Caplis & Silverman, Mike Coffman, 4/15/2009

Station: 630 K-HOW
Show: Caplis & Silverman Show
Guest: Mike Coffman
Date: 4/15/2009
Topics: Tea Party, Deficit Spending, Ethics Violations, Marines on Merchant Ships, Pirates.
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CAPLIS: Congressman, welcome back to 630 KHEW.

Coffman: Good to be with you.

CAPLIS: Lets start with the Tea Party today. What was I like out there talking, there had to be, the Denver Post said there was 5,000 people. This grassroots turnout. Give us your take.

COFFMAN: It was really interesting because I have been in politics forever. So when I show up at an event I know who the activists are. And this was truly a grassroots thing. A lot of these people weren’t people who are normally involved in politics that I see. So I wouldn’t really call it certainly a partisan event. So it was very interesting. People were mad. There seemed to be a real grassroots element of it. But I didn’t really see it as a Republican thing.

CAPLIS: Do you think it’s going to be, I don’t, but do you think it’s going to be a one-day phenomenon or the start of something bigger?

COFFMAN: I don’t know. I think that is a good question. I got the feeling that it might be the start of something bigger but I am not positive. Only because of the fact that I was quite frankly stunned that these people were fired up. They were angry. They felt disenfranchised by the politics of Washington and in their own state capitol. And it was really more along the deficit spending theme. It really hit a raw nerve. Being in Washington obviously as much as I am, I have always wondered what are the grassroots going to feel in the community. It was interesting, I certainly got an ear full.

SILVERMAN: Congressman, have you figured out that does go on in Washington? Because they do seem out of touch. And the thing that I respect about this rally, I think you would agree looking at the signs, most of them were aimed at the deficit spending. There are people out there who charge up big bills on their credit cards and then there are people who don’t. I think that the people there today are the people who don’t and are alarmed about what people in Washington are doing. How come they don’t get that in Washington?

COFFMAN: They just don’t. I think its all about today politically and not about tomorrow. And so its kind of whatever happens tomorrow happens tomorrow. Lets see how much influence we can buy or how much political support we can buy today. It’s a sad process. And I certainly support deficit spending if it’s wise. If its truly simulative in this year and next year. I think the problem is that there is no effort in the budget plan that I see to close the deficit. We are going to be running trillion dollar deficits in the next ten years.

CAPLIS: Yea incredible. The national debt is going to double under Obama here…Congressman, I wanted to cover some other ground. Vincent Carroll today, let me just read the first paragraph for folks. And I think just nailed it. And this goes to the Congressman being cleared of these ethics charge. The headline of Vincent Carroll’s piece: Ethics in need of watching. And he says, “Isn’t telling lies still considered unethical? If Colorado Ethics Watch is going to lecture public officials for their supposed transgressions, shouldn’t it adhere to a minimum standard of upright behavior itself? Shouldn’t it, say, refrain from making stuff up in an effort to save face? So how did Ethics Watch respond Tuesday to losing its first big case before the state’s Independent Ethics Commission? By twisting the truth. By continuing to smear 6th District Congressman Mike Coffman, whom the commission vindicated.” Congressman, your reaction to being vindicated and what Vincent wrote?

COFFMAN: I still think there is a win in there for Colorado Ethics Watch. They were created in 2004 as a result of campaign finance reform where the Democrat major donors were limited in what they could give to their political party. And so they created some of these supposed non-profit organizations to do partisan work. This organization is a fraud and they exist to do political partisan work. And I just think its wrong. They knew they were never going to win. But just the way you said it, “Congressman Cleared,” that in itself creates an environment of suspicion that degrades my reputation. So I think they certainly accomplished some things. And I think they accomplished all that they attended to do.

CAPLIS: Good point.

Silverman: Well, I have to say Congressman that most fair-minded people looking at it don’t have a lesser opinion about you. And personally, I am sorry you had to put up with that. Because it didn’t seem fair or right. So there you have some bipartisanship. How about you and President Obama? Any bipartisanship? Today he called the tax code monstrous. He said it was way too complicated. I don’t expect that you will agree on the rates, but here is April 15, tax day. It seems to me this tax filing system, its gotten way to complicated, out of control, and controlled by special interests.

COFFMAN: You know, I think that is all true. And I would agree with him on that. Hopefully it is something that we can certainly work together on. There are times I agree with the president and times when I disagree with him. Hopefully over time there will be more agreement than disagreement.

SILVERMAN: Speaking of agreement, I know you have thoughts on this pirate situation. Don’t you commend the administration for the way they handled the situation with Captain Richard Phillips?

COFFMAN: You know, I certainly do. But I think there is another solution out there. I think we are trying to go after a fly with a sledgehammer. We don’t have the naval resources to patrol this area, which is a little over a million square miles. And so we need a fly swatter instead of a sledgehammer. And it would be much more cost effective to put small military detachments on the US-flagged merchant ships in order to deal with the pirates. And it wouldn’t take very many. We did this during World War II. And we can do it now. So we just deal with the problem and we write rules of engagement to where any of these pirate crafts approaching US merchant vessel that demonstrate hostile intent would be taken out.

CAPLIS: Congressman, how many Marines do you think it would take per ship?

Coffman: I really think we could do it with a squad per ship. That’s about 13 Marines. Certainly not very many. With some crucial weapons. These pirates, they have got some rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons and that’s it. And grappling hooks. And they are boarding these ships with unarmed crews. And we can easily, by temporarily placing military detachments as we did in World War II on US merchant flag shipping in this area only, we can take care of this problem.

CAPLIS: Sounds like a good idea. If there is opposition, where do you think it’s going to come from?

COFFMAN: I don’t know. There may be some concerns from the merchant marine fleet. I don’t know if they would have concerns. Certainly the crew of Maersk Alabama have stated that more resources need to be available. That this situation cannot continue. There is some discussion that maybe we need to conduct military raid in the costal areas to get into these safe harbor areas. But to me, its unnecessary putting US military personal at risk as well as innocent civilians in the target area through collateral damages and possibly killing the hostages that we are trying to rescue. So I just think that we need to end this once and for all. This is a way to do it. And it is a pretty cost effective solution.

SILVERMAN: And it is an interesting idea. Who would bear the cost? Should the people transporting the freight bear the cost having the military on board protecting their goods?

COFFMAN: We can certainly talk about that the shipping companies. But we are spending so much money now by having a concentration of our naval power trying to patrol this vast area. So we are spending a lot of money today. We could greatly cut that back, go back to what normal patrols were back before piracy, have technology on the ship and take care of the problem. Again, from a military standpoint, it’s pretty easy to devise the rules of engagement. These are pretty unsophisticated operations that these guys are doing. And they are lightly armed.

CAPLIS: Congressman