Oh, Arizona, what would we do without you? Your batshit-crazy elected officials never fail to provide endless entertainment for folks all over the world. You are one of the funniest fricking states in our glorious union, and the laffs just keep on comin’.
Today’s featured Arizona wackjob is Joe Arpaio, who is no stranger to the national conversation. Arpaio, who heads up the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), is the self-proclaimed “Toughest Sheriff in America”, a proclamation which has been highly lucrative for him by spawning books, a reality show, and numerous appearances on national talk shows and news programs. Arpaio’s penchant for seeking attention has caused the spotlight to shine on him in less positive ways as well. Since June of 2008, the MCSO has been under investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for an alleged pattern of racial discrimination and intimidation against Latinos. The findings of this exhaustive investigation, released to the public last December, indicated that these discriminatory tactics were a regular part of business within the MCSO, and were something about which even the highest-ranking authorities in the Sheriff’s Office were fully aware.
Following this revelation, the DOJ and the MCSO began talks to reach a settlement that would establish corrections to the system and prevent future incidents of anti-Latino discrimination. However, these talks ended abruptly yesterday, when Sheriff Arpaio cancelled a scheduled meeting with DOJ officials. This has prompted discussion of a lawsuit being filed against Arpaio. He has made clear that one of the corrective provisions being asked for, the inclusion of an independent court-appointed monitor to oversee changes at the MCSO, is unacceptable to him. Arpaio declared that the Obama administration “is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain”. This perceived persecution has been a constant complaint during the course of the DOJ’s investigation, with Arpaio previously claiming that he is being used “as a whipping boy for a national, international problem”, and his lawyer characterizing the investigation as a “witch hunt”.
And herein lies the funny part of all this.
The absurdity of the situation is that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently a ringleader in one of the most ludicrous and outrageous witch hunts of recent times: the birther movement. He decided, in the summer of 2011, to begin investigating the president’s birth certificate, claiming that there was reason to believe it was faked, and that President Obama is ineligible to hold office. Last month, he held a press conference to announce his findings, and declared the birth certificate to be a “computer generated forgery”. With the assistance of his hand-picked lead investigator, Richard Zullo, Arpaio put together videos which he claimed demonstrate the digital manipulation that was used to create the birth certificate. Unfortunately for Zullo and Arpaio, the exact theory that they were proposing had already been debunked nearly a year earlier, in a story on the Fox News website. Yes, you heard me right: FOX. FREAKING. NEWS. They had the “Adobe Illustrator manipulation theory”, which had been floating around even then, put to the test by an expert in the field – and the theory didn’t stand up.
That didn’t stop Arpaio from making it the centerpiece of his big media reveal in March. But many in the audience of reporters weren’t willing to bite, much to the aggravation of Sheriff Joe:
One reporter asked if he would turn it over the Postal Inspector, who could look into the “forged” postmark stamp. Arpaio said it was a tough decision and he hadn’t made up his mind.
Another reporter suggested that if Obama wasn’t really a citizen, then how could he get a passport.
Arpaio said that was a good question.
Another asked if Arpaio even had jurisdiction to undertake the investigation.
Arpaio sounded annoyed saying, “I think this is a pretty important investigation. I can’t let it die.”
He couldn’t let it die? And he’s accusing the administration of a “witch hunt”? Are you serious?
The other hysterical aspect of this is Arpaio’s claim that the DOJ investigation is politically motivated, an attempt by the president to silence one of his biggest critics. A simple look at the facts blows that idea out of the water. The DOJ originally opened their investigation in June of 2008, when George W. Bush still occupied the White House, and before Barack Obama had even been elected. Arpaio’s cries of partisan persecution are even funnier because it is so abundantly clear that his own birth certificate crusade is politically motivated. He denies this time and again, saying that the issue was brought to him by concerned citizens, and he decided to look into it on their behalf. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that, because the “concerned citizens” were the members of an Arizona-based Tea Party organization, this is about as partisan as it gets.
I think it’s pretty clear that Joe Arpaio is a very delusional dude. His refusal to honor the requests of the DOJ, and the fact that he is basing his refusal on the notion that he is being politically bullied, demonstrates a disconnect with reality that is indefensible. His Sheriff’s Office has been rife with ethical and legal indiscretions which have been well known for years. The MCSO has even acknowledged their own failure to properly investigate hundreds of sexual assault and child molestation cases (which prompted Arpaio to tell reporters, “If there were any victims out there, I apologize, if there were any.” Jesus – if there were any?!?). He has admitted, during depositions regarding a racial profiling lawsuit brought against the Sheriff’s Office, that he “was not well versed” in the amendments in the US Constitution and the Arizona State Constitution pertaining to search and seizure, that he delegates a great deal of authority to others and knows very little about day-to-day operational details at the MCSO (“I do know what’s going on in general terms. I don’t micro-manage.”), and that he didn’t even read the book he “co-authored” on immigration. He and his law enforcement crew are, to put it kindly, a farce, and the fact that this is obvious to everyone outside Arizona’s borders but not to the Arizona citizens who keep voting him in, is both funny and pathetic. Arizona, you stay classy. And we’ll all keep laughing from the world beyond the rabbit hole.