If hundreds of angry phone calls and e-mails in response to my commentary on a harebrained MCSO raid in Ahwatukee are any indication of the public's disgust, elderly Joe Arpaio may soon be the ex-sheriff of Maricopa County.
Readers are livid over the bungled July 23 raid by Joe's goons that left a house destroyed by fire, a car wrecked by Joe's "tank," a neighborhood terrorized and a burned-up puppy left to rot in the rubble for a week
All for a misdemeanor arrest.
Arpaio's Ahwatukee Assault has all the earmarks of becoming Arpaio's Waterloo as the September 7 Republican primary approaches.
Outlaw Joe is clearly worried.
He's spending lavishly to broadcast deceitful campaign commercials claiming he's saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars since getting elected sheriff in 1992.
Truth means nothing to Arpaio. He's cost us tens of millions of dollars.
So he'll tell the Big Lie hoping it will counteract the increasingly effective grassroots movement to kick his 72-year-old butt out of office.
In February, a poll showed Arpaio commanding 71 percent of Republican voters and more than 60 percent of Democratic and Independent voters. But a lot has happened since then. The odds of Outlaw Joe getting reelected are rapidly narrowing.
So much so that there has never been a better opportunity to run this slimeball out of town than the GOP primary -- an election in which Independents can play a crucial role.
Especially now that one of America's most powerful and influential politicians has shattered the shameful silence of local leaders afraid to seriously confront Arpaio and his inner circle of brown-shirted jackboot lickers.
It's no longer a few outraged family members of abused inmates and people who have spent time in Arpaio's gulags who know that Joe must go. At long last, the mainstream appears to be turning against him, led by the standard-bearer of common sense in the national Republican party, U.S. Senator John McCain.
The nationally popular Arizona senator's resounding endorsement of retired Mesa police commander Dan Saban in the primary is a clear signal to rank-and-file Republicans to give Arpaio the proverbial kick to the curb.
McCain is joined by the Professional Firefighters of Arizona, every police organization in the Valley and the Maricopa County Republican Party Executive Guidance Committee in endorsing Saban.
Even more important, McCain's formal backing of Saban sends an influential message to Independent voters.
Many Independents don't know they can vote in a local primary election. It is crucial that Independents ask for Republican ballots during the next month of early voting -- or at the polls -- and vote for Saban.
McCain and other Republican leaders' rejection of Arpaio is the most significant party breach since 1988, when Republicans voted to remove former governor Evan Mecham.
But where Mecham's reign of racist-tinged ineptitude lasted only 16 months before he was ousted, Arpaio's manipulation of the media and bamboozling of an electorate hypnotized by fear has extended over a dozen years.
Posing as a latter-day John Wayne has worked well for Outlaw Joe for most of his tenure. As Arpaio's longtime image consultant and media madam Lisa Allen MacPherson put it: "Highly educated people and liberals do not vote for him."
But Arpaio's lamebrain tough-guy routine has grown abhorrent to more than just Democrats, Naderites and lefties in this post-Abu Ghraib world.
Here's what Senator McCain had to say:
"Dan Saban's plan to partner with law enforcement agencies and local communities to improve public safety, and his commitment to fiscal responsibility, give me the confidence that he will work with honor and integrity to serve and protect all the people of Maricopa County."
In other words, Saban wouldn't send SWAT teams into another police jurisdiction's turf without prior notification.
And most important, Saban would adhere to constitutional protections that pretrial detainees in America are entitled to receive -- protections that Arpaio gleefully tramples with horrific results.
McCain's endorsement caps a great week for Saban. His shoestring campaign continues to gain momentum, despite the fact that nearly 100 of his 600 campaign signs across the Valley have mysteriously disappeared.
"I feel wonderful," he tells me. "I feel we have a chance. We certainly are on equal ground. We are head to head. I think we can win this thing."
I'm beginning to think Saban may be right.
McCain's public endorsement comes the same week that a federal appeals court let stand an injunction that forced Arpaio in 2001 to remove Web cams from the Maricopa County jail. One camera showed female detainees using a toilet.
Outlaw Joe sold the streaming video to a dot-com, believing this was a great way to humiliate people who had been arrested but hadn't been so much as arraigned.
The federal appeals court disagreed with the sheriff's thinking.
"We fail to see how turning pretrial detainees into the unwilling objects of the latest reality show serves any . . . legitimate goals," the 9th Circuit Court stated.
Wasting taxpayer money to feed his insatiable ego is nothing new to the increasingly paranoid Arpaio.
Angered by Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley's refusal to prosecute about 60 alleged hookers arrested last winter in a dumb-ass MCSO sting operation -- where deputies and posse men got naked and had sex with call girls -- Joe decided to make a bad relationship with Romley even worse.
Recently, the County Attorney's Office discovered that Arpaio's detectives were secretly taping telephone conversations with prosecutors. This unprecedented breach of trust between the MCSO and line prosecutors could jeopardize pending criminal cases, Romley's chief deputy, Paul Ahler, tells me.
"I don't think the public is being very well served by the sheriff's office directive to do this," Ahler snarls.
The level of distrust between the sheriff's office and the county attorney is now so high that prosecutors will no longer discuss any substantive issues with Joe's detectives over the phone. All discussions must be at the County Attorney's Office.
This will only further muck up the legal system and drive up the costs to taxpayers.
Which is the true legacy of Arpaio's 12 years in office.
He is costing taxpayers hugely in legal settlements stemming from the brutality unleashed on prisoners in the county jails. The unconstitutional abuses inside the jail system -- the countless deaths, beatings and injuries -- are a heavy price to pay to stoke Outlaw Joe's ego.
The cost has become far too great, especially when there are no benefits to keeping this Neanderthal around any longer.
And that is why McCain and county Republican party honchos -- who rarely turn on their own -- have joined the ranks of those who want Joe Arpaio voted out of office.
It's high time.
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