a Republican does not mean that I'm not supporting Republicans.
Sixth, "look at the big picture." I am doing just that. How's it gonna go for Republicans in the long run if we elect as governor either a guy who will be buried by the job because he's not up to the challenge (yes, that's just my opinion; you can write your own on your blog, Mr. or Mrs. Commenter) or a guy who ripped off a charitable foundation for over a quarter million dollars? One of the big problems with the GOP has been real and perceived corruption and incompetence. Now we're given an example of each and you want me to support them because of "the big picture"? No, the big picture requires that we make the GOP provide us with candidates worth supporting.
Seventh, the idea that "socialism will be here in 2 years" based on the outcome of this election, particular on a state-level race, is just silly. Socialism is already here, at the state and federal governments. Conservatives and/or Republicans will pick up a lot of seats across the board in November. If we lose one, even if a fairly big one, that doesn't mean we're on a faster path to socialism than we're on now.
The governor's race is lost for the GOP unless the primary winner gets out and Tom Tancredo gets out. I think this combination of events is a longshot but it's not impossible. First, let's get through August 10th and then we'll see what the future brings.
In the meantime, I absolutely do not apologize for or retract my "negative comments" about the current Republican aspirants for the governorship.
Taking a day off from politics, I'd like to share with you this note that I sent to the Vegetarian Times magazine (which my wife receives as a gift from my all-but-vegan mother as I am an unapologetic carnivore.)
Dear Vegetarian Times,
Dr. Neal Barnard says simply "Yes" to the question of whether organic food is "better for me" than conventionally grown crops. He bases that conclusion solely on organics being "lower in chemical residues" and "fewer chemicals used in growing."
However, there is precious little evidence that the tiny levels of "chemical residue" on non-organic produce is harmful. Beyond that, however, organic produce has two serious downsides:
First, because of the use of animal manure instead of chemical fertilizer, the risk of certain harmful bacteria such as dangerous strains of E. coli are higher with organically grown produce. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that organic farming is much less efficient than conventional, requiring the use of much more land (and water) to produce the same amount of food. As Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug points out, if all farming were organic, "you couldn't feed more than 4 billion people."
Combine that with the fact that organic food is no more nutritious than conventional and you reach the conclusion that the organic food craze is a combination of clever marketing and feel-good symbolism by people who want to be able to say they're saving the planet. As for me, I'll buy the less expensive conventional fruit and vegetables and put the savings in my kids' college fund.
Over at Bloomberg News, former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and a co-author explain why Obamacare's assault on small business means the law should be repealed. It's great intellectual ammunition for lovers of capitalism and liberty.
See "Health Law Needs Repeal: Commentary by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Michael Ramlet", Bloomberg, 7/30/10
After thinking about the pluses and minuses of Scott McInnis and Dan Maes, and taking no pleasure in my conclusion regarding the Colorado Republican primary for Governor of Colorado, I have decided to endorse Nobody.
Let me be very clear here: I'm not saying that I'm not endorsing anybody. Rather, I am actively endorsing Nobody, endorsing the view, also taken by some friends who have created a Facebook page entitled "Undervote Colorado's GOP Governor Primary" (whose logo I have appropriated not once, but twice, below), that the best course of action for Colorado Republicans in this election is not to cast a vote in this race. (I encourage you to "like" the Facebook page and send it around to your friends.)
I am, with some sadness but more resignation to a Republican Party that needs reworking inside and out, endorsing Nobody.
The only chance to get the primary winner to drop out of the race is if he can be made to believe, strongly enough to overcome the ego which all candidates do and must have, that he does not have enough support to win the general election and that he should therefore get out. The GOP would then fill the vacancy.
If that were to happen, it still might not help unless Tom Tancredo then drops out of the race, which he has said he won't do. And, given Tom's gambit here, I take him at his word.
It's a longshot, but perhaps the GOP wouldn't fill the vacancy, and just subtly support Tancredo, though I think Tancredo has angered too many to expect that outcome. Another possibility, as suggested by reader Ken S. is that Tancredo might be offered the Lieutenant Governor slot with specific authority over immigration-related issues. Seems like an interesting idea, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on Tancredo accepting such an offer. It could depend on who the GOP governor nominee is.
