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Don't give Schultheis a pass


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Where is the outrage? Where are the state and local Republican leaders who should be castigating state Sen. Dave Schultheis? Where is the torrential reaction from his Colorado Springs constituents?

A week has passed since Schultheis, the proudly arch-conservative, 68-year-old champion of intolerance, cast the only dissenting vote on a Senate bill requiring pregnant women to be tested for HIV, thus allowing immediate treatment to protect babies from being born with HIV.

Here's what Schultheis told the Senate, as transcribed by "Sexual promiscuity, we know, causes a lot of problems in our state, one of which, obviously, is the contraction of HIV. And we have other programs that deal with the negative consequences we put up part of our high schools where we allow students maybe 13 years old who put their child in a small daycare center there. We do things continually to remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior, quite frankly, and I don't think that's the role of this body."

Lynn Bartels, longtime state reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, asked what Schultheis meant about babies being born with AIDS.

"What I'm hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that," he said. "The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior."

Somehow, Schultheis has escaped with no wounds, as was the case after he recently chided the state for producing TV ads in Spanish urging Latinos to use seat belts. He wondered if the next ads might be in Mandarin Chinese or Vietnamese.

But he's merely our latest elected official to show his true misguided colors, so hardly anyone cares. Nobody in the local Republican hierarchy has responded. GOP Senate leader Josh Penry of Grand Junction told media he would not "muzzle" Schultheis or state Sen. Scott Renfroe of Greeley, who called homosexuality a sin comparable to murder.

So our lawmakers continue shooting from the mouth. Schultheis, Larry Liston, Doug Lamborn, Doug Bruce ... oh yeah, Bruce was voted out. But he's in the hall of fame for those who have desecrated our city's image.

Colorado Springs is labeled a crazy place, overflowing with right-wing zealots, even though it isn't. Civic leaders wring their hands, saying we have to change how people think of us. Then somebody like Schultheis reconfirms the stereotype.

Yes, the damage is tangible. Especially when Schultheis is anointed "Worst Person in the World" by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Countdown, with more than 2 million viewers on a typical night. The story races across the nation, they say it's from Colorado Springs, and the knife goes in a little deeper.

An interesting e-mail came from John Wiener of the University of Colorado's Institute of Behavioral Science. Wiener, who has monstrous academic credentials, draws this comparison: "Boulder is completely colored by the right-wing attacks on what most residents consider simple foresight (planning, open space, etc.) and a modicum of civility (concern for others in less fortunate circumstances) ... On the other apparent end of the stereotype spectrum, from the outside, one sees the Springs as the property of the Taliban."

Wiener's incisive conclusion: "It might be quite interesting to poke a little further into how these extreme stereotypes affect local politics and will to participate. Both cities may be more affected than they think, and may repel more people than they think, due to being so painted."

Sure, many locals are jaded after all the embarrassments caused by our political and religious leaders. But it's still important to call out the offenders. If we ignore their actions and words, they feel empowered to continue.

We have to draw the line, or this will never end. Republicans should disown Schultheis, but that'll never happen as long as social conservatives are in charge, always yearning for the next moral cleansing.

We can't shrug it off and say that's not us. Because it is us, to the outside world. We can't ignore stupid comments because they might affect how others view us.

If we don't condemn it, we're condoning it. Take your pick.


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