Supporters of Jeff Crank's congressional primary run in Colorado Springs dealt another blow in the past week to the very honesty in campaigning they have been so vocal in calling for from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO5). Jonathan and Anna Bartha, long-time Republican activists who were publicly supported by Congressman Lamborn during Anna’s recent victorious run for the Falcon District School Board, join the lengthy list of public officials and Republican activists who have returned Mr. Lamborn’s friendship, support, and courageous defense of the principles they claim to hold dear with public slander and political betrayal.
The Barthas worked for Mr. Crank in the 2006 primary against Mr. Lamborn, appearing at local Republican meetings to announce themselves as committed social conservatives (which they are), and then without a word about Mr. Lamborn’s record on social issues that is unsurpassed by any conservative in Colorado over the last half-century, generically explained that they were supporting Mr. Crank.
The Barthas were not the first to do this to Mr. Lamborn, and whenever someone has explained their reasons for doing it, it is in the same fashion as is always used when a Republican insider decides to oppose the kind of principled Republican that comes along only a few times in a generation. Republicans across the state did this to Bob Schaffer in his 2004 U.S. Senate primary against Pete Coors.
To wit: Mr. Schaffer’s conservative record may be impeccable, but, um, er, uh, we’re supporting Mr. Coors because we think he will “be wonderfully effective, reach across the aisle to get things done, and work hard on behalf of Colorado values in the Senate.” There is never any substantial or specific reason for this kind of squeemishness, poor judgment, and just plain bad faith by self-proclaimed conservatives against a Republican hero.
This is a formula followed ad nauseam in Colorado Springs over the last two years by people who at one time had been personal friends, colleagues in the state legislature, and fellow evangelical Christians with Mr. Lamborn. Evangelicalism places a heavy emphasis on brotherhood and sisterhood with others in the faith. This charity between spiritual siblings was something commanded by Christ and is more than just good feelings. It is something that requires Christians to tell the truth about each other, to defend the good name of those who have been falsely impugned, and to make a private attempt at reconciliation before taking the matter public when a disagreement occurs.
(For the record, Christian charity does not require Christians who run for office to abstain from telling the truth – even unpleasant and unflattering truth – about the political record of opponents. On the contrary, public records are public matters for everyone. It does require, however, that presentation of that record be accurate.)
When Mr. Lamborn announced he was running for Congress two years ago, for many of these people personal friendship dropped by the wayside, close to a decade of shoulder-to-shoulder work in the state legislature became a publicly-announced reason not to support Mr. Lamborn – because he is “ineffective” or other such ill-defined nonsense – and brotherhood and sisterhood in the Christian faith, something Mr. Lamborn does not take lightly, was abused as a cover for baseless public insults against him.
In the present case, the Barthas, after telling the editor they are committed family-values conservatives, complained in a letter to a local newspaper about two donations Mr. Lamborn received from gambling interests. Mr. Lamborn has said he returned both donations, and one of those returns has been publicly confirmed by a spokeswoman for the relevant organization. The Barthas also complained about a vote Mr. Lamborn made against stiffening penalties for dog-fighting.
Stiffening penalties for dog-fighting has become an issue of social conservatism? Many conservatives, likely including Mr. Lamborn, think perhaps all the recent public indignation over dog-fighting in the wake of the Michael Vick affair is just a bit over-blown, given that 1.5 million unborn (human) children are being executed every year in the U.S. without any penalties at all.
The Barthas did not check with Mr. Lamborn before publishing their letter, and thus did not know he had returned the gambling donations or why he voted against stiffening penalties for dog-fighting. They thus were not able to present Mr. Lamborn’s record accurately. As many of Mr. Crank’s supporters have done, they were looking for any reason to publicly criticize Mr. Lamborn. Mr. Lamborn’s response was perfectly legitimate. He is a congressman with plenty more important things to do than deal with locally critical letters, which he sees all the time. In this case, however, Mr. Lamborn called the Barthas personally in an attempt to reconcile privately and preserve a friendship – just as Christ would have us do.
Local media have made it seem as though Mr. Lamborn threatened “consequences” in his calls, but this is ridiculous. He noted a simple truth that everyone knows: telling lies about people who have done nothing wrong carries consequences, and a recent public letter from El Paso County GOP Chairman, Greg Garcia, had said as much. Instead of responding to Mr. Lamborn like responsible adults, the Barthas first did not respond and then, after Mr. Lamborn issued a public letter to Mr. Garcia asking that the matter be addressed, contacted the Denver Post to make public Mr. Lamborn’s private messages and claim Mr. Lamborn scared them. Mr. Lamborn then followed with a charitable note to the Barthas apologizing if anything in his messages had been misunderstood, but he need not have done this, as he was the one who had been misunderstood and misrepresented.
All this confusion shows the wisdom of Christ’s admonitions. Find out the truth about your brother before you publicly criticize him, and when he gets upset at your ill-founded words and attempts to reconcile privately with you, return his phone call, apologize for not coming to him first before making public claims about him, and take steps to make the offense right.
Since this sequence of events is not now likely to occur, the truth about the matter is likely to get buried as more time passes, and everyone will sigh and wonder why Republicans, especially ones claiming to be Christians, are always fighting. Many will use the episode as another reason to criticize Mr. Lamborn. What a wonderful political world this would be if, instead, we would decide to be people who love and support heroes like Doug Lamborn and pray for the day when both political parties, Congress, and the courts are again full of people who share his courage and wisdom.