Archive for October, 2010

Why hasn’t victim’s account of the Stapleton DUI crash appeared in The Post?

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The Denver Post is missing a major element in its reporting on State Treasurer candidate Walker Stapleton’s 1999 DUI arrest, specifically that a victim’s eye witness account of the incident, reported in the Colorado Independent, directly contradicts portions of Stapleton’s version of the story.

During a KBDI debate, Walker admitted that he got the DUI, according to a Spot blog post Sept. 30.

The Post reported that after the debate, Stapleton confirmed that he got the DUI after 1) a taxicab hit his vehicle and 2) he drove about a block away and pulled over. Stapleton told The Post that police dropped a hit-and-run charge after he explained to police how the accident occurred.

Then, on Friday, the Post reported that ColoradoPols posted court documents stating that Stapleton hit two pedestrians and tried to drive away from the scene of the accident.

San Francisco police told The Post that the court documents were at least partially wrong, that no pedestrians were involved, but the police wouldn’t elaborate further.

Other details about the case, including 1) if the taxicab hit Stapleton’s car or if Stapleton ran a light and hit the cab and 2) whether Stapleton tried to drive away and was stopped, could be revealed in the police report, which Stapleton has requested, according to the Post. The Colorado Independent has reported that the charges indicate that Stapleton may have been using other drugs.

Trouble is, we already know from a story in the Independent on Monday that one victim’s version of the story contradicts portions of Stapleton’s, and The Post hasn’t reported this in yesterday’s story on the topic or in Friday’s piece.

On Monday, the Colorado Independent published an interview with a woman who was in the taxicab involved in Stapleton’s crash. She was one of two victims listed in court documents.

The Independent reported that she was in the taxicab and saw Stapleton’s car run a red light and hit the cab. It also quoted the victim saying:

“When the cab stopped spinning, I looked out the window and saw his jeep or whatever, a big car, pull to the side of the road down the hill. Then I saw his car start to move again. He was going to leave but two cabs came up the road…• I think it was two cabs…• they blocked him in. One went in front of him and the other went behind him, so he couldn’t drive away.”

(The name of the victim is not a secret, but Independent reporter John Tomasic told me the victim asked him not to use it, so he didn’t.)

I emailed Post reporter Tim Hoover and asked if he tried to contact the woman who was in the cab that Walker Stapleton allegedly hit. I also asked, if he hadn’t been able to reach her, why, in reporting on the topic, he didn’t at least refer to the Colorado Independent’s interview with her.

The victim’s version of the story is critical, because it partially corroborates the court documents and it provides an important perspective for voters who are trying to figure out whether to believe Stapleton’s story. A victim is a totally legitimate source for voters to hear from. If she has a hazy recollection of the incident, which does not appear to be the case, then The Post could simply report this.

I did not immediately hear back from Hoover.

Blogs start the post-mortem early: What if GOP nominee had been Norton?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

If you’re a Republican, and you look at Ken Buck’s troubles, you can’t stop your mind from wondering back to the comforting image of-.Jane Norton.

Except it’s not so comforting, of course, because you wake up and see Ken Buck trying to talk about rape and incest, and you know Norton would have faired much better than Buck on numerous fronts, like the flip-flop front and the women-front, to name a couple.

This discussion, of whether Norton would have been a better candidate, will undoubtedly emerge in the media after the election.

At least that’s the way it used to be, before the advent of blogs.

Nowadays, the public soul-searching, among respected commentators and partisans, begins before the election.

For example, on the topic of Norton versus Bennet, one conservative, the prolific Rossputin blogger, Ross Kaminsky, has already weighed in.

In an Oct. 18 post that looks a bit like it was written by the Michael Bennet campaign, Kaminsky laments that Norton isn’t the GOP nominee because she’d be doing better:

Kaminsky: But I can’t help remembering the heated online discussions I had with the Buck faithful when I supported Jane Norton, my argument being essentially that “these two are almost identical on policy, but Norton will be much harder for the Democrats to demonize in the general election than Buck will be and therefore, I’ll back the person I think more likely to win the general election.”  Those words still ring true, even prescient, to me.

He went on to deliver some harsh words about Ken Buck. To be fair, Kaminsky wrote that he’s still planning on voting for Buck, and he emphasized this again in a subsequent blog post.

