McCain puts his foot in it up to his hip joint. Don’t mention rope in the house of a hanged man or water in Colorado.

An Arizonan who wants to carry Colorado probably doesn’t want to talk about renegotiating the Colorado River compact (i.e, taking water from Colorado to give it to Nevada, California, and Arizona). When the Republican candidate for Senate proclaims that the proposal just offered by the Republican candidate for President is something that will happen only “over my cold, dead political carcass,” you can guess that the Presidential candidate has put his foot in it.

And when, having made such a colossal blunder, the Presidential candidate sends someone from Back East to explain that when the candidate said “renegotiate” he didn’t, like, actually mean, y’know, renegotiate: well, when that happens an uncharitable observer might form the misimpression that the Presidential nominee is a doddering old fool who has a habit of talking through his hat.

For example, you might get this sort of editorial in Colorado’s biggest newspaper, the Denver Post:

McCain’s comments were … not only political poison in Colorado, they displayed a disturbing ignorance of the realities of the West’s scarce water resources.

To say Westerners are disappointed in McCain would be an understatement. For the first time since Barry Goldwater’s and George McGovern’s 1964 and 1972 disasters, we finally get a son of the Rocky Mountain states running for president. And on the region’s most vital issue — water — McCain unthinkingly mumbles the same parochial tripe he doubtless delivered dozens of times to rave reviews at luncheons of the Phoenix Rotary Club.

[emphasis added]

The paper’s deputy editorial page editor, Bob Ewegen, was even ruder:

Memo to: John McCain.

From: Five million thirst-crazed Coloradans.

Subject: Forget about winning our nine electoral votes next November. We don’t vote for water rustlers in this state; we tar and feather them!


As a senator, McCain has long represented a state, Arizona, that would love to steal Colorado’s water. But now, he wants our votes. Apparently, nobody bothered to brief the candidate who Paris Hilton called “that wrinkly, white-haired guy” that stealing Colorado’s water to benefit Arizona, California and Nevada isn’t as popular an idea in Colorado as it is in Arizona, California and Nevada.

Who knew?


None of the … upper basin states whose snowmelt feeds the river is ecstatic about giving up our meager share of our birthright to fill those artificial lakes beloved by Las Vegas casinos. By the time Ashby’s story finishes rocketing around the Rockies, McCain’s name will be McMud among the water buffaloes.


When the lower basin states talk about “renegotiating” the compact, that’s their code for a process of give and take — in which Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming give and California, Arizona and Nevada take.


Here’s some free advice, wrinkly guy: When campaigning in Colorado, you might survive advocating atheism, taking our guns away or outlawing apple pie. But never, ever, mess with our water.

McCain can walk back what he said about the issue, but he can’t walk back what his remarks said about him.

Hat tips: ThinkProgress, Atrios, McJoan at DailyKos, Colorado Pols

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com