Friday, March 30, 2018

Denver Press Club Hosts 1968, A Year of Turmoil and Transition

People say that 2018 is a year of such extraordinary political chaos and disruption that it must be unique in American history. Only the Civil War seems to compare. But, 1968 saw even more violence, turmoil and disruption.
  • War: 500,000 troops in Vietnam, anti-draft riots, closing down campuses, peace with honor
  • Race: MLK assassinated, urban riots, Black Panthers 
  • Politics: Democratic Party in disarray, “The whole world is watching,” Southern strategy, George Wallace, Richard Nixon
  • Polarization: war, race, drugs, feminism, generational gap
The Denver Press Club will host a presentation and panel titled, “1968, A Year of Turmoil and Transition,” on May 8 at 6:30 pm with social hour beginning at 5:30 pm.

I am blogging on the major events of 1968, starting with Vietnam and presidential politics.

Read blogs:
Walter Cronkite Calls Vietnam a Stalemate
March 1968: The Political Hinge

Republicans Riding Tandem With Trump

Presidential approval eight months out from the President’s first midterm election is an instructive, if not predictive, indicator of the election results in the House of Representatives. President Trump is at the low among presidents since Harry Truman and appears unable to stay on a message of accomplishment. The White House’s constant controversies and chaos are making recovery very difficult. And although eight months is a long time in the politics of the digital age, Trump and Republican congressional leadership should be worried.

As the table below shows, presidents tend to lose seats in their first midterm election, regardless of their popularity.

The midterm vote historically is a check on the incumbent president and his party. Voter turnout is lower. Passion and turnout enthusiasm is usually with the out-party. Presidents have a hard time translating their popularity (especially if only with a base of their party) to lower profile Senate and especially congressional candidates. Over the past 21 midterm elections, the incumbent presidential party has lost an average of 30 seats in the House.

President Trump | Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
Trump, of course, has little support beyond his base. Could the Republicans lose 30 to 50 House seats? Yes!

Looking at the chart shows the great presidential debacles.
  • Johnson – 47 seats lost (1966), Vietnam, riots
  • Ford – 48 seats lost (1971), Watergate, pardon
  • Clinton – 55 seats lost (1994), rocky start and health care collapse
  • Obama – 63 seats lost (2010), Tea Party formed and Obamacare
Analysis needs to go seat-by-seat, but Nancy Pelosi only requires 23 seats after the win in Pennsylvania’s 18th. Thirty seats are very doable.

See The Buzz:
Democrats could retake the House
Republican nightmare: President Clinton, Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The New Authoritarianism and the Challenge to the West

“Favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government at the expense of personal freedom.”

Authoritarianism is on the rise and security, democracy, human rights and trade are in danger. For more than 70 years, America and the alliance system it helped create around the globe have supported a world order that has seen unprecedented levels of prosperity, the worldwide spread of democracy, advances in human rights and an absence of major power conflicts.

Those conditions are challenged today by authoritarian leaders. Most importantly, America’s leadership of the alliance system that promoted trade, democracy and collective security is missing, causing a massive crisis of confidence among the world democracies as they face new challenges not seen since 1930s.

Ambassador Chris Hill and pollster Floyd Ciruli will address this new dangerous rise of powerful and aggressive authoritarian leaders, the danger to democracy and what should be America’s response.

Ambassador Hill leads the office of global engagement at the University of Denver and is a professor of diplomacy. He was dean of the Korbel School for International Studies for seven years. Ciruli is a Korbel School professor teaching public opinion and foreign policy and the director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research.


WorldDenver forum on April 10, 2018 at the Lakewood Country Club.


April 10, 2018
5:30 pm MDT-7:30 pm MDT


Register here


Lakewood Country Club
6800 W. 10th Ave
Lakewood, CO 80214

Event Details

5:30 pm-6:15 pm: Networking Reception
6:15 pm-7:30 pm: Presentation and Q&A

Happy Birthday Nancy

Nancy Pelosi just celebrated her 78th birthday. As someone who has predicted her retirement every two years since she failed to win back the House in the 2012 election, she may defy my prognostication again and win back the speakership in 2018.

New prediction: If the Democrats take back control of the House in 2018, an arrangement will be made to let her take the gavel from Mr. Ryan, only to allow it to pass to a new elected speaker.

San Francisco Deputy Mayor Hadley Roth and Nancy Pelosi, chair
of the host committee, react to announcement that San Francisco
has been chosen to host the 1984 Democratic National
Convention, 1983 | Scott Stewart/AP

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

New White House Casting Call – Sound Bites, Conflict and Strong Views

The new White House team being assembled by an energized Donald Trump (more comfortable after a year into his presidency) looks like a Fox News casting call. If you like conflict as the President obviously does, this is your crew. The new members – Bolton and Kudlow – have an advantage no members of the first White House staff enjoyed – Trump sees them regularly on Fox News and CNBC. He recognizes them and hears their voices defending his policies and his behavior. Another Fox News contributor, Joseph diGenova, almost made the new team, but was out at the last moment.