Still, this is some pretty harsh stuff coming from a conservative like Kaminsky:

Kaminsky: Ken Buck needs to stop putting his foot in his mouth and stop saying ridiculous things which turn him into a caricature of the narrow-minded bible-bound old white guy which Democrats use with great success against the GOP.  Sadly, when Republicans say things like Ken Buck said on Meet the Press, it’s hard to argue that that caricature is far off the mark.

Kaminsky doesn’t labor in obscurity. He shares a radio show with former CO Senate President John Andrews. His blog has a national audience, and he’s a fixture on the most prominent conservative blog in Colorado, the People’s Press Collective. He carried the conservative torch on The Denver Post’s blog for a number of years, outlasting his liberal counterparts who failed to post much toward the end.

Even though Kaminsky writes that he sees the GOP as imperfect, seeing it as the only serious vehicle to implement his favored policies, he’s actually good weather vane for the Republican establishment. For example, during the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, Kaminsky gave reluctant support for the bailout, which was supported by a Republican president, the Republican nominee for president and vice president (yes, Palin supported the bailout), the Republican Treasury Secretary, and by Republican members of Congress. Then, within days of supporting the bailout, Kaminsky reversed himself.  To be fair, Kaminsky was up front that he was changing his position, but it came almost immediately after we were hearing noises in the conservative intelligentsia that Republicans should oppose the bailout and use it for political leverage down the road.

That’s why when I read posts from him critical of Republican candidates, I have to wonder if he’s channeling the thoughts and feelings of Republican power brokers who would never dare air them in public.

So, when Kaminky starts wishing for Jane Norton, it means something.

In the days before blogs, uncomfortable conversations among respected commentators like Kaminsky would have taken place over the kitchen table.

But today, the speculation about what could have been begins now…-and in public.

Was CBS4 moderator being unfair when she told Buck that voters care about social issues?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Tough follow-up questioning is so much more fun to watch than the wimpy kind…-and it makes for better informed voters besides.

Case in point: CBS4’s Gloria Neal’s exchange Saturday night with Ken Buck over the question, “Will you really make a raped woman carry a child to full term?”

Fair question, but Buck didn’t answer it, prompting Neal to ask it again.

Buck responded by arguing that “we need to stay focused on the issues that voters in this state care about, and those are spending and jobs.”

Neal responded:

“Social issues are important to the voters in this state. I am one of them. So I need you to answer that question, because in addition to votes and jobs and all of that abortion is very important, and when you start talking about rape and incest, that is important to the voters. So, please, answer that question.”

Buck then said:

“I am pro-life, and I don’t believe in the exceptions of rape and incest.”

As a debate moderator, Neal gets credit for noticing that Buck said voters don’t care about social issues. It’s a lot harder than it looks to realize that, yes, Buck had just said voters don’t care about social issues, like choice.

Was Neal right to tell Buck that voters do care about social issues? Absolutely. Plenty of polls show that voters, especially women, care about these issues. Otherwise, you can bet Bennet wouldn’t keep harping on them.

Was she right to say that she is one of those voters who cares about social issues? Yes, she’s entitle to say this, as  a journalist representing the public.

Neal just needs to be fair to both candidates, which she was.

Multiple media outlets allow Buck to exaggerate his role in starting a program for rape victims

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Under media scrutiny for saying in 2006 that a jury might believe an alleged rape victim had “buyer’s remorse,” even though her attacker admitted raping her, Ken Buck has responded, in part, by telling reporters he subsequently “started” a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) program.

This highly regarded program trains hospital personnel to provide special care for rape victims.

But Buck did not start a SANE program.

Buck’s Weld County District Attorney’s Office was one of the agencies in Weld County that began participating in a SANE program, after a Larimer County hospital began operating one, according to SANE officials in Colorado.

Yet media outlets report that Buck’s campaign has claimed that Buck actually started a SANE program, even implying that he led the effort:

The Politico reported Oct. 11:

Buck’s campaign also notes that as a prosecutor, he started a multiagency sexual assault review team and sexual assault nurse examiner program to provide care to victims and collect evidence in criminal cases.

ABC’s The Note reported Oct. 12:

[Buck spokesperson Owen] Loftus pointed out that as district attorney, Buck started a program for victims of sexual assault and helped raise funds for a specialized nurse program to help treat victims of sexual abuse.

