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 November series this week. Andrews wondered what voters might have done had Rumsfeld and Hastert left a month sooner. Other topics this month include the Democrats' takeover of Congress, Bill Ritter's election as governor, ballot issue results, and the Denver voting mess. 1. RUMSFELD SACKED BY BUSH
Susan: John, explain to me the political logic of firing Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld the day after the Repub’s took a drubbing at the polls – largely because of the war in Iraq. The decision smacks of previous Bush responses to 9/11 and Katrina. Fire, ready aim.
John: Hindsight is great. If Secretary Rumsfeld and for that matter Speaker Hastert were going to depart, October instead of November would have been better politically for President Bush and congressional Republicans. But Gates, the new defense secretary, and Pelosi, the new speaker, still dare not accept a US defeat in Iraq.
Susan: Suddenly the definition of victory has changed. It’s no longer a stable Iraq and a truly democratic government. A stable Iraq will do. I hope Gates, the generals, James Baker’s task force, and the Congress can craft a roadmap. Our troops’ lives depend on it.
John: History will honor Rumsfeld as one of America’s finest. I hope history can also record that after his departure America still hangs tough against an Islamofascist enemy that seeks to kill us by the millions and destroy our way of life. This is World War III. We cannot opt out.
2. DEMS TAKE US HOUSE & SENATE
John: As a Republican, I am disappointed my party lost Congress. But as a conservative, my values include courtesy and candor. So I congratulate the Democrats on their victory, and I concede the GOP deserved what it got from voters. Broken promises should bring bitter consequences. Now the question is, can the Dems do better?
Susan: I think so. The Dem delegation will be a mix of moderates, conservatives and liberals. Speaker Pelosi, having grown up in a successful political family, raised five kids and spent nearly twenty years in Congress – certainly knows how to make people behave and how to organize.
John: The problem is, Democratic House and Senate leaders are much more hard-left than their own rank and file. Nancy Pelosi, Jack Murtha, Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy want to weaken defense, raise taxes, and harass the White House with investigations. That’s not what the American people voted for.
Susan: After 40 years in the desert, Newt’s Contract for America was a moderate’s approach – balance the budget, reform welfare, pay attention. After their desert sojourn, the Dem’s get it. Balance the budget, find a solution to Iraq, dump earmarks, tell the truth. Dems will stay focused on the ’08 brass ring.
3. RITTER WINS BIG
Susan: Bill Ritter won the governor’s race with a huge margin and record voter turnout. He was strong across the board – Democrats, Independents and a good chunk of moderate Republicans. Colorado is ready for a smart, reasoned leader who understands the responsibilities of stewardship.
John: That description also fits the outgoing Gov. Owens as well as Congressman Beauprez, whom Bill Ritter defeated. Ritter defied the odds and surprised a lot of people. He deserves congratulations, but now comes the hard part – placating the liberal Democrat interest groups while staying true to his centrist image.
Susan: Beauprez and Colorado’s own Dick Wadhams hit it big on national post-election loser’s list. Wadhams, ran George Allen’s losing Senate race, suffered a huge hit. And the TV ad with Beauprez in a black cowboy hat standing next to the wrong end of a horse – must have been made by a Democrat!
John: Bite your tongue, Susan. Gloating does not become you. What intrigues me is not the recent campaign but the upcoming legislature. Ritter claims he would have vetoed most of the same bills that Owens did. Now Democrats want to bring those bills back. This will be fun to watch.
4. COLORADANS SORT OUT BALLOT ISSUES
John: Lawmaking, like sausage making, is not pretty to watch. That’s true not only with legislators at the capitol, but with voters at the ballot box. Coloradans may live to regret passing a minimum wage formula and an unworkable ethics law. But we acted wisely in saying yes to marriage and no to marijuana.
Susan: The voters chose wisely on most issues. Certainly term limits for judges and easier access to the ballot were bad ideas, which they soundly rejected. The failure of Ref I – equal rights for domestic partners was a huge disappointment – like institutional racism. The vote was close. We must try again.
John: No doubt the same-sex issue will be back, and as a leader in the judicial term limits movement, I can tell you it will also be back. Over half a million Coloradans voted to express their concern that our most powerful branch of government, the courts, needs to be more accountable.
Susan: John – your agenda of judicial term limits and TABOR-like constraints lost big – all over the country. I know you’re tenacious but why not bark up a tree you can climb – like ethics in government. You’re a compassionate conservative. Be a role model to your more myopic brethren.
5. BLAME MAYOR FOR DENVER’S VOTING MESS?
Susan: Denver’s election day meltdown is unforgivable. It doesn’t matter how many cool buildings are built, streets paved, trees planted. If a city can’t deliver efficient, transparent, and effortless voting – heads should roll. Denver needs an elected Clerk and Recorder, a professional staff and a qualified IT director.
John: Mayor Hickenlooper didn’t look like the fearless skydiver on this one. The poor guy couldn’t find the ripcord for a soft landing on voting screwups in six weeks of trying. Now suddenly Mr. Powerful claims he’s powerless in his own city when it comes to elections. Is Hick’s honeymoon finally over?
Susan: The alarm clock is certainly ringing! The Hick needs to learn Harry Truman’s lesson – “The buck stops here.” It’s true the Election Commission’s a separate branch but it’s also true that the Clerk is the Mayor’s appointee. Hizzoner needs to worry more about accountability and less about being loved.
John: The Mayor presumably will seek another term in spring 2007. His administration has less than six months to restore public confidence and get ready for that election. The goal should be reliability, not trendy innovations. Voting centers are clearly not ready for prime time. The new tangle of federal regulations is another problem.