There’s never a dull moment in Hickenlooper’s camp
The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away. For believers in the Gospel, the phrase is a reminder of the up-and-down fragility of life.
For members of Team Hickenlooper, the phrase is a less spiritual admonition than it is a simple description of the week that was for the scrappy but undisciplined administration that bounces between highs and lows like a manic on a tightly coiled pogo stick.
Say what you want about the direction of the state, it is never dull in Hicksville.
On Monday, the governor announced that Jared Polis had agreed to end his politically and economically brain-dead attack on the state’s oil and gas industry. For months, Polis had conspired with the bawdy band of flat-earth miscreants known as fractivists to collect more than 200,000 signatures on two virulently anti-oil and gas measures that were to have been voted on this November.
In the great Colorado frac wars, Polis was the fractivists’ general. And this week, Polis met his Appamatox.
The press heralded the breakthrough as a grand compromise, since Polis’ withdrawal of the two initiatives was coupled with an announcement that Hick would appoint a task force to look at the claims made by Polis and environmentalists about the unwanted risks of oil and gas development. But anyone who has seen this routine before knows that the task force is mostly window dressing to help Mr. Polis preserve a small measure of his otherwise tattered dignity. No one is buying that the task force will lead to anything much at all, least of all the angry fractivists that Polis betrayed.
On Tuesday, a Polis town hall was flooded with a booing, chanting horde of anti-frackers. The mob had turned on its benefactor.
In truth, there really was no compromise at all. Polis simply relented, mostly under pressure from the top brass of the Democratic Party who viewed the anti-energy initiatives as an unwanted wedge dividing economically-minded blue-collar Democrats from its Sierra Club, no-drill wing. And more, those same Democratic leaders -— reportedly including President Obama and Nancy Pelosi themselves — were perfectly mortified by the specter that millions of dollars spent by the oil and gas industry turning out votes to oppose Polis’ initiatives would also turn out votes for Cory Gardner, Bob Beauprez and Republicans up and down the ticket.
And so Polis surrendered, with Hick, beaming, at his side.
What followed was a torrent of good press for the governor, extolling his persistence and leadership in saving the state from a costly and unwanted political fight.
When the sunset on Monday, it was good to be John Hickenlooper.
And then the sun came up Wednesday and all of that changed. That’s about the time news broke of another unscripted moment when the governor’s undisciplined mouth undermined his entire administration.
Recall a month ago a secret tape caught the governor blaming his staff for the flummoxed handling of gun control bills last year. In the covert video, he also denied meeting with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the drafting of the anti-gun bills. “If we’d known that it was going to divide the state so intensely, we probably would have thought about it twice,” Hickenlooper told the sheriffs.
The problem of course was that Hick did meet with Bloomberg. And just as bad, the governor’s caught-on-tape moments infuriated gun control activists who he partnered with in 2013. They said he was talking out both sides of his mouth because, well, he was.
On Wednesday, it happened again — the governor was caught on tape saying the reason that he didn’t sign legislation giving sherriffs a pay raise was because several of his campaign donors thought the optics of signing a government pay hike would make it hard for them to raise re-election money for him.
Cue Homer Simpson: Doh!
What followed was a blizzard of media coverage that was as bad for Hickenlooper as his “great compromise” press from earlier in the week was good.
Did the governor really say he based major legislative decisions on the way major donors thought it would impact his campaign fundraising?
Yes, The Lord gives and The Lord takes away. And John Hickenlooper does too.
He’s up. He’s down. Never a dull week in Hicksville.
Josh Penry is a former minority leader in the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.