KRDO television in Colorado Springs asked Buck for comment on the rape case, and he “declined comment.” But his campaign issued this statement Sept. 21 to KRDO:

“As a prosecutor, I have dedicated my life to protecting people from heinous crimes like rape and incest. As District Attorney of Weld County, I have implemented several programs such as SANE and SART, to help victims and ensure that perpetrators are put behind bars.

“Before becoming District Attorney of Weld County, women who were sexually assaulted had to wait long hours in waiting rooms before being examined. I started SANE, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, to provide compassionate and trained nurses to help victims of sexual assault. SANE ensures that victims are examined as soon as possible in a private environment. The program provides compassionate nurses who are trained in sexual assault examinations and qualified as trial witnesses to examine victims right away.”

In each of these cases, reporters should have stated that Buck did not start a SANE program.

“There is no SANE program in Colorado that was single-handedly initiated by a district attorney,” Val Sievers, Colorado SANE Director, told me.

“Sexually Assault Nurse Examiner programs are nurse-based practice programs that are typically associated with a hospital so they can see patients, provide them care, provide them medication, and provide them support,” she said.

“In the 15 years that I’ve been providing the SANE education to nurses and physicians in Colorado, SANE programs have been initiated and developed at hospital facilities with the support of social services, law enforcement, and district attorney’s offices. These hospitals typically submit an application for initiating a SANE program, which says we are going to have these components in place.”

It turns out that no hospital in Weld County has a functional SANE program, so rape victims in Weld County are transported to Loveland Medical Center of the Rockies, in Larimer County, for the specialized care provided by SANE-trained personnel, according to Susan Webster, SANE Coordinator at the Loveland Medical Center of the Rockies.

According to Webster, Buck had nothing to do with starting the Loveland SANE program, which serves Greeley, Ft. Collins, and Loveland, Longmont as well as all of Larimer County, Weld County, and portions of Boulder County.

Webster and an advisor started the program in Poudre Valley in 1997, she told me, and when it moved to Larimer County in 2008, the service was offered to surrounding counties, including Buck’s Weld County.

“Law enforcement agencies in Weld County have supported our effort by bringing their patients to our program, instead of having them go to the emergency room in Greeley, where there is no SANE program, and where patients may have to wait in the lobby if they go there,” Webster explained to me. “Law enforcement responds, and they are brought here after they have been medically cleared by an ER doctor.”

So it looks as if the SANE program would have come to Weld County, with or without Buck, though his office has been supportive of the effort.

And even if Buck only played a nominal role in getting the program off the ground, the fact is that rape victims in Weld County are better off for it.

Still, it’s disturbing that multiple media outlets allowed Buck to exaggerate his role in starting the program, apparently without checking in with SANE officials who were the real initiators of the effort in northern Colorado.

Buck’s office did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment on this blog post.

One of my unanswered questions is why Buck would support, much less tout, a program like SANE that provides Plan B to victims of sexual assault, if they choose it.

Plan B is designed to stop ovulation and the implantation of fertilized eggs in the uterus, with the aim of stopping pregnancy.

Buck believes that life begins at conception, when the egg and sperm meet to form a fertilized egg, and he’s opposed birth control methods that potentially threaten fertilized eggs; such birth control methods would include Plan B.

If he really had started SANE, to be consistent with his hard-line position on abortion, Buck would have insisted that SANE not offer Plan B to raped women, and more raped women would likely have gotten pregnant. And Buck opposes letting them choose abortion.

Reporters should consider asking Buck about this.

Don’t believe the headline; spokesperson, not Buck, doing the clarifying

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

A headline in today’s Denver Post reads, “Buck clarifies comments on global warming ‘hoax.'”

One problem: As you know if you read the article, Buck never clarified his comments on the matter. His campaign spokesman, Owen Loftus, did.

So the headline, most likely written by an editor, didn’t accurately reflect the article, written by a Post reporter.

It’s a significant error to someone like me who likes candidates who talk to reporters themselves. (And I like reporter who insist on this when possible.)

But I might not bother to point the headline out if not for the fact that Buck himself hasn’t been quoted in The Post much lately. Instead, he mostly, relies on his spokespeople. (To be fair, so does Bennet.)

But the headline gives readers the impression Buck is out there fighting for himself with reporters, when, in fact, in this instance–and in by far most cases in Post articles published in October–his spokespeople were the ones to talk to reporters.

