By The Gazette Editorial Board
Long before Americans knew a global pandemic would disrupt and threaten their lives, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner tried to warn Congress. Few cared to listen, distracted by shinier Washington drama.
Today, in the midst of the crisis he foresaw, Gardner stands out among the more energized and effective leaders in the war against COVID-19. He had a big head start. Whether he’s helping one constituent or delivering millions of masks, Gardner is solving problems by the hour and the day.
The paper trail of his war on the virus begins Jan. 23, just as seven months of circuslike impeachment hearings drew near to closure. Gardner wrote that day to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asking about efforts to contain the novel coronavirus in China.
As told to Gardner before he wrote the letter, 17 Chinese had died and hundreds were infected. He suspected it could spread like wildfire around the globe in a short time.
“The rapid spread of a respiratory pathogen is a serious concern given our global economy and citizenry, as well as our role as both travel destination and transit hub for the world,” Gardner wrote. He never heard back from Pompeo or Redfield.
Gardner’s warning came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the CDC’s Redfield downplayed the coronavirus threat. The two highly competent men of science relied in good faith on bad information given to them by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, Gardner has years of direct experience with China. He neither trusts the country’s communist leaders nor their allies who lead the World Health Organization. As such, Gardner demanded a coronavirus hearing by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The meeting convened on the last day of House Democrats urging the Senate to remove President Donald Trump from office.
Fauci, Redfield and about a dozen senators showed up for the virus hearing, and the media mostly ignored it.
“It was the kind of attendance we get for some little trivial matter no one cares about,” Gardner told The Gazette.
Gardner forged ahead warning the Washington establishment, even as the CDC director continued telling us not to worry. Only Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, spoke with a similar level of concern about the threat.
Today, the prophetic Sen. Gardner races to connect Coloradans with charities. He persuaded the federal government to provide masks for Colorado’s Native American tribes. He works with distillers to help distribute newly crafted hand sanitizers.
It is like watching a politician shift seamlessly among supply-chain manager, traffic cop, broker, caretaker and policymaker. A friend of Trump, Gardner urged the president to quickly approve a request by Gov. Jared Polis for additional funding to help Colorado.
“Polis has done a good job with an unprecedented challenge,” Gardner said, explaining his plan to meet with the governor next week in Colorado.
The Gazette knows of dozens of hands-on actions Gardner has taken to achieve positive outcomes for victims and those trying to avoid the disease. He praises people of both parties and all political persuasions for working together to defeat a common foe.
Gardner’s staffers say the senator had communicated with about 1.1 million Colorado households as of Friday through town hall teleconferences. When an elderly woman in Fort Collins told of a need for germ-killing cleaners cleared from store shelves by hoarders, Gardner found what she needed and had it delivered. During a town hall meeting Friday, Gardner’s staff scrambled to get help for a constituent who was coughing up blood.
Like Polis and other newly nonpartisan leaders, Gardner vigilantly looks for masks to distribute. He struck a motherlode last week, persuading Taiwan to send 2 million masks to the United States. It was a deal based on a meaningful friendship.
Last summer, Gardner served as friend, host and tour guide to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. While showing off our state, he took her to see the FORMOSSAT-7 satellite project in Boulder — a joint-U.S-Taiwanese meteorology and climatology operation. The trip ended with Gardner and Tsai dining at The Fort Restaurant in Denver, as she wanted a “Wild West” experience.
“That relationship between Colorado and Taiwan is really paying off,” Gardner said of Taiwan’s increasing desire to help us.
Through his Foreign Relations Committee work, Gardner has cultivated other fruitful relationships with leaders in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and other Far East countries. He calls on those contacts to seek deals for test kits, personal protection supplies and other goods we need.
For more than five years, Gardner has spoken few words and delivered plentiful results that speak for themselves. Never has his service been more essential to Colorado’s health and welfare. In times of trouble, we learn who our true friends are. We also see the mettle of our best public servants.
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