At the end of the day, this election is probably lost; John Hickenlooper is probably our next governor. This thanks to a GOP establishment which pushed the best candidate, Josh Penry, out of the race to leave us with Scott McInnis, a man who offered a partly-plagiarized paper to a foundation -- and that's the good part of that story for McInnis. And thanks, I continue to believe despite many protestations from Tea Party and other friends, to a Tea Party movement which was so smitten by Dan Maes' new guy, ordinary guy, fresh face that they forgot that experience matters. Any really relevant experience. Dan Maes is a nice enough guy upon a first meeting, which is all most people will have, but my interview with him made it clear to me that he should have run for the state legislature or some other achievable goal, not for governor. He has a decent basic foundation, but nowhere near a deep enough understanding of issues, politics, or the business of governing to make his first campaign the race for the top elected position in the state.
Arguments that it's about the "team" he puts around him are not compelling. A good team is of course important, but the team captain should be a very strong player and Dan Maes is not that, at least not yet. It's not meant as an insult to Mr. Maes who seems like a sincere person (as does his wife, Karen). What he's doing is like me trying to play for the Denver Nuggets just because I played a little basketball in high school. (Actually, Maes' relevant experience to be governor is probably even less than my relevant experience to play in the NBA.)
While I understand Tea Party and 9/12 groups' desire to elect a true outsider, it can't be at the expense of competence. Dan Maes is simply not ready to be governor of a state. And Scott McInnis is unfit in both temperament and history to be governor of a state. Let me be clear: I mean no insult to Dan Maes, and I do mean insult to Scott McInnis who should (1) have handled the "Musings on Water" fiasco much better, including (2) dropping out of the race.
The whole situation reminds me of my blog note of January 5th of this year when Bill Ritter announced he would not seek re-election (I bet he's regretting that decision now!) in which I predicted that Hickenlooper would be the Dems' nominee and I said that McInnis (the clear front-runner at the time) "would rather run against anyone but John Hickenlooper." And more: "If I were the GOP, I’d hope that John Hickenlooper finds, yet again, a reason not to run for governor." We weren't so lucky. And at this point, the Republican candidates are so damaged that they might even lose to Ritter if he were running.
As crazy as it sounds, I still think McInnis might be more electable than Dan Maes, even though after one meeting with each I like Dan Maes better than I like Scott McInnis. But by more electable, I mean maybe McInnis loses by 12 and Maes by 15. And those might be optimistic, which is a remarkable thing to believe in what is shaping up to be the best Republican year since 1994.
With looming redistricting and potential State Supreme Court vacancies, it's so important to win this seat that I really considered holding my nose and voting for Scott McInnis, not so much based on electability but on the possibility of being convinced to get out of the race. (I don't think Dan Maes will drop out under any circumstances.) But some smells are too strong to stomach, even holding one's nose and I just can't vote for a man who cheated a foundation and whose reputation among people who have known and dealt with him for a long time is "Scott is all about Scott." I have to be able to live with myself. It's why I didn't vote for John McCain. This is a different sort of problem than I had with McCain, but it leads me to the same place.
In short, I can't vote for Dan Maes for this race at this time, and I can't vote for Scott McInnis for any race at any time.
In the 2010 Colorado Republican primary for Governor of Colorado, I endorse Nobody and I encourage you to leave blank both governor choices on your Republican primary ballot.
As I've said before, I don't think there are hundreds of people anxiously awaiting to know who I will endorse in the Republican primary for Governor of Colorado. But for those who are interested in my opinion, I've made my decision, written up the article, and it will be posted on these pages at 6 AM tomorrow (Saturday, 7/31).
All Colorado Politics, All the Time
From Ross Kaminsky:
Backbone Radio listeners, being among the most politically astute people in Colorado, don’t need to be told what an interesting political season we’re having, especially on the Republican side of the primary ledger.
I hope to make it a little more interesting with an informative show this week, focused entirely (or at least almost entirely) on Colorado politics.