Question of the week for reporters: How often is Buck on the fringe of mainstream scientific thinking?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

“Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated,” Ken Buck said yesterday, The Coloradoan reports today. “The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on.”

Even if you think global warming is a hoax, like Ken Buck apparently does, it’s simply inaccurate to say that that “more and more” people share this view, at least the people who count the most: scientists.

“The trend in the scientific community has been to make more and more certain statements about global warming, and more importantly that it’s caused by pollution,” said Dan Lashof, Director the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center.  “The claim that more and more scientists are saying this is just a lie. The U.S National Academy of Sciences this year affirmed the science [supporting global warming] in a comprehensive study called America’s Climate Choices”

The Colorado Independent points out today that Buck’s views on global warming put him once again on the scientific fringe, continuing a trend from Sunday when he called sexual orientation is a choice.

Buck, who’s called himself a global warming skeptic in the past, also apparently stepped up his anti-global warming language for the ears of Inhofe, raising legitimate question again for reporters about his willingness to say whatever he thinks he needs to say to gain the love and support of the specific audience that’s in front of him.  I can’t find a case where Buck has said that global warming is the “greatest hoax that has been perpetrated” or anything quite this extreme on the topic. Let me know if you find this, please.

Reporters should ask Buck for his views on other scientific topics (e.g., evolution, extraterrestrials, health/tobacco, food labeling, endangered species) and whether he is uncomfortable being at odds with mainstream scientific thought…-and whether his other views on other scientific topics, like is thoughts on global warming, are even more extreme than previously expressed.

Carroll whiffs in complaining of media bias against Buck

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

If you follow Vincent Carroll at the Denver Post, you know he likes to be a media critic every now and then, and sometimes he makes a good point.

But he whiffed completely in his column today in asserting that poor U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck was the victim of media bias during his appearance on Meet the Press Sunday.

“With Buck, on the other hand, Gregory hardly let up,” moaned Carroll, whose column was headlined, “A glaring example of media bias.”

The most effective way to illustrate the absurdity of Carroll’s attack is simply to list the questions Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Buck.

Check them out below, and you’ll agree that any political candidate in Buck’s position should be able to knock these questions out of the park.

There’s not a single “gotcha” query in the bunch, nothing Buck shouldn’t have known inside and out.

So, to cry “media bias” over them is an obvious distraction from the real issue, which, of course, is Buck’s answers to the questions.

  1. MR. GREGORY:  And the question is whether the tea party represents an extreme, insurgent political force, or whether it’s a legitimate political movement.  What do you say?
  2. MR. GREGORY:  If you’re senator, do you think these elements [anti-Semites, racists, bigots, hard-core white nationalists] in the tea party need to be dealt with and need to be rebuffed?
  3. MR. GREGORY:  Senator, is this a legitimate question?  Is this [Tea Party}a mainstream movement?  Because this is high stakes in your, in your campaign, in this debate.
  4. MR. GREGORY:  Mr. Buck, the issue of the tea party matters, though, because one of the big knocks against you, it’s been subject to the campaign between you, is whether or not you took positions to appeal to primary voters, to get that tea party support that you’re now backing away from….  Is that charge fair?
  5. MR. GREGORY:  But isn’t it also easy to flirt with positions in a primary, and then back off and say, “Well, I’m not sure I’d actually vote for that,” you know, once you get into a general election?  Isn’t that what people really dislike about politics?
  6. MR. GREGORY:  I want to–you want to button this up before I move on to some questions.  You say…
  7. MR. GREGORY:  Why is that unreasonable in your view [that politics haven’t allowed us to make tough choices]?
  8. MR. GREGORY:  And you take responsibility, as well, for what Republicans did in terms of running up the debt before that?
  9. MR. GREGORY:  Well, let me ask you on that point, do you agree with Republican leaders who say that tax cuts do not have to be paid for?
  10. MR. GREGORY:  Well, extanding–extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest earners.  The president says it all the time, it would cost an extra $700 billion.  Should those be paid for if the–if, if Republicans like you want to cut that deficit, bring it in balance, do you then have to pay for the tax cuts you want to extend?
  11. MR. GREGORY:  But how can that be bigger?  You either believe in the balanced budget or you do not.  If you extend tax cuts, you said just a moment ago they have to be paid for.  Then how do you pay for it?
  12. MR. GREGORY:  But not–it’s not fair to compare him to all Republicans. Republican leaders don’t agree with what he just said, which is that you have to pay for tax cuts.  So isn’t he–aren’t you guys more in line, wouldn’t you say?
  13. MR. GREGORY:  You’re talking about growing the economy?
  14. MR. GREGORY:  And I wonder whether you regret using those words [buyer’s remorse], and whether you think women should give some weight to those issues in deciding whether to vote for you.
  15. MR. GREGORY:  But do you regret the way you either talked to her or talked about the case?
  16. MR. GREGORY:  Right.  But what about what you told the Greeley Tribune [about “buyer’s remorse”]?
  17. MR. GREGORY:  The issue of gays in our country, in a debate last month you expressed your support for “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which we talked about with Mr. Gibbs, and you alluded to lifestyle choices. Do you believe that being gay is a choice?
  18. MR. GREGORY:  Based on what?
  19. MR. GREGORY:  Why do you believe that?
  20. MR. GREGORY:  You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?
  21. MR. GREGORY:  How do you answer that, Mr. Buck [on Afghanistan]?
  22. MR. GREGORY:  What if General Petraeus says, “You know what, it’s July 2011, but if we’re going to achieve our goals, we can’t pull any troops out.  May need more troops, may need to surge up again here.” Well, you could support that because you don’t believe in deadlines?
  23. MR. GREGORY:  Let me ask you a question about the Supreme Court.  Obviously a crucial role as a U.S.  senator, confirming a justice who’s nominated by the president.  Which sitting justices would you have voted against?
  24. MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.  Are there Clinton-era nominees as well, down the line?
  25. MR. GREGORY:  But is that part of the problem, that you want to come to Washington and not have any friends?  How do you solve problems if you can’t work with people on the other side?
  26. MR. GREGORY:   Ashley Newberg:  “This is what I would ask them:  What do you hope to accomplish, both in your political career and in life in general outside of politics?” But you’ve got to be very brief. 

