Remedial course is sorely needed in the lessons of practical politics

Perhaps you can help me here.

I’ve identified a new subject for the political science classroom.

Certainly the need has been demonstrated.  Now come those pesky details, such as creating an inviting title and finding a university interested in teaching the practical side of politics along with the theoretical.

While the title of the course is still a work in progress, there’ll be no shortage of potential instructors.

Candidate No. 1 would be the president himself, Barack Obama, who helpfully provides “the private sector is doing just fine” example of how to demonstrate the “open mouth, insert foot” tactic, including an extra credit session on how to attempt to extract both extremities from a wide-open facial orifice.

The “just fine” remark last week and the hasty effort to “explain” it will provide fodder for the campaign trail from now until November.

Our own congressman, Scott Tipton, is also on the list of potential instructors, perhaps in the art of budgetary misdirection.

Just last Sunday, his electronic newsletter arrived in my inbox, touting sponsored legislation prohibiting the Bureau of Reclamation from sending out cash with surveys in order to encourage responses. Our ever-frugal congressman pointed out that his efforts would save the treasury nearly $28,000, the amount BuRec spent on a survey in the Pacific Northwest.

Every little bit counts in cutting spending, but apparently not amounts with many more zeros ahead of the decimal point.

Not discussed in Tipton’s newsletter was his vote earlier last week against trimming from the budget a $25 million subsidy (my shaky arithmetic says that’s nearly 1,000 times the amount Tipton brags about saving) for research on oil shale, a subsidy that would have gone to an industry that so far has been very proud of doing research and development on its own dime.

Fellow Colorado GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn could be a candidate to teach the honors section on misdirection, or perhaps a separate class on consistency, since he also voted against cutting the subsidy despite previously praising companies for spending their own money on research. 

Fortunately, the amendment, co-sponsored by Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, passed by a single vote, sparing Tipton the embarrassment of having to follow up with a newsletter touting his support for the unasked-for gift to the oil shale industry. Not much embarrasses Lamborn in the debate over oil shale.

While we’re on energy issues, let’s add Sierra Club leadership to the list of potential instructors, perhaps for a session on marriages of convenience.

The environmental group found the natural gas industry an attractive ally back in the days when it was battling coal as the primary fuel for the nation’s power plants. It was a union made in heaven, you would think, judging on progress made on the emissions front by converting coal-fired plants to cleaner-burning gas. 

But, like so many others, the Sierra Club seems to be in a bit of a mid-life crisis since that once-attractive spouse, natural gas, is looking a bit dowdy. Hence the divorce notice in last week’s Daily Sentinel, fueled by the siren call of alternative energy.

There’s also room in my work-in-progress syllabus for classroom sessions on “do as I say, not as I do.” County commissioner candidate John Justman seems to be in the running to teach those sessions.

As the supposed “true conservative” in the 1st District commissioner race, Justman has been predictably an advocate for smaller government, free enterprise and the private markets. Presumably, “smaller” includes the federal government and its programs.

But, as you may have read in Sunday’s Daily Sentinel and as outlined earlier in the week in Ralph D’Andrea’s Junction Daily Blog, Justman has also been the recipient of somewhere north of a quarter million dollars of payments from federal agricultural programs. Those payments are certainly legal and perhaps even justified. But they provide an interesting counterpoint to what most folks would consider to be an anti-government stance on the part of the recipient.

So what should we call a course in practical politics that includes sessions on extremities in facial orifices, publicizing selective small savings while ignoring support for millions in subsidies, ditching one-time allies when the alliances are no longer useful and saying one thing while doing another?

Damned if I know, but it’s a course sorely needed.

Only Jim Spehar could concoct a way to offend his few remaining Democrat, Republican, environmentalist and farmer friends in a single column. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Mr. Spehar: I only reported that Justman accepted $195,547, not “somewhere north of a quarter million dollars.”

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