I've got two caffè compagni out there who couldn't be more different.
But they're the same in many important ways.
One is newly elected county Commissioner David Madore, a staunch conservative.
The other is longtime state Rep. Jim Moeller, an über-liberal.
If you had to generally characterize these guys, you pretty much could do it this way:
One is trying to save taxpayers' money, and the other is trying to spend taxpayers' money.
Let's be clear (dramatic pause required here): Neither is automatically a good or bad thing.
We could end up saving too much taxpayer money, which likely would hurt needed government programs.
Or we could end up spending too much money, which likely would hurt struggling taxpayers.
OK, so we know these guys are a world apart on many issues.
But (even bigger dramatic pause required here) these guys are also very much alike. Here's how:
• Both are bright.
• Both are successful at what they do.
• Both are committed and passionate.
• Both are provocative.
• Both are willing to speak their minds and engage the public in a spirited debate.
It's this last point that this column is really about.
The Columbian has been running a few short videos featuring Madore. He gave us his thoughts on a number of issues.
I sat down with him over coffee a few days ago and had what I think we both would describe as a pleasant chat. I taped most of it.
We put excerpts on the website. Immediately, the left and the right came out swinging.
At The Columbian! Well, mostly at me, but you get the idea.
Oh, sure, Madore supporters told him "great job" on our website, and Madore detractors told him he was "way off base."
But it struck me how both the left and the right wished we hadn't posted the videos.
The fringe left, you see, feels we give Madore too much coverage. They say we allow him to spread his message too freely.
The fringe right feels Madore needs to keep his pie hole shut because surely the left will get hold of something he said and use it against him. Plus, the fringe right just doesn't like the media. We're all a bunch of communists down here at the paper.
In the end, what are both of these fringe elements saying?
Let's suppress the information.
Fortunately for our community, we have gentlemen like Moeller and Madore, politicians who are willing to speak freely and tell it like they see it.
You don't have to like what they stand for or what they believe. You don't have to buy into their politics or their philosophy.
But you should respect them for talking freely. You should cherish the idea they simply don't speak through vetted press releases and spokesmen.
These guys are willing to stand up to sometimes difficult journalists' questions.
And we're all better off because of it. Grazie!