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A Colorado governor who fought bigotry–and won in the end

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

During WWII, the U.S. government forced Japanese Americans  from their homes on the West Coast and moved them to interior states. Kansas Gov. Payne Ratner, reflected the opinions of many governors when she responded at the time with, “Japs are not wanted and not welcome in Kansas.”

With at least 22 Republican governors saying they’ll try to keep Syrian refugees out of their states, Denver University’s Seth Masket wrote a blog post yeserday reminding us of this and pointing out that Colorado Governor Ralph Carr “stood out” among his fellow governors at the time and declared that the forced relocation of the Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional. He also welcomed them to Colorado.

Masket didn’t mention Hickenlooper, who has welcomed Syrian refugees, but the loose parallel between the two Colorado governors isn’t lost on anyone reading Masket’s post, titled “The governor who didn’t give in to fear … and paid a price for it.

Masket: “Obviously, the relocation of American citizens of Japanese ancestry is not the same as accepting refugees from another country,” writes Masket, who’s an Associate Professor of Political Science at DU. “But there are clear parallels, particularly in the political incentives governors are confronting. It’s not just that it’s easy to demagogue against foreign invaders; it’s that it’s sometimes politically risky not to. The governors refusing to take in Syrian refugees today may or may not know Ralph Carr’s name, but they have surely imagined his fate, and they don’t want the same for themselves.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Masket cites the Principled Politician, former 9News reporter Adam Schrager’s much-acclaimed biography of Carr. The book shows the respect Carr has now, in hindsight, even though his stance during WWII ended his political career.

I asked Schrager, who retweeted Masket’s post, about the similarities–or lack thereof–between Carr’s stance and the situation today.

Schrager: There are some similarities and some differences with the Syrian refugee situation as it’s not a true apples-to-apples comparison, primarily because the “refugees” in question in 1942 already lived in the U.S. They simply weren’t citizens, and as students of Executive Order 9066 will point out, even citizenship did not matter to President Roosevelt and, at that time, to the U.S. Supreme Court, which originally upheld the de facto jailing of American citizens of Japanese descent in addition to those who weren’t.

The other major difference between the times is that Gov. Carr was basically alone in his stand. Nowhere in the country at that time do you find a politician of equal stature both agreeing to help the U.S. government “win the war” by housing/incarcerating people of Japanese descent as well as defending the Constitutional rights of Americans citizen with that heritage to remain free. One of the things that’s always struck me about Gov. Carr is how lonely he was, going against friends and relatives, who didn’t understand where he was coming from. As inflammatory as some may believe the rhetoric is today, consider that Wyoming Gov. Nels Smith said in 1942, “If anyone of Japanese descent were sent to his state, they’d be found hanging from every pine tree.” (Source:

In today’s situation, while there are a number of politicians who are “refusing” to allow Syrian refugees into their states, there are also a number who are more accepting.

The major similarity is that, in both times, state leaders, must have known then and currently know now, they really have no authority in this area. It’s the federal government which determines immigration policy and politics aside, there’s really not much a state can do to stop a resettlement inside its borders. Sure, they can try to stop funding, but courts at the highest levels of our country have determined that even illegal immigrants are entitled to emergency care, education, etc. From reading the sentiments of 1942 leaders, including people like Earl Warren, there’s no doubt in my mind they were legitimately afraid and their comments reflect that. However, a sober approach and a conversation with their states’ respective attorneys general, would have alerted them to the realization they were powerless to stop what the federal government was proposing.

My gut reaction when I heard about this actually surrounded a couple of other situations in recent history, both of which I have little knowledge of, but I think might prove to be a more direct correlation to the topic of Syrian refugees, but even they don’t seem to fit exactly. The first also dates back to World War II when the federal government actually created Prisoner of War camps throughout the interior of the country to house mostly German and Italian soldiers captured overseas. I wonder how communities back then reacted to that.

