JOHN KIRIAKOU: How Do You Trust a Politician?

Colorado’s governor campaigned as an environmentalist, but earlier this month Jared Polis distanced himself from the climate activists who showed up at his state-of-the state address.

Anti-fracking protesters in Colorado, 2019. (350Colorado)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium

I’ve come to realize over the past decade or so that there are a lot of phonies among the Democratic Party’s elected officials — people who purport to be progressive, only to end up in the pocket of the big banks, the big environmental exploiters, or other vested interests.  Early this month I was reminded of Democratic phonies in positions of authority, this time in Colorado.

My friend Arn Menconi, who has written for Consortium News, is an environmental activist, former Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate from Colorado, a former progressive congressional candidate, and commissioner of Eagle County, Colorado, which includes the Vail ski resort.  Earlier this month, he and a group of 37 other environmental activists from the Extinction Rebellion and Sunrise movements went to the Colorado state capitol, where they disrupted the state of the state address of Governor Jared Polis to urge action against climate change and an end to fracking.

Polis is a former congressman who was elected governor in 2018 as a progressive Democrat.  He has long harbored aspirations of becoming the first gay president.  But after campaigning on the goal of 100 percent renewable energy environmentalists have been restless for evidence of any serious commitment to that goal. 

So on Jan. 9, minutes before Polis took to the lectern, Menconi and other pro-environment protestors at the Colorado State Capitol hoisted signs reading “NO MORE SACRIFICE ZONES” and began shouting, “Ban fracking now!”  Within minutes, state police arrested 38 protesters and charged them with multiple misdemeanors.  Most were held in jail overnight and released the next day on $750 bond.  Others, including Menconi, spent the entire weekend in jail.

To make the whole experience even more insulting was Polis’s reaction to the protest.  Arn Menconi had worked on previous Polis campaigns, and the two are friendly.  Menconi told me that as soon as he was released, Polis messaged him and said, “I heard you got arrested.  Are you ok?”  Arn did not respond.  But he noted that Polis, on his own Facebook page, mocked the protesters and crowed at how many had been arrested.

In the end, Denver District Attorney Mary Beth McCann decided to drop all charges against the protesters.  She said that a night or three in jail would be enough “justice.”  There was no benefit to the people of Colorado to go through an entire trial, find them guilty, and sentence them to time served. So they were all free to go.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis. (Wikimedia Commons)

To me, the problem here is a broader one.  It’s the hypocrisy of politicians like Jared Polis.  Polis was elected as an environmentalist.  But as soon as he won his race, he reached out to the oil and gas industry and the frackers.  In late 2019, Polis pushed a bill regulating the oild and gas industry through the Colorado state legislature that he called a fair shake for Colorado.  But as The Colorado Sun reported last April, it granted concessions to industry that included putting “guardrails on the additional authority given to state and local governments in order to prevent unwarranted setbacks, delays or de facto bans.” Tellingly, representatives of the oil, gas, and fracking industries stood behind Polis as he signed the bill into law. 

So how do we trust our politicians?  Consistency is probably the best test.  Of all the Democrats running for president, only Senator Bernie Sanders issued a statement of support for the Colorado protesters.  Do we trust former Vice President Joe Biden with issues of war and peace when he supported every U.S. military intervention around the world since his election to the Senate in 1972?  Do we trust Amy Klobuchar on prison reform issues when she spent so many years as a prosecutor?  I wouldn’t.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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35 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: How Do You Trust a Politician?

  1. Jill
    February 2, 2020 at 09:44

    You don’t trust politicians, you hold them to account. We have been looking for saviors. These do not exist. The problems we face cannot be solved by one or even a small group of powerful people.

    We have created this problem because we 1. keep seeking out saviors (and Bernays Sanders is one of those for many people) and 2. once we have elected someone we do not hold them to account.

    Democrats completely entered leader worship under Obama. They refused to hold him to account and we see the result. Now Trump supporters are worshiping him. They will not hold him to account. Stop looking for love in all the wrong places! It is each other we should turn to for collective solutions to the problems we face.

    If your favored politician breaks a promise then go after them, full on. Don’t just let it go, hold them to account. Powerful people must be held to account for their actions. If we do this, stop looking for saviors and demand accountability, we most certainly will not solve all the problems which face us, but it will be a real start.

