Off Limits

Taking stock: Yee-haw! Yep, the National Western Stock Show is in town, inspiring unusually pungent odors in Denver's air and equally stinky reporting jobs by writers who don't know bull about their beat. Which accounts for this correction in a recent newspaper: "A cutline in Tuesday's Denver Post identified an animal as an Angus heifer. It was not."

Errors are in the air. Colorado may be the home of the country's two national political-party chairs, but that doesn't mean residents of this cowtown are getting the respect they deserve. Soon after Colorado's governor was named chair of the Democratic National Committee (and Jim Nicholson wrested Republican honors in an upset), Roy Romer grabbed headlines and Today show spots with his successful pan-handling--but the guv's newfound notoriety wasn't enough to convince National Public Radio that his name isn't Ray Romer.

What goes 'round comes 'round: House Speaker Newt Gingrich got slapped hard last Friday for his ethical lapses--many of them linked specifically to Colorado and the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation, the nonprofit founded here in 1984 by then-Colorado Republican Party chair Howard "Bo" Callaway. ALOF supposedly was set up to sponsor speaking events for inner-city kids but never managed to host one; instead, six years later Callaway and Gingrich revived the moribund organization as a way to funnel funds into Gingrich's televised college lecture series, "Renewing American Civilization" (which is still showing on Knowledge TV, thanks to another helpful Coloradan, cable magnate Glenn Jones). To use ALOF in that manner, Gingrich either willfully violated the law or was "reckless in not taking care that he, as a member of Congress, made sure that his conduct conformed with the law in an area where he had ample warning that his intended course of action was fraught with legal peril," concluded James Cole, special counsel to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. And either way, Gingrich's actions were certainly "improper," Cole determined after a year-long investigation.

Cole, too, has Colorado connections--although ones less likely to land him in hot water: He graduated from the University of Colorado and returned after law school to clerk for a state Supreme Court justice.

There's no pol like an old pol: Nicholson and Romer aren't the only Colorado politicians to register on national radar. Pat Schroeder, heading to a teaching stint at Princeton University after 24 years in the House of Representatives, recently was tracked down by a New York Times reporter who wondered why, since Schroeder and six colleagues had stormed the Senate on behalf of sexual-harassment testifier Anita Hill five years ago, they hadn't done the same for Paula Jones? "There's not enough hours in the day," Schroeder replied. "People are busy. They only have so many hours to breathe. People just don't rally every day. They eat. They work."

They justify.
Former Colorado senator Gary Hart, whose second presidential bid sank beneath a bimbo-load of monkey business, resurfaced in a recent Columbia Journalism Review with this excerpt from his book The Patriot: An Exhortation to Liberate America From the Barbarians:

"In the eyes of many I did fail, through my own faults and errors, and am therefore disqualified from sharing in my nation's life and debate...If so, it is a harsh penalty. For, in my own eyes, I chose, under intolerable conditions, not to be reduced from the status of a candidate to that of a media celebrity. I refused to participate in a culture which destroys leadership and demeans debate. The invasive and belittling scrutiny of political leaders, placing all their faults and failures on public display, is justified by the media as fulfilling their responsibility to protect the country from inferior leaders. Does anyone believe, since the media assumed this authority, that the caliber and quality of leadership has risen, that we have wiser, stronger or more visionary leaders?...

"I refused to submit to a media inquisition that destroys leadership and to a celebrity culture that prefers sensational expose to serious political discourse."

That from the man whom Hunter Thompson described as possessing "the face of Abraham Lincoln and the soul of Jerry Lee Lewis.


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