Friday, October 21, 2011

"I Don't Recall"

Joe Arpaio has been a blight on Arizona for more years than I can recall. His type of "get tough law enforcement" has cost the good folks of Maricopa County tens of millions of dollars in accidental death settlements for the "justice" carried out in his jails. He is a publicity whore without equal and, when you take a good hard look at the crime statistics, not really much of a cop.

But despite all of his indisputable failings, the desert hillbillies still love them some Sheriff Joe enough to keep re-electing him. Why? Because he has a big mouth and a flair for the kind of gestures that appeal to bitter, scared hayseeds. Gestures that demean and dehumanize anyone, guilty or not, who is unlucky enough to spend time in one of his facilities. Pink underwear? Check. Green baloney sandwiches? Check. Chain gangs? Check. Outdoor holding tents in the Phoenix summer? Check. Oh, and one more thing: They love Arpaio because he's gonna show them "Meskins" who's boss.

There may be dozens of meth labs scattered across the desert. There may be thousands of unserved warrants. There may be organized crime lurking in the shadows of some of our oldest establishments. And what does Joe choose to do? Raid restaurant kitchens. Our boy's a regular Eliot Ness, isn't he?

Or maybe J. Edgar Hoover is a better comparison. The FBI's fabled director wasted years harassing anyone on the political left, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Dalton Trumbo to Martin Luther King Jr. while completely ignoring the Mafia.

But now "America's toughest sheriff" has a tiny PR problem. Called to testify at the ethic's hearing of Andrew Thomas (yet another "law and order" Republican who should be behind bars), Arpaio used the old "I don't recall" defense so often it began to sound like sudden onset Alzheimer's.

Let's take a look at the scorecard: In addition to all of those wrongful death suits, he misused 100 million bucks entrusted to his office; many of his hand-picked underlings have serious legal problems of their own; and now he can't remember anything about how the county attorney's office came to bring criminal charges against a couple members of the county Board of Supervisors.

"I don't recall."

Of course none of this will matter to the desert hillbillies. They will continue to vote for their beloved Sheriff Joe, scourge of short order cooks, dishwashers, busboys, and gardeners everywhere--until he ends up getting thrown into one of his own jails. And even then I wouldn't count him out. Arizona voters are nothing if not loyal.

No, I'm afraid that Arpaio will be with us forever, like those other civilizational plagues, the cockroach and cancer.

It does have a nice ring to it, though: Joe "I don't recall" Arpaio.

And it'll look good on his headstone, too.

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