  2. Lucy
    February 2, 2020 at 02:25

    It’s absolutely true about the majority of politicians around the world. The latest examplt is the Ukranian president Zelensky who was supported by 73% of the ukranians because he had promised to stop the war against Donetsk and now he justifies Hitlers supporters and accuses the Soviet Union in starting the 2d WW

  3. February 2, 2020 at 00:17

    “Most were held in jail overnight and released the next day on $750 bond. Others, including Menconi, spent the entire weekend in jail.”

    As repressions go, this is fairly mild. Not as mild as Turkey under Erdogan, but Putin tries to apply this type of “light touch”.


    Another thing is if fracking is a good idea. On one hand, it is just another way of extracting minerals. Say, a gold mine could be worse (they usually are). On the other, as a national business strategy, it is seriously lacking. This is another wave of investment that make use of cheap money supplied by Federal Reserve. The matching wave of business failures already started. Colorado already has enough ghost towns that can be visited on tourist trips. One can appreciate some consistent logic. First, base agriculture on an underground aquifer that get depleted so farms can go back to semi-desert. Now, squeeze hydrocarbons from rocks that could not be done with huge loss before and now it can be achieved with modest loss, and for few winners, a profit.

    One reason for the losses is overproduction. More natural gas that can be currently consumed, and more hydrocarbon liquids than the market can absorb without prices dropping below fracking profitability. On narrow economic calculus, the country could do better with less fracking, and extending the production to longer period — now there is a prediction of declines starting soon and being very profound in mere five years. The ephemeral nature of the boom is crippling the demand. For example, expanding the number of vehicles running on compressed natural gas makes little sense if in five years there will not be enough of it. Possible foreign customers may be deterred by the limited time horizon of the necessary investments etc.

  4. LJ
    February 1, 2020 at 16:08

    As an undergrad I was like ,um, Ishmael in Moby Dick. I went down to the sea and saw the recruitment poster that said, ” Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”. I had a couple uncles who were respected Lawyers. I mean real gentlemen. No I don’t want to talk about it but I considered a career in Law and perhaps even running for political office. It’s true. Of course at that time, we Idealists all wanted to save the planet in Environmental Law.
    Ipso facto, you end up working for the same interests that motivated you to seek a career that might enable you to fight injustice. Then the best you can do is bono work, required by your employer , that could possibly save a wetland or a species corridor but I mean it takes so much time and you end up fighting a golf partner. It’s hopeless. Blame Me.

  5. Hide Behind
    February 1, 2020 at 15:55

    We have a freedom to speak but not the freedom to be heard, to be heard one must fit what others deem worthy, prison bars unseen.

  6. February 1, 2020 at 15:30

    Greta Thornberg for world leader for life!

  7. Tom Moore
    February 1, 2020 at 12:33

    In Colorado, X-Gov Frackenlooper still stands with the Oil and Gas. He even showed his loyalty by having a ritual swig of fracking fluid. He opposes Green New Deal and Health Care for All. He hopped out Dem. Presidential contest to oppose an honest Progressive, Andrew Romanoff, running for Senate. Beware the Oil & Gasers.

  8. Nathan Mulcahy
    February 1, 2020 at 09:21

    You don’t. Period. All politicians must always be viewed with skepticism and must be considered guilty until proven innocent. I mean that as much as opinion and trust are concerned, and not in a legal sense.

    The exception lies with a leader. But that is a completely different, and a rare, animal.

  9. Paul Merrell
    February 1, 2020 at 02:17

    Do we trust Sen. Bernie Sanders with issues of war and peace? There is a misguided group of his supporters who view Sanders as anti-war. He is anything but that.

    In this election cycle Sanders has tried to leave that impression by citing his vote against the Iraq War. But he voted for the funds to continue that war, along with his vote for the war on Afghanistan and the many appropriation bills for it since then. All else has been weasel-wording. E.g., he says he is against “endless regime change wars,” but does not acknowledge that no war begins with published intent to wage an endless war and he does not say that he is against regime change wars, just “endless” regime change wars.

    Sanders has a lot of desirable traits, but he needs pushback against his pro-war history, not allowing him to get away with spin on this topic.