Being good on TV is the way to get into this White House. But, a TV talking head may not be good for White House policymaking.
  • Pundits talk in sound bites. Trump criticized H.R. McMaster’s long explanations. Two minutes is too long. Hold the background and complexity. Pictures and maps are preferred.
  • TV commentators make a case. They bring a well-established point of view. Trump is unlikely to hear much about the alternatives or the other side of an issue.
  • The President claims to like conflict. TV pundits will give it to him. They tend to argue against strawmen, other pundits and other cable channels. He will also get more chaos. This group likes to start new controversies.
  • They often represent the outer edge of their expertise. Their views are frequently polarizing, and they join Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Fox and Friends in reinforcing Trump’s particular and often peculiar take on events, people and issues.
Trump may not be in office long enough, but these men could easily migrate to State and Treasury. Confirmation hearings would be interesting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Congratulations Georgetown Law

Dean Bill Treanor announced today Georgetown Law was ranked 14th among the nation’s top 25 schools. It represented an improvement. We tend to compete with UCLA (16th), UT Austin (15th) and Cornell (13th).

Georgetown has one of the largest enrollments, 1,745 (Harvard 1,752), and tuition is $60,000, same as most of the top private law schools.

Colorado Politics: Will a Wave From D.C. Wash Over Colorado?

The recruiting is mostly done, the fundraising is well underway and the campaigning, especially in competitive districts, has started. The table is set for the fight for the U.S. House of Representatives.

History of midterms for a new president is not good, and the early indicators for Donald Trump are not good. In a commentary for Colorado Politics, the state’s leading political website, I examine the possibility of a wave coming out of Washington in favor of the Democrats that could roll over not only the most vulnerable Colorado federal official up for re-election, Mike Coffman, but the Republican ticket from governor down to the state legislature. I also describe the national dashboard, a snapshot of indicators as to the direction of national politics. Colorado Politics published “Will a wave from D.C. wash over Colorado?” on March 23, 2018.

The ever controversial Nancy Pelosi now only needs 23 more Democrats to win control of the House after the victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. Although it is clear that her time as head of the Democratic caucus is nearing a conclusion, she remains a powerful force. Democratic candidates in swing districts can get political mileage by denouncing her as Conor Lamb did to help him win the Pennsylvania House seat, yet still take money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which she helps fund. Read more…

Monday, March 26, 2018

National Polling Conference and Crossley Center Sponsor Panel on Marijuana

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver (DU) will sponsor a panel on marijuana, public opinion and legalization at the Denver Sheridan on May 15 at 5 PM. The panel will be open to both AAPOR members and the general community.

Doug Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, will moderate a conversation among pollsters and legalization experts and policymakers, including David Metz, Partner and President of FM3 Research, and Floyd Ciruli, Director of the Crossley Center. The panel will describe how public opinions shaped the passage and implementation of marijuana legalization in Colorado and other states. They will also focus attention on the changed political climate from Washington D.C. and how it could affect public attitudes and the future of marijuana legalization in Colorado and around the country.

The panel will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.

Japan Forms Close Alliance with Trump

While many of Europe’s leaders neither trust nor like Donald Trump, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has made himself one of President Trump’s few foreign confidantes and his country an indispensable ally in Asia. Abe and Trump have had four summits and dozens of phone conversations since President Trump’s election. In fact, Abe was Trump’s first foreign visitor at Trump Towers during the transition and his first foreign visitor to Mar-a-Lago during the famous cocktail table situation room visit (North Korea launched a missile that was discussed at a patio table with cell phones for lighting.)

Japan, like the rest of the world, was surprised when Trump was elected president. It led to concern. He had said a number of things during the campaign that were dramatically different from the positions of American foreign policy since the beginning of the Cold War. Trump was quoted as saying Japan and most of America’s defense allies were freeloading; that possibly it’s time for Japan to acquire its own nuclear weapons; that the trade relationship was unfair; and specifically, he disliked multi-lateral trade deals and didn’t like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry went into overdrive to help Abe develop a strategy to protect what Japan saw as a critical alliance and blunt the worst of the Trump policy reversals. Correctly, it was perceived that Trump had many opinions, but was ill-informed and lacked experience. Most importantly, Trump depends on personal relationships and must have in-person attention. Hence, Abe became the peripatetic traveler and Trump’s man in Asia.

Many of the worst aspects of Trump’s views were contained, but there are still many surprises. For Japan, a country that avoids bombast, Trump’s frequent threats and insults toward North Korea and Kim Jong-un are jarring. And, of course, for an ally that values consultations, the sudden acceptance of face-to-face negotiations with Kim Jong-un was a shock.

Ultimately, regardless of the stress and strain, Japan and America have significant interests that bring them together.

For Japan:
China. China is a tremendous market for trade, but unconstrained it’s a threat to regional stability and sovereignty. Japan needs a partner to assist in managing the Chinese relationship.

North Korea. America’s position on the Korean peninsula makes it the strongest participant in restraining North Korea and guiding peace negotiations.

Nuclear deterrent. Japan’s ultimate protection depends on the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The country’s defense-only use of military force is enshrined in its constitution. Its stance against developing nuclear weapons is reinforced by the memories of Hiroshima and even nuclear power generation is controversial following the recent disaster at the Fukushima power plant.

Trade. Japan is a trading nation. Asia is the economic area of the world likely to experience the most growth in the next century. Even without the U.S., the multilateral TPP agreement is valued.

Shared values. Japan and the U.S. share the values of democratic nations: rule of law, maintenance of democratic processes, and the regular and peaceful exchange of power. Protecting those values and the countries that share them is important to both nations.

