"Obama's coronation is no longer a sure thing," notes John Andrews in the August round of Head On TV debates, while in Colorado's US Senate race, "Udall's lead has evaporated." But Susan Barnes-Gelt scoffs at their respective opponents, "mercurial" John McCain and "uber-conservative" Bob Schaffer. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over high oil prices, low polls for Ritter, and RTD's busted budget. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for August: 1. NINETY DAYS TO PICK A PRESIDENT
Susan: John McCain's all negative all the time approach is already wearing thin and the election is months away. You'd think a failing economy, record deficits, home foreclosures, $4 a gallon gasoline and an unpopular war with no end in site - should be fodder for something more than Britney Spears commercials.
John: Barack Obama’s savior-of-the-world approach is wearing really thin, and his coronation is no longer a sure thing. With his shameless reversals of position on issue after issue, the young senator is as confused as a chameleon on plaid. The racial victim routine doesn’t help either. McCain looks better and better by comparison.
Susan: You talking about the mercurial John McCain who won't talk with the national press; will stay in Iraq for 100 years and vows to continue Bush's rich guy tax cuts? John McCain, the Republican Party's GOP - Grumpy Old Politician!
John: I’m talking McCain who’s mainstream vs. Obama who’s out there on the fringe. McCain who is seasoned and proven by fire vs. Obama who is untested and way too glib. McCain who knows firsthand we live in a dangerous world vs. Obama the globe-trotting dilettante. Big Mac is the man.
2. SENATE RACE TIGHTENS
Susan: The U.S. Senate race between Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer offers a real choice. Udall is moderate with a record of solving problems for Colorado and being a thoughtful lawmaker. Schaffer is an uber-conservative. He will do nothing to move the debate on the deficit, the economy, health care or education.
John: Udall’s lead in the polls evaporated this summer as voters got more disgusted with pump prices. The Boulder liberal is seeing his campaign literally run out of gas. In this angry political climate, Bob Schaffer’s solid experience in getting oil out of the ground is suddenly a plus.
Susan: Schaffer's energy experience comes down to this: he spent years lobbying against the consumer, ensuring big oil got more than $33 million in tax cuts. Udall supports Obama's idea: send every taxpayer a $1000 energy refund and tax Big Oil's unprecedented windfall to pay for it.
John: You’re right about one thing. This Senate race is a clear choice. Both candidates are good men, but there the similarity stops. Bob Schaffer believes in more freedom. Mark Udall believes in more government. Schaffer wants lower taxes, as you said, and Udall wants higher taxes. He’s so 1970s.
3. FASTRACKS IN TROUBLE
John: The geniuses at RTD put through a huge tax increase in 2004 to build light rail metrowide. Now their ambitious plan is unaffordable and they look like the bonehead who built a boat in his basement. Options? Cut back the plan, or raise taxes again, or repeal the whole thing.
Susan: With $4 a gallon gasoline and the public using transit in record-breaking numbers, repeal is not an option. Clearly - greater dialogue with the community, more strategic planning and visionary thinking are in order. This is the gang who can't shoot straight - new leadership might help.
John: Visionary strategic dialogue will generate a lot of consulting fees, but it won’t move a single commuter. The waste of RTD tax dollars must stop. The Fastracks fiasco should be repealed. Replace the gold-plated choo choo train with bus rapid transit and toll lanes for a truly efficient metro transportation system.
Susan: For a region as diverse and sprawled as metro Denver, a mix of transit types is necessary: light rail; heavy rail, bus rapid transit and highway. The issue is who, not how. Apologies to Mark Twain: suppose you're an idiot. Suppose you're RTD - but I repeat myself.
4. ENERGY ISSUE ROILS CAMPAIGN
John: The public hates high energy prices. Liberals love them. That sucking sound you hear is support ebbing from Democratic campaigns for Congress and the White House as a result. Americans blame environmentalists for oil and gas, coal and nuclear, all being costly and scarce. What an opportunity for the Republicans.
Susan: With record-breaking profits, the oil companies whining about more drilling is sickening. They have numerous opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico that are untapped - they should exploit those first. In the long run, conservation and alternatives must figure into the equation.
John: You can have your dim corkscrew lightbulbs, your bike to work days, your scolding to the oil industry. I’ll take full-throttle production from every possible domestic energy source that’s not hostage to this country’s enemies. That means oil, gas, coal, nuclear, all of it. I’ll win politically every time.
Susan: A rational energy policy is a win - win; a. bi-partisan issue. If Republican candidates respected the American voter, they'd work across the aisle to meet the challenge. And as for dim bulbs - hmm - I've got a pretty good list!
5. RITTER SLUMPS IN POLLS
John: How embarrassing for Bill Ritter to have his approval rating sink into the 40s just as Colorado welcomes all the Democratic mucky mucks for their first convention here in a hundred years. The governor won a landslide with smooth talk, but results have been few since he took office. It’s showtime now.
Susan: Ritter's local poll numbers aren't taking the luster off his rising national star. Pundits are suggesting he is the right profile to be in the Veep-stakes. Certainly he has more appeal than Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia. However, some rookie goofs suggest it may be time for staff changes.
John: Ritter tried to substitute blue-ribbon studies for policy on highways and health care. It didn’t work. He tried to raise our taxes without a vote. Judges said no. He caved in to unions. People said enough. Mediocrity at home won’t help the governor fail upward nationally.
Susan: Ritter reflects the changing face of the mountain region: bi-partisan moderate and stewards of the environment. It's great for Colorado and the west that his name, Ken Salazar's and Bill Richardson of New Mexico are on the pundit's playlist.