Scott McInnis: The waterlogged years (Pt. 2)

We may never know what inspired the Hasan Family Foundation to shell out $300,000 for a series of remarkably slipshod "Musings on Water" by Scott McInnis.

But as I pointed out in the first installment of our probing analysis, the candidate's soggy prose offers clues about the kind of governor he might turn out to be.

Although McInnis was being paid $2,000 a page for his thoughts on the subject, it's obvious he didn't bother with a ghost writer or even an editor. The work is clearly his own; no one but a pure bureaucrat could manage to take a subject as inherently dull as the history of water law in Colorado and make it so much duller, to the point of mummification. So we have to give the former Congressman points for taking personal responsibility, while wondering if he has a savvy leader's good sense to know when to delegate.

Slogging through the musings, which are so loosely organized and lacking in transition that it's somewhat misleading to call them "articles," is tough going. But a few of the idiosyncrasies in the author's style emerge so persistently -- and annoyingly -- that they are hard to ignore. They hint at certain character traits readers might want to consider in the current gubernatorial contest.

Here are a few gems, and their implications:

1. A weird use of the parenthetical to present alternative meanings. Example one: "Certainly other statutory organizations were created, some over time, plus Denver set the stage early for intrastate discussions (fights?)."

Example two: "In 1937 the legislature created water organizations that have continued to have significant influence (read impact) on the direction of Colorado water and will continue that influence long into the future."

Conclusion: Fuzzy thinking. Indecisive. Wants to be more declarative but lacks confidence.

2. Wordiness and redundancy. "The problem is that the 1922 Compact divided up more water than the Colorado River produces. So now arguments are ever more heated and comity is found to be wanting 83 years later in 2005."

Conclusion: A tendency to fill up empty space with empty words. That "83 years later in 2005" smacks of a schoolboy trying desperately to pad his assignment to meet the word count, or a blowhard who's so fond of his own voice that he doesn't grasp the vacuity of his speech.

3. A habit of putting common words in quotation marks, as if they are somehow "funny" words. "[Jefferson's] unspoken intent was to acquire public land for settlement and expansion to 'the west.' He believed that it was the country's destiny to expand from the Atlantic to the 'western ocean.'"

Conclusion: Avoid at parties unless you want to get the fingers-making-quote-marks-in-the-air treatment.

4. Excessive use of lawyerly either/or qualifiers, often combined with maddening folksiness: "What would happen when/if there should be a 20-25 year drought in Colorado and/or early friendly agreement is not reached for supplemental water for the east slope metropolitan area? Your guess is as good as mine, but it wouldn't be pretty!"

Conclusion: A tendency to drivel. Possible early dementia.

5. Poorly sourced assertions, devolving into platitudes: "Rumors and some news reports indicate that now in 2005 some Round Table participants are negotiating water deals among themselves. True? Very probably! What goes around comes around."

Conclusion: Asked to write for a general audience, the author has opted to treat his readers as morons. No reason to believe he won't regard voters the same way.

There will possibly (very probably!) be more of these musings (groovings?) on the McInnis musings, if/when the "time" is right here in 2010. Remember that what comes around goes around.

Thank you. Until next time.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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