Most importantly, Japan does not have many alternatives to its alliance with the U.S. to meet its basic strategic needs. And, America also must have a strong ally in the northern Pacific to achieve its goals.

America regularly has two carrier battle groups in the Pacific. Currently, the Ronald Reagan is stationed in Japan, but the island itself is the U.S.’s greatest military asset for projecting power in Asia. The U.S. has more than 70,000 troops and sailors stationed between the Japanese mainland and Okinawa. Japan is the U.S.’s staunchest and most valuable ally in the Pacific.

America’s foreign policy leadership has long recognized the importance of Asia, making it the largest military command. In fact, even President Obama, who is most noted for his restraint, advocated a “pivot” toward Asia in terms of focus and resources. But, the ambition and authoritarian shift in China and the closing in on deliverable nuclear weapons by North Korea make the relationship in 2018 even more critical.

Professor Floyd Ciruli
Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research
Korbel School of International Studies
March 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hickenlooper and Ciruli Talk Water

At the January Colorado Water Congress (CWC) statewide conference, Governor John Hickenlooper and Floyd Ciruli talked water politics in 2018. The conversation called for bipartisan leadership to secure Colorado’s water future – in what will be a political transition from Hickenlooper’s eight years of leadership.

Hickenlooper and Ciruli Call for 
Bipartisan Leadership on Water Solutions
Photo: CWC
Colorado’s water leaders are contacting candidates for governor, legislature and county commission to provide information on the status of the state’s water challenges. Local utilities and other regional and agricultural water providers are providing information and offering conversation on Colorado’s need for more supplies, storage and conservation.
As Ciruli and Hickenlooper discussed, considerable progress has been made the last decade in water planning and projects. We don’t want to lose the momentum or let political polarization gridlock process.
Read CWC March update here

The New Authoritarianism: Can America Meet the Challenge? – April 10

Ambassador Chris Hill and pollster Floyd Ciruli will speak at a WorldDenver forum on April 10, 2018 at the Lakewood Country Club. Hill and Ciruli will discuss the rise of a host of powerful and aggressive authoritarian leaders, the danger to democracy and what should be America’s response.

Ambassador Hill leads the office of global engagement at the University of Denver and is a professor of diplomacy. He was dean of the Korbel School for International Studies for seven years. Ciruli is a Korbel School professor teaching public opinion and foreign policy and the director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research.

Hill and Ciruli present together regularly on the Trump Administration and its impact on foreign policy. They offered predictions after the November 2016 election. They provided an assessment after the first 100 days, and last fall gave a status report on “Is America Great Again?” one year after the election.


April 10, 2018
5:30 pm MDT-7:30 pm MDT


Register here


Lakewood Country Club
6800 W. 10th Ave
Lakewood, CO 80214

Event Details

5:30 pm-6:15 pm: Networking Reception
6:15 pm-7:30 pm: Presentation and Q&A

Market Tops 26616 in January; Dow Drops 2600 Points – Correction Territory

The Dow Jones Industrial average hit its all-time high of 26616 on January 26, 2018. The run-up since the November 2016 election had been incredible, more than 40 percent. But, in spite of a healthy economy and continued strong earnings, volatility is up and significant market drops have become common (record drop 1557 intraday, 1175 close, Feb. 5, 2018).

The Dow is currently at 23957, or about 2600 points under the top, correction territory. Various reasons are cited for the market stall and increase in volatility. Federal Reserve tightening, a slight increase in interest rates and rumors of inflation appeared to have caused the initial anxiety. The Facebook crisis is dampening an entire sector. Now, tariffs and the President’s enthusiasm for trade wars are the reasons for drops in major Dow components.

Up until now, the chaos in the White House has been ignored by investors as the positive aspects of cutting taxes and regulations were dominant. But, the politics of 2018 are beginning to undermine the Republican control of Congress and the agenda of President Trump. Investor confidence appears to have broken. Expect volatility and more downside pressure.

USA Today: Trump escalates trade war rhetoric with threat of European auto tariffs
Markets Now: Dow plunges 724 points as trade war fears rock Wall Street

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Iraq War Began March 20, 2003

Iraq is the war of the Millennial Generation. No draft, but no victory. And while we left in 2011, the war didn’t end. We are still fighting on the ground and in the air.

In the winter of 2003, going to war was popular. Pew Research reported 71 percent of the public said: “The U.S. made the right decision in using military force in Iraq.” But, the euphoria ended quickly, and by 2005, President Bush was managing a war that had more people saying it was a “wrong decision” than “right.” Republicans were severely punished in the 2006 congressional elections as Nancy Pelosi became the Speaker of the new Democratic Party-controlled House.

In 2008, corresponding to the election of Barack Obama, support for war was at its lowest point. For the last five years, about half the public has said the war was the wrong decision, with less than 40 percent saying it was the right decision. As of today, the public is nearly equally divided on the decision, with 48 percent saying “wrong decision” and 43 percent saying “right.”

Like everything in America, there are stark partisan differences, with 61 percent of Republicans now saying “right decision,” reflecting Republicans generally more martial viewpoint, but also support for a Republican president. Among Democrats, it had been as high as 52 percent in 2014 near the end of Obama’s term when he had to order the military to reenter combat to fight ISIS. Today, only 27 percent of Democrats are offering a “right decision” response.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Public Opinion and Sanctuary Cities

Many large U.S. cities and some states, such as California, have adopted versions of “sanctuary” policies that protect immigrants that the U.S. immigration authorities believe should be deported.

