Littwin: Just answer the question, Mr. Gardner |

Littwin: Just answer the question, Mr. Gardner

If you listened to Terry Gross’ relentless questioning of Hillary Clinton on gay marriage, you understand why Republican Senate nominee and U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner might be reluctant to be interviewed on personhood.

Among the first rules in how to be a politician is that you must be willing to, uh, compromise with the truth. You read polls and act accordingly. There are exceptions, of course. We call these exceptions statesmen.

When the wind shifts, so do many politicos, which is how Gardner came to be against personhood — sort of. He’s not really against personhood, just Colorado’s version of personhood, as he announced as soon as he cleared the Senate primary field. Even though he says he changed his mind on Colorado personhood — after gaining new information that has long been available to every semiliterate person — he is still co-sponsor of the U.S. House bill on personhood, which is very nearly the same thing.

You can see the problem. I wonder what Gross (or, say, a longtime, longhaired Colorado columnist) could do interviewing Gardner on that.

The story is now so big that Sen. Mark Udall and Gardner themselves have taken to straight-from-the-politician ads to the public, explaining (from Udall) how Gardner’s stance is “beyond troubling, it’s wrong,” and (from Gardner) how Udall supports Obamacare, so that should put an end to the whole thing.

And then from nowhere, Gardner — as if to prove his post-Colorado-personhood cred — pens an op-ed piece in the Denver Post calling for making the “pill” an over-the-counter drug. And, as a bonus move, he blames Democrats for failing to make it possible. If you didn’t know what “chutzpah” means, now you do.

There are issues, and then there are issues. The Republican stand on abortion and, from some, on birth control is a big part of the Republican problem with women. Sen. Michael Bennet beat Ken Buck on social issues in 2010 — and that’s how Udall hopes to beat Gardner four years later. The issues are the same. Gardner, whose beliefs are much the same as Buck’s, is a much better politician, however. He may walk the same walk, but he talks in an entirely different language.

Clinton had trouble answering the question on when she had “evolved” into supporting gay marriage because, as a good social liberal, she had almost certainly supported it long before she felt comfortable saying so. That’s what Obama did and Biden did and, if memory serves, even Udall did, although he was way in front of most Democrats on gay rights.

When Clinton got the question on her book/campaign tour, she tried to answer that the country had changed and she had changed along with it. Gross wasn’t satisfied. She asked the question again. And again. And again. Even Dick Cheney would call it torture.

But Gardner’s problem is different. Gardner didn’t evolve. What he’s doing is much closer to creationism.

I took a look at the stories on Colorado personhood written in the time when Gardner was bragging about passing around petitions for it at his church. And virtually every story I could find included, as if it were on a save string, the same few words: Critics insist the amendment would ban certain kinds of birth control. No one even seemed to be arguing the point.

And yet, Gardner said it took him years to figure that out. Let’s pause here and consider what he might mean.

To believe Gardner, you have to believe that he ran for Congress supporting personhood while never reading a single analysis or news story about it — and that he was unwilling to do any research as to how an amendment stating that life begins at conception would deny women all manner of reproductive rights, including abortion in all cases, emergency contraception after rape and certain birth-control methods.

And then you have to believe that Colorado personhood is somehow different from everyone else’s personhood.

And then you have to believe that the new improved Gardner is suddenly a champion of birth control. No, seriously.

In his ad, Gardner says that he “changed his mind about personhood.” He says he changed his mind because he “learned more information and listened to more of you.” Then he started talking about Obamacare because, I guess, it’s something like personhood, except in all the ways it isn’t.

If Gross — or a longtime, longhaired Colorado columnist — had a chance to ask Gardner a few questions, it would be good to start with a statement: “The House bill you’re co-sponsoring says, in part, that it would ‘implement equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.’”

And then the questions. For example: “What do you think the House personhood bill means? Wouldn’t it have the same impact on birth control that Colorado personhood would? Or are you waiting to learn more information before you decide?”

Then we move on to: “How did you learn the so-called new information on Colorado personhood? Did you learn it before or after you co-sponsored the House personhood bill? Why didn’t you mention the new information before you decided to run for Senate? For that matter, why didn’t you mention your over-the-counter proposal before you decided to run for Senate?”

And, finally, the tough one: “How is the House version of personhood that you still co-sponsor any different from the Colorado version that you now have dismissed?”

Here’s Gardner’s problem: If he can’t figure out a good answer for the last question, he doesn’t really have a good answer for any of them.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for

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