A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
Editorial: The Gazette, May 19, on injustice in the treatment of servicemen and women:
Americans are a deeply divided people on many things these days. But there is one issue on which virtually all agree, and that is the nation's enduring obligation, as President Abraham Lincoln put it so eloquently in his second inaugural address, "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan."
To that end, America spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year to provide our veterans with the finest medical care and a helping hand in pursuit of jobs, educations and homes. It is unlikely that any other nation has ever done so much to show its gratitude to those who have served in its military in war and peace. But serious injustices can still sometimes occur in the treatment of service men and women. Such an injustice has been found recently through the reporting of The Gazette's Dave Philipps.
This is an especially tough situation for senior military leaders who are being forced to make decisions with life-changing consequences, often without critically important medical knowledge or diagnostic tools. Even so, since there are always bad apples in any organization, commanders must be able to remove any individual who lowers the combat readiness of their units. Insuring combat readiness trumps every other military management consideration just as victory trumps every other strategic goal.
Thanks to the long years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of returning soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injury and/or post-traumatic stress disorder has spiraled. The Department of Defense has spent more than $700 million in recent years studying the causes and cures for TBI and PTSD, which are estimated to affect more than half a million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Progress has been made, but much remains to be learned.
It's tough enough providing proper medical care for victims of TBI and PTSD, but these wounds have presented the military with another challenge from an unexpected direction. As Philipps reports, "the surge in troops returning with PTSD and TBI after more than a decade of war poses a problem for the military because their symptoms often include bad decision-making, frayed memory and incendiary anger, all of which can be indistinguishable from misconduct. With little guidance, commanders struggle to determine who is badly injured and who is just bad."
The result is a disturbing increase in the number of Marines and Army soldiers diagnosed with severe combat-related medical conditions who are nevertheless kicked out of the service via a bureaucratic technicality known as a Chapter 10. Their numbers are comparatively few, but the effects are no less catastrophic for the individuals involved because they often lose their right to medical care and other services to which veterans are normally entitled.
The Pueblo Chieftain, May 19, on three scandals and the Obama administration:
The three current scandals bedeviling the presidency of Barack Obama are all part of a pattern of government he brought with him from Chicago.
He declared that he wanted to be a "transformative" president, just as Ronald Reagan had been. But rather than trying to lessen the heavy hand of government as the 40th president had done, Mr. Obama wanted to expand the reach of government power into Americans' everyday lives.
Thus he adopted the Chicago way of politics: denigrate your opposition at every turn so that those who control the levers of power in the bureaucracies will do your bidding.
Take the IRS scandal, where the federal taxing agency put a target on conservative political groups seeking non-profit status. Since the get-go, President Obama has publicly suggested that conservative political groups were engaged in attempts to do terrible things — end Social Security, starve children, etc., etc. He would call out by name political opponents, and urge his fellow Democrats in government to pressure the IRS to act against conservatives.
Likewise, in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack that killed our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, the president called into question the motives of those who questioned the administration's narrative that the attack was merely the result of a street protest. Sen. John McCain immediately noted that people who get caught up in "spontaneous" demonstrations do not show up with rocket launchers, and the Arizonan's motives immediately were called into question.
Then when the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was questioned by Congress about the attack and what precipitated it, she famously asked, "What difference does it make?" Ask that of the families of the slain Americans.
But these two imbroglios were not enough. It recently became public that the Department of Justice had issued wide-sweeping subpoenas for phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. This was done without first notifying the AP, which would have been the normal course of action.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder, under questioning in Congress, did his best to play Sergeant Schultz by claiming he had recused himself from all oversight. It was the "I know nothing" defense — funny on a TV sitcom but disgusting at a televised hearing.
In each of these cases, President Obama has thundered that heads would roll when those who were doing wrong were identified. He claimed to have "cleaned house" at the IRS when he let the acting director go last week — even though that career bureaucrat was scheduled for retirement anyway.
When Barack Obama won his first presidential election, we expressed hope that he would help unite this nation and bring civil discourse to Washington.
We were wrong.
The Coloradoan, May 19, on Colorado sheriffs suing against gun laws:
The rhetoric and ill-informed passion surrounding gun control legislation has reached fervent levels.