Recently, President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and conservative media have been excoriating California in general and the mayor of Oakland in particular for sanctuary city policies.

Although the public is very skeptical of Trump’s wall (60% oppose, CBS poll, 3-2018), generally favorable toward DACA (80% support DACA remaining) and supportive of undocumented immigrants having a path to citizenship (support ranges from 60% to 80% depending on wording), it is very divided on sanctuary cities. The President and Republicans know it and believe Democrats will lose on the issue – they may be right.

In a recent CBS News poll, the public is closely divided on sanctuary cities.

Generally, whenever the conversation turns to crime or criminals, support of illegal immigrants drops. Blanket non-compliance with federal authorities on immigration law enforcement is a risky policy for the Democrats.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Gary Hart’s Seven Days in May

Gary Hart announces he’s withdrawing from
 the presidential race, May 8, 1987 | AP/ED
No, this post is not about a group of military officers who have taken over the government. In fact, a group of officers already run the government. Rather, this is a story of seven days in early May 1987 that ended a presidential campaign and helped a struggling mayor in Denver.

The seven days from May 1, 1987 when a Miami Herald investigative reporter headed to Washington, D.C., to stake out Gary Hart, to May 8 when Hart withdrew from the presidential race, American politics changed forever.

The private sex lives of politicians became not just Washington gossip and sometimes tabloid fodder, but topics for legacy and the new fragmenting media markets with twenty-four hour news coverage. From Donna Rice, to Gennifer Flowers, to Monica Lewinsky, to Stormy Daniels, presidential campaigns and presidencies spent much time on managing sexual indiscretion.

The seven days in May also affected an important local Denver race. Federico Peña was in a difficult reelection campaign with a spate of early May stories about a controversial police chief. Hart’s media agony was painful to watch, but the timing a beneficial distraction. Peña still lost the primary to Don Bain, 52 percent to 37 percent, but Peña, the comeback kid, won the general election on June 16 in a squeaker by 3,000 votes.

Read New York Times: Denver mayor of high promise fights to hold job

Bannon Takes Ethno-National Message to Europe

Steve Bannon, the self-styled, right-wing thought leader and propagandist who lost much of his base in the U.S. after being pushed out of the White House and Breitbart, has taken his road show to the populist and nationalist movements of Europe.

National Front party leader Marine Le Pen applauds Steve Bannon after his
speech at the party congress in Lilles, France, March 10, 2018 | AFP/Getty
He provided fans and detractors a rousing speech at France’s National Front conference on the stage with Marine Le Pen. Bannon, who argued vociferously in the U.S. that he was an economic not ethno nationalist, provide a full-throated defense the National Front ethno agenda.

“Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativist. Wear it as a badge of honor.” In the midst of applause, he said: “Because every day, we get stronger, and they get weaker.”

Bannon believes the nationalist and populist movement is worldwide and that there is a role for him in channeling and guiding it. Indeed, his knowledge of the black arts of online new right propaganda and election targeting probably has a market, especially in Europe. Unfortunately, Mr. Bannon’s penchant for the edgy speeches and candid interviews, which gave him worldwide notoriety, also helped destroy his marketability. It’s not clear that his high-profile “Let them call you racist” slogan is going to be a winner, even in some of the darker corners of Europe.

Breitbart: Stephen K. Bannon declares Marine Le Pen leader of Europe’s populist movement
CBS: Steve Bannon to French far-right: Wear racism allegations “as a badge of honor”
New York Magazine: Bannon tells France’s National Front: “Let them call you racist”

The Public is Down on the NRA and Up for Gun Restrictions

Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, polls appear to reflect a decline in support for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and an increase in support for more restrictive gun laws.

The Gallup poll has queried public favorably toward the NRA since 2000. In fact, during the Obama administration years, the NRA’s reputation improved, with more than half the public giving it a favorable rating, But, a few polls during the last few months show a decline.

In a national Marist poll in early March 2018, only 38 percent were favorable toward the NRA, with 51 percent unfavorable. Sixty percent believe the NRA has too much influence over politicians and 54 percent believe Republicans in Congress are afraid of the NRA (Quinnipiac University poll, March 2018).

The standard question that the Gallup poll has asked for many years shows a significant spike upward in Americans who support more strict “laws covering the sale of firearms.” As of March of this year, after the Parkland shooting, an all-time high of 67 percent of the public support the “more strict” position – much higher than in December 2012 after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting (58%).

Friday, March 16, 2018

Georgia: Is it NRA or Amazon?

It seems improbable, but Georgia state government’s punishment of its major industry, Delta Airlines, for cancelling NRA member discounts may be reverberating to Colorado’s benefit.

Atlanta Channel 11Alive, a Gannett sister station of Denver’s Channel 9KUSA, aired a news  segment from investigative reporter, Brendan Keefe, speculating that the Georgia politicians’ action could damage the state’s bid to win the Amazon headquarters. Atlanta is considered a frontrunner, but pro-gun culture reflected in the hostility toward Delta created a controversy that has local economic development advocates worried.