In our first hour, we’ll be joined by Republican candidate for the 7th Congressional District, Ryan Frazier. We’ll talk politics and policy and take questions from callers. After Ryan, going into the show’s second hour, we’ll be joined by Ryan’s Republican challenger, Lang Sias, with whom we’ll also have as wide-ranging a discussion we can have in half an hour.
Each candidate has submitted two questions to me to ask the other. Since Ryan is on first, he’ll get the questions from Lang. If he doesn’t answer one or both, then I won’t ask Lang the questions Ryan sent me for him.
Although the initial idea for having them on the radio was a debate, I’m pleased we’re doing it this way. I think a more substantive discussion with each will be possible without the usual back-and-forth sniping of a debate.
I want to discourage campaign operatives from calling and asking “gotcha” or other non-substantive questions. Serious questions by voters, especially 7th CD voters who may as yet be undecided, would be most welcome by phone, e-mail, or instant message.
At 6:30, we’ll be joined by Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams to talk about a range of Colorado Republican issues, most importantly the Governor’s race and the potential impact of Tom Tancredo, as well as the Senate race and some other races around the state which aren’t getting the attention they otherwise might because of the chaos and entertainment value surrounding plagiarism and high heels.
Again, I look forward to taking calls from you, our listeners.
We’ll spend the last hour discussing various races around the state, with a bit of a foray into other races around the country. I’ll also discuss my endorsement in the Colorado Republican primary, which I’ll release first on my web page at http://rossputin.com a day or two before the show.
If you’re not in range of the radio waves, you should be able to listen to the show online by clicking HERE.
I hope you’ll actively participate in the conversation with me: Call the studio at 303 696 1971, e-mail me at ross(at)710knus.com, or instant message from my site at http://rossputin.com or through AOL Instant messenger to screen name Rossputin.
I had the opportunity to meet with Dan Maes for about 90 minutes on Wednesday evening, Dan graciously honoring our prior agreement to meet even after my rather large error regarding where he went to college, an error for which I apologized (again) directly to Dan. Dan's wife, Karen, also sat down with us for some of our meeting but, except for just one or two sentences which I got specific permission to write about, Mrs. Maes' conversation with me will be held in confidence.
Following is the write-up of our meeting, based on 8 pages of notes I took (and filling in a bit more from memory.) In the interest of not overly coloring this interview, and not laboring under the assumption that many people are anxiously awaiting hearing the Word of Ross, I will not post my endorsement in the Colorado GOP governor's primary race until Saturday morning, 24 hours after posting this note. That said, I will still offer occasional commentary within this note, as I did with my write-ups of meetings with Jane Norton and Ken Buck. I hope you find the interview informative.
My meeting with Dan Maes could hardly have been any more different from my meeting with Scott McInnis. Indeed, meeting with Scott left me so uninspired that I didn't even write it up for these pages. Most of the time was spent with Scott asking me questions, the answers to which I don't think he really cared about, in what struck me as an attempt to get through our short time together without having to answer many of my questions and while trying to make me feel like he really cared to know me. I felt like I was talking to a wind-up wax figure of a politician.
Dan Maes, for better or worse from a political point of view, answered -- at least to some degree -- every question I asked him. It's a mark of a political novice, perhaps both part of his appeal and one of his Achilles heels. Similarly, there is a refreshing earnestness about him, with the potential downside of being more frank than a candidate should.
Before Dan arrived at our meeting place, I wrote down about 20 questions. Following is our discussion as we had it, which was roughly in my original question order. I will put direct quotations in quotes. Dan spoke pretty fast so I might have a word or two wrong, even in direct quotes, but nothing that would change the meaning or intent of his statements. Where I do not use quotes to convey something Dan said, I am probably still using quite a few of his own words, but I missed enough that I do not feel comfortable saying it's a direct quote.
I'll put my questions in bold, with Mr. Maes' response (quote or my description) in regular text immediately afterward.
Question: What do you see as the pluses and minuses (if any) of the Tea Party movement, and are you the "Tea Party candidate"?
