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The dumb and smart of it


How do we distinguish one politician from another? Pretty obvious, isn't it? On the right: pro-gun, anti-choice, pro-God, anti-gay, pro-business, anti-big government, pro-military, pro-Iraq war, pro-globalization, anti-environment, anti-immigration nativist wacko conservatives.

And on the left: anti-gun, pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-social welfare, pro-government regulation, pro-tax, pro-sustainable economies, pro-foreign aid, pro-affirmative action, anti-war, tree-huggin', touchy-feely Jane Fonda-ized liberal loonies.

Republican vs. Democrat. Sense vs. sensibility. Rich vs. poor. Wal-Mart vs. Main Street. Yup, it's comforting to have all of these convenient categories, to be able to support your tribe and demonize the other one. But it's not too helpful if you'd actually like to understand what's going on in Colorado Springs, let alone the rest of the world.

According to Ronald Reagan's biographer, Lou Cannon, Reagan chose to nominate Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court after interviewing her for an hour. He never asked about her judicial philosophy, or her politics; instead, they talked about her childhood on a remote Arizona ranch, about horses and the West.

Let's look at things as Reagan might, were he still alive. Forget political orientation -- it makes less difference than you might think. Let's classify our leaders on the basis of their intelligence, mindset and style. And not by giving 'em an IQ test, but by assigning them to one of four categories. To wit:

1. Dumb, Amiable and Politically Cunning: Most small-town pols fall into this category: good ol' boys and girls who know how to get elected, but don't have a clue about anything else. Remember the state legislator who famously remarked that teen pregnancy drops off dramatically for women over 25? Or the city councilman who snapped to a reporter, "No comment -- and don't quote me!"? Or a certain commander-in-chief who still believes there were WMDs in Iraq? It's a good idea to elect a few of these folks, but never a majority.

2. Dumb, Misinformed and Malevolent: Remember erstwhile legislator Charlie Duke, who spent a couple of days curled under a kitchen table, waiting for Revelation? Or former County Commissioner Betty Beedy, who trumpeted the virtues of 'normal, white Americans'? And then there's Colorado congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, who'd like to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. How do these people get elected, anyway?

3. Smart, Amiable and Sensible: Think Bob Isaac, Sallie Clark, Joel Hefley, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Roy Romer, Hank Brown and Lionel Rivera. Interested in getting elected, figuring out the problems and solving 'em. Not particularly ideological. Always willing to do the right thing, unless it's politically infeasible. Guided by former legislator Ken Chlouber's simple maxim: "If you don't get elected, you don't get to govern."

4. Very Smart, Ideological and Malevolent: They know everything, and you're an idiot unless you agree with them. They've got ideas they'd like to impose on the rest of us, and they'll lie, cheat, dissemble and play vicious political hardball to get their way. Favorite tactic: Get a category one politician to front for them. Locally, Doug Bruce, Dr. Dobson and a couple of D-11 board members fit the bill. Regionally, Congressman Tom Tancredo (Tancrazy to the Dems), former Senate President John Andrews and talk-show guy Mike Rosen. Nationally, Ralph Nader, Ralph Reed, Karl Rove, Don Rumsfeld, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

For most of our history, our elected officials have come from categories one and three, giving us a nice mix of regular people, some smart, some not. And here we are: free, prosperous and powerful. But for the last couple of decades, we've seen more and more category two and four nutcases weasel their way into power, with unfortunate results.

If Bush hadn't fallen into the hands of the category four neo-cons, we probably wouldn't be in Iraq. And if we hadn't gotten distracted by Iraq, we'd probably have bin Laden in custody by now. And if Colorado voters hadn't fallen for Doug Bruce's deceptive TABOR amendment years ago, COSMIX would have been finished in 1997.

So let's go for sensible, amiable and smart. Our City Council is stodgily conservative and divided between categories one and three. And we can be proud: By my count, we've got a substantial majority in category three.

As for the dumb ones, I could say that you know who you are ... but you don't. That's why you're dumb.


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