The Range

Rope a Dope

President George W. Bush's debate approach of repeating the words "hard work" and generally looking like a befuddled doofus--y'know, just being himself--drew generally negative reviews, even from supporters. Columnist Bob Novak, f'instance, observed that Bush appeared to be "smirking, bored, annoyed, looking as though this were the last place in the world he wanted to be." Maybe da prez was engaging in a cagey rope-a-dope strategy of lowering expectations and wearing Democratic nominee John Kerry down for the final two debates.

While some post-debate polls showed a tightening race on the national level, the most recent KAET-TV poll, released two days before the debate, showed Bush holding a solid lead over Kerry in Arizona. Of the 553 registered voters surveyed, 49 percent supported Bush, 38 percent liked Kerry and 12 percent were undecided. Among likely voters, Bush's lead climbed to 15 percent.

Bush and Kerry will next do it Oprah-style, sitting on stools in front of an audience of regular ol' Americans, at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, at St. Louis' Washington University. The debate will focus on domestic issues. For best viewing results, watch at your favorite happy hour and do a shot every time Bush says, "tax cuts."

The final debate, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13, just up the road in Tempe, has run into a spot of legal trouble. Arizona Libertarians filed suit against debate organizers, complaining that their guy, Michael Badnarik, has been excluded just because he hasn't got a prayer of winning even one electoral vote in November.

"It's a clear case of misusing state funds," according to attorney David Euchner, who is representing the Arizona Libertarian Party. "Arizona recognizes three political parties with ballot status, Democratic, Republican and Libertarian. There are three candidates on the Arizona ballot, of the same three parties. A debate which included all three of those parties would be nonpartisan and contribute to education and public information. But a debate that includes only two of the three candidates is a bipartisan campaign commercial--and an illegal donation to partisan political associations."

Prescription for Disaster

Hey, Grant Woods! Where's that seven-figure anti-Prop 200 campaign? The former Republican attorney general has vowed to lead a million-buck-plus effort to knock down the PAN initiative, which aims to deny state benefits to illegal migrants and force everyone to show an ID on Election Day. Opponents--which include the entire congressional delegation, Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Catholic Church hierarchy, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Farm Bureau--complain the poorly drafted initiative will sink the state into a legal quagmire while doing little to stop illegal immigration.

This week, Tucson's medical community, including representatives from the Pima County Board of Health, the Hospital Society of Southern Arizona, Northwest Medical Center, University Physicians Inc. and El Rio Community Health Center, got together for a joint press conference opposing Prop 200.

"This proposition is not going to solve any immigration problems; it's not going to reduce the numbers of people coming here without proper paperwork," according to Dr. Paul Horwitz, president of the Pima County Board of Health. "But it would tie up the health care system in red tape and it would discourage people from getting timely care for treatable diseases."

The aforementioned KAET poll showed that Prop 200 still had the support of 63 percent of voters, while just 23 percent opposed it.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Southern Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, voted last week to oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In a 227-186 vote, the measure got a majority but failed to get the two-thirds support necessary to pass the amendment, although it may have succeeded in riling up the religious right before Election Day, as well as putting lots of Democrats on record as perverse enemies of traditional marriage between a man and woman.

Kolbe, who went against the majority of his GOP colleagues with his vote, complained that the push for an amendment was "an affront to this institution" because it was brought to the floor by House leadership rather than through the normal committee process.

Arguing that the issue of gay marriage was best left to the states, Kolbe called the proposed amendment "discrimination."

"Never in our history have we used the amending process to limit the rights of citizens," added Kolbe, who was evidently out drinking the day that the history teacher taught about Prohibition.

News From Mudville

The once-mighty Arizona Diamondbacks crawled to the finish of the worst season in franchise history, losing enough games to be already mathematically eliminated from the 2005 postseason. With a Major League-worst winning percentage of .315, the D'Backs lost a staggering 111 games and finished 42 behind of the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers. Since flaring like a supernova in a 2001 World Series win against the New York Yankees, the D'Backs have collapsed into a black hole of financial ruin, injured players and plain ol' lousy luck.
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