If you’re so inclined, list some tough questions for Buck in the comment section, so Carroll gets a better sense of the possibilities.

Post Editorial Page Editor sees need for more left-leaning opinion on Spot blog for “more balance”

Monday, October 18th, 2010

If you’ve been watching the evolution of political blogging at The Denver Post, you know that the Spot blog, is by far the best effort yet, way better than the newspaper’s blog in the days when rightie Ross Kaminsky wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, while his left-leaning Gang-of-Four counterparts were often AWOL, along with any audience to speak of.

Now, with Kaminsky safely booted back to his Rossputin blog, The Post’s political blog features bylined reporting, fact-based with breaking news and some humor but without rumor and slander.

The Spot also offers two opinion writers (sometimes more, but rarely): right-leaning Chuck Plunkett, who posts as much as once per day, and libertarian David Harsanyi, who posts less frequently.

I’ve got nothing against Plunkett and Harsanyi. I respect both of them.

But it’s obvious to me that the Spot, by adhering to basic journalistic standards in the vast majority of its blog posts, strives to be fair and accurate, like The Denver Post generally.

And featuring two right-leaning opinion bloggers, amid the eight news writers, isn’t fair and doesn’t reflect well on The Post’s commitment to even-handedness.

So, for example, last week. On Tuesday, the morning after the 9News-Post-sponsored Bennet-Buck debate, there’s Harsanyi bashing Bennet on health care, with no blogger offering counter-spin.

And Wednesday morning, there’s Plunkett defending Buck in the “buyer’s remorse” case.

Then Plunkett is at it again on Thursday, trotting out a rape victim who praises Buck’s treatment of her.

The previous week, Bennet got unfairly punched in the mouth by Plunkett, in a Spot piece titled, “Bennet ought to drop his hypocritical strategy.” 

I know Plunkett doesn’t always side with the GOP (e.g., McPlagiarist), but he seems to be on a particularly conservative jag of late (See list at end of this post.)

Since the primary, Plunkett wrote eight pro-Buck posts, versus four siding with Bennet. Harsanyi tossed in five more attacking Bennet and, no surprise, none favoring Bennet. (Well, that’s not exactly right. Harsanyi posted a piece Friday pointing out that even though he “fundamentally” disagrees with most of Bennet’s policy positions, Harsanyi doesn’t believe Bennet hates the Broncos, as Republicans claimed. And on Friday Plunkett posted The Post’s endorsement of Bennet.)

