- 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 took aim at the new governor's appetite for revenue. Other topics this month include Bush's second-term woes, the ho-hum election in Denver, US relations in the hemisphere, and Iraq yet again.
1. RITTER SEEKS NEW TAXES
John: Bill Ritter is going to become known as Gov. Tax Hike if he’s not careful. He recently floated trial balloons for additional millions from the taxpayer to fatten school budgets and additional billions for the highway system. State revenues from Referendum C are already two billion above estimates. How much is enough?
Susan: Ritter is working to meet the expectations of the majority of Coloradans who voted for him. Only those living underground or on an isolated mountain top think Colorado’s highways and K-12 education system are in good shape. Untangling the Gordian knot of TABOR finance, is good policy.
John: Gov. Ritter wants TABOR gone. His open-throttle budget reflects a typical Democratic approach: tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect. After his election cakewalk and his weakness on the labor veto, I suggested calling him “Easy Bill.” But now with these tax increases, maybe it should be “Dollar Bill.”
Susan: Stewards of Colorado want TABOR gone – except for the provisions requiring voter approval for tax increases. Our highways are a mess, K-12 is underfunded and higher ed is desperate. Colorado’s new slogan? Thank God for for Mississippi!
2. BUSH'S SECOND-TERM WOES
Susan: It’s hard to imagine what else could go wrong with Bush’s domestic agenda: The scandal at Walter Reed Army Hospital and the resignation of the surgeon general; Scooter Libby’s conviction; Alberto Gonzales’s involvement in the firing of federal prosecutors and continuing revelations about federal waste and mistakes in New Orleans.
John: The second term gets bumpy for every president, especially with an opposition Congress out for blood. Clinton and Reagan in their later years had worse problems. Our country under Bush enjoys a terrific economy, low taxes, a shrinking deficit, and no repeat of 9/11. That’s effective leadership.
Susan: Talk about whistling in the dark ! By the time this airs the AG may well be history, the veep is likely 6 or 9 months from resigning; the Congress – D’s and R’s are about to do the bidding of the American public, and send Bush an Iraq withdrawal timetable.
John: Cheney, Gonzales, and all your wishful thinking is beside the point. Americans elect one President at a time, and he’s in charge as chief executive of the country and leader of the free world. George W. Bush will keep doing that job and doing it well until January 2009.
3. DENVER'S INVISIBLE ELECTION
Susan: Denver’s quadrennial local election is May 1 and the campaign season is as flat as last’s year’s champagne. Hickenlooper, the auditor and 10 incumbent city councilors will float to re-election (not without extracting several million in campaign donations to do so). This non-election doesn’t bode well for active civic engagement.
John: Big word, Susan – isn’t a quadrennial some kind of dance? Unfortunately most Denverites are sitting out this dance. Mayor Hickenlooper’s high poll numbers are impressive, but one-sided elections are not healthy. Competition is essential. We should change the law so Republicans and Democrats could run local candidates.
Susan: You’re half right – one-sided elections are unhealthy. However, local government is and should be non-partisan – It’s about solving real problems, picking up trash; street maintenance and informed land use decisions. Those issues aren’t defined by a D or an R after a person’s name.
John: Poli Sci 101, my friend. Without competitive political parties, elected officials lose touch, government gets bloated, citizens get taken for granted, taxpayers get less value. That’s the reality in Denver and everywhere. We should let parties run candidates for mayor, council, school board, RTD board, all of it.
4. CLOSEUP ON US / LATIN AMERICAN RELATIONS
Susan: In belated attempt to shore up U.S. relationships Bush spent time in March meeting with Latin American leaders. Perhaps the greatest lost opportunity of his presidency is his failure to work with our allies to the South to enhance trade, address immigration issues and slow drug trafficking. Yet another Iraq victim.
John: America is tremendously admired by the people of this hemisphere, despite the leftist poison from demagogues like the dying Fidel Castro and the oil-rich Hugo Chavez. The flood of immigration proves that. Bush is correct in promoting free markets for hemispheric prosperity. But he’s mistaken in promoting a soft southern border.
Susan: If we had invested some of the billions we’ve spent in Iraq on economic development in Latin America, immigration wouldn’t be a problem. No one wants to leave home and family unless the choice is hunger and poverty. The key is a soft border – permitting travel between work and home.
John: That’s quite a package: Ignore the jihad over there, hand out money to our neighbors over here, open the borders, and let the illegal aliens stay. I think not. That wouldn’t benefit the United States or Mexico. We need to tell Washington loud and clear: No amnesty!
5. WHAT NEXT IN IRAQ?
John: There was a time in World War II when stalemate or even defeat seemed possible, but America persevered and freedom prevailed. Perseverance is now starting to pay off against the Islamofascists in Iraq. The Battle of Baghdad may be tilting our way. Let’s hope defeatist Democrats in Washington don’t spoil it.
Susan: Even top Pentagon brass are acknowledging that Iraq – particularly Baghdad - is spiraling into civil war. There is no there, there to win. Middle class Iraqis – Shia and Sunni have left the country. Insurgents and outlaws are overtaking the country. Our dilemma – how to extricate without losing more lives.
John: Saddam’s dictatorship with its repression and menace had to go. The allies were right to take him out. Now our Islamofascist enemies seek to make Iraq their new base for global terror, as well as a scene of genocide if we walk away. American surrender will only increase the danger to ourselves.
Susan: The war is entering its fifth year and Americans and our allies have run out of patience. What began as a peace keeping mission is now a civil war. Even the Iraqis want us gone. We need an exit strategy and we need it now.