My comments for the segment were:
“It is definitely a factor,” Ciruli said. “I always had this image of Atlanta of being a very progressive city, and suddenly this interaction with the NRA, it both surprised me, particularly taking on a major corporation like that, but it also suggested that the political culture there is so rigid, so committed to its position, that it’s willing to take on an incredible economic asset like that, and also send a potential signal in terms of its competitive position with Amazon.”
Ciruli said corporate leadership is "incredibly sensitive to these boycotts" and their employees', customers' and shareholders' cultural attitudes.
"You get out on the edge of these issues – like guns, or gay rights, or race – you will get a backlash," Ciruli said. "And I think that’s what Georgia is dealing with right now is a backlash.”
Amazon is generally viewed as a progressive company, and its founder personally owns the Washington Post. So, imagine Jeff Bezos seeing this headline in his own paper – at the same time his company is considering Atlanta as its second home.
“He is probably more alert and more attentive than 95 percent of the corporate leadership of this country, and his editorial decisions are dramatically out of sync with the Georgia state legislature right now,” Ciruli said.

March 1968: The Political Hinge

President Lyndon B. Johnson announces
 he will not seek reelection,
March 31, 1968 | AP photo
Nineteen sixty-eight was the extraordinary year that saw the turning point in the Vietnam War’s escalation and the end of the Democrats’ eight years of control of the federal government. It concluded the rush of New Deal/Great Society programs and major civil rights legislation (final legislation signed by LBJ on April 11 – Fair Housing Act).

March was the pivot month. The American war effort was thrown on defense as the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive of January 30 framed the weeks leading up to the first test of the reelection of President Johnson. The New Hampshire primary was on March 12, and Senator Eugene McCarthy, who announced his challenge to Johnson in November 1967, was on the ballot. Although several anti-war liberals, such as Paul Newman, and groups, such as Americans for Democratic Action, supported him and he was a rock star on campuses, New Hampshire polls had him winning only 10 to 20 percent of the primary voters. McCarthy advocated an end to the Vietnam War by way of immediate withdrawal. Most establishment Democrats, big city party bosses and union leaders felt that was too radical and were reluctant to oppose an incumbent president.

Senator Eugene McCarthy, a candidate for
the presidential nomination of the Democratic
 Party, speaking at his New York headquarters
 on Jan. 1, 1968 | Lisl Steiner/Getty Images
But, McCarthy showed with a 42 percent New Hampshire vote that the party was already divided. Johnson barely won with 49 percent, less than half the Democrats. The result was a shockwave that hit Washington, which rapidly brought Bobby Kennedy out to announce his candidacy on March 16.

Johnson now saw the difficult struggle ahead and prepared a March 31 speech offering a bombing pause and efforts at negotiations. But he then ended the extraordinary month and his speech with the surprise announcement: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Robert F. Kennedy announces
his  candidacy for president,
March 16, 1968 | Magnum Photos
As April began, it was clear America had just entered a new political era, with major changes in policies and personalities on the horizon. It was also the beginning of more violence and trauma here at home.

Read The Buzz:
Walter Cronkite calls Vietnam a stalemate
The USS Carl Vinson visits Da Nang

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Xi: “Paramount” and “Permanent” Leader

The China Communist Party, which often titles Xi Jinping China’s “paramount” leader, amended its party constitution last fall and added his name and his thoughts on “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.” The nation’s People’s Congress just amended the national constitution with the same language (Xi Jinping thought) and made him the “permanent” leader. The term limits and collective leadership reforms of Deng Xiaoping have been ruled outdated to the circumstances and needs of the new global China.

Xi’s vision of an aggressive China with global aspirations now dominates all aspects of China.

Xi Wants to be Leader of the Unfree World
  • One person, one party rule. A party reinvigorated and expanded in reach. He believes it’s a model for others to follow.
  • Xi’s version of state-controlled economy and state industries with markets in specific areas, some but limited reform. Barrier to foreign entry and protectionist policies remain.
  • New technologies of surveillance and digital repression. Little civic space, narrow room to criticize, no ability to communicate to like-minded.
  • Marginalize, isolate and purge opponents, often in the name of corruption
  • Project on aggressive, intimidating regional foreign policy with carrots and sticks, such as Belt and Road and South China Sea Islands.
  • Claim to be ready for center stage of the world as a globalist, environmentalist advocate
  • Believes Western democracies are dispirited, divided, distracted and withdrawing
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) with other
delegates at the opening of the first Plenary Session of the 13th National
People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People (GHOP) in Beijing,
March 5, 2018 | EPA-EFE

Another Day of Gun News

Mike Coffman is no doubt ready for the gun stories to move on. One of the country’s great news outlets, the Christian Science Monitor (now only online), did an article on guns and gun control related to suburban legislators. Reporter Amanda Paulson, not surprisingly, featured Colorado’s 6th District.

No one quoted doubts Coffman’s ability to survive, but they all reflect that this may be his toughest environment.

The spectacular loss in Pennsylvania’s 18 Congressional District reinforces what a burden national politics and President Trump is for Republican incumbents.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman | Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Olympics in Trouble Before Studies Done

Former Colorado Governor
Dick Lamm | Anthony Camera
Denver’s Olympic boosters start in a public relations deficit. The metro area’s spectacular growth has taken a toll on the region’s usual booster culture.

