The “Head On” debate between former state Sen. John Andrews (R) and former Denver councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt (D), seen daily on Colorado Public Television since 1997, began its March series this week. Andrews mused on his party's low standing in the national polls, but noted that November is still a long way off. Other topics this month include legislative ethics, the UAE port deal, classroom propaganda, and architect Daniel Libeskind. 1. REPUBLICAN WOES
John: Many Americans have had it with Republican leadership in Washington. Only one in three voters thinks Bush and Congress are doing a good job. Conservatives are disgusted with runaway spending. Swing voters doubt the President’s commitment to victory against Islamofascism. Unless my party shapes up, Democrats will clean up come November.
Susan: Absolute power corrupts – absolutely. A Republican White House, Congress and Senate has created unbridled arrogance and abuse. The mid-terms promise to hand George Bush a very different Congress – just like the 1994 mid-terms ended Clinton’s Democratic majority. Too bad we have to wait 2 more years for a change in the West Wing.
John: “The West Wing” already changed. That TV melodrama is over, and we’re not in a Hollywood screenplay. We’re in the real world of politics, where six months is forever. Yes, Republicans are struggling, but Democrats can’t win without a program – and they don’t have one.
Susan: If history’s any lesson – throw the rascals out is a powerful program. It happened in the 1970’s after Watergate and again in the ’94 mid-terms. Democracy demands checks and balances. And – sadly - the past five years have been more check that balance. Change for change’s sake is a good thing.
2. ETHICS UNSTEADY AT LEGISLATURE
John: Write me a check if you want my vote. So said Democratic Senator Deanna Hanna, recently forced to resign. Pay me extra, I deserve it, trust me. So said Republican Minority Leader Joe Stengel. For offending public trust he lost that job. Colorado government is cleaner than most – but power does tend to corrupt.
Susan: What is it about being elected to office and suddenly forgetting you are accountable to those who you represent with an obligation to be a role model- not a jackass. Some officials must think their special license plate comes with an entitlement certificate, including permission to set up a phony charity.
John: Don’t over-generalize from isolated lapses of judgment. Integrity, dedication, and hard work are the gold standard for most legislators. I know from serving there. Yet ethics will collapse without strict enforcement. The price paid by Hanna and Stengel sends a message to their colleagues: Keep it clean!
Susan: I hope Tom Wiens, R- Castle Rock is listening, His Stand in the Gap charity is a gap alright – when it comes to giving money to military families instead of paying himself. And Loveland Republican Jim Welker has a gap where his brain should be – based on his habit of forwarding despicable e-mails.
3. DEMISE OF THE UAE PORT DEAL
Susan: In the most myopic move in recent history, a bipartisan Congress killed a deal to let Dubai’s DP World manage a few U.S. ports. If we continue to shun foreign investment – we’ll be in big trouble. There’s enough blame to go around – beginning with the arrogant and ignorant Bush White House.
John: We’re at war against Islamofascism, not against all Arabs. The United Arab Emirates are friendly if imperfect. An unprecedented threat may require unsavory allies. But we needed stronger leadership from the President to sell the port deal to a skeptical nation. The deal’s collapse is a disappointment but not a disaster.
Susan: The Bush White House has been isolated and tone deaf for so long, that it’s forgotten there is no government without the consent of the governed. That means you have to take a strong, meaningful case to the public if you expect their lily-livered representatives to make tough – and thoughtful – decisions.
John: Commentator Fred Barnes, a Bush loyalist, now says Bush should replace adviser Karl Rove, Secretary of State Rice, even Vice President Cheney. Conservative icon Bill Buckley says it’s time for Plan B in Iraq. Likewise George Will. W is facing his toughest test.
4. LESSONS OF THE BENNISH CASE
John: Our government-run school system, commonly called public education, is badly broken. Teacher Jay Bennish subjected his geography class to anti-American propaganda that would make Michael Moore blush. America gasped, and Colorado did nothing. The principal, local board, state board, and legislature all flunked the test. What a disservice to the kids.
Susan: Bennish was over-enthusiastic in his presentation – no doubt. On the other hand, I wish my kids had been exposed to more teachers with his passion, enthusiasm and gift for communicating. Bennish overstepped but that pales in the face of the laconic, boring and boiler plate style of too many teachers.
John: Equating an elected US president with a genocidal Nazi monster is not enthusiasm. It’s a blatant lie. Educational malpractice. Abuse of tax dollars and classroom authority. Government schools are mediocre, but the answer isn’t free rein for left-wingers like Bennish. The answer is parental choice and vouchers.
Susan: Wow! There’s a leap that spans a chasm – And how does one balance the sometimes looney-left with the science denying, luddites who insist on teaching intelligent design – in public schools – and fire a teacher for exposing her students to the subversive influence of . . . opera!
5. MODERNIST MAKEOVER FOR CIVIC CENTER?
Susan: There’s a brouhaha over Daniel Libeskind’s ideas for Denver’s historic Civic Center Especially because the effort’s being led by private citizens – the Civic Center Conservancy. I don’t think the Park should be morphed into Libeskind-land but it’s great that this long over-looked civic space is getting so much attention.
John: One Libeskind architectural disaster at the heart of our capital city is one too many. His new wing on the art museum is awful. It looks like a glass tower that fell down. Now he wants to spoil the grandeur of Civic Center with another unlovely tower. Libeskind, go home.
Susan: John – you know better than to believe everything you read! The 320 foot tower ain’t happenin’ and Libeskind’s ideas are just that – ideas! Our grand Civic Center needs to be refreshed – brought into the 21st Century – and the jury’s still out, on how that will occur.
John: Libeskind typifies the contemporary design movement that has turned its back on beauty. Denver should turn its back on him. The Civic Center was inspired by the City Beautiful idea a century ago under Mayor Speer. Its renewal in this century should keep faith with classical beauty, not gimmicks and novelty.