DM: "I never claimed the 'Tea Party' label, but every Tea Party which has endorsed in this race has endorsed me." "People are sick and tired of what the 'machine' is trying to do in this race." Maes believes people are passionately involved and organized, "more so than the media understands", and that "their motives are good and right." He couldn't think of any negatives regarding the Tea Party movement as it exists in Colorado and says he's yet to see anything radical about it. He also noted that over 40% of the audience at the state assembly was there for the first time, and figures he got 90% of those delegates.
Question: What do you think the chances are of the GOP taking back either part of the state legislature?
DM: 70% chance of taking back the State Senate, 80% chance of taking back the State House, though he admits he's a naturally optimistic guy. So far, no quantification of impact of Democrat "Four Horsemen". Maes also noted that "their portfolios have dropped like everyone else's", so they may be less willing to throw money around.
Question: What's your view of the State Supreme Court and Clear The Bench Colorado?
DM: After twice complimenting Matt Arnold on the remarkable job CTBC has done so far, including forcing the retirement of one liberal justice, Maes gave an amusing analogy: "Bill Ritter mugged us several times in an alley. At each end of the alley were two liberal State Supreme Court Justices watching the alley for Ritter."
Question: What would you look for in a justice if you got to replace one or more?
DM: "Experience balanced with a conservative viewpoint, someone who would apply law rather than perform judicial policy making." On this answer, it seemed to me that Mr. Maes had a few good conservative buzzwords but really hadn't thought about it much.
Question: What are your thoughts on redistricting?
DM: "My opponents are trying to make it an issue of experience, trying to use it against me." Maes said that it's just a "numbers game" and that he could manage the process as well as anyone despite never having dealt with the issue hands-on. He added that he is "not in this to manipulate things to the Republicans' advantage. I realize that may be heresy with some conservatives." My problem with Maes' answer is that it didn't really convey an understanding of how redistricting works nor how critical it is. I also wish he had said that if he were governor and the Dems had the legislature that he would make sure they didn't manipulate the outcome to their advantage.
We drifted to the topic of Roe v Wade (I can't say I precisely remember the transition to that topic, but it came from Mr. Maes, not from me). He said he "won't fight Roe v Wade" (because it's a federal issue and he's running for a state office, and therefore it's a bad use of his time) but also emphasized that he supported and voted for the "personhood" amendment.
Question: What do you think of Tancredo's entrance into the governor's race?
DM: "I don't know what his motives are. He rattled his saber in November but then didn't get in. Something similar might happen again this time, though that may be a bit of naive hopefulness. I told Tom "You told me how to do this, to use e-verify, and you put me in touch with others" for several discussions on immigration issues.
One person "made a case about sustainability of immigration -- environmental and economic". Maes was also told about the issue if verifiable identification.
[This led to a somewhat broader discussion of immigration, including my asking Maes why his policy changed from what was essentially amnesty in early 2009 to a much more hard-line anti-illegals position now.]
"When I used the phrase 'path to citizenship', I didn't know it was common terminology for amnesty." Maes described his current 3-point plan on the subject of immigration:
2) maximize SB90 enforcement, i.e. report likely illegals to ICE
3) verifiable identification at social services gateways
He does support an Arizona-style law. From the Arizona discussion, and after I told him about the judge's ruling a couple of hours earlier overturning part of Arizona's law, Maes brought up the 10th Amendment: "A new movement around the 10th Amendment will cause many lawsuits between states and the federal government, but we'll push and push and push. We'll win some and lose some but we won't give up" in an effort to recover legitimate states' rights within the concept of our federal republic. Maes believes it's "time states started taking action" to recover these rights.
Regarding his change in position on amnesty, Maes says it came from talking to experts. He named a few of the people he spoke to (presumably at Tom Tancredo's urging) and they are indeed people well-known around the conservative side of the immigration discussion -- serious thinkers whom I don't always agree with but serious nonetheless. (I won't name the people here.) Maes says that talking to experts is "what we do as public servants" and that regarding his initial pro-amnesty position he "wasn't married to it, but wanted something on the issue to put on the web site."
