TV, February: Retreat or stand in Iraq?

    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 February series this week. Andrews insisted we must not retreat in Iraq. Other topics this month include Ritter's veto of the labor bill, the furor over Amendment 41, global warming, and the 2008 presidential race.


Susan: Growing evidence of civil war throughout Iraq, the exit of the middle class and impotent political leadership make the President’s focus on a military surge, seem like the worst kind of denial. Putting more troops in harm’s way without a political strategy and sufficient resources is unconscionable.

John: Iraq’s people voted for a constitution and elected their leaders. Islamofascists in Iran and Syria are terrified by that example of self-government. They are fomenting civil strife to destroy it. But Iraq is not the real target of these fanatics. They seek to conquer America and the free world. We must not retreat.

Susan: There’s evidence that our allies - the Iraqi Shiites, are being armed by Iranian terrorists to kill American troops. It’s an untenable situation – period. The most productive thing American could do is invest the billions we’re wasting in Iraq in alternative energy and liberate ourselves from dependence on foreign oil.

John: Wishful thinking will not make America’s enemies any less determined to destroy us. Weakness in Baghdad only puts New York, LA and yes, Denver, in greater danger from jihadists with nukes. This isn’t an oil conflict, it’s World War III. We must not retreat.


John: Gov. Bill Ritter is off to a shaky start. He broke his promise and vetoed a bill that would have made his labor union allies stronger and richer. Ritter’s bumbling leaves business wondering if they supported the wrong candidate. Democrats in the legislature aren’t happy either. It’s amateur hour down at the Capitol.

Susan: Hardly. In fact Ritter’s surprise veto wins big points with the business community – who thoroughly over-reacted to this molehill of a bill. It also sends a strong message to his party in the leg and labor, that he’s not a partisan, knee-jerk when it comes to good policy.

John: Come on, Susan, rookies make rookie mistakes, and that’s what this was. Ritter’s labor veto showed indecision and weakness. No amount of spinning can turn it into a heroic moment. Leadership involves loyalty, steadiness, and strength. We’re still waiting to see some of that from the new governor.

Susan: Steadiness and strength are evident in Ritter’s adherence to his agenda. In barely one month, he’s signed legislation advancing cheaper prescription drugs and clean energy and he’s appointed a blue ribbon transportation task force. The labor bill distraction is history and Colorado’s future is promising.


John: Thousands of government employees across the state face financial hardship because of a badly written ballot issue that may deprive their kids of college aid. Legislators are powerless to help, now that Amendment 41 is in the constitution. We can thank boy millionaire Jared Polis and the woolly-headed liberals at Common Cause.

Susan: Amendment 41 was the right idea, poorly expressed. Clearly the leg could clarify ambiguities without going back to the voter. The Daniels and Boettcher Foundations have done that, through the courts. Sadly, the issue has morphed into opportunity for political posturing on both sides of the aisle.

John: The 41 fiasco will get straightened out, but it should teach us a lesson. Colorado already had clean government. This so-called ethics amendment made things worse, not better. Same with so-called campaign finance reform. Big money from shadowy donors is more of a problem now. The liberal do-gooders should lay off.

Susan: Public distrust of government is epidemic and the shenanigans of elected officials, the inordinate power of big money and the unintended consequence of term limits are all to blame. Solutions demand transparency and full disclosure – neither of which has been addressed by 41 or campaign finance reform.


Susan: When the president of Exxon Mobil acknowledges the reality of diminishing resources and global warming’s impact on the planet, it’s like the fox admitting the hen house is vulnerable. Even skeptics are cooling their rhetoric in the fact of quantifiable evidence of the extent of the problem.

John: Earth’s climate has always gone through warming and cooling cycles and always will. If a rising standard of living is causing the planet to overheat, how do you explain the huge snowstorms this winter? The recent UN report is mostly political propaganda. Panic about greenhouse gases is socialist superstition, not valid science.

Susan: For millions of years ocean temperatures have moved in lock step with CO2 concentrations. This greenhouse gas effect has increased dramatically since industrialization. The hottest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years. The question is not whether but when dire consequences will mean untenable hardship.

John: Hardship is a sci-fi fantasy as far as what may from climate variations. But hardship is a certainty if we mandate the downturn in living standards called for by Al Gore and his crowd. Minorities, the poor, and the Third World would suffer worst of all. No thank you.


John: The only senator ever elected president was Kennedy, and he did it by being stronger on national security than his opponent. That would give McCain, the Republican hawk, an advantage in 2008 over Clinton and Obama, the cut and run Democrats. Giuliani, the 9/11 mayor, looks strong too. But it’s still very early.

Susan: It’s a whole new game with the focus on foreign policy. Experience is key. The appeal of a total outsider like Mitt Romney or Tom Vilsack may be less seductive to the American voter. You’re right John – it’s very, very early – and the finish line is elusive.

John: Whether you prefer Rudy and Mitt or Barack and Hillary, one thing all Coloradans should agree on is protecting our own state’s electoral votes for president against a popular-vote power grab by big states on the east and west coast. The Gordon bill to dump the Electoral College is a bad idea.

Susan: The bill is a distraction. The most important issue is the war. 58 percent of Americans want Bush to leave office now. The mid-term elections were about changing course in Iraq. The candidate who brings an informed and logical solution to the voter will win. Right now, it’s Hillary.