Paul Ryan's bold approach to federal deficits and debt will backfire, predicts Susan Barnes-Gelt in the May round of Head On TV debates. Not hardly, replies John Andrews; President Obama left a leadership vacuum on the fiscal debacle, and this lowly congressman has filled it. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over the mayor's race in Denver, the politics of natural disasters, the 2012 presidential outlook, and results of Colorado's legislative session. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for May:
1. RYAN TAKES ON THE DEFICIT
Susan: Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan offered up a deficit plan that opened the garage door of opportunity to President Obama and Democrats in Congress. His proposal to privatize Medicare so inflamed his constituents– who voted him in by a 70% margin – that the national guard was summoned to a town meeting.
John: Nonsense on stilts. Where do I start? First, any uproar by the Wisconsin left was manufactured, not spontaneous. Second, Paul Ryan’s budgetary roadmap to keep entitlements from bankrupting the country is not only good public policy. It also exposes Obama as shallow and weak – a leader who has failed to lead.
Susan: My, my you’re cynical. Town meetings are orchestrated by the opposition? I wish the Dems were that strategic and well-organized! Sorry. Average people in both parties are horrified by cuts to programs they’ve paid into while the uber-rich and the Pentagon remain untouched.
John: The reason Americans gave Obama an electoral shellacking and fired Nancy Pelosi as speaker was that they were unhappy with the government takeover of health care and horrified at the impending fiscal disaster. Even then, the president refused to get serious about entitlements. More power to Paul Ryan for doing so.
2. RUNOFF FOR MAYOR
John: For Denver to be well governed as the capital of our state and region matters to everyone across the West. The campaign for mayor needs more energy and more honesty in the final round. The choices are Chris Romer from downtown and Michael Hancock from the neighborhoods. I like Romer.
Susan: Three surprises in the May election: A little known but very impressive young man won Hancock’s Council district – Chris Herndon beat political warhorse Chris Martinez. Debbie Ortega got a whopping 46,000 votes in the at-large race. And – less than 1600 votes separated Romer from Hancock. Hancock’s got momentum.
John: Denver is the economic engine for Colorado’s prosperity. It needs a dynamic CEO. Voters can gamble on Councilman Hancock, or they can hire an experienced businessman and dealmaker in Senator Romer. The race is neck and neck. I wish it was Republican vs. Democrat and a proper election with polling places.
Susan: Ain’t gonna happen. In two words – investment – banker. If Romer pins his strategy on his 25-years as a bond jockey, he’s –pass the marmelade – toast. People have no confidence in bankers and less in Wall Street. Hancock wins – trustworthiness, likability, authenticity and biography. Read my lips . . .
3. TORNADOES IN THE SOUTH
John: Life is fragile, community is vital, and economic growth saves lives. Those are the lessons from the Alabama and Mississippi tornadoes with their awful death toll. Nature’s random destructiveness should keep us from ever taking a single day for granted, or forgetting how much we need each other.
Susan: Yes and in the face of catastrophe, the convener of help is the federal government. The very same federal government Grover Norquist, chief manipulator of all things Republican, wants to drown in a bathtub. Political leaders in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia are undoubtedly rethinking their allegiance to Grover.
John: Such massive tragedy is not Republican or Democratic or political at all. A windstorm in Alabama or Bangladesh, an earthquake in Japan or Haiti, simply makes us weep for the victims. It also reminds us that developed countries survive these things better. Anti-growth environmentalism has a cost in lives.
Susan: The horrendous loss of lives and treasure isn't a political issue. But, the reality of response and recovery is political. It will cost hundreds of millions, perhaps billions to rebuild Tuscaloosa - not to mention the other places impacted. The federal government's row is critical. That's political.
4. 2012 PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Susan: The 2012 Presidential race is on. Fortunately for the Democrats, the tough economy, three wars and total beltway disarray are being eclipsed by the bombastic egotism of Donald Trump. This pro-choice, democrat-supporting buffoon has quickly replaced Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as your party’s flavor of the month.
John: Obama and Trump deserve each other – two self-promoting con men, both hollow at the center. But Susan, you’re right. The president’s birthplace is the least of his problems. Barack the Great has not revived the economy, not made us safer in the world, not handled gas prices. He’s really vulnerable.
Susan: Obama’s successful targeting and killing of Osama Bin Laden is a game changer. Period. All the goofy birther nonsense, challenging his abilities as a leader, his patriotism and resolve are suddenly non-issues. And his call to George Bush before any public announcement was classy.
John: The TV speech never mentioning Bush was not classy. It was tough policies of the last administration, Guantanamo, interrogations, rendition, bitterly criticized by Obama but continued anyway, that finally took down the arch-terrorist. Nor does Bin Laden’s death lessen the Islamic threat. Defeating Obama in 2012 is still imperative.
5. COLORADO LEGISLATURE
Susan: Redistricting dominated this year’s legislative session. Despite the bi-partisan committee, neither party came off looking good. As in previous years, the courts will draw the Congressional district lines. Other than the shameful defeat of the bill giving in-state tuition to undocumented students, the session was a solid C-.
John: Thank goodness Coloradans voted for divided government. A Republican State House this year finally demanded budgetary sanity after four years of reckless tax and spend policies under Bill Ritter and the Democrats. I give the session a B. Hickenlooper even took on the teacher unions. Wisconsin, here we come.
Susan: Please John – you, former Colorado Senate President, know better. The state’s discretionary budget is tiny and voters weigh in on every tax increase. Both parties must stop kicking the can down the road and make some tough decisions. Divided government is fine. But where’s the leadership?
John: When you as a liberal say “leadership,” I as a conservative hear “bossiness.” Divided government makes it harder for politicians to butt into our lives – that’s good. And as a former senator, Susan, let me say this: Lawmaking isn’t easy. One hundred Colorado legislators of both parties deserve our thanks.