By Michael Bryan
In the flurry of news and opinion gusting out of our computer screens and smart phones, it is easy to become 'news blind' - so focused on the flakes and flurries that we forget where we are headed. We stumble confusedly ahead with no map to our destination. It's easy to get lost in the storm.
I personally read almost every news source in Arizona - and keep up with national reaction to our politics, as well - in bringing to readers of BlogForArizona the Arizona Donkey Feed, which appears on our right-hand sidebar every day (you may also have the Feed emailed to you daily). So I, too, often find myself in that blizzard without a map.
I decided I might like to sit down once a week and take some time to look around, and identify what I think are the most significant landmarks around where we stand now. It might not be a map that will tell us where we are headed, but maybe I can get some idea of where we are. Over time, perhaps it will become a map of sorts.
I would also like to let you all know that Jim Nintzel of Tucson Weekly and AZPM's Roundtable fame will be guest-host at Drinking Liberally in Tucson. Come down to the Shanty of 4th Avenue this Wednesday at 6pm and experience the Nintz first-hand.
So, here are some thoughts on what I think are the most important, or just most interesting, developments in the past week in Arizona's politics.
Internecine disaster in GOP senate primary improves Carmona's chances to win.
The GOP primary for Kyl's Senate seat is tightening - some polling shows Cardon within 10 points. When Cardon trailed by over 40 points, nobody would have predicted he would pull so close. His largely self-funded, primarily attack-driven, campaign has caused some significant challenges for Flake: he's had to spend much more money than he would have hoped on the primary, and his negatives have been driven up among his base and independents by Cardon's oppo and many, many, many attack ads. There is now much more awareness of Flake's past record on immigration (including a fairly amateurish attempt to memory-hole his past statements), his past as a lobbyist some some fairly unsavory causes, and his fairly ineffectual record representing Arizona in the House - more of an ideological gadfly than an effective legislator.
This is not to say that Cardon will prevail: he won't. Flake's endorsements (despite some embarrassing exceptions) and financial support, and Carndon's own scandal with immigration hypocrisy, almost ensure victory. But he may emerge from the primary so wounded that Carmona's chances are significantly improved. Even conservatives are seeing the potential problem Cardon has created. The more Arizonans learn about Carmona, the better they like him. Flake, the opposite. Already the race is statistically tied. Come November we will have a Democrat in Arizona's Senate delegation.
Is Kyrsten Sinema cratering in CD 9 race due to self-inflicted wounds?
Simena claims she identified herself as Anglo to NALEO, yet that organization included her among a list of Latino office holders, which relies on self-identification. Her spokesman claims that NALEO is at fault for the mistake. Could be; only the actual questionnaire she filled out would answer that question (wagers on how long it takes for that to surface?). But one has to question the wisdom of picking a public credibility fight with NALEO in the middle of a primary in a district with over 25% Latino voters.
Kyrsten's rather uninhibited statements over her political career haven't helped, either, though they are certainly nothing new. One of the best things about Sinema has been her fairly frank speech, but many informed and strategically minded primary voters might shy away from voting for someone whose past statements could be rich source of trouble from a Republican opponent in a balanced district like CD 9.
But even some Democrats are starting to mine Sinema's own statements. Some of those statements tie her to the detested Russell Pearce. She stated on a radio program that she loves Russell Pearce (YouTube link). To be fair, she did say she didn't love his politics, just felt a personal affection for the man. I know many conservatives whom I consider friends, even as I mock their politics and berate them publicly on this blog, so I understand what Sinema is saying. But to many, the idea of having any affection for a political leper like Pearce is too much to process.
But it is more than just words. Now it seems that her links to some of the most extreme elements in the AZ GOP are a bit more substantial than many will be comfortable with: she accepted a large donation from Pearce's campaign manager for the recall, gretchen Jacobs, and conspicuously stayed on the sidelines in that effort.
