KEEPING THE FLAME

Posted in Rants on September 24th, 2009 by Ed

Ah, Arizona. The youngest (continental U.S.) state. Land of the mighty cactus, the mighty Grand Canyon, and the mighty Larry Fitzgerald. Reliable, conservative Arizona, the state that hath bequeathed us Johns McCain and Kyl, the Minutemen, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It's the kind of state in which an unelected governor could reasonably be expected to declare that she has been sent by God to lead the voters through this dark economic night of the soul.

It is a sad commentary on our times, and our collective intellectual regression to the Dark Ages, that Gov. Jan Brewer can say the following without raising many eyebrows or striking Americans as out of the ordinary:

"I firmly believe that God has placed me in this powerful position of Arizona's governor to help guide our state through the difficulty that we are currently facing…And that has caused me, of course, to be grateful that we are a country of Christianity."

Excellent points, Governor.

This is the kind of crazy usually reserved for State Reps in Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. But Arizona has been on a tear lately, elevating to elected office a series of nutcases and felons that would make an Illinois Governor blush. Not content to elect the occasional fascist sheriff or State Senator who happens to be on white supremacist email lists, voters have previously filled Brewer's position with people Republicans who can't keep from running afoul of the law.

Brewer's messiah complex may be a refreshing change for Arizonans after Gov. Fife Symington was convicted of felony bank fraud and hounded out of office in 1997. And he followed into office Evan Mecham, who is, for my money, the elected official in our nation's illustrious history who most perfectly combined disregard for the law with the raw power of batshit insanity. A sanitized biography notes:

While governor, Mecham became known for statements and actions that were widely perceived as insensitive to minorities. Among these actions were the cancellation of the state's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, attributing high divorce rates to working women, and his defense of the word "pickaninny."

We know of Arizona's troubled history with the MLK holiday, a history in which Mecham played the role of peacemaker by stating that "King doesn't deserve a holiday" and telling black community leaders "You folks don't need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs." In response to charges that he was racist, he reassured voters that "I've got black friends. I employ black people. I don't employ them because they are black; I employ them because they are the best people who applied for the cotton-picking job." He was quite the uniter. He also had a penchant for filling his executive appointments with felons:

Mecham appointed Alberto Rodriguez as superintendent of the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control while he was under investigation for murder. Other questionable nominations included a director of the Department of Revenue whose company was in arrears by US$25,000 on employment compensation payments, an appointee for head of prison construction who had served prison time for armed robbery, and a former Marine nominated as a state investigator who had been court-martialled twice. Other political appointees who caused Mecham embarrassment were an education adviser, James Cooper, who told a legislative committee "If a student wants to say the world is flat, the teacher doesn't have the right to prove otherwise," and Sam Steiger, the Governor's special assistant, who was charged with extortion.

After running the state's economy into the ground, thanks in no small part to the MLK-related boycott, and serially pissing off every member of his own party or any other, Mecham scored an unprecedented and since unequaled feat in the history of American democracy. He is the only elected official to simultaneously be under impeachment, subject to a recall election (which he blamed on "a band of homosexuals and dissident Democrats"), and under felony indictment (for embezzling campaign money). Read that again. There was a race to indict him before he could be impeached before he could be taken down at the polls. It's the Asshole Trifecta!tm

I can't say whether Jan Brewer represents an improvement over this parade of losers but it is clear that Arizona might need to stop foisting presidential candidates onto the country until it can elect a Governor who isn't insane, a felon, or an insane felon. It's not looking good for Brewer in the 2010 Governor's race, but it's not looking good for Arizona that she made it within a mile of the Governor's chair let alone in it.