This past Saturday, during a radio show broadcast from the Old Pueblo, Bruce Ash, a Tucson businessman who is one of Arizona's two elected Republican National Committeepersons, suggested that three political operatives for Donald Trump be shot in the back of the head "execution-style" for their poor oversight of the rules committee for the upcoming Republican National Convention.
Ash, who has been a member of the national GOP's ruling body since 2007, had just called in to the political talk show Inside Track, which he often co-anchors with the show's regular host, Emil Franzi, on KVOI (1030 AM). Ash and Franzi were discussing the backroom machinations going on with appointments to the convention's rules committee and a growing effort under way to unbind the delegates at the convention in Cleveland so they don't have to vote for Trump in the first round.
The Washington Post and other outlets have reported on a movement by some GOP delegates to dump Trump by inserting into the rules a "conscience clause" that would free them to vote for someone other than the winner of their state's delegates. On the show, Ash, who has served as chairman of the party's standing rules committee, opines that RNC chair Reince Priebus is setting the stage for that to happen by appointing party insiders to run the convention's special rules committee. (Former Utah Congresswoman Enid Mickelsen, for instance, will chair the committee and is an ally of Trump critic and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.)
Ash contends that Trump's people — specifically Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort; Trump's campaign liaison to the RNC, Ed Brookover; and recently-axed campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — were "asleep at the switch" when the offending appointments were made, and may end up being responsible for Trump's candidacy being undermined at the convention.
"The men [Trump] had supposedly in the RNC watching the chicken house weren't watching the chicken house," Ash said. "And they ought to be taken in back of that shed, and shot in the back of the head, execution-style, because they fell down on their duty, they let this happen."
Ash's comments were picked up by conservative news sites such as the Arizona Daily Independent and the Daily Caller, forcing Ash to defend his remarks in a three-page letter to RNC members, in which he further criticizes what he calls the "rising 'conscience' vote movement being organized by Governor Romney and others who seek to nullify 56 state contests and possibly bring in another nominee."
In the letter, which Politico published in its entirety, Ash also defends his choice of words.
"Was the punishment I suggested on the radio show harsh?" Ash writes. "No. It was a metaphor that has been used in political terms thousands of times. There are others who have said much worse about the presumptive nominee and get away with their language. I was standing up for our process and the presumptive nominee."
Politico doesn't quote what Ash said on the radio, so readers who didn't already know can only guess that the suggested punishment was the Fredo Corleone treatment. (The episode remains available in podcast form via Inside Track's website; skip to the 25-minute mark to hear Ash call in.)
Ironically, just a couple of days after Ash prescribed bullets to the back of the head, Trump canned Lewandowski in what has been seen as the culmination of a power struggle within the campaign.
There have been calls this week for Ash to resign, most notably from local conservative firebrand and former county GOP chair A.J. LaFaro.
LaFaro is no stranger to controversial remarks, having once called former governor and fellow Republican Jan Brewer a "Judas" and said certain politicians are lucky that Arizona towns no longer have gallows in their main squares. But he tells New Times via e-mail that Ash's comments are unforgivable and the committeeman should commit political seppuku.
"There are different degrees of controversy," LeFaro writes. "Political speech is one thing. Advocating for individuals to be shot in the head and killed goes beyond the pale of society. This is just one more example of Bruce Ash's audacious, disgraceful, and abominable conduct."
The RNC committeeman "crossed the line" with his comments, LaFaro argues, calling them "totally unacceptable, especially in this extremely violent society we live in today." In his opinion, Ash "needs to immediately resign."
"[They] weren't watching the chicken house. And they ought to be taken in back of that shed and shot in the back of the head, execution-style." — RNC Committeeman Bruce Ash
Ash has not responded to New Times inquiries seeking his reaction to LaFaro's suggestion.
On Saturday's Inside Track, Ash vowed to fight any rules change that will allow conventioneers to vote their conscience, even though he concedes that Trump "wasn't my first, second, or third choice." He pointed out that The Donald won 14 million votes in the primary and that all of the other candidates have suspended their campaigns.
Ash admitted that he has been "just as troubled with some of the goofy things that have been said" during the GOP primaries by Trump and others. "These are unusual times," he said. But in his view, to unbind the delegates would be political "suicide."