I don't know if Sinema is going to weather this storm of self-inflicted gaffes and guilt by association. Her chances of being the Democratic nominee for CD 9 have dropped significantly, in my view. Her fundraising has been a strong second to Cherny, so far, but that filing was in March, before many of these stories broke. the pre-primary filings in mid-August will be enlightening.
Abortion restrictions challenge in AZ could give Supreme Court opportunity to overturn Roe v Wade.
Perhaps the most under-reported major story in Arizona this week is the challenge of Arizona's facially unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks - but it is getting plenty of coverage nationally. The story may eventually eclipse the negative coverage Arizona got for SB1070. Why all the attention?
Roe v Wade clearly bars States from banning abortions prior to viability. Yet many States controlled by Republicans have now have passed draconian laws outlawing abortion after 20 weeks (well before viability), even providing criminal penalties for doctors who perform one. Why pass such manifestly unconstitutional laws? Because they want to sued, of course.
Anti-abortionists who are driving the GOP agenda are setting up a challenge to Roe. They hope that President Mitt will have a chance to put a fifth vote to overturn Roe on the Supreme Court before the case reaches the high court. The challenge in Arizona is the first out of the starting blocks into Federal Court. It may not be the last, but it very well may be the case that re-presents the abortion issue to the Court in a fashion that clearly would call for expressly overturning Roe.
Ben Quayle blazing the future of outrage-based blogger-style politics.
What I wouldn't give as a blogger to have the resources to saturate the airwaves with my bullshit, fire-breathing opinions! Oh, how wonderful it would be if I could put my posts in the Congressional record, and get the media to quote my most outlandish propagandistic attacks on my choosen targets! But Ben Quayle has beaten me to the punch as the first blogger Congressman.
We shouldn't forget that Ben got his start on a fairly scurrilous blog. He cut his teeth on inuedo and trash talk, so it shouldn't be sueprising that these are his go-to tools as a Politician. His 2010 ad (with Obama in office for less than half his first term, mind you...) with his wierdly handsome face filling the frame and pronouncing his bloggerish judgment that Obama was the "worst President in history", was practically one of my post titles from the Bush years. Now Ben has a new ad claiming he "overestimated" him. It's practically a Tweet, for all the substance and thought it contains. It's a joyfully hateful noise, and little else. GOP primary voters are going to lap it up. Republican politics have become as deranged, hateful, fact-free, conspiracy-drivel, seemingly sprung from the brains of bloggers demented by hate radio and their own feral imaginings since 2008.
Ben has my vote for the quintessential contemporary GOP politician; and my twisted admiration for having managed to base his political career on the worst tendencies of political blog punditry. Ben is truly the future of American politics, and that should horrify us all.
Arpaio continues trying to distract from civil right lawsuit with bogus assassination plot and birther nonsense.
Not content merely to distract from the DOJ's civil rights lawsuit against him by manufacturering a whack-a-doodle conspiracy against himself by President Obama (presumably in retaliation for digging into Obama's 'mysterious origins' with his much-hyped press conferences), now Arpaio is seeking the sympathy vote by manufacturing a thought-crime conspiracy to assassinate him.
He claims three inmates (yes, they were still all in Apaio's own jail...) conspired to assassinate him with a high power rifle: except they had no rifle, and no freedom. It's a thought crime by prisoners in his jail. Maybe he should change his nickname to Sheriff Big Brother? Really, hasn't everybody who has ever been in one of Arpaio's unconstitually-run jails fantasized about shooting the old prick? Shades of the Tennessee lunatic who made empty threats against poor ol' Joe. Or the Oregon man raided for alleged threats against Joe. Or the 'crime' he alleged against the New Times of publishing his address with the intent to endanger his safety. Or the million-dollar bounty he claimed drug cartels had put on his head. Seeing a pattern here? Maybe his nickname ought to be Sheriff Cries Wolf.
That's it for this week. If you found this helpful or interesting, please leave a comment letting me know what you think, and maybe I'll do this again next week.