Any room for middle ground has been eliminated in favor of polarizing extremes. If you are for any measure of increased background checks, then you obviously want to take away everybody's guns. If you're against gun controls, then you surely want to see every man, woman and child firing their pistols into the air in crowded parks.
Don't be forced into those false dichotomies. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
That's why we support Colorado's sheriffs in their taking legal action against the state's recently passed gun control laws.
"Sheriffs should enforce the laws the people enact!" has been the rallying cry of Coloradans who bristle at the notion that sheriffs don't like these laws. Yes — we are a nation of laws, and no person is above them. However, for that treatise to ring true, sheriffs have the same protections offered to us all, and that includes the right to contest rules they believe to be unfair — even potentially unconstitutional.
Whether you champion their cause or not, the way in which they were treated during this legislative season was shabby at best. Colorado lawmakers had the perfect opportunity to invite these front-line experts to the table to help draft the legislation.
And yet they were reduced to bystanders with no recourse other than to stage protests. They had no voice in crafting the bills.
We're not opposed to the premise of increased background checks on firearms. But we take issue with the fine print in the laws, which could have been made better for all Coloradans had sheriffs been invited to help. The sheriffs are right when they say that someone temporarily storing a gun at a friend's house if they're evacuated from their home would violate the law. The legislation was not drafted with day-to-day realities in mind.
So, as with any of us, our sheriffs deserve their day in court.
We applaud the sheriffs for following proper legal channels to fight for their beliefs and for not using our tax dollars on this suit. They're moving forward with donations from the public.
Of course, unless an injunction takes hold or until they're struck down, we expect our sheriffs to enforce these laws, which take effect July 1. But we support their right to challenge the laws' legality, and we believe the treatment of the sheriffs gave them no other recourse.
If these laws end up being struck down by the courts, we'd like to see a more collaborative and enforceable method of background check laws replace them. Let's draft those laws with the expertise of all parties and not let legislators think they alone know best.
The Greeley Tribune, May 18, on five years after the Windsor tornado:
Five years after the deadly storm that changed lives forever, virtually all visible signs of damage have disappeared.
Nearly all of us who felt a loss when the unusually large and powerful tornado cut a path of destruction through Weld County have rebuilt our lives and homes. As the physical and emotional signs fade, what we're left with is a profound sense of just how lucky we were.
"We had some minor injuries, and there were some houses that collapsed in on people," Windsor Police Chief John Michaels said. "One fatality south of town and that's it. The storm came through areas where we could have had tremendous fatalities and didn't."
We were lucky because the tornado hit when it did. The storm developed in the middle of the day, just before summer vacation began. That meant many children were in school and had teachers and administrators with them to make sure they were safe. We were lucky because even in some of the hardest hit areas, people inexplicably emerged from wreckage unharmed. And, perhaps most importantly, we are lucky because we live in the community that we do. Weld residents responded to the disaster with heartfelt caring, unwavering determination to recover and an overwhelming generosity.
The tornado's destruction was immense. The 165 mph winds began south of Platteville, and the twister made its way north, through west Greeley into Windsor, destroying homes, cars and farms. At Missile Silo campground, just west of Greeley, Mike Manchester, 52, was killed, the storm's lone fatality. He had been relaxing in his motorhome when the storm hit. Manchester tried to follow the park caretaker to safety but, before he could get away, the tornado struck.
The tornado leveled 78 homes, damaged as many as 3,000 more, and it left 168 families without shelter.
Still, it could have been much worse. In Windsor, where the storm did the most damage, a group of young children and day care workers sheltered in the Windmill Child Enrichment Center. Nearby, the winds flung a semi-trailer truck through the air like a toy and the building 10 feet behind them was destroyed. Miraculously, none of the 131 kids and 22 adults were injured.
The storm disrupted many lives. Some were out of their homes for more than a year, and others moved to new homes, but the recovery began almost immediately. Volunteers converged on the damaged areas offering solidarity and any help they could. In many ways the immediacy of the response from the public as well as experts was as breathtaking as the scale of the damage.
The area was rebuilt, including Windsor's historic town hall. Weld emerged from the tornado better and stronger than it had been before the storm.
It goes without saying that we all hope we'll never see a disaster like we did in 2008 again. But if something terrible does happen, it's reassuring to know how this community will respond.