Schaffer omits salient details in Udall attack
Puzzled Udall fails to respond
By John Schroyer
Bob Schaffer, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, is a seasoned and battle-hardened politician who has proven himself an intelligent and wily opponent for Democrat Mark Udall, and at no time has that been more evident than during Monday’s debate between the candidates at the Wildlife Experience in Parker.
But Schaffer’s most effective attack on Udall — the one described as “political checkmate” in the Rocky Mountain News — omitted several important details.
It began when moderator Adam Schrager, the political reporter for 9News, asked the candidates to summarize their stances on Iraq.
“Let me tell you why we’re in Iraq, some of the reasons. I’ll just read a resolution that was written right before the resolution was passed by the Congress,” Schaffer said.
He then began reciting an excerpt from House Joint Resolution 118, which Udall introduced on Oct. 7, 2002, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
A portion reads: “Whereas Iraq’s failure to comply with its international obligations to destroy or dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program and its prohibited ballistic missile program, its record of using weapons of mass destruction … and its support for international terrorism require a strong diplomatic and, if necessary, military response by the international community, led by the United States.”
Schaffer stopped there and asked the crowd how many of them agreed with the language. The hands of Schaffer supporters shot up, while Udall’s backers kept their arms firmly crossed.
Then Schaffer lowered the boom.
“What I just read was Mark Udall’s resolution supporting a declaration …” and his last few words were drowned out by the roar from the Republican side of the room.
The Udall side was stunned. Schaffer’s response caught his opponent off guard. Udall appeared puzzled, and he didn’t address the points Schaffer had made about the resolution in his response.
Instead, he reiterated that he had voted against the invasion.
And so he had. Udall voted against HJR 114, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 10, 2002. The measure authorized the president to invade Iraq.
Schaffer, who was representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District at the time, voted for it.
HJR 118, the measure Udall sponsored and that was quoted by Schaffer, never passed Congress. It was introduced and referred to the House Committee on International Relations, where it died.
That point, however, was completely lost during the debate, since Udall failed to address it.
Schaffer’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, clarified afterward that Schaffer hadn’t meant to say or imply that HJR 118 had passed Congress, merely to note that it was introduced just three days before the passage of HJR 114.
“It kind of sounded that way. It was said in an awkward way,” Wadhams acknowledged, but emphasized that Schaffer didn’t mean to mislead. (Even Udall staffers acknowledged that they understood that Schaffer was referring to the timing of the measure and not trying to say that Udall’s resolution had passed.)
According to the Congressional Record, Udall offered a full explanation for bringing HJR 118 to the floor of the U.S. House when he introduced it.
“The current resolution (HJR 114) concerns me most because it shortens the path to war,” Udall said in October 2002. “Worse, it vests total discretion with the president to determine how fast we run this path … I believe the path to war should be slower-paced and involve more checkpoints.”
HJR 118 would have required authorization from the U.N. Security Council, followed by an additional vote from Congress before an invasion could take place. HJR 114 required no such safeguards.
Schaffer failed to mention any of that in his remarks during the debate Monday, and so did Udall. That was enough to encourage Wadhams to label the debate “an old-fashioned butt-kicking.”
“You could almost hear the gasps for air on the Boulder liberal side,” Wadhams said, grinning ear to ear.
Walt Klein, a campaign consultant to Schaffer, observed that Udall “just tried to act like the claim had never even been laid on the table.”
Udall campaign communications director Taylor West tried to contain the damage after the debate by pointing out the true nature of HJR 118. She also complained that the entire attack was misleading because Schaffer failed to note key portions of Udall’s measure.
“The entire stunt was purposefully confusing,” she said. “The whole point was to get people to think the exact opposite of Mark’s position.”
Klein, however, said offense is just as much a part of political debates as issue discussion and that he was surprised Udall didn’t seem more prepared.
“Udall … has a version of the old (Muhammad) Ali rope-a-dope. He’s just going to hang on the ropes and act like it doesn’t bother him and hope that at some point Bob will get tired of the points that he’s scoring,” Klein said.
Mike Stratton, a consultant to the Udall campaign, said he wasn’t surprised that Schaffer played hardball.
“The way things are shaping up, he’s got to draw blood early and often,” Stratton said. “Congressman Schaffer is in a situation where he’s in a must-throw-the-ball-long situation. He’s got to go long and deep.”
Recent polls show Udall steadily extending his lead over Schaffer, partly due to media reports about a controversial trip to the Northern Marianna Islands by Schaffer in 1999 that was arranged in part by the law firm of outlaw lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The most recent poll by Public Policy Polling found Udall leading Schaffer by nine points.
But if the crowd’s mood on Monday was any indication, the race will be a contentious one. At one point during the debate, Schrager had to threaten to stop taping in order to get Udall supporters to settle down. A number of them had begun yelling at the stage after Schaffer rebuked Udall’s noisy fans.
