Lamborn's chance to shine 

Hey, Doug Lamborn. Wanna stay in Washington beyond 2008? Wanna have at least a second term in the House of Representatives?

Wanna be a hero in Colorado Springs? Wanna drive Jeff Crank, Bentley Rayburn and the rest of those not-so-loyal-to-you Republicans crazy for a change?

You've come to the right place, believe it or not. Ol' Ralph has the answer for you, all wrapped up in this little column.

First, let's review what got you into this mess. It's been difficult, trying to make a good first impression in Congress. You didn't have help from Joel Hefley or his friends. In the minority party, you couldn't wrangle your way into the right committee assignments, such as Armed Services. And you didn't have much luck with your first (and now former) media guy, Chris Harvin, who did you more harm than good.

Your choice was simply to become the best Republican lapdog possible, and you've been just great at that. When in doubt, toe the party line, blindly and faithfully, even when you're losing those embarrassing 383-34 votes.

What has it gotten you? Shallow support from other lawmakers. And now you're among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents on Capitol Hill.

What you need, sir, is a real issue. Not a feather pillow and certainly not your idea to make Pikes Peak a national monument, which is a nonstarter but something that truly matters to people in your district, even the country. We have your issue, Mr. Lamborn. Nobody else is paying attention or apparently cares about the outcome, not even Sens. Ken Salazar (no problem for you there, right?) and Wayne Allard (he's a Republican, but the lamest of lame ducks).

In case you haven't guessed, we'll end the suspense.

It's NORAD. You can lead a crusade to stop the military from taking its headquarters out of Cheyenne Mountain. You'll have to stand up to some in the Pentagon, and you'll have to fight others inside the Beltway who eventually might want to steal your thunder.

But hey, Colorado Springs is your territory. And this is your chance.

Obviously, several years ago an element of the military hierarchy decided to push through the relocation of NORAD. Nobody took it through political channels, and by the time Adm. Timothy Keating first talked about it, the wheels were already in full motion. It was too late.

Now, even our U.S. senators can't seem to grasp what's happening. Salazar and Allard say we shouldn't worry; they've been assured the mountain will stay open. But they won't define the differences between remaining the true NORAD nucleus and turning into a museum, a "training site," a "warm standby" for emergencies.

One of your fellow congressmen, Mark Udall, has expressed his concerns. But he has so much else on his plate now, running for Allard's Senate seat in 2008, that we can't be certain Udall will remain on top of it.

Even the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce is curiously quiet on NORAD. That's strange, considering the chamber folks have made such an embarrassingly big deal of pushing the Army's Pion Canyon expansion, railing about the potentially negative effects for the city if it doesn't happen.

That was a stretch. This isn't. NORAD is being sliced and diced to please several military commands, and the relocation is taking personnel away from the Springs. Beyond that, there are major, legitimate cost and security concerns not from the media but, as you know, fully detailed in that May report from the Government Accountability Office that nobody in the military seems interested in addressing. Perhaps that's because they're afraid of having to backtrack.

So, Mr. Lamborn, it's up to you. This should be your baby, and it provides the best chance of your term to make people listen to you. Offer to talk about what has gone wrong with NORAD, and you might find yourself a guest on FOX News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, even the big networks.

You have the best position of anybody in the House to demand the military be accountable. Who knows, this could get you that seat on the Armed Services Committee. Not to mention a second term. And if you save NORAD as we've known it, based inside Cheyenne Mountain, you're the hero.

It's your move, Rep. Lamborn. And rest assured, people are watching.



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