I emailed The Post’s Editorial Page Editor Dan Haley, who’s in charge of the opinion posts on the Spot, while Political Editor Curtis Hubbard oversees the news posts.

I asked Haley if he thinks the situation is fair and, if not, if he’d balance out the Spot by adding a couple left-leaning opinion writers from the editorial page.

I suggested that, with the election raging, the Spot should dump Plunkett and Harsanyi for the final weeks of the election season, in the name of basic fairness. Or balance them out immediately.

His response:

You make an interesting point, and one I hadn’t thought of. When we created The Spot, the idea was to join forces with the citydesk reporters, so we could have one strong blog (with news and views) rather than two weaker blogs. I’ve encouraged everyone on my staff to blog, but I don’t make it mandatory. Given our staff size, our main goal each day is to produce two editorials and create a compelling op-ed page. (Of course, online and social media have taken on a bigger role, as they should.) I have no plans to ask David and Chuck to stop blogging during the campaign because I think their contributions are a valuable part of the blog, in specific, and the public discourse in general. But I do think we should encourage more of our left-leaning editorialists and columnists to do more blogging for more balance, and that’s a broader discussion that we should have here.

Also, I would argue with your characterization of Chuck Plunkett’s blog posts. While those you point to can be viewed as conservative, or right-leaning, he also has written numerous posts that could be seen coming from the left, if you feel the need to put everything in a neatly labeled box. Beside critiquing Scott McInnis and Dan Maes, for example, he has taken on Tom Tancredo in a few posts, including one after Tancredo called for Obama’s impeachment. He also has defended Michael Bennet in numerous instances and criticized Dick Wadhams when he tried to lump Hickenlooper and Ritter together as “Hickenritter.”

I was obviously happy to receive this, since Haley essentially agreed with me that more left-leaning posts on the Spot would bring more balance, and he seems ready to move in this direction.

Though I’d dump Harsanyi and Plunkett now to achieve immediate fairness, I wouldn’t eliminate them or the opinion posts from the Spot forever. I like the news-opinion format of the blog, as long as it’s balanced.

The question is, how to achieve balance in the long term?

Adding posts by left-leaning bloggers is the place to start, obviously.

It’s also a necessary to acknowledge that Plunkett leans right.

Harsanyi, for one, doesn’t think so, as he told me in an email, that Plunkett is a centrist.

Asked if he thought of himself as right-leaning, Plunkett wrote that “free-market libertine” had a “nice ring to it.” He emailed me:

“I think of myself as a centrist. So do others who know me well. I’m progressive on social issues like gay rights and a woman’s right to chose. I’m passionate about protecting the environment. But I am skeptical of government over-reaching in many ways, and I am a free-markets kind of guy, as long, of course, as those markets are conducted under the rule of clear and reasonable laws and regulations. In my life, I have voted more often for Democrats than Republicans, but it is true Democrats have deeply disappointed me of late. I also think Republicans share the blame in the present situation.

 So no, I don’t lean GOP. I no longer lean Democrat. I don’t even know if you can say I lean Libertarian. What I think is going on is you and others are seeing a Chuck Plunkett who is a centrist by nature but who is writing and commenting during a unique time in our history when the conservatives are generating much of the energy.”

Looking back at Plunkett’s writing, I have to agree with him that he’s not partisan, for sure. He’ll take unexpected positions.

But before you believe he’s Mr. Centrist, read the following excerpt from a speech he gave at conservative gathering Sept. 15, called “Denver Liberty on the Rocks.”

Plunkett describes how he want back two years ago, after he joined the Post editorial board, and read “key passages” of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which was an “exciting and affirming” experience. “I thought it was an overwhelmingly positive message, and I note that you guys think that way,” he said, adding that a lot of Americans “don’t see that free markets could structure a beneficial society.”

“Vast segments of our population either believe or act like they believe that Americans only enjoy their standard of living at the expense of others,” he said.  “They experience guilt when they ought to experience gratitude. They don’t understand that wealth creates wealth. They don’t understand that the poor countries in the world are almost always poor not because Americans are stealing all of their resources, but because their governments prevent free markets from forming and empowering their people…-because over-reaching governments won’t help them make money. You need to frame the narrative so more people understand that.”

“Too many Americans believe that here at home only the rich get richer,” he told conservatives. “You hear that all the time that the system has gotten rigged somehow against the middle class and especially against the poor.”

