GOP shows some fight

"Thank goodness the Republicans are rediscovering their backbone under Obama," says John Andrews in the February round of Head On TV debates. Susan Barnes-Gelt scoffs that "tt's a new day and the Grumpy Old Partisans are tone deaf." John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Obama's honeymoon, Salazar's agenda at Interior, how to fill Senate vacancies, and the future of print journalism. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for February: 1. GOP SHOWS SOME FIGHT

Susan: The Republican Party is not destined to oblivion. History tells us that no political party dominates forever. On the other hand, and sadly for the country - the R's in the minority role are disciplined - consistently putting petty partisanship above the needs of the country.

John: After a big victory like the Democrats had, sweeping the White House and the Congress, Republicans have to fight back for the sake of our liberties, our pocketbooks, and our children’s national debt. If someone doesn’t stand as the loyal opposition, Pelosi and Reid and Obama could go too far.

Susan: R's have been in charge for 6 of the last 8 years. Bush inherited peace and a budget surplus. The best thing about the first weeks of Obama's watch is the emergence of Congressional moderates - D's and R's. It's a new day and the Grumpy Old Partisans are tone deaf.

John: Partisan checks and balances are essential. Fiscal responsibility was much better with divided government under Reagan or Clinton, than with one-party rule under Jimmy Carter or George W. Bush. The budget was more steady. The economy was more healthy. Thank goodness the Republicans are rediscovering their backbone under Obama.


Susan: Following an historic election and inaugural week, President Obama has been plunged into the miasma of Beltway disfunction. Despite the entreaties of Republican governors, the R's in the House and Senate are playing politics with America's economy. Obama is smart and tough. He'll prevail.

John: Our new young president is gifted as a politician but totally untested as an executive. The first hundred days are testing him in a big way. With ethics problems, a pork-laden stimulus bill, and shaky poll numbers, he hasn’t exactly aced the exam. It could be a very short honeymoon.

Susan: The economy is in free-fall, Iraq, Pakistan. Afghanistan and the mid-East are in peril and his appointees await computers and phones! The partisan bickering in Congress is a distraction they are fiddling while Rome burns. The President must do what's right for the country - and ignore the Beltway baloney.

John: Mr. Obama is the biggest question mark ever chosen to lead this country – ever. The answers emerging so far are not reassuring. Will he stand tough against our enemies in Russia and China, Iran and Venezuela? Why is he cutting our defenses? How far left will he take us?


John: Who is the real Ken Salazar, under that phony cowboy hat? As a senator, he was pleasant but slippery. Now as Interior Secretary, he has to really deliver for the West. Blocking energy development is not the way. We need mixed use of public lands for everyone’s benefit, Mr. Secretary.

Susan: Smart, moderate and politically savvy Coloradan - Ken Salazar has the integrity, the will and the know-how to clean up the severely degraded Department of Interior. Aided by his chief of staff Tom Strickland, he will balance the environment, energy demands, water policy and restore public, to public lands.

John: Environmentalists say Salazar isn’t green enough. Let’s hope he doesn’t pander to them. The Utah oil and gas shutdown is a bad sign. The New York Times says he isn’t tough enough. Let’s hope they’re wrong. As Senate President, I found Salazar tough as nails. And Tom Strickland will be good.

Susan; Salazar won his senate seat in moderate, center-right Colorado because he reflects the values that will serve him well as Secretary of Interior. He is intelligent, thoughtful and moderate and will balance stewardship of the nation's assets with the demands of a 21st Century economy.


John: Although we both write for the Denver Post, Susan, there's no doubt the Rocky Mountain News has made Colorado a better place for the past 150 years. But this recession has put the brave old Rocky on borrowed time. Competing newspapers enrich a city. Denver without the Rocky is not a happy thought.

Susan: What's happening at the Rocky is symptomatic of a larger problem: the demise of the local daily newspaper. Without a vigorous local press, democracy is at risk. The internet, YouTube and bloggers can't possibly replace a trained, full time professional press corps.

John: Think about that word “media.” Who do you want mediating for you? To stay informed as consumers, we have to pay others for news-gathering. But to stay free as citizens, we must think for ourselves. It’s okay if electronic news gradually replaces print, provided First Amendment competition keeps the media honest.

Susan: The issue is not electronic v paper. The issue is who is reporting the news. A trained professional, or a biased opionator (like you or me), an invisible blogger or script reader. Yes it will be possible to get in-depth info - but much tougher especially at the local level.


John: Governors in four states, deciding alone like absolute monarchs, recently appointed powerful new members of the United States Senate. In Illinois, New York, and Delaware, the process was a clown show. Here in Colorado, Bill Ritter's pick of Michael Bennet was clean but strange. Let's have special elections to fill Senate vacancies.

Susan: We agree on this one John. An open US Senate seat is too rare and too important. No single individual should be the sole decider. And - the re-elect rate of appointed senators is less than 50%, the public ought to decide from the get-go.

John: Under the 17th Amendment, special elections for Senate vacancies are the preferred option. State Sen. Mike Kopp wants to mandate them in Colorado. US Sen. Russ Feingold wants a similar change to the federal constitution. If Coloradans had voted right after Salazar left, dark horse Michael Bennet would not have won.

Susan: We don’t know who might have won in an open election. That's the point - candidates articulate a message, work to build coalitions work hard to earn support and then the voters decide. Not the newspapers, not the elites, not the governor. That's democracy.

Elway for Senate! Looking at NY, why not?

Gov. Ritter has asked Coloradans for their opinions and suggestions as to who should replace Sen. Ken Salazar now that Obama has given him a Cabinet position in thanks for delivering Colorado. My suggestion would be to try and recruit Colorado's favorite son, John Elway. Political experience? No, but then that isn't really a resume builder these days (unless you are Sarah Palin). We are sending a man to the presidency with little relevant experience.

Caroline Kennedy will likely assume a Senate seat with again, little relevant experience. She has worked in fundraising for New York public schools but my guess is that her own children attended private schools. She has written about the Constitution (many of us can claim to have done that). Beyond name recognition, she doesn't bring experience.

Gov. Palin was routed by the liberals and MSM due to 'lack of experience'. Clearly, we've moved past that requirement now, so why shouldn't Colorado appoint a strong candidate that also happens to not have political experience?

John Elway, and other Coloradans have much to offer in terms of service to our state. John knows how to take a hit and get back up; he knows how to come from behind to win the game; he is widely recognizable and popular among all age groups and has that Obama-like star quality. He has a keen business awareness and exceptional leadership abilities. Absurd? Maybe, and maybe he has no interest at all in serving the public in this way.

But let's be clear, the future of the Republican Party in Colorado must rely on somebody like John Elway, if not him. We need youth, charisma, devotion to conservative ideals, and a vigor and enthusiasm that we have not been seeing. We need people that carry in no political baggage and we need people that can do speaking engagements at colleges and universities and draw huge crowds. We need people that can articulate what we stand for, what we can do for our country and why values and ethics still matter. We need a popular candidate that has widespread appeal and proven record of getting the job done.

You may have a better idea. If so, please get it to the Governor soon. We conservatives likely will be wasting ink, as it's predestined that a good, Obama-supporting liberal will get the nod. But he did ask for suggestions, after all.

GOP sees hope in Senate vacancy

This last political season was defined by the word “hope”. But after the drubbing the GOP received on the national level, that word has not been associated with Republicans lately. Now the upcoming game of musical chairs in Colorado politics triggered by Senator Ken Salazar reportedly being named to President-Elect Obama’s cabinet, may give Colorado Republicans some hope again.

Any person Governor Ritter chooses to replace Sen. Salazar will open up a situation for Colorado Republicans. Mind you, the opening he creates will be no easy road, and far from a clear advantage, but hey, a glimmer of hope is all it takes sometimes.

My fellow CBS 4 blogger Gloria Neal astutely asserted in her last blog that she thinks Rep. Ed Perlmutter has the inside track. I think her rationalization and analysis is dead on.

Other bloggers talk about Rep. John Salazar, or Andrew Romanoff as owning the inside track. They make good points as well.

All of these scenarios offer reasons for State Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams and other Colorado Republicans to smile.

If Rep. Perlmutter leaves the 7th Congressional District, he’ll leave behind the most politically balanced district in Colorado. I know Republicans are having an off year, but it’s realistic to expect a young Republican to give any Democrat a very good race in a special election to replace Rep. Perlmutter.

If outgoing Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff is picked to replace Sen. Salazar, in 2010, he’ll need to run as a statewide candidate after spending most of his career as a “Denver Democrat”. I’ll be the first to admit that as Speaker of the House he governed from the middle, but it may be hard to sell that as moderate in Southern Colorado.

If Rep. John Salazar is picked to take his brother’s place, he’ll leave behind the third Congressional district ripe for a moderate Republican to reclaim, with several strong Republicans on the bench ready to run.

Don’t get me wrong, this Republican glimmer of hope still comes at a time when fundraising as a Democrat is much, much easier. Any Republican running in a race against a Democrat to replace a newly tapped Senator, or against him or her in 2010, will do so as an underdog.

But, after the 2008 election, we all know what a small glimmer of hope can turn into. It should not be underestimated.

Safeway shopping list for Ritter

For Bill Ritter, Ken Salazar's move from Senate to Cabinet is more a problem than an opportunity. His appointment to replace Salazar could topple dominoes among current officeholders, antagonize powerful also-rans, rile factions within the Democratic party, and complicate Ritter's own reelection in 2010. That's assuming he names a rising politician who wants to serve more than two years and run for the seat in his or her own right. The safe way out would be for Ritter to pass up anointing the prom king or queen and appoint a qualified short-termer -- someone with proven credentials but pledged to no further electoral ambitions.

Former senators Gary Hart and Tim Wirth along with former governors Dick Lamm and Roy Romer would all fit the bill. My personal favorite is Lamm. Just imagine the stir his truth-telling about a common culture and illegal immigration would cause in Harry Reid's caucus. But for that very reason, Lamm probably wouldn't get the nod even if Ritter opts for what I call the Safeway shopping list.

Then my next choice is Roy Romer. The old warhorse, just turned 80 but with the energy of a 60-year-old, tried for US Senate way back in 1966 and was aced out of it again in 1992 by Ben Campbell. Romer is the preeminent elder statesman of Colorado Democrats, would represent Colorado wisely and honorably for the next 24 months, and well deserves this honor as the capstone of his career. (All of which I say despite, or partly because of, the licking he gave me in our 1990 contest for governor.)

The downside, from a Democrat point of view, would be no incumbent for them to try and "reelect" as the 2010 campaign gears up in coming months. But since that campaign is upon us anyway, why shouldn't the Dems live up to their name and welcome an openly democratic selection process for Salazar's successor?

As Illinois and New York embarrass themselves with grossly undemocratic, if not illegal, grappling contests for their open Senate seats, Colorado could set a refreshingly different example.

How about it, Gov. Ritter? I like the sound of Senator Lamm or Senator Romer.