Udall and Salazar

Emails between two officials’ staffs show they emailed each other – and little else

American politics would be improved greatly if Democrats could learn not every military move constitutes another Vietnam, if Republicans could understand not every treaty or negotiation is another Munich and if all concerned could acknowledge not every conversation revealed has the makings of another Watergate.

Case in point: Udall vs. Salazar. Not only does it seem there is no scandal here, there would appear to be nothing whatsoever here. The two principals agreed as to what happened, and neither seems put out.

And with that, perhaps nobody else should be either. That is, with the possible exception of other people who aspire to elected office.

Marguerite Salazar was appointed as state insurance commissioner by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. She faced a state Senate committee vote Monday, and – imagine that! – a little kerfuffle blew up when The Denver Post got hold of some emails in which one Salazar staffer said she had received a “very hostile call from Sen. Udall’s chief of staff.”

In part, this is about Obamacare. Her office reported late last year nearly 250,000 Coloradans had their insurance canceled, which foes of the Affordable Care Act took as evidence the law was making things worse.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., challenged those numbers. He said most of those whose plans were canceled were given the opportunity to buy into another, similar plan from their current insurance company.

Salazar said Monday that, indeed, 96 percent of those who got cancellation notices also received an option to continue their coverage with the same company. It was the term “cancellation” to which Udall’s staff members objected.

As Salazar put it, “They saw it as an option to renew with a cancellation.”

Well, of course. Or perhaps, huh?

The suggestion that emerged was Udall’s staff members had been trying to pressure Salazar’s crew somehow to cook the books to reflect better on Obamacare by showing fewer cancellations.

But there just might have been more, or perhaps less, to this little conflict. As reported by The Gazette in Colorado Springs, “Leading that accusation is state Rep. Amy Stephens,” who said, “This kind of bullying and pressure of state employees is just not appropriate.”

Left out of that is any knowledge of Marguerite Salazar. She is familiar to many in Southwest Colorado in that she used to run Valley-Wide Health Systems Inc., which pulled out of the Durango market in 2007. While there is much to argue about health care, she never seemed one likely to be easily bullied or intimidated – certainly not by an underling, not even one serving a senator.

Then again, Rep. Stephens – Udall’s accuser – is a Republican from Monument who, as it happens, is running for his Senate seat. Could there be a tad of animus or personal involvement in her complaint?

Salazar does not seem concerned. She dismissed the incident saying, “I characterize this as a heated discussion between two staff people that happens all the time.”

And with that, on Monday, the state’s Business, Labor and Technology Committee delivered a bipartisan 7-0 vote to confirm her. She will go on to face a vote of the full Senate, but after Monday’s committee vote, she should expect little resistance.

Everybody likes a good scandal, especially in an election year. It is hard, however, to see how this can become one. For that matter, it is hard to see if anything noteworthy happened at all.