  10. earthling1
    February 1, 2020 at 00:06

    Two things;
    1. Never vote for an incumbent. This I call “Hillbillie term limits”. Keep a continual turnover at all times. At worst, it will make a crapload of new people wealthy from just the buyoffs alone.
    2. Choose the candidate with the smallest campaign chest. It will, over time, encourage everyday people to run for office. It will more importantly weaponize the money. The more you have, the most likely you are to lose.
    A movement based on these principals are the only way to break the stranglehold the rich and powerful have on our nation.
    At this point, I would trust a postman, chef, dog catcher or schoolteacher before any professional politician.

  11. DH Fabian
    January 31, 2020 at 22:32

    Well, people have been pointing this out about Dem politicians for the past quarter-century, generally to the outrage of party loyalists. What politicians say, especially during campaign years, is whatever (middle class) voters want to hear. We urge people to check their records of public statements on particular issues, and votes in Congress when appropriate, and I suppose some do. But overall, people believe what they want to believe.

  12. David Syme
    January 31, 2020 at 21:45

    When do you know a politician isn’t telling lies? When he/she is rigor mortis!

    • Me Myself
      February 1, 2020 at 13:43


    • February 2, 2020 at 04:18

      During Trump’s trial in senate, the idea of lying as a characteristic of politicians was gradually surfaced in an as a matter -of -factly.

  13. Charlene Richards
    January 31, 2020 at 16:45

    Right now I sort of trust Sanders, but he has a history of supporting a corrupt war criminal for president and actively campaigning for her all over the country.

    Perez has just announced who will be on the 2020 DNC convention platform committee and other powerful committees and he has stacked them with Israel Firsters and former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers and money people.

    If Sanders does get the nomination the DNC will try to stop him by handing him a short list of running mates and not one of them will be acceptable to Sanders voters.

    I will stay home before I vote for any candidates who are Hillary holdovers, Israel Firsters or warhawk Neocons.

    Pretty much, Tulsi Gabbard will have to be Bernie’s running mate or I am done playing their “voting” game.

    Cause I really don’t “trust” any of them when it comes right down to it, including Bernie and his “good friends Hillary and Joe”.

    • Michael
      January 31, 2020 at 19:32

      Pretty accurate. I was confounded by the way Sanders “HAD IT” and then just rolled over and gave up! WTF? You should only get 1 (ONE) chance and when you pull that kind of sh*t it really shows your working for the CI…

    • Skip Scott
      February 1, 2020 at 09:53


      I agree with your assessment. However, my trust for Sanders is probably even less than yours. I would encourage you to vote third party rather than staying home, even though in the short run it is an exercise in futility. The only way the democratic process will begin opening up (short of armed revolution) is for the two headed monster to see that it is truly threatened by continuing to run corporate sponsored warmongers. I think the time is ripe for an Independent (or possibly a Green Party candidate) to blow up the system from the outside. It is quite apparent that there will be no reform if the disgruntled just choose to opt out of the process. If you want peaceful evolution rather than armed revolution, I see no other choice but to play their “voting game”.

      There are other ways, such as voting with your wallet by making positive life-style choices, that have much more impact on Empire. Unplugging from the MSM scares the bejesus out of them as well. It is the equivalent of choosing the “red pill”.

  14. On Blue Bayou
    January 31, 2020 at 16:15

    Maybe I’m just too cynical* but I don’t trust any politician and never will.

    We don’t need to trust them either, we need to demand they live up to their words and never forget and never forgive when they don’t. I don’t give a fuck about their personal level of honesty if they keep their lies to themselves. I do find habitual and gratuitous lying as in Biden or Warren disqualifying, but it’s not like I’m trying to find the one honest politician. I’ve learned my lesson long ago to remain skeptical about all of them. NEVER LET UP, and never give them any passes. They serve US! If they lie, NEVER vote for them again!!

    *I’m definitely not an optimist. But don’t think a pessimist either, I think I’m a realist and have come to terms with the natural state of humans being assholes, and politicians being lying corrupt scumbags.

    Don’t reward the liars with votes, EVER!! Don’t vote for this shithead no matter who his next opponent will be! No incumbent who’s a PROVEN LIAR [about things of real consequence, and about campaign promises] should ever be reelected! Take a hike, bastards!

    • MAURA
      February 1, 2020 at 20:21

      Definition of a pessimist…an optimist with more information!

