Stand by your man 

You've got to hand it to Jeff Crank. It's a gutsy publicity stunt, even in conservative El Paso County, to launch a "Stand by the President Campaign" when 32 percent of the American public currently approve of the job George Bush is doing.

But somebody must have thought it was a good idea, and so last week Crank, who is running for Congress, announced his "Stand-by" campaign, complete with a Web site featuring a photo of him and his wife standing next to President Bush and the First Lady.

Also last week, former president Bill Clinton came to Colorado, first to a luncheon for Democratic officeholders, candidates and party faithful, and then to the overdue groundbreaking of a memorial to the students and teacher killed at Columbine High School seven years ago.

The memorial service was obviously somber, but the Dems who gathered at the Colorado Convention Center were gleeful over the reality of the red-turned-purple-turning-blue state of affairs. Hope and optimism were the messages of the day.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who introduced the former president, referenced the "miracle" of 2004, when in Colorado he won his senate seat, his brother John Salazar became a congressman, and Democrats seized control of both the state Senate and House of Representatives.

Salazar reported that the White House's own Web site notes, "During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history. [Clinton] could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus..."

When Clinton took the stage, he joked that certainly by the end of the day the official White House description of him would likely be removed from the site. He noted that he had grown to truly love the president's father, George H.W. Bush, over the past year as the two worked together to help tsunami and hurricane victims. He even personally likes the current president, "Even though I disagree with him on nearly everything he stands for."

Then Clinton got to the meat of his message. The Republican Party in Washington, he noted, is very different than you and I. All across America, people are increasingly uncomfortable about being pushed into "blue" and "red" categories. The disconnect, this crazy partisan divide, is palpable and troublesome.

One big problem, Clinton freely noted, is that many people don't know exactly what Democrats believe. Indeed, with a reputation of being little more than Republicans Lite, Democrats must let people know what the party stands for: Equal opportunity, social responsibility, uniting communities. "Our values are different and our policies are different," Clinton said.

Poverty is on the rise, health insurance costs are escalating: "We think America needs a source of new jobs," Clinton said, noting the stagnation of job growth over the past five years. "We believe government should be open and accountable. We are the party of fiscal responsibility. And you tell people that.

"We vote for reality-based politics, not ideology-based politics."

It's hard to get the message through that Democrats are critical of the growing gap between the rich and poor, of tax cuts that primarily benefit the very rich being shoved through Congress, while penalizing college loan programs and poor children.

Clinton used a great example of how diluted the messages have become. Last year, he experienced a moment during which he never had been prouder of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as she unveiled a complex package to address climate change. The next day, the media silence over U.S. Sen. Clinton's plan was deafening. Know why? That was the day Vice President Dick Cheney's chief aide, Scooter Libby, was indicted. Whatever fleeting satisfaction of the moment for Democrats, Clinton noted, represented a tiny fraction compared to the serious need to address global warming.

Perhaps, to acknowledge his commitment to serious issues facing real Americans, next week El Paso County congressional candidate Jeff Crank should launch a new campaign. He could call it "Stand by the Former President."



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