Dangerous Mind

Imagine Joe Arpaio as a dewy intellectual, and you've got County Attorney wanna-be Andy Thomas

That fancy pants Thomas even has a shot at winning is remarkable: As contrasted with blue-collar Rick Romley, a product of Arizona State University via the rice paddies of Vietnam, Thomas was schooled at Harvard Law and is easily conversant about Greek philosophy and the Hobbesian theory of government and society (whatever that is).

Romley (like the vast majority of the electorate) probably knows more about late Diff'rent Strokes star Dana Plato and Jackie Kennedy's second husband, Aristotle Onassis, than about the philosophers of the same names.

For certain, Thomas has far less experience with the machinations of the criminal-justice system than each of his five opponents: His several months last year in the low levels of the County Attorney's Office about sums up his experience on that level.

Andrew Pacheco
Andrew Pacheco
Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey

Before that, Thomas worked as an assistant attorney general for a few years in the late 1990s, during which time he served as chief attorney for the Arizona Department of Corrections. (Then-DOC chief Terry Stewart has donated to Thomas' campaign.)

Currently, Thomas is making ends meet for himself, his wife and four children by working at the private Phoenix law firm of Wilenchik & Bartness.

His rsum is vastly unlike those of the other candidates. Mike Bailey has prosecuted killers and rapists. Andrew Pacheco helped put New Mexican Mafia members behind bars. Jerry Landau prosecuted drunken drivers who hurt people. Tom McCauley assisted victims of domestic violence. And, well, at least defense attorney candidate Rick Poster can find a criminal courtroom.

But, argues key Thomas supporter Steve Twist, "The race for County Attorney shouldn't be decided on who has done the most trials. It should be decided on who has the best vision for the office. I'm much more interested in a person's policy views and his vision than how many times they've faced a jury."

His quest to lead the prosecutors of Maricopa County notwithstanding, one reason Thomas has spent so little time as a line prosecutor may be that he's taken such a dim view of them in the past.

In 1996, he wrote in the conservative Weekly Standard that criminals are using the U.S. Constitution to foster "the makings of a new tyranny over which they can preside." (Translation: Legal concepts such as due process to defendants, right against self-incrimination, even the attorney-client privilege, ought to be outlawed now!)

Thomas claimed that prosecutors -- "generally, they are relatively young and inexperienced, and of average ability" -- are outgunned in the war against these "criminals."

He then quoted author Tom Wolfe from The Bonfire of the Vanities, who referred to prosecutors as providing "garbage-collection service, necessary and honorable, plodding and anonymous."

It would seem that Thomas might want to reinvigorate vagrancy laws as County Attorney, based on another selection of his poison penmanship.

In a 1996 piece published in the Weekly Standard, he wrote, "The homeless are homeless, not because of a cruel twist of fate, but because, by and large, they have turned their backs on their loved ones and communities, preferring to go it alone."

It's uncertain if Thomas has ever visited downtown Phoenix's homeless shelter -- a depository for the seriously mentally ill, many of whom commit crime after crime. It's also uncertain if he ever has done a ride-along with Phoenix cops assigned to patrol the gritty streets around the shelter, and who decry the lack of funding for mental health in Arizona.

Here's Thomas' "solution" for the homeless problem, in his 1994 book Crime and the Sacking of America:

"Vagrancy laws should be enforced once again. The community should re-institutionalize vagrants who are mentally ill, and should expect the families of these individuals, depending on their financial means, to help pay the cost of their care. The rest should be given short-term assistance, but then be legally required not to revert to their former lifestyle."

How all this could be accomplished, he never lets on.

Women who work at the County Attorney's Office, especially those with small children, ought to seriously wonder where they would fit into Thomas' scheme of things.

Soon after then-president Bill Clinton proposed a huge expansion of child-care programs in 1998, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Thomas, which averred:

"Children raised in day-care centers and similar institutions are often emotionally and mentally impaired."

He noted that in the 1950s (years before he was born in 1966), "children were raised by two parents in a safe, comfortable home, and mom was almost always there to look after them when they were young."

Thomas, however, didn't recommend that the government fund better day-care centers to reduce the numbers of those "mentally impaired kids." Neither did he remotely suggest more welfare payments to single mothers that might allow them to stay home, if that's so important to him.

Instead, he wrote: "The idea that most members of the workforce have anything resembling a career is itself untenable. It is a notion invented by the intellectual elite who provide the exception to the rule. The overwhelming majority of people work at rote, rather dull jobs. Moreover, the common belief that both parents must work to maintain a 'decent' standard of living is both erroneous and irrelevant."

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Looking incredulously at the antics of this latter-day Huey Long from Europe, one can hardly help feeling that in his scribblings, Thomas is precisely one of the heartless ideologues Dickens decried as "philosophers" in "Oliver Twist". Who would have thought a Dickensian character would come to life in 21st century - complete with bucket-sized crocodile tears.

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