We had a related discussion about the 2nd Amendment. Maes said he is "all for gun ownership and possession." We talked about a questionnaire which he'd filled out after which the gun rights group who gave him the questionnaire got pretty upset with a couple of the answers. One was about a "Vermont-style carry law", which Maes described as essentially unfettered concealed carry with no permit required. He said that when he was answering the question, his "first reaction was 'I don't know what you're talking about' and his second reaction was "we're not Vermont or Alaska." Still, he answered the question "no" without understanding it; he explained elsewhere that he defaults to "no" on questions he doesn't understand. There was a similar issue with a question about repealing a Brady-related law, to which he also defaulted to "no" without really understanding the question. Maes also said that he "had very little time to answer" the questionnaire.
I asked him if he did indeed support unfettered concealed carry without permits. He said "If the people want it, if they vote for it by initiative or it passes the legislature, then as governor I will support it. But I won't champion it."
Regarding changing positions generally, Maes said "I am the new guy and I am learning. I was told by some people 'don't respond to questions or questionnaires from special interest groups' But I still believe people deserve straight answers.
[While I appreciate Dan Maes' apparently sincere willingness to sit down and listen to people who know more about an issue than he does, I was concerned about how a candidate for governor could have spent so little time thinking about an issue as important to the state as immigration (even before the Arizona law made the issue even bigger) that he could start at amnesty and end up at or near Tancredo. Maes tries to emphasize his open-mindedness but it's still hard for me to think that someone with more experience and having spent more time thinking about issues wouldn't need to be quite so malleable because he'd have a good grasp on a subject, even though it's always wise to listen to experts. Just the idea that he (says he) didn't know that "path to citizenship" was the leading code phrase for amnesty is troubling.]
Question: What are your best ideas for boosting employment in Colorado?
DM: "We need to take some medicine first -- meaning we have to shrink government. The economy in the state is based on energy first. We need to leverage that industry and bring it back better and stronger than ever. We need a lower tax burden with smaller government." He re-emphasized bringing back energy jobs "more than ever" as well as "lightening the regulation burden and cutting taxes." "We can't just click our heels together and say 'jobs, jobs, jobs' and have them fall from the sky."
Maes turned the jobs discussion toward a broader political point: "I'm a conservative first, then a Republican. It's time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans again, and that means smaller government and lower taxes."
I asked about balancing the budget through spending cuts. Maes said "Ritter did it because he had to. But I believe smaller government is just the right thing. It doesn't take a genius; it just takes the will to do it."
[My take on this, like much of the conversation, was that Maes understood and seemed truly to believe the basic conservative talking points -- and that's good as far as it goes, but I'm not convinced that his understanding of the issues is deep enough. That said, a solid foundational belief in small and inexpensive government is a good touchstone even, or maybe especially, for someone with no political experience.]
Question: What is your view on climate change?
"I don't believe in man-made climate change. Policy people at the federal level spend a lot of time debating it. But I think it's pretty arrogant for government to think they can impact something so immense and out of our hands as the temperature of the earth. With that said, we do have to be good stewards of what we have, and I do support conservation to a reasonable degree."
[I thought this was Maes' best answer of the evening...]
Maes spoke about a UN program (which I can't find, but I'll take his word for it) which he says "is being implemented by city mayors" and which includes things like the "free" (shared) bicycle programs popping up in Denver and elsewhere. Maes' big objection (which I share) is that an "argument can be made that pledges (by mayors to implement UN policy) are replacing our Constitution."
He added that "biking to work and things like that sound fun and green, but we're losing our freedom under the guise of 'living green.'"
Question: Would you rescind Governor Ritter's executive order allowing collective bargaining by state employees?
DM: "Yes, week one, maybe day one, as well as eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood." Maes continued: "People are desperate for moral leadership, for character and integrity. I want to be a moral leader, but not dictating morality."
Question: What should be done to balance the state budget?
DM: "Start with head count reductions. We have to examine closely where we have the right to do that. Also, can we consolidate or eliminate any departments? We have to be able to reduce costs and grow revenue."
Again, this answer showed me an understanding of one good idea, but not a deeper understanding of the issue or the budgeting process.
Question: Would you support a tax hike to balance the budget?
DM: "I have pledged not to raise taxes. In fact, my goal is to cut the state's income tax rate by 1/10th of one percent in my first year in office."
