In its obsession with Polis, Times misses other news

Newspaper blinded by gay candidate's success

by Dave Kopel

Rocky Mountain News. August 23, 2008

The New York Times report of the results of Colorado's congressional primaries (Aug. 13) revealed more about the cultural prism of Manhattan than about Colorado politics. The article's headline was "Gay Candidate Wins a Colorado Primary." Good news for cloistered Manhattanites who expected that Coloradans' reaction to a gay man would be to stone him to death. But in the battle for the 2nd Congressional District nomination, Jared Polis' sexual orientation was of little more significance than the fact that his hairline is receding.

There was a huge gap between Polis and Joan Fitz-Gerald on education reform. On taxes, health care and Iraq, Fitz-Gerald staked out positions to the left of Polis; she was the traditional Democrat, while Polis portrayed himself as pragmatist and problem-solver. Gay issues were off the table, as all three candidates, including Will Shafroth, were solidly in support of gay rights.

Significantly, the 2nd District will not be sending a reliable party regular to Washington, but instead picked the brilliant technophile with lots of ambition and little regard for hierarchy. Sort of like Gary Hart. But the Times told its readers none of these interesting facts about Polis. Just eight paragraphs about homosexuality.

With so many words devoted to Polis' sexual orientation, the article reported the victories of Doug Lamborn in the 5th District and Mike Coffman in the 6th District in just a single sentence each. No explanation why incumbent Lamborn faced two tough primary foes. Coffman was identified only as Colorado secretary of state. The Times should have also told readers that Coffman will probably be the first Republican congressman who has served in the Iraq war (as well as in the first Gulf War). Notably, he has criticized overreach of Bush foreign and military policies.

Last Saturday, Denver Post deputy editorial page editor Bob Ewegen, in a column headlined "McCain suggests raiding Colorado's water," announced that McCain had told The Pueblo Chieftain: "The water compact that Colorado and other upper-basin states have with California and Arizona should be renegotiated." The rest of the column lambasted McCain for wanting to give Colorado water to Arizona and California.

What Ewegen didn't report was that McCain told the Chieftain he opposed wresting water rights away from Colorado: "I'm not saying that anyone would be forced to do anything because I'm a federalist and believe in the rights of states . . . [T]here's already been discussion amongst the states, and I believe that more discussion amongst the governors is probably something that everybody wants us to do."

The Chieftain wrote: "McCain stressed that he has no intention of taking additional Colorado water, but emphasized that talks should occur."

The Chieftain quoted McCain further: "Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I would never advocate any course of action that would damage the state of Colorado's rights over the water, or any other water resources . . . I would never support any policy or any federal role that would impair the state of Colorado or others states' rights to their resources. But I know there have been discussions amongst the governors. I encourage those discussions as to how we best use a scarcer and scarcer resource in the West."

A Post editorial on Tuesday was fairer. It noted McCain's negotiation-only viewpoint, and then explained why many Coloradans, including Gov. Bill Ritter, believe there is nothing to negotiate.

The Post's Political Polygraph (Aug. 20) went overboard in claiming that a new ad "leans deceptive." The ad says that U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who endorsed the bipartisan "Gang of 10" New Energy Reform Act of 2008, proposes "$48 billion in new taxes on American energy production."

The Post counters that the plan raises revenues from oil and gas industry by "$30 billion over several years." The Post doesn't say how many "several" is. Indeed, nobody knows for sure since the bill hasn't been introduced yet. If "several years" turns out to be "five years," then the higher taxes on energy producers would amount to $48 billion over eight years.

Moreover, the press release from the Gang of 10 senators prices the bill at $84 billion, and says that besides the $30 billion to be extracted from energy producers over an unspecified period of time, the remaining $54 billion will be paid with "loophole closers and other revenues"; the bill does not specify who will pay the $54 billion on top of the $30 billion.

Referendum O on the November ballot would encourage statutory voter initiatives by giving proponents nine months to gather signatures. Under present state law, the time limit is six months for statutory initiatives and also for constitutional initiatives (Section 1-40-108). Referendum O would not change the six-month constitutional initiative time limit. A Post editorial (Aug. 6) mistakenly said that O would create a six-month limit for statutory initiatives, and only three months for constitutional initiatives.

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