The second and maybe slightly more relevant surrounds the resettlement of the Hmong, also largely here in the Midwestern part of the country, after the Vietnam War. Again, I have no direct knowledge of any type of xenophobia related to that situation, but I’d imagine—even though in that case you had people who had fought with us—I’m guessing there were fears of welcoming people who looked like those we had spent years fighting to communities.

In his blog post, Masket quotes Carr:

“The Japanese are protected by the same Constitution that protects us. An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen… If you harm them, you must first harm me. I was brought up in small towns where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened [pointing to various audience members] the happiness of you and you and you.”



Trump puts media spotlight on immigration policies of Colorado politicians, like Coffman

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Reflecting yesterday on Donald Trump’s recent pledge to deport, cattle-car style, each and every one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America–and then expedite the return of the “good ones”– the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent called on reporters to extract detailed plans from the herd of Republican presidential candidates regarding their positions on immigration.

Indeed, one hopes that the moderators of the upcoming GOP debate will see an opportunity in Trump’s cattle car musings: why not ask all the GOP candidates whether they agree with him? And if not, where dothey stand on the 11 million exactly? Remember, Mitt Romney’s big “self-deportation” moment came at a GOP primary debate…

The point is that eventually, we’ll need to hear from all the GOP candidates as to what they would do about the 11 million — beyond vaguely supporting legal status, but only after some future point at which we’ve attained a Platonic ideal of border security. Trump may have just made it more likely that this moment will come sooner, rather than later. One can hope, anyway.

It’s a good idea and has direct application here in Colorado, where Republicans, like Rep. Mike Coffman, continue to slide by journalists with vague and shifting statements about immigration.

Like Trump, Coffman has said he favors some sort of “legal status” for adult undocumented immigrants, but it’s not clear whether he’d boot out everyone first, and then allow the good apples to return–or if he’d skip the cattle-car phase and grant “legal status” to the immigrants here.

Either way, would he wait for seamless border security? And what’s good enough, when it comes to the border?

And then, assuming the border is sufficiently seamless, and whether he chooses the cattle-car or no cattle-car opition, does Coffman really want t0 create an underclass of millions of noncitizens in America, with no voice in government? Would we be looking at good old fashioned taxation without representation? What rights (voting?) and responsibilities (military service? taxes?) would be denied? Even Helen Krieble, a Colorado resident who first proposed the cattle-car option, advocates giving a political voice to undocumented immigrants through citizenship.

Details, details. I wouldn’t want to go there either, if I were Coffman–because he’d get bitten by both progressive and conservative sharks. But that’s not a problem for journalists who should be asking him the questions.

Has Cynthia Coffman aired all her grievances about Colorado’s Republican Chair?

Monday, July 20th, 2015

During her June 26 testimony before a Republican committee, which was investigating numerous allegations against Colorado’s GOP chair, State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman was unable to present “significant facts” because of time restrictions.

That’s the allegation in a post today on the conservative Politichicks blog. In the post, Kathryn Porter claims to have had an exclusive interview with Coffman, during which the Attorney General reportedly said she was unable to lay out all her concerns about Steve House, the Chair of the Colorado Republican Party. Porter reported:

“I galloped through my prepared chronology of events but was not able to finish in five minutes. I felt I had to leave out significant facts,” Coffman said.

But Porter, who is a Republican activist and blogger, did not disclose the facts that Coffman omitted or whether the facts might have swayed the Republican executive committee, which ended up supporting House by a 22-1 vote, to denounce the state chair.

“Coffman broke her silence and exposed a stunning disregard for decorum in its treatment of both elected officials and party activists by the executive committee,” wrote Porter.

Porter’s post, titled “Behind Closed Doors in the CO GOP: From Bedrooms to Boardrooms,” outlined the chaotic atmosphere at the June 26 meeting, which was conducted under adverse conditions and unclear guidelines.

As reported previously, former Congressman Tom Tancredo and former Pueblo GOP Chair Becky Mizel were allegedly prevented from distributing a lengthy list of grievances against House, but it’s not clear who wrote Tancredo’s document.

