Longform

Flip-Flopping John McCain Is No Political Profile in Courage

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Considering his Tea Party talking points, Babeu's involvement with this man — and the sheriff's alleged threats to have him deported — are comic and twisted.

In other words, it's hard to imagine McCain embracing Babeu again.

Born of political expediency, McCain's alliance with Babeu wound up making a fool out of the senator.

On June 5, 2010, at Chase Field before a Diamondbacks-Colorado Rockies game, McCain pinned a purple heart on the chest of Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Louie Puroll, who — according to the deputy's account — had been wounded earlier that year in a shootout with members of a drug cartel in the Vekol Valley.

New Times' Paul Rubin later showed that Puroll made up the confrontation, calling into question even the flesh wound Puroll received. Had the deputy shot himself?

In 2011, Babeu fired Puroll for lying about receiving bribe offers from cartel members and a fake death threat aimed at Rubin, purportedly from a pal of Puroll's.

Still, the initial outrage over Puroll's shooting fed into the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant jingoism Babeu and McCain peddled.

Puroll's improbable shootout occurred just days after Governor Jan Brewer had signed Senate Bill 1070, which made "attrition through enforcement" Arizona's official immigration policy.

Though portions of the law were upheld by a federal judge, and some of those same portions later were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the fallout from the law — which essentially put any brown person under "reasonable suspicion" for an immigration check by law enforcement — was dramatic and severe.

Boycotts of Arizona, massive demonstrations, civil disobedience, and unbridled ethnic animosity ensued — making Arizona an object of derision.

As a result, the state's economy took a hit.

According to the Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, convention and tourism losses here because of 1070 topped $186 million. Add on a loss of an estimated $40.7 million in state tax revenues and 172,000 related job losses.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, issued a policy analysis of 1070 in September 2012. The report estimated that the number of undocumented people in Arizona decreased by 200,000 because of 1070 and Arizona's employer-sanctions law.

The undocumented fled to friendlier states, choosing not to "self-deport," as anticipated by 1070's legislative bullhorn, later-recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce.

Instead, the Cato white paper states, "Upon leaving Arizona," these undocumented immigrants "took their labor, businesses, purchasing power, and housing demand with them."

This exodus made the state's housing bust and its recession worse than they otherwise would've been.

Before 1070's passage, experts warned of such disastrous economic consequences of go-it-alone state immigration measures. But extremist stalwarts, such as Pearce, are on record as saying they didn't care if "attrition through enforcement" shrank our economy — as long as it drove out brown people.

Given McCain's extensive ties to big business and his support of immigration reform during the George W. Bush administration, he should've known better than to side with a political troglodyte like Pearce.

Nevertheless, he did just that, calling 1070 "a good tool . . . a tool that needs to be used" just one day before the state Senate approved the ethnic-cleansing statute.

So, it's hard to argue with the nativist in Sun Lakes who asks McCain about that "danged fence." The questioner may be a bigot, but when it comes to McCain saying anything to get re-elected, he's dead-on.

See, it's not for nothing that journalists have referrred to McCain as "Jukebox John" and "a Republican weather vane" when it comes to immigration and other issues.

After the senator takes the last question from his Oro Valley audience, he turns his attention to the local press.

I ask him what he would say to those who perceive a massive shift in his 2010 rhetoric on immigration.

"I would say they're wrong," he replies.

I then ask whether he still supports SB 1070. His reply is practiced and vague.

"I support the effort that was made in this state," he says, "because of the frustration that [state and local officials] had because of people coming across our borders.

"I have made it clear in this [current federal immigration] bill that we have to have border security as a trigger, among other things, just as I said in 2010. So anybody who says my attitude or my position has changed is wrong."

"So you still support 1070?" I press.

"I've answered your question," he snarls.

Here is a smidgen of McCain's infamous temper, though there's more to come when I delve into statements made as he toured Arizona's Wallow Fire area in June 2011 and stated to the press that some wildfires in the state were started by illegal aliens.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons