The "Head On" debate between former state Sen. John Andrews (R) and former Denver councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt (D), seen daily on Colorado Public Television since 1997, began its February series this week. Andrews urged that the free world “not give an inch” to Islamofascist intimidation over the Danish cartoons. (We link the cartoons here, unlike many US news organizations apparently afraid to do so.) Other topics this month include Iran, energy policy, campaign finance and lobbying reform, and the Denver mayor’s political travails.
1. MUSLIM CARTOONS & FREE SPEECH
Susan: Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, are the underpinnings of democratic society. On the other hand blatant disregard for the beliefs of others is a travesty - regardless of one's personal opinions. Muslim leaders like Turkey's Abdullah Dul are right in urging mutual respect. Our lives depend on it.
John: Those Danish cartoonists had every right to criticize Islamic hatred and violence. Western governments have an obligation to protect such expression unconditionally. Muslim governments have an obligation to protect Western embassies or face the consequences. This is not a clash of civilizations, it is civilization confronting barbarism. We should not give an inch.
Susan: This kerfuffle better die down soon - similar actions have led to all out destruction - World War I comes to mind. Not sure what not giving an inch means when it comes to dealing with fanatics who have fundamentally different values. Calm heads – and hearts - better prevail.
John: It simply means that America must stand our ground as a free society. Lawless Muslim mobs, drunk on religious hypocrisy, deserve no appeasement from governmental or nongovernmental leaders in the West. We must encourage Islam's better side and resist its dark side.
2. HICKENLOOPER OUT OF GOV'S RACE
Susan: The striptease went on too long. Good thing Mayor Hickenlooper got dressed. His decision to honor his commitment to Denver citizens and the talented people whom he recruited to Denver, was the right thing to do. I'm glad he turned a deaf ear to the siren's song of political seduction.
John: It turns out Super-Mayor is human after all. The long-awaited Looper launch ended with a feeble Hick-up. He put on the parachute but couldn't pull the ripcord. His coronation as Governor Wonderful was no more than a Civic Center fantasy speech on a winter morning. Give him the Oscar for pointless political self-indulgence.
Susan: No comment. I think that Bill Ritter is a particularly strong candidate in the general election. The trick for both sides is surviving their party's primary where the wing-nuts dominate. It's going to be fun to watch Holtzman and Beauprez slime it out in a primary.
John: Don't overlook the woman angle, Susan. Cherchez la femme, as the French say. Some say Hick's wife, Helen Thorpe, helped veto his candidacy. Meanwhile Ritter and Holtzman have both named women running mates, Barbara O'Brien and Lola Spradley. But Colorado's next first lady is likely to be Claudia Beauprez.
3. CONFRONTING IRAN
John: The Islamic Republic of Iran is now the most dangerous enemy confronting America and the free world. Its nuclear threat is more imminent than that of Iraq three years ago. Iran's leader, Ahmedinejad, is even more fanatical than Saddam Hussein was. The President and Congress should prepare for extreme measures against Iran.
Susan: The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog formed after Chernobyl, recommends the issue go to the UN Security Council. America needs to align with world opinion and interests on this dangerous issue, and act strategically with other nations. We can't afford to be cowboys.
John: The United Nations can't restrain Iran. Russia and China will stall in the UN while egging on the Iranians. The United States must lead forcefully on this one, helped out by Britain and Israel. The war that began on 9/11 may soon get bigger.
Susan: Iran recently reaffirmed its commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It's clear there's tension between Iran's hardline president and other, more moderate Iranian leaders who are urging a peaceful solution to the dispute over their nuclear program. For now America's watchwords must be, Trust but Verify.
4. LOBBY REFORM
John: Congress and our own state legislature are mistaken in restricting political contributions and lobbying. Citizen influence over elections and legislation must be unrestricted in a free society. A golf game or a campaign check is not the problem, in Washington or in Denver. The problem is big government. That honey pot is just too tempting.
Susan: I think the solution may be less complicated. Free air time for general election candidates would remove a lot of pressure from the constant fund-raising needs of elected officials. If a good campaign is less expensive, politicians might pay more attention to policy and the people who elected them.
John: I worked on a free air time experiment with cable news years ago. Unfortunately it doesn't address the temptation of political graft. Greedy individuals will find ways to buy and sell government's vastly excessive power, until we get serious about reducing that power.
Susan: And will you reduce that power? Give it to the states and local government? Abolish government altogether. More local control makes sense – but graft and corruption aren't limited to Washington's politicians. There's no single answer, but sunshine, disclose, an attentive press and public scrutiny are part of the solution.
5. BUSH ENERGY POLICY
John: I love Bush, but he missed the boat with his claim that America is addicted to oil, and his proposal to change that with more government intervention and bureaucracy. Bad idea, W. For affordability and security, energy socialism is not the answer. We need to develop our own resources, including drilling in ANWR.
Susan: John, you can rest easy. Clearly Bush wasn't turning green or realistic when he suggested we wean ourselves from dependence of foreign oil. His spin-meisters were in full media damage control within hours of the speech. As in . . . oops – just kidding.
John: The President wasn't kidding with his alternative energy moonshine, but he wasn't at his best either. Free markets, not bureaucratic manipulation, are the only way to provide the energy America needs to remain No. 1. We should abolish the Department of Energy for starters.
Susan: In fact there are several ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil: raise gasoline taxes and fund comprehensive mass transit and inter-city rail; raise fuel standards for US automakers; kill tax breaks for trucks, vans and SUV's and stop widening highways. It's that simple.