Hickenlooper explains recent infatuation with Obama

The Colorado Statesman

Gov. John Hickenlooper was asked on Wednesday what took him so long as a Democrat to throw his support behind President Barack Obama. The question was posed during an interview as part of a debate series leading up to the first presidential debate in Denver.

The “Opportunity Debate: Upward Mobility and the American Dream” event included a live discussion with Hickenlooper conducted by Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic. The debate was held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown just hours before Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney held their first debate at the University of Denver.

“It took you a while to find your Obama voice, you weren’t particularly taken with the guy for a while, but then you shifted,” started Clemons. “Can you tell us a little bit about why you were reticent about the president, and what changed your stance?”

“I never spent a lot of time with the president, and I didn’t really have much of a context knowing him,” explained Hickenlooper.

“But with the state being a battle ground, and especially with the fires and the shooting at Aurora, I’ve seen the president in a very different light,” the governor continued.

“One example is after the fires in Waldo Canyon… One night it came down the mountain, and in four hours it had burned 350 homes. The next day I was sitting down to lunch, and the president was on the phone, and he said, ‘Do you think it would be constructive if I came down to Colorado Springs? Would I be helpful, or would I be a distraction?’”

“I felt like saying, ‘Mr. President, you’re supposed to tell me what to do.’ Presidents don’t ask if they can be constructive,” answered Hickenlooper. “But I said to him, ‘Of course…’”

“The president spent four hours that Friday, we drove all over… we discussed everything including the fires, but I got to see the real facts behind every decision, and he didn’t shy away from anything… I was amazed,” continued the governor. “I thought that this man was making good decision, after good decision, after good decision, in very, very difficult circumstances.”

“Like any person, once someone comes along and you realize that they are so much further beyond on what I could have imagined, that enthusiasm translates into words and actions,” Hickenlooper concluded.

The event also included a discussion with U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, who was interviewed by Ronald Brownstein, editorial director of the National Journal.

The dean of the Colorado delegation said there is a “poison” in Washington, D.C. that needs to be cleansed. She is hopeful that Republicans and Democrats are willing to work together to bring reform to the Capitol, and to push productive legislation through, but she doesn’t expect any progress until after the fall election.

“This poison in Washington has not been good for the American agenda, especially what happens with the [fiscal] cliff at the end of this year…” remarked DeGette. “People have now started to realize that, and there are conversations going on in Congress about what we can do on a bipartisan basis to really start to put something together.”

“I’ve been approached by a lot of my Republican colleagues saying that after this election, we need to do something,” added DeGette. “The No. 1 goal of the Republican Party since 2008 has been to defeat President Obama. So, once the election is over, then I think there’s a willingness of people to sit down.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com