And it’s also not known whether all of Coffman’s “significant facts” were included on the document.

Those are questions worth investigation by reporters.

Reporters should recall another reversal by Stapleton under pressure from conservatives

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton apparently caved to pressure from conservatives earlier this month, when he claimed not to have supported legislation that he helped draft and later promoted.

It was a weird reversal–but not the first time Stapleton has walked back a moderate position after hearing from his conservative allies.

In January, in an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, Stapleton clearly stated he was open to not returning TABOR refunds.

Asked by Warner if he would support  “something that you felt was responsible and meant the state held on to the TABOR refunds,” Stapleton answered:

Stapleton: “Absolutely. TABOR is the popular whipping post, but Gallagher and Amendment 23 have also created a Gordian Knot of automatic ratchets in the budget and we need to free ourselves of automatic ratchets and get more control over where we spend dollars and more results-oriented spending for our budget going forward in the future. But I’m not opposed reflexively to anything, other than I’m opposed to anything that doesn’t give taxpayers a voice in where their money is being spent.”

Sounds kind of reasonable, doesn’t he, like he did in supporting a common-sense bill to bolster Colorado’s public retirement system. That is until conservatives got to him.

Same thing happened to his reasonable attitude toward TABOR. It disappeared.

Shortly after I blogged that Stapleton was open to not returning TABOR refunds, Peak Politics, a right-wing blog, came out with a piece headlined, “TWISTED WORDS: Liberals Distort Treasurer’s Remarks in Service to Their Own Agenda.”

The post quoted Stapleton’s spokesman, Micheal Fortney.

Stapleton Spokesman: “Walker never said he was for tax increases or Coloradans not getting their refund, only that he was for Coloradans’ right to vote on any proposal that raised taxes. Big difference. Walker was for a full statewide hearing on Amendment 66, the largest proposed tax increase in CO history to date. And Walker weighed in when he led the fight to defeat that wasteful spending initiative. He believed the people’s voice should be heard back then and still does.”

Right, so how did I twist Stapleton’s words by writing that he “was open to not returning TABOR funds”? And why didn’t Fortney say his boss is open to backing such a tax increase?

Looks like the righties at Peak Politics somehow got Stapleton to twist what he was actually recorded as saying–just as conservatives somehow convinced him to deny supporting a bill he helped draft.

Lawmaker’s view that the attack on a pregnant woman is a “curse of god upon America” should be widely reported

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

You had the feeling it was just a matter of time until Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt said something, in his position as a lawmaker, that was so grotesque that it should be widely reported and thoroughly condemned. That time has arrived.

The progressive organization Right Wing Watch reported that Klingenschmitt said, in an online video, that the horrific attack on a pregnant woman March 18 in Longmont is a “curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb.”

Right Wing Watch reported this morning:

On his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today, Klingenschmitt discussed the story and tied it to a passage from Hosea in which God curses the people of Samaria for their rebellion by declaring that “their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.”

“I wonder if there is prophetic significance to America today in that scripture,” he said. “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open”

This is the kind scream for media attention that Klingenscmitt used to launch regularly, before he was legitimized as a state representative from Colorado Springs. He’d brag about performing an exorcism to root out the “foul spirit of lesbianism” from a woman. He’d rail against abortion and gays.

But since he joined the Colorado state legislature in January, Klingenschmitt, who goes by the name of Dr. Chaps, has been somewhat restrained. Sure, he compared Planned Parenthood to ISIS, but at least he did it in a somewhat round-about way. Perhaps that’s why it was reported by left-leaning media entities, and mostly ignored by other news media.

But how can Klingenschmitt’s latest statement possibly be ignored? It’s along the lines of Pat Robertson blaming abortion and gays for 9/11.

Dr. Chaps isn’t another right-wing nut on YouTube. He’s an elected official making laws under the gold dome in Denver. Where’s the outrage by reporters and other watchdogs?