Question: John Hickenlooper will undoubtedly make experience an issue in the race. How will you respond?
DM: I'd tell the story of John Love versus Governor McNichols. Love was the new guy, a complete outsider, who ran against the incumbent insider, McNichols. "Love was a small-office lawyer from Colorado Springs who became the first and only three-term governor in Colorado history."
"It's about integrity, character, leadership. Business-to-business experience is more important than selling beer over the bar."
Maes said something about sitting in the board room with Fortune 500 CEO's, but when I pushed on that question a bit, he changed it to "what we call C-level" executives, such as CIO and CFO, people to whom he was trying to sell expensive telecommunications equipment. I understand his wanting to emphasize interaction with big business, but I thought his gambit fell short when his "board room" meetings with CEOs turned into sales meetings with other executives. I had hoped that he meant -- as it sounded at first -- that he had served on the Board of Directors of a big company. But that wasn't the case, or at least he didn't say so.
"I've never claimed to be a big businessman or millionaire. I've been a small to medium-size businessman but have interacted with small, medium and Fortune 500 companies throughout that business."
When I suggested to Maes that the Love versus McNichols thing was a nice story but wouldn't really answer the question of experience when Hickenlooper pushed it, Maes said in a typical moment of perhaps-rookie candor that he would try to move away from the experience issue quickly. I would too in his situation.
Question: If Hickenlooper tries to make a campaign issue of your mileage reimbursements, will you provide the records to prove that the reimbursements were properly calculated?
DM: I'll show our records if Hickenlooper shows his charitable contributions.
I pushed pretty hard on this one, suggesting that if he put it like that, it would suit Hick just fine because he'd then say "Good, I won't show mine and you don't show yours." Maes then seemed to say that he'd be willing to show everything, but I wouldn't go so far here as to say he promised that. And he made it clear that he is "not here to be used. I'll do it (show records) when I believe it's the right time." He noted that he's given his tax returns even though as a matter of privacy they didn't really want to.
I pushed more about the mileage issue, asking about the mileage records which back up the reimbursements. Maes said that "some cars were used for the campaign only" and that all the miles on the vehicle, starting with the odometer reading when they were first brought to use in the campaign, are reimbursable. For other vehicles, such as his daughter's and wife's records have been kept. Maes certainly puts a lot of miles on vehicles, getting around the state as much or more than any other politician I'm aware of. He says he has 60K miles on the second truck he's used during the campaign. I was somewhat concerned when he said that it would be a lot of effort to "recreate mileage records" from his schedule but that he'd do it if he had to.
Question: Why did you pay yourself reimbursements instead of hiring staff?
DM: "From March '09 through January 2010, we advanced funds and resources to the campaign with little or no reimbursement. Most candidates would have put $50,000 or $100,000 in their campaign up front. We did it differently. We still weren't getting a lot of contributions. As revenue started coming in, we took reimbursements. We haven't gotten a paycheck since February, 2009. We've been living off savings and the profit from selling the business."
Dan and his wife said almost simultaneously, "We've made major sacrifices." Karen added "There's a reason only millionaires run for office."
When I pressed again on why taking reimbursements instead of hiring staff, Mr. Maes said "we made what we thought were fair reimbursements; a balanced approach."
At the end of the day, the answer to the question is that between the money the Maeses put into the campaign and the lack of income during the campaign, running for office has been a significant financial hardship for them and they needed the reimbursements to reduce some of that pressure. I don't begrudge them that at all. Nevertheless, the fact that they needed the money and didn't use it to hire staff has probably hurt them, not least if that staff could possibly have helped them avoid $17,500 in fines for improper campaign finance reporting. (Dan Maes pointed out to me when he read this interview write-up that he actually had a paid accountant to do the campaign reporting, but the person left 2 days before the report was due. So, that particular fine might not have been alleviated by having cash to spend on staff.)
Maes added "Another amateur mistake we made" was repeatedly taking $5,000 at a time in reimbursements. The repeated round number caught the attention of Erik Groves, the attorney who filed the complaint with the Secretary of State, and the round number allowed people to charge that Maes was "paying himself a salary" from campaign funds. Maes argues that he just picked a convenient number that seemed close to what he was due to be reimbursed monthly, for mileage, campaign office rent (office no longer being rented), telephone, etc.
