Jan Brewer's Sniveling New Memoir Laughably Paints Her as a Tough-as-Nails Governor

As most Arizonans know, Governor Jan Brewer's maiden name is Drinkwine.

Wags had plenty of fun with that — and with Brewer's married name — when last year the record of her 1988 booze-related accident surfaced, an incident in which officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety wrote her up for driving while snockered.

Arizona's future chief executive, then a state senator, was handcuffed, driven home, and never charged with a DUI, though she admitted to DPS officers at the scene that she'd downed a scotch or two before ramming a van on Interstate 17.

Call it "amnesty" for state legislators. Not unlike the kind enjoyed by a fellow Republican, state Senator Scott Bundgaard, after his roadside fisticuffs with ex-girlfriend Aubry Ballard in February.

Brewer's delight in fermented mash aside, I submit that the second half of her maiden name would best suit her if spelled with an "h," because all Brewer does throughout her self-serving, ghostwritten memoir, Scorpions for Breakfast, is whine.

The governor's kvetching comes as she pats herself on the back for having the gumption to sign Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's notorious "papers please" law, which alienated more than a third of Arizonans (the brown folk and those allied with them), turned Arizona into a national laughingstock, and — most significantly for Brewer — secured her win over then-Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard in the 2010 gubernatorial contest.

In Scorpions, Brewer likens the criticism she took over signing 1070 to "water-boarding," takes umbrage at getting called a "racist," "Hitler's daughter," and "Satan's whore," and expresses annoyance at the protesters who dared harangue her at the state Capitol.

Oh, and she really hated the drums that some anti-1070 protesters utilized.

"They were there every day: marching, chanting, and beating drums," she notes in Scorpions. "Always beating drums."

Interesting complaint coming from the governor of a state with more than a quarter of its land mass given over to Native Americans.

Many of those "chanting" and "beating drums" had indigenous blood flowing through their veins. Because of the Brewer-signed 1070, they, too, would be suspect of being present illegally.

Thankfully, most of 1070 was enjoined by U.S. District Circuit Judge Susan R. Bolton. Later, her order was upheld by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Brewer moans about this too, while, ironically, insisting that her pro-1070 stance represented the rule of law.

Just who do those dang jurists think they are? Janice Drinkwine Brewer knows best, despite her lack of college learnin'.

Such childishness extends to nearly every aspect of Brewer's book. A better title for it would be White Trash Wins Lotto.

Brewer even bitches about how, after Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election and Governor Janet Napolitano was nominated Homeland Security secretary, "Janet wouldn't leave" until she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Never mind that Napolitano, no matter what you think about her, was elected to be the state's chief executive. Or that Brewer was chancing into a position she never would have earned on her own.

Indeed, through a combination of partisan hackdom, dumb luck, and crass personal ambition unmarked by speaking ability or native intelligence, Brewer had risen from state legislator and Maricopa County supervisor to become Arizona's Secretary of State, next in line to the Governor's Office.

Yet Brewer long had campaigned to create a lieutenant governor position to replace that of secretary of state.

In 1994, she stated in an op-ed in the Arizona Republic that the Secretary of State's Office does "little to prepare that officeholder for the statewide leadership role required of a governor."

In the same piece, Brewer bewailed "what happens when the governorship is thrust upon an unwilling and untrained secretary of state."

On the eve of Napolitano's 2008 departure, Republic reporter Matthew Benson (now Brewer's communications director) confronted her with these words. Brewer insisted she was different because she had decades of political experience.

Actually, Brewer is uniquely unqualified to be governor, in part because she is not well-educated, but mostly because her lack of cerebral power rivals the arachnids that TV has-been Chuck Norris famously claimed Brewer noshes like Cheerios.

Though her sketchiness regarding her educational background has lent itself to speculation, Brewer reportedly graduated from Los Angeles' Verdugo Hills High School in 1962.

Detractors have labeled her "G.E.D. Jan." Despite her getting certified in radiology after high school, the nickname has stuck.

That's mainly because of Brewer's ineptness as a communicator and her own general cluelessness.

Lack of a college degree would not preclude her from being an autodidact, but in Brewer's case, someone would have to explain to her what "autodidact" means. Then they'd have to teach her how to pronounce it.

It's a sure bet that Brewer did not write her own book. In her acknowledgments, she thanks ghostwriter Jessica Gavora for "helping me share the truth about SB 1070."

Gavora is a Republican speechwriter who helped Sarah Palin on her second book, America by Heart, published, as was Brewer's, by HarperCollins.

It was Palin who "wrote" the intro to Brewer's book.

Palin is a political sister who also doesn't get credit for brains. But next to Brewer . . .

Sure, Palin's said some wacky stuff. But to my knowledge, she's never publicly experienced the sort of extended brain malfunction that Brewer suffered during her one and only gubernatorial debate on PBS' Horizon in 2010.

Moreover, Brewer speaks in hillbilly-ese, nearly incapable of making subjects and verbs agree, while Palin sounds polished and media-ready.

When I saw them together during a brief 2010 appearance at the Marriott Desert Ridge in North Phoenix, Brewer stumbled over prepared remarks, mispronouncing such toughies as "inflict" and "interpretations."

Certainly, Palin was misinformed. She stated, as Brewer falsely does more than once in Scorpions, that all 1070 does is "mirror federal law," when this is as bogus as Brewer's sexagenarian dye job.

In fact, 1070 created state immigration legislation at loggerheads with federal immigration law, which, according to the U.S. Constitution, is supreme.

Palin simply was regurgitating wingnut soundbites.

Brewer should have known better. Especially since, in Scorpions, she takes credit for the breathing-while-brown statute.

The bill's primary legislative pimp, disgraced former state Senate President Russell Pearce, literally is mentioned twice in the entire book. And then only in passing.

