Friday, May 25, 2012

"We interrupt reality to bring you Arizona..."

Total Eclipse

We interrupt reality to bring you Arizona, once known as the Grand Canyon state. So glorious, this home to sublime cacti and ugly javelina, an outdoor stage for the high histrionics of geologic time, but so very, very crazy. Even a spate of recent temperatures in the 105-degree range cannot explain the latest doings of government by crackpots.
Let’s start with the secretary of state, a wide-eyed fellow named Ken Bennett. He is Arizona’s chief elections officer. He is a Republican. He is also co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s campaign in Arizona. Recently, a few hundred people who probably spend their lives searching the Internet looking for proof that the moon landing was fake asked Mr. Secretary of State to investigate the birth certificate of the president of the United States.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken BennettRoss D. Franklin/Associated PressArizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett
Bennett got right on it. He put the full force of his office to work on a nonissue that was resolved for all but the looniest of tunes months ago. And, at the height of his “investigation,” just last week, he threatened to keep Obama off the ballot if his questions were not answered to his satisfaction.
In response, more than 17,000 people this week put their names on an online petition asking the secretary of state to investigate whether Mitt Romney is a unicorn. Surprisingly, Bennett has not been sniffing around rainbows, nor recruiting maidens with expertise in medieval folklore to crack the unicorn question.

By midweek, Bennett had folded the circus tent, after Hawaiian officials pointed him to the same public documents proving the president’s American birth that have been around since baby Barack took his first step. “If I embarrassed the state, I apologize,” Bennett said Tuesday night.
A headline in the Arizona Republic — “Once Again, Arizona is the Nation’s Laughingstock” — was too kind. A reader, Steve Lagin of Phoenix, commenting on Bennett’s foray, said he planned to order his new personalized Arizona license plates: “The Dumb and Dumber State.”
Dumber is another duly elected official, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. You know Sheriff Joe — he’s on Fox News constantly, providing a balance to the conspiracy theorists who don’t have a badge. He is Maricopa County’s top law enforcement officer.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Ross D. Franklin/Associated PressMaricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Arpaio is now spending taxpayer money doing what a small group of Tea Party birthers have asked him to do. The sheriff sent a deputy, along with his volunteer “posse,” to Hawaii to look into what he believes is a conspiracy to dupe the American people into believing that their president is an American. The sheriff knows better.

Good police work and Sheriff Joe Arpaio do not go hand in hand. For years, his office has been flooded with complaints about terrible response time by deputies and his mediocre record at solving major crimes. He is also under investigation by the Justice Department for targeting Latinos and those who speak out against his extracurricular crusades.
“We feel that document is a forgery,” he said of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, in an interview with the Republic. “We’re trying to figure out who did it. That’s good police work.”
Arpaio was Bennett’s inspiration. Bennett wants to be governor in the worst way, and for that he can look at the top of the electoral pyramid in Arizona to Jan Brewer. She once blanked out in dead-air silence when asked during a televised debate what she would do for the people of Arizona. They rewarded her with the governor’s office. Brewer was last seen on an airport tarmac wagging her finger at the commander in chief.
Arizona Gov. Jan BrewerMatt York/Associated PressArizona Gov. Jan Brewer
A few days ago, Brewer vetoed a bill aimed at promoting community service by high school students. This proposal would have allowed kids who do more than 200 hours of good deeds to receive an official commendation on their transcripts — a way to boost their chances of getting into college, supporters said. Brewer does not think government should be rewarding students this way, but she does think government should be able to stop people and ask them to prove their citizenship.
She’s gone to France now, on a taxpayer-funded mission to convince Europeans that Arizona is a good place to relocate. Brewer thinks that going to Paris on the public’s dime is something that government should do, especially when it’s 110 degrees in Phoenix.
There’s no mystery what a nation run by the Tea Party and talk-radio zealots who’ve taken over the G.O.P. would look like. It would be Arizona. This state used to have a very popular governor, Jan Napolitano, who held back the wackos. But once she left to become secretary of homeland security, the statehouse was left without a stronghold of sanity.
The voters occasionally say they’ve had enough. Russell Pearce, the man behind the show-your-papers immigration law, was ousted in a recall last November. That election was an anomaly. The people who now control the state are proof of the old saying that in a democracy, voters get what they deserve.

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