UPDATE: Navy men know how to backpedal, as the AP updates:
John McCain promised southern Colorado voters Friday he will never seek a renogotiation of the Colorado River compact, trying to bury a controversy he triggered by suggesting this summer that the Western water-sharing agreement could be changed.
“Water is too precious,” he told a cheering crowd in Pueblo, which wanted to hear it from McCain himself. “Thank you for the water.”
McCain stirred up a hornet’s nest when he told The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper that the 1922 compact should be “renegotiated over time.” His remarks drew outrage from Colorado Republicans and Democrats who fear arid southwestern states – including McCain’s home state of Arizona – could draw more from the Colorado River…
Despite McCain’s assurances – including a letter he wrote after the newspaper interview in which he advocated dialogue among the seven states “in a way that is fully consistent with the compact” – Democrats weren’t willing to let it go.
As the Pueblo Chieftain reports:
On the eve of Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s visit to Pueblo, local Democrats with a special interest in water took aim Thursday at McCain’s earlier comments about the need to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact.
“Simply put, when John McCain is in Pueblo tomorrow, we demand that he explain why he wants to steal our water,” said Sal Pace, an unopposed Democratic candidate for state House District 46. Pace brought along a bag of straws to symbolize how McCain would “suck the water out of Colorado.”
Pace was joined on the Pueblo County Courthouse steps by John Singletary, a member of the state Board of Agriculture and chairman of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District; Nick Gradisar, president of the Pueblo Board of Water Works; Wally Stealey, past president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District; Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner and state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West…
“John McCain knew exactly what he was saying,” Pace said. “As junior water rights owners, Southeastern Colorado’s Fry-Ark water will be the first water sent to water the lawns of McCain’s seven homes.”
On Thursday, Stealey compared Reclamation’s plans to wheel water in the West to Enron’s wheeling of power in California several years ago. He said continuing those policies under McCain could be damaging because so many Western rivers originate in Colorado.
“Wheeling water won’t work,” Stealey said…
“The Colorado River Compact is the cornerstone of water rights in this part of the country and needs to stay in place,” Chostner said. “Renegotiation is a dangerous approach.”
McFadyen talked about the historical importance of the compact, praising the compact’s architect, Delph Carpenter, for his foresight in seeing that lower basin states were growing faster than Colorado at the time it was negotiated in 1922.
“Whether he was speaking off the cuff or if he was uneducated, it was the wrong point to make,” McFadyen said. “We know what a fight we’ve had with water. Imagine if we have to fight California and Arizona.”
Thus reinforcing the unsolvable predicament McCain created for himself–nobody involved with water in Colorado can ignore what he said, and maybe 1 in 10 such voters we know is satisfied with McCain’s clumsy reversals on the issue. We’ve pointed out repeatedly that all McCain really did was underscore what anyone with a brain knows is his natural position as a Senator for Arizona on water rights in the Colorado River. The animosity that follows is as natural as breathing.
He can’t undo the damage from this with contradictory platitudes, and at this point he basically can’t undo it, period. We predict McCain’s water gaffe is a sealed deal, worth at least one vitally important percentage point for Obama on Election Day. Anyone disagree?