"Bush dishonors America’s commitment to freedom by unconditionally pledging that he will go to Beijing this summer," says John Andrews in the April round of Head On TV debates. "Distraction," counters Susan Barnes-Gelt, who says Tibetan human-rights protests shouldn't derail the Olympics. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Iraq, Judge Nottingham, Right to Work, and the presidential race. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for April: 1. OLYMPIC BOYCOTT OR NOT?
Susan: Pressure on world leaders to boycott opening ceremonies at this summer's China Olympic games, because of Tibet, is a distraction. Truth is, neither the president of the United States nor other world leaders attend the Opening Ceremony. Unless you count the 1936 Berlin Games when Hitler lit the torch.
John: Communist China violates the God-given rights of more human beings more brutally than any country on earth. They should never have been awarded the Olympics to begin with. Bush dishonors America’s commitment to freedom by unconditionally pledging that he will go to Beijing this summer. Bad decision, Mr. President.
Susan: The vision of the Games as an event to enhance moral virtue has long passed. The 1968 massacre in Mexico City; Black September's Israeli hostages, Munich 1972; the 1980 U.S. boycott in Moscow; 1996 bombing in Atlanta; steroids, corruption. The Olympics - an ideal whose time has passed.
John: Lots of us aren’t ready to give up on moral virtue or the family of man -- but you don’t advance those things with liberal sentimentality, commercial cynicism, and blindness to evil. The Beijing Olympics deserve tough scrutiny, not a free pass.
2. UNIONS & THE BALLOT
Susan: Responsible political and business leaders must take action before hot heads on both sides of the labor-business kerfuffle. None of the constitutional amendments make sense - not right-to-work, not job-protection, wages or mandated health care, belong in Colorado's already dysfunctional constitution. Get-a-grip children - Grow up!
John: Coloradans deserve constitutional protection against having to join a union or pay union dues against their will. Right to Work makes sense as a freedom issue and an economic competitiveness issue. Without it we’ll keep losing jobs to other states with a friendlier business climate than ours. Unions are economic dinosaurs.
Susan: All workers deserve quality, affordable healthcare, individual pension plans, and enforceable job protections against discrimination and abuse. In the 21st Century, unions may not be the most effective or comprehensive way to deliver those mandates and Colorado's constitution is not the place to fight that battle.
John: History lesson: business and labor were getting along fine in Colorado, until last year. Then came the Ritter administration, an unsuccessful union power grab and an executive order to unionize state workers. Business fought back with a Right to Work ballot issue. It’s called self-defense, Susan, and it’s going to pass.
3. MORE PLOT TWISTS IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE YET
John: A funny thing happened on the way to this year’s Democratic presidential landslide. Barack Obama is tarnished by his 20-year association with an America-hating black supremacist pastor. Hillary Clinton is out of money and tangled in her own tall tales. Gen. Petraeus is winning the war, and Howard Dean is worried.
Susan: Winning what war? Petraeus admits, "we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator." Pro-war, pro-Wall Street, cozy up to the wing-nuts McCain has got trouble with a capital T.
John: Susan, come on. This is PBS, but it’s not Barney. Anyone but a preschooler can see that your party is in a pickle. No matter whether the saintly Barack or the sinister Hillary wins, the other side will feel robbed. The convention will be a debacle. Advantage: Republicans and John McCain.
Susan: Hmmmm. The vast majority say the country's on the wrong track; want to exit Iraq and are worried about the economy. Four more years of Bush's war and economic policies - I don't think so. John McCain: If you liked the last 8 - just wait for the next 4!
2. IMPEACH JUDGE NOTTINGHAM?
John: Senator Ken Salazar, with whom I don’t often agree, is correct and courageous in talking about possible impeachment to remove Edward Nottingham, that playboy judge on the US District Court in Denver. He has disgraced himself with escort services, drunken carousing in strip clubs, and hassling handicapped people. Nottingham must go.
Susan: Ordinarily I'd agree. However at a time when Bush's Justice Department is making deferred prosecution deals with over 50 corporations including nonprosecution agreements, where companies pay fines and hire monitors to watch them - Nottingham, who came down hard on Nacchio, ain't all bad.
John: Think again, Susan. This isn’t about whether you like or dislike Judge Nottingham’s rulings – including the Nacchio verdict, which was tossed on appeal, don’t forget. This is about bad behavior, which the constitution prohibits. Liberals and conservatives alike need a judiciary that is above reproach. Nottingham must go.
Susan: No question - the judge's arrogance and tone deafness are liabilities. And his Nacchio verdict wasn't tossed - merely sent back for review. Those in authority should be above reproach, though is reputation as a smart, prepared judge is excellent. It's a tough call - my jury is still out.
Susan: For the past five years, the U.S. has occupied a country torn apart by civil war - that we started! Now thanks to Bush's boys, Al Qaeda's in Iraq, we've lost more than 4000 troops, 30,000 brave soldiers suffer permanent injuries and we've spent $600 billion. Enough's enough.
John: Those are the talking points for the surrender lobby, Susan, and you know better. Saddam Hussein was an accomplice of the radical Islamist enemy that seeks America’s destruction. We removed him to protect ourselves and to liberate 25 million Iraqis from tyranny. Quit now -- Al Qaeda wins and Iran wins.
Susan: Wake up John. Nearly 3 million Iraqi refugees have fled the country in fear. One thousand Iraqi soldiers deserted their posts in Basra. There's no evidence of political progress. Military leaders insist that the demand for troops exceeds any sustainable supply. Denial is a powerful sleeping pill.
John: The ones in denial are Americans foolish enough to hand a victory to Iran and Al Al Qaeda. What a disaster for the free world. Maliki’s offensive in Basra was itself evidence of huge progress, military and political. The US can prevail in Iraq if we keep our backbone.