Presidential candidate Herman Cain met with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio this afternoon, but he was late to the meeting because of an unknown security threat.
"We received some information that caused us to improve our security on the way over here, and I would like to leave it at that," Cain told reporters when he arrived at Arpaio's downtown Phoenix office...40 minutes late. "When you become a top-tier candidate, a lot of nuts come out of the closet."
Once Cain arrived, however, it didn't take long before he was asked about a controversial "joke" he recently made about installing a 20-foot-tall electrified fence along the U.S./Mexico border to keep immigrants from entering the country illegally.
Halfway through the question about the electric fence, Cain butted in with "it was a joke!"
"Let me first say it was a joke, and some people don't think that it was a good joke, and it's probably not a joke that you're supposed to make if you're a presidential candidate," Cain continued. "I apologize if it offended anyone. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa."
Only, it might not be a joke, he later said, before finally saying he just doesn't want to offend anyone.
"I don't like to offend anyone...however, I don't apologize for using a combination of a fence. And it might be electrified -- I'm not walking away from that," Cain backtracked. "I just don't want to offend anybody. It was a joke to the extent in the context of the views of that speech, but in terms of what we need to do, I fully intend to do so because I'm more sensitive to our citizens being hurt."
Cain spoke at length about his campaign during the roughly 30 minutes he spent with Phoenix's fourth estate, and explained his immigration plan as America's self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" apparently felt a little left out.
"Why are they going after you? What about me? We're both unorthodox, right," Arpaio butted in during Cain's press conference. "I have illegal immigrants in the hot tents. I have them on chain-gangs, why are you concerned with what he said?"
It's not a "who treats immigrants the shittiest" contest, Joe.
Cain's immigration plan calls for several policy changes, but starts with securing the border with a real fence (which may or may not be electrified), technology, and the possibility of "boots on the ground" in some of the more dangerous parts of the border.
"America is a nation of wide open doors," Cain says. "Come through the front door. I want to make sure people are encouraged to come through the front door, but at the same time, we're gonna shut the back door and the side door."
As for the estimated 50-percent of illegal immigrants who are in the U.S. on expired work visas, Cain says "there's no excuse for someone's visa to expire and we not have a system -- with all the technology available -- to knock on their door and say 'time to go home.'"
The point of Cain's visit with Arpaio, however, wasn't to defend comments about a potentially lethal border fence, it was to wet his lips and plant one on the sheriff's booty with the hopes that he'll endorse his presidential campaign.
When asked why he sought Arpaio's blessing, Cain responded with the following:
"First of all, Sheriff Joe has very similar qualities that I have....neither one of us have gone to political correctness school, and I still don't plan to go to political correctness school."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Cain is one of four presidential candidates that Arpaio claims are begging for his political nod. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann met with the sheriff last month to grovel for his approval, and, according to Arpaio, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusettes Governor Mitt Romney have each called him asking for his tip of the cap.
Arpaio, however, tells New Times he hasn't yet made up his mind about whom he'll endorse.
"What's the rush," he grumbles.
Of course there's no rush for Arpaio -- he's lovin' it; all the illegal immigrant roundups in the world can't get the sheriff this much attention.