Republican Kool-Aid, Arizona Style

Sweetened with rattlesnake venom.

The Republican mayors of three Arizona cities have been asked to resign by the Arizona Republican Party's District 4 committee.

3 GOP mayors asked to quit
Backing of Napolitano brings heat from party

Scott Wong
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Arizona Republicans have begun to turn on some of their own for not marching in lock step with their party, and it all may have started because of a miscommunication.

GOP leaders from Legislative District 4 on Friday called for the resignations of three West Valley mayors, all registered Republicans, because of their endorsement of Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.

Other current and former Republican officeholders also have crossed party lines with endorsements this election season in local and state contests as well as in an East Valley congressional race.

Friday's move by GOP activists underscores deep fissures in the Republican Party, political observers said. Conservative members hope to pressure those holding more moderate views to remain silent in deference to Len Munsil, Napolitano's Republican challenger.

City council, school board and other local elected offices traditionally are nonpartisan. But District 4 party leaders said they followed orders from Arizona Republican Party Chairman Matt Salmon in demanding the resignation of any GOP elected official who endorsed a candidate from another party.

On Friday, District 4 GOP leaders hand-delivered letters to the offices of Mayors Elaine Scruggs of Glendale, Joan Shafer of Surprise and Ron Badowski of Wickenburg, demanding that they step down for publicly supporting Napolitano.

"We're letting the public know that if you are a Republican, you should stand by your party or remain silent," said Lyle Tuttle, chairman of the Republican Party of District 4, which includes parts of Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria and Surprise. "It's fine if they want to vote for someone else, but for them to endorse a non-Republican is not following the party line."

However, a spokesman for the state Republican Party clarified that while Salmon issued a directive, it applied only to precinct committee members. He added that the "grass-roots activists" from District 4 acted without consent of state party leadership.

"The chairman appreciates these Republicans' enthusiasm and loyalty to their party, but Matt Salmon would not have personally recommended this call for the mayors' resignations," spokesman Garrick Taylor said.

Glendale's Scruggs, who also has endorsed Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, called the letter insulting and an example of "precinct committeemen gone wild."

She said certain members of her party are more interested in "mind control" than in a person's right to back a candidate based on qualifications, integrity and track record.

"This reminds me of Reverend Jim Jones saying, 'Stand in line and drink the Kool-Aid,' " Scruggs said, referring to the cult leader responsible for the 1978 Jonestown, Guyana, mass suicide. "That's how this message comes across to me. What this says is, we are not to think; we are not to make decisions."

That some Republicans would try to impose party discipline on their local elected officials was an unusual tactic, said Marilyn Dantico, associate professor of political science at Arizona State University.

"The Republican Party has started to lack discipline," Dantico said, adding that she sees major divisions within the party. "There is a lot of pressure to hold the line, but it surprises me that it's taken this form."

Dantico said local races became nonpartisan in response to disillusionment with political machines operating in places such as Chicago and New York. Many believed that in local elections, citizens should vote for individual candidates rather than along party lines when it came to community interests.

The three mayors are not the only Republican officials who have crossed party lines.

Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, endorsed state Rep. Leah Landrum Taylor, a Phoenix Democrat who is running for a state Senate seat.

Former state Attorney General Grant Woods has thrown his support behind Napolitano, as have Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker and Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot.

And at least three sitting Republican Tempe council members have endorsed Democrat Harry Mitchell over incumbent J.D. Hayworth for the 5th Congressional District seat. So did the president of the Kyrene Elementary district school board.

On the flip side, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, a Democrat, has endorsed Weiers.

To get a better understanding of why the mayors would endorse a candidate from the other party, you need to know that Janet Napolitano's opponent in the gubernatorial race is Len Munsil. Munsil can't properly be called "conservative"; he's a far-far-right fundamentalist, and "radical" would be a much more accurate description. He's probably the most extremist candidate the Republican Party has run for governor in Arizona since Evan Mecham.

I'm also dubious about the claim that the decision to demand the resignations did NOT come from Matt Salmon's office. This strikes me as the handy-dandy "overenthusiastic Republican aide" excuse trotted out again. Particularly when you remember that Matt Salmon was Janet Napolitano's opponent in the last Arizona gubernatorial race, and that he was skunked fairly handily by her. No personal issues to see here, move along, move along....

I sent personal emails to Scruggs and Shafer (Badowski doesn't have an email address listed on Wickenburg's website), saying:
Tell them to go to hell. And to take a copy of the
Bill of Rights with them to study.

Do you really feel comfortable belonging to a
political party that only believes in freedom of
speech when that speech is in their favor? Give it
some thought.


