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 May series this week. Andrews deplored the lenient sentence given confessed 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, saying it signals weakness to our enemies. Other topics this month include the Colorado governor's race, taxpayer unrest, dysfunctional public schools, and a legislative report card. 1. MOUSSAOUI ESCAPES DEATH PENALTY
Susan: Perhaps the best lesson from the Moussaoui trial was that regardless how devastating the experience was for the public, the jury and the victims’ families, an American jury – operating within the framework of American jurisprudence – was capable of rendering a fair verdict. There is no right or wrong answer.
John: Moussaoui deserved to pay with his life. He proudly claimed responsibility for the Islamist act of war that took 3000 lives on 9/11. This monster is too dangerous to keep locked up. Refusal to execute him signals weakness to our enemies. The jury looked evil in the face and blinked.
Susan: A wacko wingnut proudly claiming responsibility for 9/11 is a far cry from “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Justice Department failed to prove the connection between a lunatic’s mad ravings and the death of a single person. The jury looked evil in the face and stared it down.
John: Bin Laden and Zarqawi will read the Moussauoi verdict as further evidence that America’s liberal governing elites are too lethargic to recognize the Islamofascist threat to our survival and move decisively against it. Sympathy for a terrorist’s childhood had no place in that courtroom. We have a war to win.
2. REPORT CARD ON LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Susan: The recent Colorado legislative session was a mixed bag – some hits, some fouls and a few winners. Biggest foul – regrettable ethics on both sides of the aisle and Republican race baiting on immigration. The good news – the PERA compromise and more money for highways and schools.
John: Democrats here are as timid on PERA as congressional Democrats on Social Security. Legislators put a bandaid on our pension deficit and postponed it for the future. Action on illegal aliens was also largely postponed, hopefully to this fall’s ballot. Spending discipline was weak, as usual with Democrats. I give the session a C+.
Susan: Well they didn’t screw things up and the budget struggle wasn’t deadly. Voters took control by approving Ref. C. By investing in Colorado, they exhibited backbone, giving the state breathing room for needed investments. With extra credit for a sprint to the finish, I’d award a solid B.
John: Democrats controlling our state legislature were saved from an F on this year’s report card only by the veto pen of a Republican governor. The anti-business agenda of labor unions, trial lawyers, and environmental extremists was largely stopped. Colorado’s economy is improving, no thanks to Dems.
3. GOVERNOR’S RACE TIGHTENS
John: The governor’s race is worrisome for both parties. The Democrats’ problem is an offbeat ticket with pro-lifer Bill Ritter, who scares the abortion lobby, and voucher advocate Barbara O’Brien, who frightens the teacher unions. The Republicans’ problem is a bitter primary between Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman, potentially splitting the GOP. Interesting year, Susan.
Susan: Watching the mud-fight between Beauprez and Holtzman reminds me of 3rd graders on a playground. Both ways Bob is going to have to stand for something and his record in Congress is short and weak. Ritter is just the centrist Coloradans want – reasoned, authentic and direct.
John: Where you see a centrist with authenticity, I see a Democrat who leans left on taxes, illegal aliens, and most social issues. Where you see a junior congressman, I see a solid Reagan Republican. Holtzman’s day is done. It will be Beauprez over Ritter in November.
Susan: Both-ways-Bob is better figure out where he stands before he takes on Bill Ritter. He is moving so far to the right, to insure a primary victory over Holzman, he may roast on his own spit! Even the conservative Rocky took him on for challenging the voter’s will on the TABOR time-out.
4. WHITHER DENVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
John: In closing Manual High School as a last resort after its persistent failure to get the job done academically for students, Superintendent Michael Bennet and the Denver school board acted courageously. They deserve support and praise, not all this crybaby criticism. The adults who stirred up student resentment should be ashamed.
Susan: We’re on the same page John. Too many years of well-intentioned but poorly implemented, politically-correct reform put Bennet and his team in a box, and Manual may be the tip of the iceberg. Massive transformation is in order and it will take a village – the WHOLE village – and soon!
John: It was at Manual that I launched my campaign for governor back in 1990. Urban schools for poor minorities were a disgrace then, and they’re worse now. Black and Hispanic grievance artists are part of the problem. Charter school Democrats like Sen. Peter Groff are part of the solution.
Susan: Charter schools may be part of the solution, but to date, only a few Denver charters Denver have produced results – Kip Learning Academy and Denver School of Science and Technology. The answer must include better teacher training and accountability, parental and community involvement, and appropriate consequences for failure and success.
5. ‘HEAT’ PROPOSAL TO REFUND SURPLUS
John: Conservatives want government with guardrails, unlike liberals, who prefer spending to the sky. Hence the growing popularity of the citizen petition to restart our tax refund after politicians get their extra allowance of $3.7 billion under Referendum C. They call it the HEAT plan – a check to every household every October. What’s not to like?
Susan: Colorado’s fiscal guardrails are about to strangle the baby! And how desperate is Republican gov want-to-be - both-ways Beauprez - to be the first to sign the half-baked HEAT plan. His brain is still in the beltway – HEAT makes less sense than sending every U.S. taxpayer $100 to buy two tanks of gas.
John: The windfall to state government from Referendum C is now one-third higher than original estimates. Why not return the extra dollars as a dividend back to government’s owners, Colorado working families? Beauprez and Holtzman say pay the dividend. Ritter says pad the bureaucracy. It’s a clear choice.
SUSAN: It was a clear choice last November when Coloradans overwhelmingly approved spending ALL revenues in excess of the TABOR limits. The consequences of the goofy HEAT plan are dire – no money for higher ed, highways or economic development. The votes spoke – Republican gubanitorial candidates better turn on their hearing aids.