And what about his fellow Republicans? His statement has the effect of casting all Republicans–not just Klingenschmitt–as being completely out of touch and cold-hearted mean–unless they thoroughly denounce it. But will they?

If Klingenschmitt is going to politicize a horrific tragedy in the name of his anti-choice agenda, he should be called out by reporters and denounced by anyone with a brain. Ignoring him is the wrong way to go.

State representative calls progressive blog “not relevant,” yet talks on and on about it on radio show

Monday, January 26th, 2015

During an obscure appearance Jan. 16 on KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show, Freedom 560, State Rep. Justin Everett and host Ken Clark lit into the progressive blog, ColoradoPols, for its recent blog post listing fictitious names for Republican-sponsored bills in the state legislature.

Everett and Clark spent a good chunk of the show bashing the most-excellent Pols post, which, for example, offered names like “The ‘Right to Discriminate’ Act,” SB 15-069 (Sen. Laura Woods) and “The ‘Felons in Child Care’ Act,” SB 15-070 (Sen. Kevin Lundberg).

They read the make-believe names of the bills. They laughed. They got mad at “the left.” They patted themselves on the back.

Everett addressed Pols directly on air: “[Pols is] very good at spinning things to make them into something they are completely not. All these things, especially the guns bills here on ColoradoPols, it should be ‘Restoring Freedom Act.’ That would be a better definition. ‘Restoring Personal Liberties.’ But apparently you guys are pretty far off the reservation, but we’ve known that, and that’s why you’re not relevant. 

So, they choose to dedicate a segment of the show to Pols, and they say the blog isn’t relevant? How does that work?

Maybe they lump themselves in the non-relevant category, too, allowing them, as non-relevant entities, to focus on another non-relevant entity without worrying about their own relevancy?

I doubt it. Those two are awfully head strong to see themselves as lacking relevancy. So maybe they secretly think Pols is relevant? I called and emailed Everett to find out, but he didn’t get back to me, leaving me feeling no more or less relevant than usual.

Gardner’s refusal to take government shutdown off the table is a lesson for DC journalists

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Warning to Washington DC reporters: Here comes Senator-elect Cory Gardner!

Gardner tried to slither past Colorado reporters by answering questions with falsehoods (See personhood.) or responding to queries with predictions about the future, instead of answers to the actual questions (See immigration.).

Now Gardner is trotting out his trademark “answer-a-question-by-saying-two-things-at-once” for Washington journalists and getting away with it!

Asked by ABC’s “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos Sunday if Gardner’s promise to be serious about governing means “taking things like shutting down the government off the table,” Gardner replied:

“The government shutdown is a bad idea anytime, anywhere.”

Translation: I won’t answer your question because I don’t want to rule out a government shutdown, but I want to make reporters think I won’t vote to shut down the government (winky, wink to the Tea Party).

If you’re thinking, give me a break, Republicans like Gardner won’t shut down the government again, you should read Sen. Jeff Sessions not-so-veiled threat to shut down the government to prevent Obama from stopping the deportation of some immigrants, as he’s apparently planning to do this year. Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur reports in a piece titled “Top GOP Senator Hints at Government Shutdown Fight over Immigration:

In an op-ed Monday for Politico magazine, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), currently ranking member of the committee, said it would be “unthinkable” for Congress to pass a long-term spending bill that doesn’t block funding for Obama’s expected actions to free some immigrants from the threat of deportation.

“President Obama’s executive amnesty … cannot be implemented if Congress simply includes routine language on any government funding bill prohibiting the expenditure of funds for this unlawful purpose,” wrote Sessions, a longtime foe of immigration reform.

This strategy is similar to the one that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) persuaded Republicans to adopt in 2013 in a quest to defund Obamacare. It did not work: Obama held firm, the government shut down, and 16 days later Republicans backed down and agreed to fund Obamacare along with the rest of the federal government.

So, yes, shutting down the government again sounds crazy, but it’s still on the table, with the apparent blessing of Gardner.