But back to Brewer's appearance with Palin, where I got the chance to shout a couple of questions at her. One of which was to define the stated intent of SB 1070: "attrition through enforcement."

Brewer replied, "Attrition through enforcement would mean that you are going to come through legally."

I told her she was incorrect, that the phrase meant the state intended to drive out illegal immigrants. 

That's always been the definition used by Pearce and his intellectual masters at the nativist Federation for American Immigration Reform ("Palin Joins Brewer in Whitewash," May 15, 2010).

Brewer was flummoxed. When I asked where "attrition through enforcement" appears in federal code, she had no reply.

Of course, it doesn't appear in federal code, because 1070 does not "mirror" federal law.

Interestingly, Brewer comes closer to accurately defining "attrition through enforcement" in her book.

But then, Brewer did not have to write it. When I asked HarperCollins spokeswoman Joanna Pinsker to what degree Brewer was involved in the penning of Scorpions and whether the governor had even read it in full, Pinsker would only say that Brewer "worked with a collaborator."

Nor would Pinsker come clean on the specifics of Brewer's book deal, including the amount of her advance. State law says Brewer must disclose such details in her 2011 financial-disclosure form, which she must file in January.

Pinsker did let something slip on one point: HarperCollins picked up the tab for Brewer's recent book tour, during which she traveled to New York City and to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

Did HarperCollins cover the expenses of any of Brewer's family, flunkies, or her security detail? Neither Brewer's spokesman nor HarperCollins offered details.

Remember, it was while Brewer gallivanted in Gotham and Cali that she illegally ordered the removal of Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis as head of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission — an act the Supreme Court quickly reversed.

Since Brewer, who was out of state, had to call a special legislative session so the state Senate could rubber-stamp Mathis' removal, Secretary of State Ken Bennett was forced to sign the proclamation in her stead.

I recently bet Brewer's spokesman $50 that Brewer couldn't read five pages of her book in front of me without stumbling or mispronouncing anything.

He didn't take the bet, which speaks to why the governor of Arizona eschews regular press conferences.

Inevitably, she makes an ass of herself. Like the time she attended a press conference at a U.S. Marshals office and read the wrong speech. When reporters pointed it out to her, she blathered incoherently to the point that underlings had to step in to save her.

Or the time the press cornered her about her untruthful statements concerning headless bodies in the Arizona desert. She stomped off rather than respond.

Former Governor Napolitano loved sparring with reporters. She held regular Wednesday press conferences. Any scribbler could attend and ask her anything.

Brewer, by contrast, is a coward who's usually on the run from the media, like a scorpion scurrying away from a more advanced life form.

In her memoir, she recalls two incidents involving New Times, which she identifies only as a "small weekly publication."

The first occurred in 1990, when New Times music writer David Koen impersonated curmudgeonly columnist Doug MacEachern (then with the Mesa Tribune), engaging state Senator Brewer over her proposal to place age limits on those purchasing CDs with naughty language.

Koen got the reportedly priggish Brewer to repeat much of the offending language found on those CDs.

Later, Koen set the interview's recording to rap music and shared his creation with the state Capitol via a set of jumbo speakers as protesters waved signs reading, "Brewer Is a Sewer" and "Jan Brewer Should Be Obscene and Not Heard."

In Scorpions, Brewer calls Koen "deceitful" and admits that the recording was "embarrassing for me."

The second incident occurred days before she signed SB 1070 and ticked off the nation's Latino population. It was at a benefit for the Latino advocacy organization Chicanos por la Causa.

Brewer, forever stroking herself in her book, naturally, calls it one of her "into the lion's den moments," insisting that she wasn't going to turn down the invite and "run and hide," as some of her advisers suggested.

Cynically, she already had decided to sign 1070. Waiting 'til the last moment was mere pretense.

But while Brewer was more than willing to throw Arizona's Latino population into the fire, she couldn't stand the glow of the furnace.

During the CLPC dinner, board chair Erica Gonzalez-Melendez told Brewer that 1070 would make Hispanics "second-class citizens." Brewer, in a classic example of what sociologists call "white privilege," fumes in her book that Gonzalez-Melendez's remarks were "insulting" and "slanderous."

What's really insulting and slanderous, however, is Brewer's suggestion in Scorpions that she was in some way physically endangered that evening. All because Gonzalez-Melendez received a standing ovation and the crowd began to chant, "Veto the bill."

This was Brewer's excuse for storming out of the banquet, instead of staying to hear out those who would be directly affected by 1070.

I was there that evening and followed Brewer into the corridor, in an attempt to question her about the event.

Brewer remembers me in her tome as "a reporter from the same paper that had pulled the record labeling stunt on me years ago." She uses this as an excuse for continuing to walk away. Pure pusillanimity.

By signing 1070, she did not do the difficult thing, as she insists. She did the easy thing. She pandered to racism whipped up by hateful nativists. And it paid off.

Before signing the bill, Brewer was getting clobbered in the polls by Democrat Goddard. After signing it, on the advice of right-wing political adviser Chuck Coughlin, her poll numbers soared, and she handily won the election.

Despite the recent release of her ghostwritten memoir, the worm appears to be turning for Brewer.

A recent survey by Public Policy Polling shows Brewer with a 49 percent disapproval rating. In the wake of the successful recall of Russell Pearce, 32 percent of poll respondents stated that they would support Brewer's recall.

Thirty-two percent.

It would take gathering more than 400,000 signatures to recall Brewer, who will be term-limited out in 2014.

Still, Randy Parraz, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group that forced the successful Pearce ouster, is keeping the recall option on the table.

If enough volunteers emerge, Parraz says, recalling the governor is feasible.

It's not a possibility I discount, if only because it finally would give Brewer something to really whine about.

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