View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Intramural Squabbles 

A lot's been made of the "differences" that emerged between Schaffer and Coors in their last debate. To me, these differences really look a lot like a schism over whether to use white or red grape juice at kiddush. Or in their case, white or red wine at communion.

The Denver Post spends most of this morning's post mortem on the fact that Pete Coors didn't know Paul Martin's name when it was brought up. Paul Martin is the Prime Minister of Canada, at least until Monday. Interestingly, the Rocky's reports this:

When Schaffer brought it up again near the close of the debate, Coors responded, "Bob, I do know his name. I know he's a liberal and probably won't be in office too long, and I'm looking forward to knowing the name of the new one."

Now, Martin's party is the Liberal Democrats, but they're referred to as "Liberals." The newspaper quotes him using a lower-case "l," but my hearing usually isn't good enough to distinguish between lower- and upper-case letters. If Coors meant to refer to Martin by party, rather than persuasion, then with Canadian elections coming up, and Martin trailing in the polls, he would seem to have a better grasp of Canadian politics than Schaffer wants to acknowledge.

More importantly, nobody cares. While we don't want to elect a Senator who spends more time watching beer ads than producing them, most Coloradoans probably couldn't tell Paul Martin from Billy Martin or "Lefty" Martin. This kind of thing didn't hurt Reagan or Bush, and it won't hurt Coors if he can define a vision that resonates with Coloradoans.

As for the data mining discovery by the Coors camp that Schaffer voted a couple of times to raise user fees and excise taxes by a couple of basis points, sorry. Nobody seriously disputes Schaffer's anti-tax stand. The Club for Growth, a pit-bull of an anti-tax group if there ever was one, likes him, and the notion of some kind of inconsistency just isn't going to fly.

Neither is this kerfuffle over the drinking age. There are lots of good reasons to bring it back down, probably some good ones to leave it where it is, but Coors only talked about it in response to a question from Schaffer. It's not like he's made it the centerpiece of his campaign to run around campus, horns blaring, shouting "drinks for everyone!" He's running for Senate, not fraternity president.

One area where Coors may be vulnerable is the environment, especially water. Oh, not on the facts, of course, and Schaffer was careful not to hand the Democrats an issue in the fall. But the Post brought up the issue:

Pete Coors: "I understand water issues - that's what we do. We turn water into beer." During Wednesday's debate, Coors emphasized the importance of clean water.

But according to a scorecard compiled by Environmental Defense from federal reports, Coors' Golden brewing plant ranks as one of the nation's biggest polluters.

In 2001, the most recent year that records are available, Coors released 54,000 pounds of nitrate compounds and 7,700 pounds of ammonia. Neither discharge is harmful to health if it is diluted, but they could have ecological impact.

Amy Valdez, spokeswoman for Coors Brewing, said the company releases far less than its federal permits allow.

I have no idea who "Environmental Defense" is, although it could be the Environmental Defense Fund. I'm sure that pretty much every company that uses water gets named "one of the nation's biggest polluters" when there's an election or a legislative vote at stake. The Post doesn't bother to describe the "ecological impact," and Coors Brewing makes it clear that it's well within the law here, too.

But you can count on Mike Miles and Ken Salazar to make red meat out of this during the general election. There's no way a Republican is going to get a fair shake on the environment, regardless of his record. He could promise to uproot every last rancher and farmer on the eastern plains of the state and turn whole counties over to the buffalo, and they'd ask if he was using hybrid trucks to move the furniture.

After you get past these "differences," I think the Coloradoan probably had the best take on it: There was little distinction between the candidates on most issues.

UPDATE: See Jared's post on this, too.

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