Media omission: In August, Gardner campaign said it backed personhood proposals to ban abortion, not as statement of principle

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

UPDATE Oct. 13, 2014: In response to a follow-up question yesterday, Robertson emailed me that the Gardner campaign did not seek a correction or clarification of an August story, even though the piece makes it appear as if Gardner supported a federal personhood law as a means to ban abortion. Robertson wrote:

“I didn’t specifically ask about the federal bill – again, at the time, he and the campaign weren’t saying that the federal bill wasn’t a personhood measure. I asked about past personhood proposals, in general. I then asked a separate question about whether he was still supporting the federal bill, and the answer was that he was and that, as we say in the article, the federal bill would make ‘no change to contraception laws.’

The campaign did not seek a correction or contact us at all after the article ran.


Before his recent false claims that federal personhood legislation “simply” is a toothless statement of his belief in “life,” Colorado senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s campaign told that the candidate backed personhood proposals in order to ban abortion.

Colorado senatorial candidate Cory Gardner is now saying, incorrectly, that the federal personhood legislation he cosponsored in Congress is “simply a statement that I believe in life.”

But his campaign told in August that Gardner backed both state and federal “personhood” measures in an effort to ban abortion, not as a statement of principle.’s Lori Robertson reported Aug. 15 that “Gardner’s campaign says he backed the proposals as a means to ban abortion, not contraception.”

Robertson reported:

Gardner is on record since 2006 supporting so-called personhood measures at the state and federal level. These bills and ballot initiatives generally said the rights afforded to a person would begin at the moment a human egg is fertilized. The federal bill would impact the definition of a person under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while the state measure would obviously affect only Colorado law.

Gardner’s campaign says he backed the proposals as a means to ban abortion, not contraception. But, as we’ll explain, the wording of these measures could be interpreted to mean hormonal forms of birth control, including the pill and intrauterine devices, would be outlawed. Other non-hormonal forms, such as condoms, wouldn’t be affected, but oral contraception (the pill) is the most popular form of birth control among U.S. women.

In response to an email asking whether the “proposals” cited in her reporting included federal as well as state personhood measures, Robertson wrote, “Yes, it was a general question, whether he supported past personhood proposals as a means to ban abortion, and the campaign’s answer was yes.”

Robinson noted that “this was of course before the recent interviews in which Rep. Gardner has said the federal bill isn’t a personhood measure.”

So before Gardner said the federal personhood bill is “simply a statement” with no legislative teeth, his campaign stated that the candidate had backed past personhood measures in an effort to ban abortion.

The Gardner campaign’s response to appears to be the closest thing to a factual statement about the Life at Conception Act that Gardner and his spokespeople have provided to reporters during his senatorial election campaign. The proposed law would actually ban not only abortion but common forms of birth control.

When the Gardner campaign uses the word “abortion,” it may actually be referring to birth control as well. If Gardner, like Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, believes that IUDs cause abortions, then Gardner’s aim to use the federal personhood bill as a means to ban “abortion” would include a ban on birth control methods, such as IUDs or Plan B, which Gardner opposed as a Colorado State legislator.

Gardner’s office did not return an email seeking clarification on this matter and others.

There is evidence that Gardner, like Beauprez, believes Plan B and other forms of birth control cause “abortioins.” Gardner voted against the 2009 Birth Control Protection Act, which defined “contraception,” without exceptions, as a device to protect against pregnancy, defined as beginning after implantation of the zygote in the uterine wall.

The Senate sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, Sen. Rand Paul Kentucky, who’s scheduled to visit Denver for a conference later this month, argues that his legislation will result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Laura Woods’ anti-freedom stance on personhood turns off libertarian blogger

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

If you don’t know about Ari Armstrong’s “Defend Liberty Always” blog, you should take a look at it. In this post, Armstrong, who’s a detail-oriented, deep-thinking libertarian, explains why he can’t vote for state senate candidate Laura Woods.

