Off Limits

Burn, baby, burn

We haven't seen him much around Colorado lately, but last Thursday Governor Bill Owens voluntarily participated in possibly the most hysterical debate pairing of his political career: taking on former presidential candidate and former Vermont governor Howard Dean at the American Civil Liberties Union's annual membership conference in San Francisco. Specifically, the two created fireworks over civil liberties, the war on terror and the effectiveness of the Patriot Act.

"The governor felt the debate went well," says Dan Hopkins, Owens's spokesman. "He had said that the debate was going to be a bit like an away game, and while there were a few people who booed and hissed, the majority of the crowd were polite." Had the ACLU debate been judged according to high school competition criteria, Hopkins feels that Owens would have won for preparedness and overall level of debate. "That said," he adds, "I don't think he changed any minds at the ACLU."

He might have, had the civil libertarians crowd not missed the following unpublicized debate highlights:

1. Owens, feeling threatened and alarmed by a particularly astute comment from Dean, nervously proclaiming, "All of California is on fire."

2. A bizarre 47th-minute turn in which both governors openly compared the quality and abundance of their respective state's nugs.

3. Howard Dean's gay-pornography marathon demonstrating the importance of free speech.

4. Owens reading gushy Dean crush e-mails in a mocking tone, highlighting the far-reaching surveillance capabilities of the Patriot Act.

5. Dean subsequently turning green, swelling to thrice his normal size and smashing cars in the parking lot.

6. Impromptu screening of the new teen comedy Sleepover.

7. A crushing, blindsided tackle of Dean by blackout-drunk surprise attendee Attorney General John Ashcroft.

8. Owens angrily threatening to have the entire 1,600-person crowd arrested for terrorism after they booed and hissed at him.

9. Owens's follow-up apology, explaining that he was really only referring to the Arabic portion of audience.

10. Dean biting the head off a pigeon in response to ACLU president and debate moderator Nadine Strossen's warning to keep the conversation to the Patriot Act, and not get into a broader discussion of civil rights under the Bush administration.

Tool time: Congressman Tom Tancredo has been called a lot of things over the years, many of them four letters long, but he's never been accused of being Mr. Fix-It. Given some of his recent adventures in home and office improvement, that's probably just as well.

Last month, Tancredo's Jefferson County abode was lashed by what he calls "a hailstorm of biblical proportions. The screens were torn to bits; the play structure we have for the grandkids was a mess; every single leaf on every tree was gone; there were dead birds all over the lawn; and the roof was destroyed." Thus far, no roof repairs have been made because of a rider in Tancredo's insurance policy; it mandates total replacement for roofs that are a decade old or less, and his turned out to have been there for ten years and one week when all hell broke loose. "I'm in the begging stage right now," Tancredo says. "Like, 'Come on. Give me a break. Please?'"

To make matters worse, Tancredo discovered a major leak in his toilet the day before he was scheduled to leave for a state-business trip to Scotland. It took "my usual four trips to the hardware store to get the right thing," he says, but he finally fixed the problem late that night. The next morning, he decided to turn off the water to his home in the hope of preventing future disasters. But then his system registered another leak, and he didn't have time to figure out where it was before leaving for the airport. A friend subsequently found the second leak under a counter in the same ill-fated lavatory. "My bathroom has a hardwood floor that is now soft wood," Tancredo notes.

Tancredo has had better luck sprucing up his Washington, D.C., offices, in part because he shamed others into helping him.

As a freshman representative, Tancredo received an especially lousy space, because "everything is done on the basis of seniority, including lines to the bathroom," he notes. After being re-elected in 2000, he was placed in a larger suite but was unhappy with its color, which he describes as "baby-poop gold." When he inquired about changing the hue, he was told that there were only three approved congressional shades, each representing varying degrees of ugly, and if he wanted something different, he'd have to purchase the paint and arrange for it to be applied. Tancredo took things a step further, and decided to do everything himself.

"I went down there with my cigar and my baseball cap and started painting a wall in the lobby," he recalls. "About 1 a.m., a guard came in and said, 'Does the member know you're here?' I said, 'Yes, he knows.' He said, 'Are you sure he's okay with it?' And the only way I could prove it was by letting him look at the card that showed I was the member. Then, the next day, the folks from the Department of Putting Paint on Your Wall came in and said,'We heard the Congressman is painting his own office.' The person at the desk said, 'Yeah. Look -- it's still a mess.' They said, 'Tell him to stop what he's doing and we'll do it for him.' And the next thing I know, the wall in the lobby is red and my office is painted a very pretty green."

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