  15. shredder
    January 31, 2020 at 14:59

    You get what you deserve voting for this dual Israeli citizen…

    • Paul Merrell
      February 1, 2020 at 02:22

      Sanders does not have dual Israeli citizenship. That’s an internet rumor that’s been shot down repeatedly, apparently tracing back to another falsity, that all Jews are citizens of Israel.

  16. rosemerry
    January 31, 2020 at 13:53

    It seems that Bernie Sanders is the only person in the 2020 race who has the slightest interest in the people and environment of the USA, and he is being sidelined /criticized/excluded because he is not a “real Democrat”. The “Democratic Party” is determined to outdo the Republicans in avoiding any decent policies for workers or nature-this is by no means the first case of pretending to care, then turning away. What is the point of voting “centrist Democrat” like criminal Joe Biden, who could not beat Trump and would be no better as POTUS. Russiagate rules so there would be even more wars. State governors and other officials are a real problem.

  17. January 31, 2020 at 13:29

    “How do you trust a politician?”

    Simple answer: you don’t.

    • Kuldip Singh
      January 31, 2020 at 21:08

      Many years ago, someone asked Saint Scholar Giani Niranjan Singh Ji, Shiromani Kathkar, Guru Nanak Ashram, Patiala –
      “All the chaos in this world, who is responsible for it?”
      The Master replied, “2 classes of people who live by the principle of divide and rule. One is politicians and the other preachers.”
      We need to find people who are neither politicians nor preachers to run this World. These leaders would have to be truly Spiritual Leaders.

  18. marie
    January 31, 2020 at 12:19

    Many thanks to Kiriakou for this article The subject, turncoat politicians, is an issue for all voters. People ask ‘why Sanders?’ and this is the answer. His vision through voter’s eyes gives us trust. There are others as well, but too few.

  19. C.Parker
    January 31, 2020 at 11:35

    The point of this excellent article sums up the miserable position Americans are faced choosing a reliable candidate. Money makes liars of all politicians. Senator Bernie Sanders is the most trustworthy from looking at his past record. Regrettably, Bernie has an uphill battle with the billionaires, evangelicals, and those who broad brush the term “socialist” as an evil dictatorship. Bernie supporters must remain vigilant and not back down from the moneyed bullies running the country.
    Pete Buttigieg seems as phony about environmental, healthcare, and continued wars as the present Governor of Colorado.

  20. January 31, 2020 at 11:18

    Polis is a dreadful fellow. I saw him speak in Boulder and he boasted about being a millionaire and the benefits of NAFTA. He will make a perfect Democrat candidate for president.

  21. January 31, 2020 at 11:09

    I find that the only way to really be sure if you can “trust a politician” is to carefully watch their mouth. If their lips are moving, you can’t trust them!

  22. Bob Van Noy
    January 31, 2020 at 10:45

    Many Thanks John Kiriakou, Joe Lauria and Consortiumnews.

    John I quit voting for all of my supposed democratic candidates in California after a lifetime of Democratic loyalty. That includes Governor Moonbeam (remember him) because I realized that they accomplished nothing progressive. Jerry Brown’s second installment was nothing like his first iteration. California does little for mass transit and continues to allow fracking. Increasingly agricultural water rights are being privatized for sale to the highest bidder, so the problem is Local as well…

    • GordonBennett
      February 1, 2020 at 14:08

      Is it best to let right-wing conservative neo-liberal neo-fascists take control?

    • Bob Van Noy
      February 3, 2020 at 11:55

      Thank you GordonBennett. Not a all, it’s important to expose the Democratic Party’s shift to the right while they hide behind their liberal facade. The Clinton/Blair “Third Way”…

  23. dfnslblty
    January 31, 2020 at 10:27

    Thankyou for bringing this to awareness.
    Keep writing.

  24. torture this
    January 31, 2020 at 09:34

    A gay Democrat is no different than a straight Republican when it comes to corruption. Neither party believes in democracy and both act like organized crime syndicates. Romer, Hickenlooper and now Polis have all shown that the party needs to dry up and blow away.

    • GordonBennett
      February 1, 2020 at 14:09

      A “straight Republican”? There is no such thing.

  25. Sally Mitchell
    January 31, 2020 at 08:57

    The only man to trust is Andrew Yang vote him in or we are doomed or should I say our children are doomed

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