I asked Karen Maes if she would still encourage Dan to run if it were two years ago but she knew then what she knows now. She answered "I knew when we were dating (that he'd run for office). If I don't like it, I have only myself to blame."
Dan added "I'm a Christian. I believe things are meant to happen when they are meant to happen. When I started the business it was with the intent of selling it and running for office." He added that this run is therefore part of his plan even though they didn't sell it for as much as they had hoped for.
Dan noted again, with Karen nodding in agreement, that the delay in showing their tax returns "was truly about privacy." I asked if there was at least some concern on their part that the low income numbers would be held against them and they did acknowledge that fear: "We did talk a little about 'bad numbers.'" Part of the reason they say they disclosed the information was that "we did believe it would cause others to have to show theirs."
I told Maes that in my opinion he had played it very badly, that people would not have held low incomes against him if he had positioned himself as an ordinary guy, a man of the people, in an economic sense, from the beginning rather than implying or at least letting people infer that he was a bigger business success than he was. I made it clear that in my view the political problem is not the numbers themselves (though some might argue that's an issue in itself) as much as the fact that many people believed -- and he didn't correct them -- that the numbers were substantially larger. People don't mind modest success; they mind being misled.
Question: What do you make of the recent (Rasmussen) poll numbers showing you doing no better against Hickenlooper than McInnis does, even after McInnis' plagiarism problem?
DM: "I was excited because it showed us pretty much head to head. Even after the snafus, we were only down 2 or 3 points. For months we've only heard about 'Maes can't win' but this poll shows we can." In terms of showing McInnis doing 1% better than Maes against Hickenlooper, Maes also took a jab at Rasmussen as a tool of the Republican machine, though he offered no basis for that charge.
I pressed Maes on whether he thinks he's more electable than Scott McInnis to which he said "absolutely."
Question: What was your reaction to the Denver Post's basically saying you aren't ready for the job of governor?
DM: "They've gotten into this routine of what a politician is supposed to look like...but the revolution is telling them otherwise."
We drifted back into the electability question.
Questions: Will establishment Republicans who leave McInnis will go to Dan Maes? And how much money do you think you can raise?
DM: "The Denver-proper business community might go in part to Hickenlooper. But two miles outside Denver, nobody wants Hick." As far as how much money he needs, Maes said he thinks "we can do it on $500,000 to $1,000,000." I suggested he might need to raise half of what Hickenlooper raises to win. Maes noted that Hickenlooper has already raised $4 million; he did not seem confident that he would be able to raise half that much.
When asked how he could win if he is massively outspent, Dan Maes said -- and clearly believed -- "Nobody knows the hearts and minds of the Colorado voters like I do. Several of them have told me 'Dan, don't worry about the money...we'll take care of that.' Of course, I still do take raising money very seriously."
And finally, when it came to potential further bombshell sort of news (regarding any potential candidate) and how that might play into the race, Maes ended the interview with one of his best lines of the evening: "Hey, my baggage is unpacked."
My reflections on the interview:
Dan Maes is, in his own way, a breath of fresh air after interviewing so many more experienced politicians. He's earnest and direct, perhaps more than he should be. He seems to care about the state and has a certainly-conservative fundamental make-up.
That said, the fact that he's never run for office -- never even been particularly involved in politics or the political process -- also shows through in his less-than-deep answers to serious policy and nuts-and-bolts politicking questions.
I understand why he would appeal to many Tea Party activists, especially those many people who are new to political activity. I also understand why many people think that Dan Maes has bitten off more than he can chew here -- although he would be the first to disagree.
I'm going to end my commentary here as my primary purpose with this note is to inform, not pontificate. I'll ponder this as well as the McInnis situation and come up with an endorsement (or not) within 24 hours. Again, I don't say this trying to sound as if I think people are waiting with baited breath asking "What's Ross going to do?" I don't think I'm that important. I do know, however, that there is at least a small handful of folks who find my views interesting and for them (and for me) I'll come to some sort of conclusion post haste.