Opposition to a 2030 Olympics has brought Dick Lamm, leader of the defeated 1976 Olympics, out of retirement. He joins Generation X Brighton Boulevard developer, Kyle Zeppelin, and a host of activists who are ready to mount a campaign against the idea before the Olympic Exploratory Committee can even finish its studies on the basic feasibility of the concept. Tough environment for a high-profile development concept, even if it has modest and manageable impact.

Tillerson Out

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by a Tweet on March 13, 2018. Although he made it one year from his confirmation (February 1), the firing was not communicated to him in advance. He thought he’d make it through 2018.

Tillerson never appeared comfortable with Trump, in terms of style, tone and basic outlook toward America’s foreign policy objectives. But, Tillerson never mastered Washington politics nor got comfortable at the agency.

The Buzz asked, “Tillerson Gone?” on December 5 during the last wave of speculation about his replacement (Pompeo). Trump said the main reason for firing Tillerson was that they did not see eye-to-eye on issues like the Iran agreement. There were, in fact, a host of issues Tillerson had a different slant on.

America First
Tillerson’s challenge. The administration is:
  • Hostile to alliances and multilateral agreements, TPP
  • Skeptical of NATO, it’s a burden
  • Anti-Iranian Agreement
  • Moving embassy to Jerusalem
  • Anti-climate agreement
  • Hostile toward NAFTA, Mexico
  • Hostile toward Russian sanctions
  • Pro-Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar
  • Removing 2,000 employees

Plunkett Defense of Post Coverage

Editorial Page editor of the Denver Post, Chuck Plunkett, made a defense on Sunday of Post coverage of accusations that Mayor Michael Hancock used an escort service in 2011. The story surfaced on June 2, 2011, days before Hancock’s runoff election with Chris Romer. He ended the column rather ambivalently, with no certainty that the Post got it right, only an explanation it tried its best. Plunkett’s explanation of the Post’s decision is relevant as Mayor Hancock is entangled in another sex-related scandal.

Mayor Michael Hancock apologizes for his inappropriate text messages
in a video statement, March 5, 2018 | Colorado Politics/YouTube screen grab

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

9News: Democratic Caucus Shakes Out Governor’s Race

In an interview with Brandon Rittiman, Floyd Ciruli, 9News political analyst, cited several changes that shook out of Cary Kennedy’s big win (50%) at the Democratic caucus, March 6.
  • Jared Polis will be on the ballot and spend money, but party regulars and the 2018 activists passed him over. Setback for frontrunner image (32%).
  • Mike Johnston had some good reviews for early petitions and presentations, but may lack a base in the party (9%). Kennedy has the teachers that have activists in every county and most precincts.
  • Noel Ginsberg went caucus route (2%). He’s done.
  • Donna Lynn stayed out of caucus. March 20 is the last day for petitions. She looks like a very, very longshot.
9News: Kennedy claims frontrunner status in caucus

European Elections: Germany and Italy, Fragmentation and a Surging Right

Acting Chancellor Angela Merkel required nearly six months from September 24, 2017 to March 3, 2018 to form a government. Merkel was 109 votes short of a majority in the Bundestag after a weak September election result and forced to renegotiate a partnership with the also diminished Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The partnership brought many new faces forward in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, her associate party, Christian Social Union (Bavarian wing) and the SPD. This will no doubt be Merkel’s last term. The stability of the new coalition remains to be seen, but polls made clear the result of the fragmentation of the last election has empowered a new right party, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD). It is now the largest opposition force, equal in support to the SPD.

The Italian election of March 4 has also left a fragmented landscape with an empowered populist party, Five Star Movement, gaining the most votes as a single party (33%). It is led by 31-year-old Luigi De Maio. A consortium of center-right to far-right parties received the most total votes (36%) (Forza Italia, Northern League, Brothers of Italy, Us with Italy). One surprise was Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with only 14 percent of the vote, making it the junior partner with the League (18%) led be Matteo Salvini, a more anti-immigrant, anti-EU leader. Both the populist and right wing parties are more pro-Russian than the Italian establishment parties.

The center-left ruling party’s support collapsed to 19 percent. Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will not be a part of the new government.

Hence, the forces of fragmentation and collapse of center parties continues. Although the European establishment bought some time in Germany, Italy will now be a new southern European challenge for the EU.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Coffman Stands Firm on the NRA

Politicians must deal with campaign contributions that are sometimes controversial. The NRA regularly becomes a political target after school shootings and even more so after the school tragedy in Florida. A recent Aurora Sentinel article by Kara Mason explores the issue in the 6th Congressional District, one of the most contested in the country.

Mike Coffman is a supporter of the 2nd Amendment and the NRA. He is the Colorado congressional recipient of the largest amount of NRA political action money and he generally supports their agenda.

Under criticism from Democrats and his opponent, Jason Crow, Coffman has remained loyal to the NRA, kept the contributions, but offered some modest variations on NRA steadfast opposition to nearly all federal legislation making a slippery slope argument.

I pointed out that there is also a slippery slope in giving back money, which opponents will exploit. In addition, NRA members who are very committed and politically active would take a hostile view of any congressional “friend” turning on them.

This is a Weird Picture

The “Rocket man” who promised to kill millions with nuclear weapons to maintain his dynasty and dictatorship is now the gracious host, family in tow, for a formal dinner.