The Worst Job In The World

A long time ago (last week), White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was publicly proclaiming that George Bush had only ever used the phrase "stay the course" eight times. This was followed by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's COUNTDOWN (how appropriate) show presenting a video collage of George Bush saying "stay the course" twenty-nine times. When instances in print were added in, there were about one hundred sixty examples.

How does one explain, or understand, people like Tony Snow?

Is he proud of what he’s doing? Does he enjoy lying, repeatedly and publicly?

How does he look at himself in the mirror? How does he look his family in the eye? How does he live with the shame?

I’m not joking with that last question. If someone told me “For this job, you will have to stand up in public and lie, repeatedly, blatantly, and obviously,” I wouldn’t have that job. And if for some unfathomable reason I couldn’t walk away from such a job---

---I would get myself a straight razor and slash my throat. I’m not joking; I would not want to live doing what Tony Snow does everyday.

Watching him, and the other habitual liars in this administration, just creeps me out.

How do they live with themselves?

I've always had a hard time dealing with lies and liars. Lying is a common social skill. Some people are even great at it; they do it well, they do it frequently, and they do it with such charm and brilliance that even after you find out what they've told you is utterly bullshit, you still want to forgive them and like them.

Not me. I suck at lying. It's almost physically impossible for me to tell a flat out untruth; I can think of probably five or six times in my entire life when I've tried telling a direct whopper, and every time has been followed by weeks or months of shame and guilt.

This doesn't necessarily make me honest. (Sometimes I've felt it makes me a cripple.) I've learned to be evasive when occasions warrant. I've learned that sometimes telling all the details, all the truth, isn't the wisest course of action. And I've especially learned that sometimes you just need to keep your damned mouth shut completely.

But goddammit, lying may be common as dirt, it may even be useful in the short term, but in the long term... it makes it so damn much harder to deal with the world. The real world.

Back a ways, there was the piece in a news story about an unnamed White House official who said "We create our own reality." And the context was that the power and influence of the White House/Bush Administration/United States government was so great that whatever they proclaimed would come to be. That if you just proclaim a lie forcefully enough, persistently enough, willfully enough, that lie will come to be fact.

(Iraq. Katrina. North Korea.)

How DO Tony Snow, and company, live with themselves?


The America I Want, Not The America I Get

Over at Political Animal, one of Kevin Drum's posts on Iraq closes with the following passage:
"I wonder how long it will take America to recover from George Bush's uniquely blinkered and self-righteous brand of ineptitude? In the past five years he's demonstrated to the world that we don't know how to win a modern guerrilla war. He's demonstrated that we don't understand even the basics of waging a propaganda war. He's demonstrated that other countries don't need to pay any attention to our threats. He's demonstrated that we're good at talking tough and sending troops into battle, but otherwise clueless about using the levers of statecraft in the service of our own interests. If he had set out to willfully and deliberately expose our weaknesses to the world and undermine our strengths, he couldn't have done more to cripple America's power and influence in the world. Beneath the bluster, he's done more to weaken our national security than any president since World War II.

So how long will it take — after George Bush has left office — for our power and influence on the world stage to return to the level it was at in 2001? When I'm in a good mood, I figure five years. Realistically, ten years is probably more like it. And when I'm in a bad mood? Don't ask. It's really all very depressing."

The comment thread that follows is interesting, and deeply pessimistic; most of the commenters seem to feel that the Iraq war is a tipping point in American (and world) history, and that the American Empire (not only militarily, but culturally and philosophically) will never fully recover from the damage done to that former image of America as the "shining beacon" of the world.

I consider myself deeply cynical and pessimistic, particularly regarding politics, but I find myself in the surprising position of believing (perhaps "hoping" would be a better word to use) that America might someday be that beacon again.

Many things would have to go right for that to happen. *koff*votenovember7th*koff It can be done.

But I think it will take at least two generations, fifty years (yes, fifty), to regain the trust and respect the world held for America a mere five years ago.

Those who have come to hate and fear us in the last five years -- and I think that's probably a majority of the world's population -- will not easily trust us again. We have shown the depths we're capable of sinking to -- torture, invasion, imprisonment without trial, the abandonment of (my God!) our own legal protections and rights -- and forgiveness will not be an easy task.

I don't think the current generation will forgive, or forget. And they will pass on that mistrust, and fear, and hatred of the US to their children. I think it will only be the generation after that, the grandchildren, that will be far enough removed from this dark lustrum to risk giving America (an America that has tried to restore its ideals, and its guiding principles) its trust once more.

I want that to happen. I want it.

Dammit, I want my country back.


And The #1 Idiot In The State of Arizona Is...

...State Representative (R-Mesa) Russell Pearce.

