(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
You don’t have to be a psychic to figure out what U.S. Rep. Ken Buck’s next job is likely to be.
First, a hearty thank you for Ken’s many years serving the people of his Colorado district, not only his dozen years in Congress but his many years as a fierce Weld County prosecutor and in the U.S. Attorney’s office before that.
It’s easy to forget that before becoming a cable TV news darling he was poised to become a “Tea-Party” underdog United States senator for Colorado if not for a couple of high-profile verbal gaffes.
The first blooper that seemed to stick on Ken like glue was comparing footwear, in what the press mischaracterized as a sexist comment, with his primary opponent Jane Norton. How do I know it was mischaracterized? Well, I’m the reason he made it. Well, me and my 12-year-old sense of humor.
Every year my organization, Independence Institute, throws a tongue-in-cheek fundraiser called the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Party, where we smoke, drink and shoot, sadly not in that order because … lawyers.
We were wrapping up our festivities and I was joking with the crowd that recently the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms had changed its name to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Being 12-years-old at heart, I knew I should end the event with some firecrackers, you know, explosives, which I left in my car. So, I threw the microphone for a minute to the best joke-teller in site: Ken Buck, of course.
Since his opponent Jane Norton was attacking him, always using a line about her high heels as a proxy to let us know she’s a woman, like we couldn’t tell by the skirt and breasts, he told a joke about his cowboy boots.
“I do not wear high heels; I have cowboy boots, they have real bullshit them.” Which got a good laugh at this politically incorrect event. Reporters were there and found the comments not at all noteworthy. But opponents found the video later and took it out of context.
The bigger hit was on ABC’s “Meet the Press.” Buck was asked if being gay was a choice. He answered, “I think that birth has an influence over (it), like (with) alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice.”
In case you don’t know, if you want to get elected in Colorado the political answer is always, “Being gay is never a choice.”
A nuanced answer for Buck could have been, “It’s irrelevant as all people have equal protection under the law. As prosecutor I was the first to use hate crime legislation to convict those who victimized gays in Colorado. Protecting the rights of gay people is what is important.”
But, damage done. By “hating gays and women” he just barely lost the race for U.S. Senate in 2010 to Michael Bennet, the luckiest man in Colorado politics.
Buck did win his congressional seat which proved to be remarkably safe, but not always comfortable.
On the home-front he survived cancer and survived divorce with his talented wife Perry, who has her own distinguished political career.
And on the political front, Buck hasn’t been afraid to take on allies. Notably, he was one of the early, hardcore conservatives to clearly state Trump’s election was not stolen. MAGA Republicans hated him for this.
He was then one of the eight Republicans who ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. MAGA Republicans loved him for this.
He then would not vote for Jim Jordan to replace Kevin McCarthy. MAGA Republicans hated him again.
Oddly Ken didn’t come home to his district to announce his retirement. I’ve never seen this before. He didn’t personally, face-to-face thank his constituents for the opportunity to serve them. Instead, he broke the news live on MSNBC.
Conveniently they had the infographic ready to pop up underneath him when he announced he wasn’t going to run again. So, either MSNBC has very fast typists, or they knew in advance.
I have a strong suspicion Ken Buck might be hosting a program on MSNBC when his congressional career is over. If so, the man who wrote a book called “Drain the Swamp” about the evils of people making their living from the foulness of Washington D.C., will be making his living thanks to it.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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