I know the political center in the United States has been moving steadily to the right, but if this quote represents the new center, the right has been moving so fast I lost track of it.

I mean, the Spot needs a voice to stand up for unions and government interventions in the economy to create economic equality–countering Plunkett and Harsanyi.

Still, the addition of more progressive blog posts on the Spot, written by other writers, would help balance the blog.

But it won’t solve the fairness problem because it’s true what Haley says: Plunkett in particular and even Harsanyi will sometimes attack conservatives and their ideas.

So you could run into a situation, like during this year’s primary season, when Plunkett was in his “McPlagiarist” period, when the Spot’s opinions could tilt left, instead of the current rightward tack.

That wouldn’t be fair either.

So it’s up to Haley to flag situations where the Spot starts to look one-sided, favoring one candidate or view, whether left, right or center. Or when it’s doing the opposite. This makes The Post look bad, and right now that’s what’s happening. There are plenty of opinion mongers out there to make the situation right, if need be, on short notice.

I’m not alone in thinking that newspapers will survive only if they can convince people that they are the source for credible, fair, and accurate information…-even on their blogs.

By sponsoring a blog that tilts rightward, particularly in a Senate race that has huge national implications, The Post isn’t doing itself or us any favors.


 The vast majority of Spot pieces are not opinion. They are written by Denver Post reporters Lynn Bartels, Michael Booth, Karen Crummy, Jessica Fender, Tim Hoover, Michael Riley, and Allison Sherry. Political Editor Curtis Hubbard also contributes.

Opinion pieces are mostly written by Chuck Plunkett and David Harsanyi

A sample of recent Spot posts by Chuck Plunkett:

  • Oct. 18: Buck’s gay gaffe and what Republicans should learn from it (States that Buck’s views are wrong.)
  • Oct. 15: Denver Post picks Bennet for Senate
  • Oct. 14: Rape Victim Praises Ken Buck for his assistance (Reports on rape case in which victim praises Buck)
  • Oct. 13: Sex and Politics in the Senate Race (Supports the way Buck handled rape case)
  • Oct. 12: Dan Maes blames his supporters for believing in him
  • Oct. 7: Did GOP just drop Dan Maes? Really?
  • Oct. 6: Bennet ought to drop his hypocritical strategy. (Slams Bennet ads)
  • Sept. 24: WhoSaidYouSaid catches its “They Spend You Pay” stride (Praises free-market website)
  • Sept. 9: Bennet gets it right (supporting Bennet positions against more stimulus funds and Afghan war)
  • Sept. 8: Hickenlooper’s strange bedfellows
  • Sept. 3: Maes snubs reporters; proves pundits right
  • Aug. 31: NRO finds Bennet also faults stimulus as “immoral” (digs at Bennet for faulting bill he supported)
  • Aug. 27: More on Bennet’s “Nothing to show for it” comment (defends Bennet remark.)
  • Aug. 25: Bennet’s “Nothing to show for it” comment” isn’t really a bombshell (adds context and defends Bennet remark)
  • Aug. 24: Bucking the Federal footprint (defends Buck against extremist label by NYT)
  • Aug. 13: Buck to use candor against crazy label (explains how Buck will answer charges of extremism)
  • Aug. 13: On trying to label Ken Buck (Suggests Buck perfectly represents GOP)
  • Aug. 12: Team Buck versus Team Obama (Suggests national GOP will like Buck)

David Haransyi’s sample Spot blog posts:

Alicia Caldwell is a Post opinion writer, but her posts on the Spot are not hard-edged like Plunkett’s. She wrote last week that U.S. Rep Jared Polis and State Senator Michael Johnston appeared on Time Magazine’s list of rising stars of U.S. politics. She wrote wrote Aug. 24, spotlighting a Washington Post piece that quoted Buck lauding the Tea Party movement but distancing himself from it. Before that, in an Aug. 20 piece titled Buck gets no love from the NYT, she wondered whether Buck’s being labeled “extreme” in a New York Times editorial would hurt or help him among moderate voters in Colorado. She wrote three other pieces in August and more frequently in July, mostly passing on information from other media outlets, some of it left-leaning.

Lou Dobbs and Peter Boyls mindlessly bash Denver Post

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

In an interview on KHOW’s Peter Boyles show last Friday, former (but thankfully fired)  CNN fixture Lou Dobbs said, “We’re at a crossroads in this country. We’ve got so many people so uniformed they don’t even know what the hell the issue is, let alone what can be done about it.”

