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Scott McInnis: The waterlogged years (Pt. 1)

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The blogosphere has been abuzz of late about the news that gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis picked up a $300,000 paycheck as a two-year fellow at the Hasan Family Foundation, mainly for writing a series of eye-glazing articles about Colorado water issues. Political junkies everywhere want to know what the Hasans (whose stalwart progeny include rising GOP bad-boy Ali Hasan) got in return for such largesse.

It's a titillating question -- but the wrong one. The $300,000 question is what McInnis's 150 pages of soggy prose tell us about the kind of governor he would make.

After all, it's not so surprising that the Hasans would want to put McInnis to work educating folks about water issues in Colorado, and pay him handsomely for it. A former Congressman is easily worth ten Islamic scholars (judging from what a Pakistani author and former ambassador was paid as a Hasan Fellow), especially if you're trying to build a brand as the kind of foundation that shells out big money to the right people.

And McInnis, at loose ends after his toils in Washington, was apparently eager to accept the "sweet" (his term) deal, which worked out to about $2,000 a page for his "articles" -- actually somewhat disconnected ramblings, generally captioned "Musings on Water," with individual installments on such gripping topics as "Who Gets the Water?," "History Repeats," and (my favorite) "Whither Oil Shale?"

Our hero tackles these daunting subjects with the delicacy of Keats (whose epitaph, remember, points to the elusiveness of "one whose name was writ in water") and the epic sweep of Melville -- who once observed that to write a mighty book, one must have a mighty theme.

There is nothing in the world quite as tedious as water law, and the McInnis writing style is appropriately somnolent. Today, in what may be the first of endless installments deducing the candidate's leadership qualities from his fearless musings, we focus on the very first article, which is all of 422 words.

"WATER!" McInnis begins, with the all-cap urgency of a high-school composition assignment. "It is an absolute human and economic necessity. WATER! You and I cannot live without it."

So far, so good. Seventeen words in, and we've already sounded a mighty theme.

"The water we use day-to-day comes mostly from mountain snow melt -- some from rain -- but mostly from mountain snow melt. The climate of Colorado is semi-arid or even arid with statewide precipitation of 16-17 inches, mostly as snow melt, mostly in the mountains."

Hmm. Somebody seems to be hypnotized by the words "snow melt." But showing the resourcefulness of a true leader, McInnis rouses himself from this rhetorical rut and soldiers on, marching through a droning geography lesson about Colorado's major river basins, marred by only the occasional incoherence, as in "So Colorado does not get to keep off of 'its water.'" Could "off" be a typo for "all," or is the writer invoking the rebellious spirit of Mick Jagger singing "Get Off of My Cloud"?

As the bottom of the page approaches, the passive voice takes over, coating the entire project in a warm, fuzzy vagueness. "These ground waters are being depleted much more rapidly than anticipated." (Depleted by whom? Who's doing the anticipating?) "The issue is politicized and disputes are increasing." (Disputes among whom over what?)

Is McInnis, shrewd political animal that he is, doing his best not to cast blame? In his excitement at nearing the end of his essay -- two grand for essentially listing the river basins! -- is he seeking to be as bland as possible, with good will to all and malice to none? In any event, he breaks off abruptly: "Thank you. Until next time."

Analysis: A plodder. Sticks to the issues he knows (rainfall, river basins), doesn't stick his neck out. Puts out minimal effort to meet minimal expectations. C-.

Point of disclosure: The Westword Foundation is paying me an extravagant sum to blog on this topic. I can't reveal the exact amount without my patron's permission, but suffice it to say that I am getting paid by the word. More on this to come.

Thank you. Until next time.

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