Letters to the Editor

Coffman apology for impugning Penry’s patriotism is 'smart and proper'

Dear Editor,

Congressman Mike Coffman has done a smart and proper thing. Less than two weeks after questioning the motives of gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry in supporting the property rights of ranchers in southeastern Colorado in their four-year-long battle with the Army, he has issued an apology.

The offending accusations were delivered in a column to your publication on Oct. 23. In that piece, Coffman accused Penry of voting for House Bill 1317, “on the basis of a political calculation.” He went on to impugn Penry’s patriotism, suggesting that his vote was cast, “without any regard for the men and women in uniform.”

What Coffman failed to consider was that, by implication, he was questioning the motives of the majority of Colorado legislators. The bill — which blocks the sale to the military of state school sections for expansion of the live-fire range at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site — was supported by a large, bipartisan majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Coffman’s original editorial was intended as an endorsement of Scott McInnis’ position in favor of the Piñon Canyon expansion, but it had much broader implications. It brought to light an ideological schism within the Republican Party. On one side of the rift are Coffman and McInnis, supporters of the economic interests of the military-industrial complex. On the other side are those like Penry, who come down on the side of the property rights of landowners.

Coffman’s election-day apology demonstrates good political survival instincts, coming in the context of an avalanche of angry reaction from his fellow Republicans, including military veterans. While Coffman’s criticism was aimed at Penry, it also was an implicit indictment of Republicans who voted to protect private and state lands from being seized and federalized.

Perhaps McInnis will now follow Coffman’s example by apologizing for similar damaging accusations, which have alienated him from many within his own party. And perhaps he will reconsider his position in support of a military takeover of the southeastern corner of our state.


Doug Holdread