Pearce, already under fire for using the term "Wetback", followed that up the succeeding week by sending out an email to political supporters that included a link to a White Supremacist article and website.

Shit, meet fan. Fan, shit.

Pearce has issued an apology, saying that the article in question had been sent to him by a friend, and that he had read only the first few (relatively innocuous) paragraphs before deciding to include the link in his email to supporters.

Shorter Russell Pearce: I'm not a racist. I'm just an idiot.

The odds of Pearce's returning to the State legislature after next month's elections appear somewhat dimmer. (Assuming he doesn't follow a number of public calls for resignation.)

(And what the heck is it about the city of Mesa? In a state that routinely elects fakes, snakes, rakes and fruitcakes to political office, the fruitcakiest almost invariably seem to hail from Mesa. In a town that seems so incredibly boring on its surface, where do they find these people?)


"Cute"? Or Just Plain Wrong?

Over at Amygdala, Gary Farber posts about the latest "Moron-American" trying to have Harry Potter books banned from school libraries.

Let's take it as granted that book-banning is a bad idea. Nonetheless, sometimes fans of particular books/movies/what-have-you take their enthusiasms just a bit too far. And I think that the limits of Harry Potter fandom are being approached when you see something like this:

Yes, that's a real cat, named Salem, one of the entries on the latest Cat Connection Cat Of The Month Contest. Among all the other photos of entrants clad (mostly) in respectable fur and an occasional collar, Salem's really stood out (as in, I had a genuine "What the...?" moment).

The scariest thing is, Salem doesn't look embarassed.

(Thanks to Talpianna for the link to Cat Connection.)


Defining The Choice

Yes, yes, every blog in the entire world has had something to say about the Mark Foley scandal in Congress. Do you expect me to be any different?

The Republican's early "defense" on the scandal has included trying to claim that the initial set of emails made public was provided to ABC News by Democrat political operatives as an act of political sabotage.

Evidence provided for this claim? None. In fact, ABC News has stated that its source for the emails was... oh, dear... a Republican. Nonetheless, some right-wing figures *koff*Limbaugh*koff* (and a lot of the wingnuttier blogs) are continuing to argue that it's all a sinister Democrat plot.

If I was a honcho for the Democrats, if it weren't that ABC News has already said otherwise, I'd be tempted to go ahead and state, "Yeh, we'll take credit for putting this out in public. We're proud of it. Most people think outing a sex predator who targets teenage boys is a Good Thing; it's a public service, and we're glad to provide it. And it'll probably get us lots of votes, too. So ummm, how come you Republicans are acting like outing a sex predator is a Bad Thing?"

Because if it were true that Democrats were behind the Foley revelations, the choice voters will have next month would become crystal clear:

Democrats brought out the truth about a sex predator in Congress.

Republicans covered up for and protected a sex predator in Congress.


If I was a honcho for the Democrats, I'd be kicking myself right now for not realizing what a defining, positive moment this could have been for Democrats. Instead, it's all negative for Republicans, and nothing positive for Democrats; they're just bystanders at the scene of the train wreck.


An Open Letter To Jan Brewer, Arizona Secretary of State

This is a letter I just sent to Jan Brewer:
Dear Ms. Brewer,

I am writing to express my dismay that you are using public taxpayer funds to generate publicity for your own election campaign.

Saturday, September 30th, I received in the mail the 240-page Publicity Pamphlet for Ballot Propositions & Judicial Performance Review, prepared and issued by you in your job as Arizona Secretary of State. Paging through it, I realized that you had inserted your name on 236 of those 240 pages.

The only 4 pages that did NOT include your name were pages 233-236, the detachable pages that a voter can mark and take into the polling place as a memory guide. Under campaign law, as I recall, it is illegal to take campaign material into a polling place. Clearly, that is why your name was left off of those particular pages.

That omission also makes clear that the insertion of your name onto EACH AND EVERY remaining page of the pamphlet, 236 pages, WAS intended as campaign material, as a way of presenting your name before every registered voter in Arizona, over and over and over, TWO HUNDRED THIRTY-SIX times.

And it cost you, and your campaign, not one penny. Because it was all paid for by my taxes,and my neighbor's taxes, and the taxes of every other Arizona residence and business.

I feel like you have picked my pocket, while simultaneously slapping me across the face. Slapping me across the face two hundred thirty-six times.

This obvious and contemptful violation of ethics and the public trust cost you not a penny, but it has lost you any chance for my vote. And I will express my feelings to my family, and friends, and co-workers, as well.

I will also send copies of this letter to the Arizona Republic and the New Times. And I will reproduce it on my own weblog (http://undulantfever.blogspot.com/) as well.

Best of luck on your upcoming job search.


Bruce Arthurs