Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kelly Ayotte,Sheriff Arpaio: Birds of a Feather (Or Down to Pink Underpants)

When Kelly Ayotte decided to attend a rally to celebrate Sheriff Joesph Arpaio, you might have thought, well, she really didn't understand who this man is, or she never would have gone. 

But she did more than go, she embraced him and all he stood for.

"He's a really dynamic person and a true leader in the fight against illegal immigration," Ayotte said. 

Ayotte thinks she is being bold and tough when she endorses certain ideologies, and she frequently uses the word "absolutely" thinking it shows she is not one of those mealy mouthed politicians who are trying to dance around a subject by adding lots of qualifications. So she says things like, "I absolutely support and believe in marriage as between a man and a woman." 

But then, when she realizes her "absolutist" stand has gotten her into trouble, and she has to carve out an exception to the absolute, as in the instance she was asked whether or not she would support a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, and she realized she couldn't really do that coming from a state where the citizens had passed a gay marriage law in a legislature which is as close as you can get to an unpaid, citizen's legislature she absolutely back pedaled without missing a beat: "It's absolutely for states to decide marriage."

So here is a woman who has mastered the art of appearing to be resolute, absolutely resolute, while actually waffling.

This may be why she admires the dynamic Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, of Arizona, who may not be well known in New Hampshire--he has never run in a primary in this state. (But he has traveled her to rub shoulders with Ayotte.)  

So who is this man Ayotte so admires?

He's the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, and he cultivates the "tough" image by doing things like humiliating captives, prisoners in the county jails. In 2005, he forced seven hundred prisoners, wearing nothing but pink underwear and flip flops, handcuffed, shackled to shuffle along a four block parade in the bright Arizona day to a new jail. 

"I put them on the street so everybody could see them."

He enjoyed the spectacle so much, he repeated the stunt with 900 prisoners a little later.

Ayotte described Arpaio as "dynamic," and in a sense he did change the way things were done in Maricopa County. Having control over the county jails, he found he did not have enough brick and mortar jails, so he set up a tent city for prisoners and surrounded it with barbed wire. "I put them next to the dump, the dogpound, the waste-disposal plant," he said, and he cut their food to two meals and reduced the cost per meal to thirty cents a day. "It costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates," he was proud to say. He put up a big neon sign on a guard tower, "Vacancy." You could see that sign for miles.

It must be noted most of the inmates of these jails, baking in the Arizona heat, have not been convicted of anything, but are awaiting trial.

Then he got hold  of an Army tank, painted the howitzer muzzle with a red and yellow flame pattern and painted, "Sheriff Apaio's War on Drugs," on each side and rode it in the Fiesta Bowl Parade.

The man has a sense of showmanship.

Under his supervision, jailers used stun guns on prisoners strapped into restraint chairs. 

This was less of a success in one sense: The county lost a six million dollar suit in federal court to the family of a prisoner who died, strapped into a  chair, electrocuted by Arpaio's men.

His deputies raid Latino towns and when he heard a swine flu was coming from Mexico, he said, "We should close the border."  Immigrants, he said bring crime and disease. 

You can see the appeal he must have had for Ayotte, who thought he had the right idea about how to deal with immigrants, no matter what else you might think of the man.

He wanted to interrogate school children about their immigration status.

He is a celebrity in the conservative circles in which Ayotte travels. He's debated Alan Dershowitz, the famous Harvard professor and defense attorney. Arpaio is not an unknown quantity in the ranks of the righteous right.

Of course, Arpaio flaunts his tough guy attitude from the safety of a position behind his armed guards--the prisoners are unarmed and shackled, not much threat to the sheriff. 

He's the classic sadist. He has all the power. He strips, humiliates and taunts. He's a one man Abu Ghraib. 

He's loved in Maricopa County, at least by his fellow travelers. "The Sheriff, he's a dynamo," one of his prison guards told The New Yorker. 

That maybe  where Kelly Ayotte got the word, "Dynamic." 

She maybe read the New Yorker article which came out before she called Arpaio "Dynamic."

During candidate debates they usually ask the contenders, "Who are your heroes?"

It's usually a softball question, a gooey moment for the candidate to say something about Mother, George Washington or somebody safe.

But it sometimes can be revealing, because when you mention a particular person, what the candidate and what the public knows about him does not rise to the level of a complete biography. A person's public image is a shorthand for a set of beliefs and feelings. 

Kelly Ayotte chose to embrace Arpaio. 

Tough guy. Tough on immigration.

The classic bully. Tough in the Abu Ghraib way: When you've got a man naked, beaten, chained, when you've got your dogs lusting for the man's vital organs, some of which are only too visible and unprotected, when you've got your men with their guns trained on the man, then you can be real tough and oh, so brave.

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.  That's where our Joe Arpaio is from.  A whimp in hero's clothing.

But conservative about immigration, as is Ayotte, with all that has come to mean.

For Absolutely Kelly Ayotte, I guess you call that "Dynamic."

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