Then Dobbs and Boyles together went on to demonstrate one reason for the confusion out there.

They were discussing Boyles’ favorite topic, illegal immigration, and Boyles got mad at The Denver Post for not identifying the suspect in a vehicular homicide case as being an illegal immigrant. Boyles did some of his own research and asserted that the suspect used nine different names and three places of birth.

“Now The Denver Post isn’t going to tell you who this guy is,” Boyles said. “The Denver Post actually did an editorial saying Denver is not a sanctuary city. Just Google sanctuary city, and Denver comes up! And they have endorsed the sanctuary mayor for governor. So none of this is surprising. They don’t list an address, which leads some of our retired ICE guys to think he doesn’t have a license. He’s been arrested so many different times, and in Jefferson County they’re prosecuting an old man for shooting at an illegal. He used eight different names in Jefferson County.”

Then Boyles says to Dobbs: “And no one cross pollinates any of this, Lou.”

Dobbs: Well, they don’t think. They don’t work. They don’t research, and they don’t understand what’s happening in this great country. The Denver Post at one time didn’t have an agenda. It was a newspaper of breaking news, doing investigative reporting. It now pursues a political and ideological agenda.”

Boyles: I agree.

Dobbs: Not unlike the Los Angeles Times, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post. Their commitment is to their agenda, not the public’s right to know, not to the national interest, not to oversight of the government that is operating right now without checks or balances.

I wanted to ask Dobbs what agenda The Post has and how he figured out what it is, but he didn’t return my email. Neither did Boyles.

But I’ve looked far and wide and there’s no data supporting Dobbs’ and Boyles’ view that The Denver Post has a “political and ideological agenda.” And data aside, I couldn’t tell you what its agenda is, and I’ve at least perused it most days of my adult life.

Boyles seemed upset when the Rocky Mountain News closed, and he hosted some memorable programs with staffers. Everyone agreed the closure would hurt Denver. Now he’s pushing The Post down off the cliff, even though he relies on the newspaper for so much of his show’s content that you have to wonder what he’ll talk about if he succeeds in killing the newspaper.

Question of the week for reporters: Why did Buck change his reason for making the “buyer’s remorse” comment?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

One reason reporters should insist on talking directly to political candidates, and not their spokespeople, is to make it harder for public officials to change a position without explaining themselves.

If a spokesperson makes a statement, and the candidate later changes his tune, the candidate can simply say that the spokesperson got it wrong or missed a nuance.

That’s why the Greeley Tribune deserves big-time credit for speaking directly with Ken Buck about why he stated that a jury could view a case, in which a man had admitted to raping a college student, as “buyer’s remorse.”

Buck’s explanation to the Tribune on Wednesday, which did not make a lot of sense to me, was:

“She said she was passed out during the sexual act, so I wasn’t referring to whether she had buyer’s remorse for the act that they engaged in, but rather for the prior relationship they had.”

Back in September, Buck didn’t mention anything about “buyer’s remorse” as referring to the victim’s prior relationship with the suspect. The Denver Post reported today:

In a September interview, Buck said he never meant to imply that the alleged victim had buyer’s remorse but that “a jury could conclude this,” he said.

“If you take it in context, people understand it was my trying to give a brief comment of what a jury might find as opposed to my views on sex assault or victims,” Buck said.

In the Post’s quote above, it certainly doesn’t appear that Buck is saying that the jury might find that the victim had “buyer’s remorse” about the relationship not the sex act.

You’ll note that the Post’s interview was conducted in September.

Other than the Tribune, media outlets this week, since the Colorado Independent broke the story, have only quoted only Owen Loftus. (The Post’s Chuck Plunkett asked Buck about the general topic of insensitivity to women involved in rape cases yesterday, but Plunkett didn’t quote Buck in his blog post.)

So it appears that Buck doesn’t want to talk directly to reporters about the case or the “buyer’s remorse” remark.

Maybe his evolving explanation of comment is the reason he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Reporters should ask Buck what he meant when he said a jury might think the mostly unconscious victim, who told the suspect no, had “buyer’s remorse.”

Was Buck referring to having buyer’s remorse about the sex act?

Was he referring to the prior relationship?

And regardless, does he think it was an appropriate comment for a prosecutor to make publicly? If so, why? If not, will he apologize?