I confess that I tried not to look too closely at the Republican candidate for my Colorado senate district (number 19), Laura Woods, because I was afraid of what I might find. After gleefully witnessing the fall of Evie Hudack following her reckless, Bloomberg-inspired campaign against peaceable gun owners (after which Democrats replaced her with Rachel Zenzinger, now the Democratic candidate), I really wanted the seat to turn Republican.

After the fiascos of ObamaCare (implications of which played out in the state legislature), the Democrats’ persecution of gun owners, the Democrats’ war on energy producers and consumers, and other matters, this would have been an excellent year for the GOP to punish the Democrats and win back some seats. But, Republicans being Republicans (aka “The Stupid Party”), Republicans in my district nominated a candidate I cannot possible vote for.

Thus, just a couple of weeks after announcing I planned to vote a straight-Republican ticket, I now have to make an exception and declare that I cannot and will not vote for Laura Woods. The basic problem is that Woods enthusiastically endorses total abortion bans, including the insane and horrific “personhood” measure on the ballot this year.

Armstrong writes frequently and thoughtfully about how personhood amendments would violate the basic freedoms a women should have in America. Woods went too far down the personhood path for Armstrong.

And if other self-identifying libertarian pundits in town, like the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara, are going to be consistent, they should agree with Armstrong.

Pundit who first noticed Beauprez’s support of Obamacare mandate is still unhappy about it

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Colorado political writer Ari Armstrong was apparently the first media figure to notice, back in 2007, Bob Beauprez’s unqualified support for the central tenet of Obamacare, the requirement that everyone have health insurance. That’s called “the individual mandate.”

Armstrong, who writes from a pro-free-market perspective, wasn’t happy with Beauprez’s position on the individual mandate back in 2007, writing at the time:

Armstrong: Some of Beauprez’s proposals (none of which are original to him) are fine, such as reducing the tax distortion that has entrenched employer-paid insurance. But his call for mandatory health insurance overwhelms anything positive he might have to say. “Both Ways Bob” simply does not understand the nature of individual rights, the meaning of free markets, or the proper purpose of government.

Now that Beauprez’s Obamacare position has blown up into a major issue in the GOP gubernatorial primary, I asked Armstrong if he sees any lessons for the Republican Party, flowing from his original piece.

Armstrong: As for the Republicans, the lesson is that they should stop advocating policies that violate individual rights. Republicans hardly ever even mention individual rights, much less work toward a government that protects people’s rights. As a consequence, the typical Republican politician is an ineffective, unprincipled compromiser who surrenders the moral high ground every time he opens his mouth. That is why Beauprez likely will lose, and that is why he deserves to lose.

Here are more of Armstrong’s thoughts on the topic today, in response to my questions, including whether he thought Beauprez was making a policy recommendation in 2007.

Armstrong: Obviously Beauprez intended his remarks as a policy recommendation. The title of his article is, “Health Care Reform—The Battle is Joined: A Case for Patient First Health Care Reform.” In the article, Beauprez explicitly calls on government to force people to buy health insurance. On the issue of mandatory coverage, Beauprez anticipated the position of Hillary Clinton and of post-election Barack Obama. (Of course, prior to his election, Obama opposed the mandate of Clinton’s plan.)

It is worth noting that Beauprez was hardly alone in this. (He’s not an original enough thinker to come up with something like that on his own.) Many conservatives, and even some libertarians (see Reason magazine), supported an insurance mandate. It was only after ObamaCare became so unpopular (a result that quite shocked many Republican leaders) that conservatives and libertarians finally got consistently on board with the idea that forcing people to buy any product is wrong.

I do not know whether Beauprez has changed his mind on this or not. If he has retracted his support for an insurance mandate, I am not aware of it. Of course, I am not one of those people who pretends that any time a politician changes his mind, that’s a bad thing. If a politician is wrong, he should change his mind.

Armstrong was way out in front on this story in 2007, we’ll see where the issue goes now.