Every week, the Colorado Springs Gazette gives Mike Coffman a big hole on the opinion page to fill with his expertise on military issues.
Coffman reenlisted in the Marines and served a tour in Iraq last year. His smiling mug accompanies the guest columns. He also happens to be the Republican candidate running for Colorado Secretary of State in the upcoming November election. (As Cynthia Coffman is prominently quoted on the candidate’s website, “If my husband could be counted on to help the Iraqis run their elections in some of the most dangerous places in Iraq, then he can most certainly be trusted to run them back home in Colorado”) .
Coffman’s prominent column has grabbed the attention of Colorado Springs resident Bud Gordon, who is volunteering to get Democrat Jay Fawcett elected to Congress. Fawcett, a retired colonel and Air Force Academy graduate and former professor who served in Desert Storm, knows something about war as well. So Gordon recently sent Gazette editorial page editor Sean Paige a letter about the disparity between Coffman getting a regular column, and Fawcett’s failed effort to get a single opinion piece published in the libertarian newspaper.Here’s what Gordon wrote:
To Mr. Sean Paige, Editor:
It is quite interesting that the Gazette gives Op-Ed space to Mike Coffman each week to express his views on the Iraq war and other national security issues.
Mike Coffman is the currently elected Republican State Treasurer who is now running for Secretary of State as a Republican.
He does have valid military experience, which makes his views quite relevant. But he also has a job and party to support, which begs for a counterpoint to his prime spot on your pages.
Jay Fawcett is running for office as well. He has valid military experience. He has attempted to get his views published with no sufficient response from Mr. Paige nor a valid reason as to why his views are unworthy of publication in your paper.
We would be glad to supply written pieces for publication on the Opinion pages so that the Gazette‘s readers receive a full and vigorous debate about our nation’s security and the policies of our leaders.
Our voters deserve that full debate. Your position as the major newspaper in Colorado Springs obligates you to the process.
Thank you for your time.
Jay Fawcett for Congress, Internet Coordinator
And this is how Paige, who has been at the newspaper for four years, responded:
Dear Mr. Gordon:
I approached Coffman about running a series of Iraq columns soon after he returned, having no idea that this project would be put off until it encroached on campaign season. It’s a judgment call we debated internally, but I decided that it was now or never, if the columns were going to be relevant. They in no way promote his candidacy, except possibly by boosting name recognition. But I believe Coffman already has an advantage on that count, and I judged that giving readers an insider’s view of the situation in Iraq was worth it, even if a few paranoid partisans might see it as part of some dark conspiracy.
As to your second accusation, that Jay Fawcett has attempted to publish his views in this page and he was refused, that’s rubbish. We did publish candidate statements from the Republican primary contenders [sic], in the run up to the primary election, but that hardly constitutes an attempt to exclude Fawcett. I believe I explained my rationale for doing things that way to Fawcett’s people. We have all along intended to run candidate statements between nominees in the 5th CD at the appropriate time, which we’ll be calling for in the next little while.
We publish all kinds of views on this page, Mr. Gordon, including even the partisan pap you send us from time to time, so please stop impugning our commitment to serving as an honest forum.
Gordon says he sent a polite response to Paige. But how does he really feel about this partisan pap? “It’s totally bogus,” he says.