"The law is where the government controls the people. The constitution is where the people control the government. That specifically means the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to restrain government growth. The DU recommendations are part of an elaborate scheme to destroy TABOR. Democratic legislators, Bill Ritter, and the spending lobby can’t wait." So much for the ballyhooed University of Denver constitutional-reform plan, according to John Andrews in the January series of his daily “Head On” debate with former Denver councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt (D), featured on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Susan and John also dueled on the presidential race, pollsters' failings, voting machine woes, and the upcoming legislative session. Here are all five scripts: 1. TABOR TARGETED BY D.U. DO-GOODERS
Susan: The University of Denver's Strategic Issues Panel of bipartisan, statewide citizens recommend that Colorado undertake a major revision of its Constitution. Replete with conflicting provisions and extensive detail, it's one of the easiest-to-amend constitutions in the nation. The Constitution should be a blueprint - not a book of statutes.
John: The law is where the government controls the people. The constitution is where the people control the government. That specifically means the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to restrain government growth. The DU recommendations are part of an elaborate scheme to destroy TABOR. Democratic legislators, Bill Ritter, and the spending lobby can’t wait.
Susan: John, trust the people. Colorado's constitution has become a maze of contradictory proscriptions. Micro tinkering by zealots like Doug Bruce has hamstrung the state. His presence at the statehouse may be just what's needed to move the state from his regressive ideas.
John: Limited government, taxpayer protection, and restraints on power are not regressive ideas. They are the essence of America. Colorado is fortunate that our constitution and its amendment process provide such safeguards. Political insiders with their DU plan do not trust the people. The constitution belongs to all of us.
2. WILL IT BE A DEM OR REPUBLICAN YEAR?
John: The presidential race is changing faster than Susan and I can tape new spots. What doesn’t change is the parties. I’d prefer any of my Republicans as President, over any of her Democrats. A Republican in the White House is better for keeping America safe, keeping taxes down, and upholding our values.
Susan: Let's talk values. Rudy: three wives, flip flopper. Or Romney: pro-choice or not? Governor of the first state to have universal health insurance, flip flopper. Huckabee? Populist, progressive, could be a Dem. And straight talk McCain? Too unpredictable for the party elders. The Dems are looking strong!
John: Nice try, Susan, but slurs and slogans hardly settle the matter. The Republican approach is just more protective of America in a dangerous world and more confident of Americans to control their own lives. Democrats running for President are the opposite. That’s the decision we face.
Susan: Americans are demanding change. We're tired of politicians who use fear to intimidate us, our allies and a positive vision for the future of this great country. We want our leaders to be honest, our government transparent and we're ready to participate in fashioning a positive and progressive agenda. Go Dems!
3. RITTER FACES HIS 2ND LEGISLATIVE SESSION
John: Bill Ritter’s first year as Governor was long on study groups and short on results. Labor unions took the Democratic convention hostage and pushed Ritter around disgracefully. His agenda for this year is still pretty vague. Democrats controlling the executive and legislative branches have their hands full with education, transportation, and health care.
Susan: After eight years of closed-door government, with Colorado falling behind in everything from K-12 education to roads, health care and public infrastructure, Bill Ritter was wise to bring bipartisan groups together to consider the state's future. Ritter's agenda is clear: Move Colorado forward.
John: It’s going to be quite a session. Senate President Peter Groff seems statesmanlike, in contrast to Fitz-Gerald, his prickly predecessor. House leadership is mud-wrestling with freshman Douglas Bruce. Gov. Ritter is likable, but he has no compass. He blows with the wind. Thank goodness tax increases are off the table.
Susan: Election year politics are tough. Ritter made a mistake, stepping back from his ambitious agenda. Groff's eloquent and principled leadership will be an added benefit to the Dem's majority. And Doug Bruce's antics will make it tough for every Republican in the statehouse. He is so… 15 minutes ago!
4. VOTING MACHINE KERFUFFLE
John: Voting in Denver and other counties has been a mess the past couple of years. Citizens deserve elections that are honest, accurate, and fast. Voting by mail invites fraud. Paper ballots involve delays. But the Secretary of State has really confused things with mixed signals about electronic equipment.
Susan: Republican Mike Coffman has thoroughly bungled his most important job - ensuring Colorado's elections are fair, accurate and predictable. Either electronic equipment is reliable or it's not. County clerks are facing disaster and Coffman ought to ask those with solid experience for help.
John: Secretary of State Coffman faces a contradictory tangle of court rulings and legislation about what’s acceptable in voting machines. The involvement of his defeated opponent, Sen. Ken Gordon, makes it worse. Coffman’s congressional hopes are another distraction. But voting by mail is not the answer. Paper ballots are far better.
Susan: Paper ballots don't work in big counties like Jeffco, Denver or Arapahoe. What's needed is a verifiable paper back-up for electronic voting or electronic scanning. This is not rocket science and shame on leadership across the board for creating such confusing. Coffman should resign.
5. PUBLIC A STEP AHEAD OF PUNDITS & POLLSTERS
Susan: The outcome of the New Hampshire primary surprised even the smartest, most experienced pollsters - perhaps the biggest "upset" since Truman beat Dewey! The take-away is important and that is - when it's all said and done - it's only the voice of the people that counts.
John: I’m actually old enough to remember Truman beating Dewey, and the very thought makes me tear up like Hillary. But Susan, you’re right. Constant polling plus 24-hour cable plus the Internet makes our election process an echo chamber where individual choices can get lost. We have to think for ourselves.
Susan: New Hampshire voters set a great example of just what you're suggesting. I believe women who might not have supported Hillary voter for her because the talking heads went over the top in replaying her vulnerability. McCain won because he's for real. Authenticity rules in these uncertain times.
John: Alexander Hamilton said America was an experiment in whether a free people can govern themselves by reflection and choice. The experiment continues, and reflection is difficult in this era of mass persuasion, shallow fads, and short attention spans. American politics is not “American Idol.” We must think for ourselves.