Insults, condescension, personal attacks. Hey, it's all in a days work for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, particularly when it comes to the issue of legalized pot-smokin', which he recently debated on Channel 3's Sunday Politics Unplugged show with state Representative Ruben Gallego.
Gallego, a Democrat, whose wife, Kate, recently won a hard-fought race for a seat on the Phoenix City Council, has announced plans to drop a marijuana-legalization bill during this legislative session.
Monty, being the über-conservative Republican prosecutor that he is, staunchly opposes any such effort in Arizona. Similarly, he's been a loud critic of voter-approved medical marijuana and has done everything in his power to derail it.
The segment, which aired January 12, opened with a clip of one of Monty's press conferences in which he dismissed legalization as a "dumb idea" and tagged supporters of legalization as "either ignorant or indifferent."
Monty drops his insult bomb around 10:10 of this segment . . .
That tone continued as he argued with Gallego, with Monty repeating the "ignorant indifferent" line a couple of times, calling the proposal "stupid," accusing Gallego of being a "publicity policymaker," and saying that legislators like Gallego want to be "want to become the own authors of our societal suicide."
Never mind that Colorado's legalization scheme for personal use recently went into effect with neither the rending of the fabric of society nor the general population's running amok with reefer madness.
In fact, press reports from Colorado have shown regular folks from all walks of life politely lining up to purchase pot legally.
Gallego responded to Monty's insults with the standard pro-legalization pitch: We can tax and regulate it, eliminate the black market, end the failed "war on drugs," focus on more serious crimes, restrict the use of it to those 21 and older, etc.
The argument turned testy at times, then Monty got the last word, which was a doozy:
"What is it with Harvard-trained politicians?" he asked rhetorically. "Whether it's at law school or undergrad, [they have] bad ideas, can't follow laws, cheat on their wives, and come up with ridiculous ideas about marijuana."
The segment ended shortly thereafter, giving Gallego no chance to respond. Later, Channel 3's Carey Peña made a statement that Monty had clarified his remarks via Twitter and was not directing his shot about infidelity toward Gallego, who received his B.A. from Harvard.
"Ruben is a good and honorable husband," Tweeted Monty after the taping. "Just high when it comes to marijuana :)"
A couple of hours later, he followed it up with an actual mea culpa, minus the lame attempt at humor.
"Formal apologies to Ruben Gallego and his wife," Monty wrote. "Absolutely no intent to question his fidelity."
So whose fidelity was he questioning? Well, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne obtained both his bachelor's degree and his law degree from Harvard. And Montgomery, a Horne critic, is backing Horne's Republican primary challenger Mark Brnovich.
As far as "bad ideas" and "can't follow laws," Monty may have had in mind his former boss, disgraced, disbarred ex-county attorney Andy Thomas, who like Horne has a law degree from Harvard.
Though the "ridiculous ideas about marijuana" certainly was directed at Gallego, Monty's comment didn't explain this for viewers.
The full remark was too inside baseball and came out of nowhere. If you didn't know better, it would seem directed solely at Gallego.
I'm surprised that Gallego, a former Marine who did a tour of duty in Iraq, didn't knock Monty (an Army vet) on his ass. I'd actually pay good money to watch that chin-check.
Apparently, the two men had words once the camera was off. (Peña mentioned that there had been "some fallout" from Montgomery's remark.)
I called Gallego. He didn't want to get into what words may have been exchanged after the taping was over, choosing the high road instead.
"I am going to accept his apology," Gallego told me. "I hope he learns from something like this that people have to be careful with their words. I've made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. But, especially on TV, you can't blindly attack your opponent for the sake of winning an argument.
"At the end of the day, it was not me who was really insulted. It was the audience. There are a lot of really good people out there that genuinely disagree with Montgomery. And there are people who genuinely disagree with me. But I certainly don't call them dumb or their ideas dumb, and I think it's inappropriate for the county attorney to do the same."
I do like the idea of Monty calling Horne out on his Horne-doggedness, though I wish he would do it in a way that actually makes sense and hits his intended target.
I mean, didn't they teach Monty how to shoot straight at West Point?
Also, you've gotta admit it's unfair to compare Ruben Gallego to Sultan of Sleaze Tom Horne or delusional former power-tripper Andy Thomas.
Not every Harvard grad can reach such depths of iniquity, shamelessness, and abuse of power. Try though they might.
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