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Pandering for immorality

BY MATT HEINZE | SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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This weekend, there'll be a new sheriff in Jones County. Thankfully, he won't stay long.

Today, controversial Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, better known by the moniker of "America's Toughest Sheriff," will be in Anamosa campaigning for Republican Sheriff hopeful Rick LaMere. Arpaio, who shares a similar background as LaMere in formerly working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, hopes his visit will prove to be the deciding factor in the days leading up to Jones County's Oct. 4 special election.

With such tremendous emphasis given to procuring weighty endorsements in modern election cycles, candidates must be mindful of whom they're courting. And while it's sometimes necessary to seek out divisive endorsements, those should not come at the cost of a candidate's values and integrity.

Unfortunately, in the case of Sheriff Joe, a man who on numerous occasions has been cited for human-rights violations, pandering for a petty endorsement is beyond reprehensible.

Yet LaMere and his supporters are hardly alone in looking to Arpaio as a means for electoral success; three front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination — Rep. Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry, and Gov. Mitt Romney — have sought Arpaio's endorsement.

For those unaware, Arpaio presides over the third-largest sheriff's office in the entire country: Maricopa County, Ariz. Having served as the county's sheriff for approximately 19 years, he has become a well-established figure in Arizona, due in part to his vocal support for stringent immigration policy and hard-line enforcement practices. And although he's garnered intense criticism in the past, he seems to relic in the spotlight of controversy.

"If I'm so hot, why do they want my endorsement?" he recently asked the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

A man of his oversized ego fits into the current state of Arizona politics all too well. Arizona, after all, has served as a flash point in recent years for immigration reform and executive enforcement procedure.

Last year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law the nation's toughest anti-immigration legislation amid protest by millions nationwide and the threat of litigation by the Department of Justice. More recently, Arizona made news when a botched SWAT raid resulted in the death of an Iraq war veteran in his own home with little evidence to suggest such a raid was ever necessary.

Arpaio, for his part in Arizona's continuing immigration saga, has come to symbolize the most negative aspects of a state lawman. Among other serious allegations, Arpaio has been accused of serving inmates rotten food, placing them in housing which he personally has compared to a concentration camp, and currently faces charges over a multitude of alleged abuses of power and ethics violations.

Ever more strangely, however, an endorsement by Arpaio would immediately lend a candidate the immigration bona fides of a true conservative. In fact, the sheriff's endorsement on immigration is so pivotal, it could very well prove to be one of the deciding factors in a race still too close to call.

Yet, given the immense volume of negative commentary on Sheriff Joe, it's a wonder why anyone, whether it be a small-town sheriff candidate or contender for the presidency, would want such a controversial figurehead's endorsement. That his meritless endorsement carries any weight at all is beyond comprehension. Especially once one considers the fact that Arpaio is clearly only looking for further political gain, all while working to promote a xenophobic worldview.

And as for his humble take on that "America's Toughest Sheriff" harble-garble?

"It's actually the "World's Toughest Sheriff," he told the Gazette.

There are some places you should not look for political endorsements when running for the nation's highest office. Human-rights violators are a prime example, especially when their egocentrism gets in the way of their civic duties. In the future, candidates seeking the world's highest office should more closely examine their principles.


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