“Don’t be so harsh, you people from Boulder,” Schaffer chided.
That was only one of several times Schaffer alluded to Boulder as a symbol of liberalism, although he never actually uttered his campaign manager’s favorite tagline, “Boulder liberal Mark Udall.”
Schaffer made so many Boulder references, in fact, that Udall eventually commented on it.
“I’m not going to pick out one community or another and stereotype that community,” Udall said, to huge applause from his side of the room.
The room was filled with 820 spectators, and, perhaps wisely, Schaffer’s 300 supporters were herded to one side of the room and Udall’s 300 to the other side (the remaining tickets to the debate went to its sponsor, the Southeast Business Partnership). Each camp endeavored to outdo the other in slogan-chanting.
The tone for the debate was established at the outset, during the candidates’ opening remarks. Udall went first, reaching out to unaffiliated voters. The need for a bipartisan effort to solve the country’s problems has been a common theme of Udall’s campaign, and he mentioned it so frequently during the debate that his final reference drew derisive laughter from Schaffer supporters.
“The answers don’t lie in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The answers lie among us. The right answers are Colorado answers,” he asserted.
Schaffer, meanwhile, went on the attack immediately. He opened with his first reference to Boulder, the liberal bastion in Udall’s congressional district. Schaffer said Boulder’s tax structure requires companies to pay a sales tax even on goods that they donate or give away, and viewed with alarm the case of a coffee shop owner dinged by Boulder for $2,600, in back taxes for cups of coffee he had given away.
Said Schaffer, “(The shop owner) summed it up perfectly. He said, ‘Well, whether it’s legal or not, it’s stupid.’”
The Schaffer crowd roared with laughter and applause, a roar often repeated during the hour-long debate as the confident former congressman hammered away at his Democratic opponent.
Udall consultant Stratton noted, however, that his man scored the debate’s only standing ovation — getting both Democrats and Republicans to unify by asking the crowd to give American troops a hand.
“I don’t remember any situation in which people in the room stood and applauded anyone but Mark,” Stratton said.
The pair also sparred heatedly over energy, with Schaffer repeatedly accusing Udall of irresponsibly obstructing development across the country and notably on the Western Slope’s Roan Plateau.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that is part of the reason I’m running for the United States Senate. I cannot believe that constant delay is a strategy for America’s energy independence,” Schaffer declared after Udall said oil shale technology isn’t ready to be applied yet in Colorado.
Udall shot back, “I’m not surprised that an oil and gas executive wants to accelerate (energy development).”
Schaffer punned, “I always thought Congressman DeLay left the Congress.”
Udall returned, “That sounds like Washington spin to me.”
And with each blow struck, their respective supporters cheered louder.
Continuing on the energy topic, Udall said 58 million acres of federal land has already been leased to energy companies but has yet to be utilized. He asserted that energy companies should focus their efforts there before turning to an environmentally sensitive area like the Roan.
“We can’t drill our way out of this,” Udall added, referring to high oil prices and the lagging U.S. economy.
Both candidates, however, agreed that all options, including coal and nuclear power, should remain “on the table.”
The pair vehemently disagreed on tax policy, however, with Udall calling for an end to tax breaks for energy companies and Schaffer arguing that tax cuts help stimulate economic growth.
Mary Bowers, vice president of the Southeast Business Partnership, said her group was “really pleased” with how the debate went, and praised both candidates for their performances. The group is not endorsing a candidate in the race.
“Either candidate would be a contributing factor to the U.S. Senate, and we look forward to working with them in Southeast Denver,” Bowers said.
Udall out-raises, out-spends Schaffer in 2nd quarter
Udall maintained his fundraising lead over Schaffer during the second quarter this year, between April 1 and June 30. Udall’s campaign said Monday that he raised $2.04 million and had $3.9 million cash on hand. The Schaffer campaign released their numbers Tuesday, and said their candidate raised $1.4 million and had $2.8 million cash on hand.
While Udall staffers trumpeted their financial lead, Wadhams said he was quite happy to watch Udall blow through his finances and sacrifice what could have been a much larger advantage heading into the fall.
“Boulder liberal Udall is running his campaign like he votes in Congress, spending more than he took in during the past three months,” Wadhams said. “Boulder liberal Udall is politically and financially bleeding.”
Wadhams pointed out that while Udall raised $2.04 million, he spent $2.3 million during the same period, allowing Schaffer to draw closer to him in cash on hand numbers. At the beginning of the second quarter, Udall had a $2 million advantage in cash on hand, but now he leads by roughly $1.1 million.
Udall’s campaign press secretary, Tara Trujillo, said Udall’s strong fundraising numbers are a reflection of widespread support for his campaign.
“We are so grateful to see even more enthusiasm growing as the campaign heats up,” Trujillo said. “Mark will be working hard every day to stand up for the Colorado families who are looking for new leadership to make America energy independent, strengthen our national security and get our economy back on track.”