Gathered around Kim Jong-un is his wife Ri Sol-ju and Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, fresh from a diplomatic mission at the South Korean Olympics. Partially due to domestic political conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent his top spy, Suh Hoon, and South Korea’s H.R. McMaster, Chung Eui-yong. Moon, as a new president from the Korean left, is especially sensitive to appearing weak as he pursues his preference for negotiations and calmer relations with the North.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center right) sits with a visiting South Korean
 delegation in Pyongyang and other high-level North Koreans,  March 5, 2018 | KCNA
Clearly, North Korea has decided on a meeting and negotiation track. His invitation to President Trump is bold. His immediate goal is sanction relief, and he believes appearing reasonable will help. There have been long periods of negotiations before. The likelihood he will give up his nuclear weapons for “security guarantees” still seems implausible.

But, it’s his (and his family’s) long-term goal that is a deal killer – U.S. gone from the peninsula and the Koreas united under his direct rule, or at least like the Russian theory of the Ukraine – within his share of influence. Would China prefer that outcome too?

Friday, March 9, 2018

KOA Interview: Kennedy Sweeps the Caucuses

Last Tuesday night, party regulars and candidate supporters began one of the selection procedures to gain access to the June gubernatorial primary. In a KOA interview Wednesday with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, it was clear Cary Kennedy had won the Democratic caucus with 50 percent of the support as recorded by the caucus preference poll.
Cary Kennedy | Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics

About 23,000 caucus attendees gave Kennedy a strong push, and held Jared Polis, which polls have said was the frontrunner, to only 33 percent. Among larger counties, Polis only carried Larimer and Adams. He lost his home county of Boulder. She also put the brakes on Mike Johnston’s momentum. His weak 9 percent leaves him in danger of not making the 10 percent minimum to get on the ballot.

Kennedy received about 11,000 votes in the preference poll. She will need to scale that up to reach a major share of the 300,000 or more Democrats who usually turn out for the primary, this year on June 26.

Republicans don’t have a preference poll and generally have very little attendance. Cynthia Coffman is completely dependent on the caucus-assembly path. Her support, along with the host of other Republican candidates, will be clearer at the county assemblies later in March (start on March 16). Anecdotal evidence indicates Walker Stapleton had support. A recent Republican poll showed Walker Stapleton as the frontrunner. He’s already turned in his petitions.

The caucus system is a relic of a smaller, more deliberative party. More than half the candidates are using the petition system. The few thousand attendees are less than 2 percent of the 2 million plus registered party members.

Read The Buzz:
KOA Interview: Mike Johnston Has a Chance
Stapleton Ahead in First Poll

Shirley Amore: One of Denver’s Great Civic Leaders

Shirley Amore | Photo: Denver Public Library
Shirley Amore became the Denver City Librarian in 2006, and in her first year, positioned the Library to share in the 2007 half a billion dollar Denver bond election. She wasted no time and mastered Denver politics in a few months, not the usual years. The Library won with 60 percent voter support for a $56 million bond for branch libraries and new libraries at Stapleton, Green Valley Ranch and West Denver. It was part of the $550 million Better Denver bond package. The Library also received $69 million in the 2017 city bond package.

Amore also got the Library through the great recession, reducing hours, but always lobbying for more funding, which was provided in the 2013 TABOR Override. Afterwards, she was so pleased that all branches were able to be open a minimum of 48 hours per week.

Shirley retired in 2015 and continued to support the library and its millions of users.

Thank you, Shirley.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Janice Bradish Munoz

A PCH spirit leader of the class of ‘64, Janice Bradish Munoz passed away suddenly. I only saw Janice in recent years at our periodic reunions, but I know that she was one of the key organizers and, of course, the most enthusiastic and spirited at our masses, parties and dinners.

If you look at an old Shamrock yearbook, her reference in the index was among the longest. She volunteered for most everything. She helped make those four years much more fun for all of us. I remember she was one of our officers in our freshman and senior years, but luckily wasn’t during the infamous Junior Class Float experience. She kept an upbeat view throughout our years and travels.

Mostly, I remember Janice’s smile and friendly hello.

We, of course, will miss her, but we are comforted by our belief that all that enthusiasm is now with the angels and saints.

Rest in Peace Janice.

Your classmate,

Walter Cronkite Calls Vietnam a Stalemate

Walter Cronkite | Photo: TV Guide
Nineteen sixty-eight was a year of war, protest and national trauma. The bloodiest year of the
Vietnam War was fifty years ago. There were 16,899 U.S. military casualties out of a total 58,220 deaths. More than 536,000 troops were in country, also the war’s largest troop commitment.

Walter Cronkite’s February 27, 1968 CBS Evening News broadcast report was one of the key media moments in the war’s history, with powerful political effect. After a tour of Vietnam in February 1968, shortly after the launch of Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite offered his famous editorial report in which he labeled Vietnam a “stalemate” and that the only solution was a negotiated end.

The last paragraph of his commentary summed up a sense of where informed opinion in the country was:
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
President Johnson reportedly said: “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” The rest of the month was equally troubling for Johnson, and on March 31, he withdrew from re-election.

Stapleton Ahead in First Poll

A recent poll of Republicans positions Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor. The auto-dial poll was of 647 likely Republican primary voters.

