I can’t help but remember my little brother every time I watch Walker Stapleton debate or speak in public.
The darting eyes. The shallow breaths from a mouth that never quite closes. The slack look of panicked desperation.
“Mommy, David rode his bike on the railroad tracks again.”
As kids, my brother was that tattle tale.
We all knew a little Walker Stapleton while we were growing up. He was that kid who outed the boy in class who drew Miss Brady’s head on the body of a pig on the chalk board while everyone was out of the room for lunch recess.
This all became clear Wednesday night while watching Stapleton and Congressman Jared Polis duke it out during the televised 9News/Fort Collins Coloradan gubernatorial debate.
When Stapleton was pushed to explain how he was going to pay for more roads without raising taxes or draining cash from public schools or Medicaid, his eyes widened and he would blurt the adult equivalent of, “I know you are, but what am I?”
It sounded like this, “Jared Polis pushed a woman.”
All night, Stapleton would turn pale, then red, then glistening as he kept victim-shaming Polis for a debunked political attack against him based on a years-old police report.
In the real world, police and the courts agreed that Polis was the victim of a female employee who tried to hit him with a bag of stuff as she was stealing from him at his office, and he essentially pushed at her in self defense. He was the victim. Outside of Republican circles these days, the victim is the one who’s being harmed, wronged and undone.
“It’s never OK for a man to forcibly push a woman,” Stapleton blurted as many times as he could during the debate. You could almost hear him add each time he breathlessly repeated the taunt, “right, Mommy?”
He’d round out his near-tantrum — which some overpaid political consultant clearly told him was a good idea — with blather about having a woman-wife and girls of his own. I guess his hired gun figured if all this indignation worked for Brett Kavanaugh, it would work for Stapleton.
“It’s never OK for a man to forcibly push a woman,” was the clearly rehearsed line.
Never? Like if the woman is trying to hurt your little girls or your wife, who Stapleton oddly points out is a woman? Never? If she’s headed out to kill someone with a gun or her car?
“Well, Hon, I had to let that lady kidnap the girls. What was I supposed to do? Grab her? Push her? She was a woman!”
I’m not even sorry to say that I’d drop-kick Mother Theresa if she tried to snag my kid.
Stapleton just couldn’t let it go. Then it got worse.
9News anchor Kyle Clark and political reporter Marshall Zelinger played tough guys all during the debate, wrangling each candidate into giving up real answers to questions neither candidate much liked.
If you haven’t seen the debate, you should.
Polis had to give up details about how Colorado would evolve into universal health care, and how politically chummy he is with “Democratic Socialist” Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s stumping for Polis next week.
Clark asked Stapleton about his ties to President Donald Trump, and asked why he doesn’t call out a president who regularly makes overtly racist, misogynistic, and hateful public remarks.
Stapleton wouldn’t do it. The best he could muster amidst his wide-eyed bluster was that he’s not a student of Trump’s “personality,” and that it’s inconsequential because the Trump tax cuts are rescuing the Colorado economy.
While I’ve been irritated all this time by Stapleton’s peculiar and unlikely run for the governor’s office in Colorado, I now just feel sorry for him.
Given how be behaves during debates and public appearances, I’m at a loss as to why he ever wanted to seek public office. His discomfiture with the whole thing is painfully apparent.
I can only imagine that wagering his campaign on victim shaming his opponent and outright making up numbers would make that TV debate thing pretty stressful.
I can only assume that Stapleton has lived a life where nobody ever seriously questioned or demanded answers from him. For eight years, he’s been Colorado state treasurer, a job so obscure that the only question for most folks who hear about him is, “who?”
That’s not the case with being governor. Ask any former Colorado governor how endlessly annoying and relentless reporters are from across the state in demanding answers that make sense.
If by some slim chance Stapleton actually wins the office — and given his TV debate performance and strategy to victim shame his way to the Capitol, that appears pretty unlikely — it’s going to be a long, painful four years for him. The media will be just fine.
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