Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bill Ritter Frags Fort Carson

Bill Ritter flunked the "governorship test" Tuesday, when he signed a bill that bars the state of Colorado from leasing or selling state land for the future expansion of Fort Carson. It shows that he'll never evolve beyond the pupal stage of political development, because he's incapable of making a decision that's politically risky, in a partisan sense, but the right thing to do for the state as a whole. Choosing what's right for the whole over what's smart politically is the ultimate test of governorship, of "statesmanship." It's what separates the bona fide "leader" from the political climber. And Ritter just can't make the transition, as this signature shows.

This won't necessarily cost Ritter the governor's job. Plenty of garden variety politicos can rise through the ranks, if individuals with more integrity, more courage and a bigger vision don't step up to challenge them. But it does open another avenue of attack, and point of contrast, for Republicans in the state, if they can pull it together and take advantage of such missteps.

It's clearly a betrayal of Ritter's Inauguration Day pledge to represent the interests of all Coloradans, not just those who voted for him. And it lends a hollow ring to words he spoke only a few weeks ago, when he was asked about the hand-stenciled signs that have been popping up along I-25, asking "Why does Ritter Hate El Paso County?" "I'll put my attention that I've paid to El Paso County against any governor in my lifetime," Ritter bragged to The Gazette. "Every part of the state matters and counts. And it doesn't matter to me what the vote is."

This signature indicates otherwise, Governor.

I've already explained the political calculus behind Ritter's decision, here and here. No point in repeating myself. But some parts of the state clearly matter more to the governor than others. Paso County is expendable because our voter rolls are heavily Republican and he has little to lose by giving us the shaft. The governor was warned that endorsing this gratuitous slap at the Pentagon could put Fort Carson at risk, by sending anti-military signals back to Washington. The possible repercussions were made clear to him -- here, here and here -- in time to have drawn a veto. But he signed the bill anyway, even as the potential fallout was beginning to be felt.

There's no way to describe this but "reckless." It's something the governor should be reminded of each time he comes to town. And if Republicans can't use this to their advantage, when the next election season rolls around, they really are beyond hope.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who fought valiantly to keep Fort Carson's options open, has a typically-forceful piece on the subject in today's Denver Post. I recommend reading it -- and filing it away, against the day that Bill Ritter comes calling, asking for our votes.

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