Stapleton receives more than a quarter of the votes and has the second highest name identification after second-place finisher, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Treasurer Walker Stapleton |
Photo Colorado Independent
The dominant issue reported by the poll was enforcing federal immigration laws, ranked most important by 43 percent of Republicans, with roads and transportation in a distant second-place at 13 percent. No doubt the reason why, Stapleton made opposition to sanctuary cities (i.e., Denver Aurora, Boulder) his top issue.

Thirty-nine percent of voters didn’t select a candidate. Over half the electorate has either not heard of any of the candidates or just has no opinion of them when asked to rate their favorability or unfavorability.

Stapleton has the highest name identification (45%) and favorability (33%). Coffman has more unfavorable opinion (21%) than favorable (20% and nearly twice as much unfavorable opinion (21%) as Stapleton (13%).

Vic Mitchell and Doug Robinson have no name identification and are, as of February, not factors in the race.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Trump: Base, But No Majority

After 400 days in office, Donald Trump still operates as if he is running a reality TV show. A 35 percent share of a national audience is huge. But, it is insufficient to command real political respect. And, it is likely to contribute to Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives. Like most recent surveys of his 35 percent approval rating (CNN poll), he has 80 percent of Republicans, few Democrats (5%) and approval from independent voters equal to the overall average (35%).

Also representative of most national samples, Republicans tend to be about a quarter of the sample, Democrats about 10 points higher and the rest claiming to be independents.

When you apply simple analysis to the distribution, it is clear the “base” is insufficient for building and retaining political power. In fact, the endless effort to reinforce the base is counterproductive; it drives off Democrats and independents.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with state
and local officials on school safety in the White House,
Feb. 22, 2018 | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

It is not impossible for Trump to improve his position with Democrats and independents. His approval of the handling of the economy is 51 percent in a new Gallup poll. It includes the approval of 28 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of independents. Although only a slight majority, it is a significant improvement.

A major part of Trump’s problem is that his style and tone is not just distracting from the economic message, but is exhausting many swing voters. People view White House rhetoric as helping cause national division and increased violence in society.

Friday, March 2, 2018

KOA Interview: Mike Johnston Has a Chance

KOA political coverage with anchors April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz just finished interviewing the crowded field of Colorado gubernatorial candidates. Their last interview was with Walker Stapleton, who, due to money and endorsements, is the Republican frontrunner. In my wrap-up interview, the last question April asked was: Did Mike Johnston have a chance against Jared Polis? My answer was yes!

Polis, of course, has an advantage as a five-term congressperson with unlimited money. But Johnston has enough funding to be competitive, a powerful organization that brought in his petition in record time and without using a professional firm, and he makes an effective case for his candidacy, as he did on KOA.

Former State Senator Mike Johnston | AP
Most Democrats are undecided and candidate performance in forums and debates will be important between now and the June primary. Also, when Tom Tancredo left the Republican race, Democrats got more serious about their nominee. A strong mainstream Republican could win. More pragmatic Democrats are concerned about candidate vulnerabilities, including Polis’s.

The winnowing process begins on March 6 for all the caucus candidates. Those that are using petitions (or claim to be doing both – Polis) have until March 20. At that point, a few of the more than 10 candidates will drop out or be marginalized. But, it is possible each party will have four or more candidates on their primary ballot, meaning that 30 to 35 percent could win the nomination.

As of now, the last day of February, The Buzz has the contest as Stapleton vs. Johnston.

New Congressional Seat May End Careers

Colorado may win a new congressional seat in 2021 after the census is completed. The metro area has received the lion’s share of the state’s growth since 2010.

Putting a substantial portion of a new seat in the metro area could disrupt the comfortable geography of the 1st Congressional District and convince Diana DeGette it is time to retire after 22 years (first elected 1996).

Mike Coffman’s hold on the 6th district, which regularly votes Democrat for federal and statewide offices but keeps him, may become impossible if Republicans and swing voters who know and have favored him are traded for Democrats and new voters who don’t. Up until now, only reapportionments appear to menace him.

Read The Buzz: Colorado Politics: A New Congressional Seat for Colorado

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Cory Gardner Catches a Primary?

Although the panelists at the DU forum last Thursday thought Republican Senator Cory Gardner was one of the most talented politicians in recent Colorado history, they felt he had been damaged by being part of the Republican Senate leadership in 2017. The health care debacle especially hurt him with moderate Colorado voters who helped him in his successful defeat of incumbent Senator Mark Udall.

But his bigger problem may be the hard right in the Republican Party, many of whom believe he failed to repeal Obamacare and are hostile to what they consider “amnesty” on DACA. The party’s Trumpites especially believe Gardner is too close to the D.C. establishment and has offered too many reservations of Trump’s tone and tweets.

Sen. Cory Gardner with Sen. John Thune (L) and Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell in the background speaks to reporters
at the Capitol in Washington,  Jan. 9, 2018 | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Tancredo is Out. Who Are the Frontrunners for Governor? A Panel of Experts.
Sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research
Moderator: Floyd Ciruli, Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School; Panelists: Dick Wadhams – Republican campaign manager and former State Chair; Steve Welchert – Democratic campaign manager; Melanie Layton and Zoey DeWolf –Colorado lobbyists with Colorado Legislative Services; and Vincent Carroll – Former editorial page editor for Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. Thursday, Feb. 22