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 January series this week. Andrews spelled out the arguments for Denver electing a new mayor. Other topics this month include good riddance to Saddam, turnover of the Colorado governor's chair, and challenges facing majority Dems in the state legislature and Congress. 1. DENVER MAYOR DESERVES AN OPPONENT
John: There’s an election this spring, but Denver’s mayor is not facing the healthy competition that swept in new leadership nationally. John Hickenlooper blew it on the voting mess, the justice center, and the holiday blizzard. To earn a second term, he should face a heavyweight challenger. Interested in running, Susan?
Susan: What? And give up swimming, knitting and sparring with you? Not a chance. However, the voters and the Mayor would be well served if a thoughtful opponent forced Hickenlooper to articulate a vision, a strategy and priorities for his second term. One voice does not a democracy make.
John: Hickenlooper ought to be vulnerable. He keeps raising taxes, weakening law enforcement, and letting the schools deteriorate. The gang culture that apparently struck down Darrent Williams has raged unchecked under this mayor. Somebody, please, run against this guy. Michael Bennet, Dan Caplis, Pat Bowlen?
Susan: Rule number 1: to run for Mayor of Denver, one must live in Denver. So much for Caplis and Bowlen. Hickenlooper’s a smart guy. Perhaps his hubris has been dampened (snowed under?) by Mother Nature and he’ll realize governing is more than jumping out of an airplane.
2. GOOD RIDDANCE SADDAM HUSSEIN
Susan: If the administration continues to fumble policy – as it did with the trial and execution of Saddam, it will cost more American and innocent civilian lives. The trial and execution should have occurred in the Hague according to established protocols. The arrogance of the Bush boys is deadly.
John: Good riddance to Saddam Hussein, an evil monster and a deadly enemy. Iraq is one front in World War III. Lebanon, Gaza, Afghanistan, and Somalia are other fronts. Iran may soon be yet another. America, Britain, and Australia are fortunate to have leaders who understand this war of survival. I wish you did.
Susan: We are losing in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s policy failed. Bush has fired the old generals and brought in new ones, who agree with ramped up troops. But if the Bush surge fails – then what? It’s up to Iraq’s leaders to resolve their internal conflict. Our time there must be limited.
John: Look, Susan. The United States, humanity’s best hope for freedom, is fighting a new kind of war against a new kind of enemy sworn to destroy us. It is hard, but we cannot accept losing as an option. Not in Iraq, not anywhere. America must do whatever it takes to win.
3. PREVIEW OF DEM LEGISLATURE
Susan: Speaker of the Colorado House Andrew Romanoff is a very smart guy. He and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald will ensure this session deals with issues Coloradans care about: education, health care, transportation and energy policy. They’ll work with Governor Bill Ritter to ensure his ‘Colorado Promise’ has legs.
John: Yeah, right. Some morning we’ll wake up to find the tooth fairy brought each of us a check and the Easter bunny put a new hybrid in the garage. More likely is a Democratic legislative feud between Fitz-Gerald on the left, Romanoff on the right, and Ritter stuck in the middle.
Susan: Dream on, teen age queen. It was the too-conservative lege that caused Gov. Owens heartburn and lead to the democratic take-over of the Capitol. The Dems understand what’s at stake – Colorado is a moderate state and the Legislative leadership understands that – as does Ritter. They’ll chart a reasoned course.
John: As the old saying goes – when the legislature is in session, no one’s liberty and property are safe. That’s exaggerated, but it has a grain of truth. Overspending, overregulation, heavy fees, sneaky taxes, stupid laws, and busybody government are a danger for the next 120 days. Hold onto your wallet, Coloradans.
4. OWENS DEPARTS, RITTER ARRIVES
John: As Gov. Bill Ritter starts his honeymoon, here’s a good word for the departing Bill Owens. Our state thrived despite challenges in eight years under Owens’ capable leadership. Roads and schools improved, the economy came back strong, and working families saw billions in tax relief. Billy O. deserves gratitude from all Coloradans.
Susan: Owens matured into a steward of Colorado’s assets. Transportation and higher –ed suffered under his tenure – mainly because of a Luddite mentality among Republican legislative leaders. Owens fought hard for TABOR reform – despite the conservative wing of his party. Rich folks saw tax relief – working families lost.
John: Owens got his first test after just a few weeks as governor when Columbine hit. We don’t know what will give Bill Ritter his baptism by fire, but the unexpected is sure to come. Partisan criticism of Ritter can wait. For now, he deserves all our good wishes.
Susan: Bill Owens can take pride in T-Rex – an enlightened balance of highway and transit and the successful passage of Ref C. I wish him and his family Godspeed. Bill Ritter brings intelligence, good judgment and an abiding love for Colorado. The governor, and his team will be good for Colorado.
5. ADVICE FOR PELOSI AND REID
Susan: US voters delivered a powerful message to Washington politicians: Resolve Iraq, work together to solve problems and clean up your acts. Speaker Pelosi and Senate President Harry Reid would do well to work both sides of the aisle and walk their talk about transparency – unlike their Republican predecessors.
John: Our two-party system is a good safeguard for liberty. After Democrats screwed up in ’94, Congress went Republican. Now it’s gone back to Dems after Republicans broke faith. But the election was a call for more accountability by the House and Senate, not a mandate for military weakness and higher taxes.
Susan: More accountability, higher ethical standards and truly open debate must be the hallmarks of Pelosi’s leadership. If she turns out to be just one of the boys instead of an elegant, smart and thoughtful leader – the country will suffer as will the Democrats. We could use some grandmotherly wisdom!
John: When Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir rose to high office, they projected character and principle, not gender politics. To secure her place in history, Nancy Pelosi needs to drop the self-congratulatory feminism and work with the President in statesmanlike fashion to keep America strong and free.