Feathered Bastard

Jan Brewer's U.N.-Bashing PR Stunt, and Its Sliver of Truth

Governor Jan Brewer's political operatives are by no means as dumb as their candidate. Evidence the PR stunt they let drop Friday, berating the U.S. State Department for daring to mention Arizona's breathing while brown law, SB 1070, in America's first ever report as part of its "Universal Periodic Review" before United Nations Human Rights Council.

Brewer's peeps worked up an indignant letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Brewer to sign. In it, Brewer demanded that the reference to Arizona's ethnic cleansing statute be deleted, expressed her "concern and indignation," and called the move "internationalism run amok" and "unconstitutional," though in reality it is neither of those things.

In corn-pone language to rival U.S. Senator John McCain's "dang fence," Brewer referred to the brief mention of SB 1070 in the 29-page report as "downright offensive."

Well, tarnation, how dare that namby-pamby liberal Hillary Clinton pull such a stunt!

The letter and a fiery press release were issued to the media. And the media duly complied by reporting that the U.S. government was bad-mouthing Sand Land to the United Nations, and Gov. Brewer was defending Cactus Country as just as good on this here human rights stuff as the rest of the Union.

Less reported was the anodyne statement in the aforementioned report that sparked all this fake outrage.

"A recent Arizona law, S.B. 1070, has generated significant attention and debate at home and around the world. The issue is being addressed in a court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law. That action is ongoing; parts of the law are currently enjoined."

Now, I don't know about you folks, but that hardly reads like a condemnation of the People's Republic of the Prickly Pear. It's simply a statement of fact, and it was no doubt included because SB 1070 has been worldwide news since Brewer signed the bigot bill into law April 23.

The omission of any reference to it would have been more noticeable, particularly with Mexico being one of the 47 nations that currently make up the human rights commission.

Brewer's script-writers took a swipe at the commission by observing that its members "include such renowned human rights `champions' as Cuba and Libya."

This is true, but the commission's current members also include such rogue states as Norway, Switzerland, Great Britain and Belgium.

Interestingly, the State Department document itself addresses the issue that Brewer's brain trust attempts to sarcastically skewer.

"Some may say that by participating we acknowledge commonality with states that systematically abuse human rights. We do not. There is no comparison between American democracy and repressive regimes. Others will say that our participation, and our assessment of certain areas where we seek continued progress, reflects doubt in the ability of the American political system to deliver progress for its citizens. It does not.

"As Secretary Clinton said in a speech on human rights last year, `democracies demonstrate their greatness not by insisting they are perfect, but by using their institutions and their principles to make themselves...more perfect.' Progress is our goal, and our expectation thereof is justified by the proven ability of our system of government to deliver the progress our people demand and deserve."

Heady stuff. Idealistic, and quite laudatory, if you ask me. Moreover, if you think that the plight of the undocumented in this state and this country is not a human rights dilemma, then I've got some oceanfront property in Quartzsite I'd like to sell you. Dead cheap, too.

Of course, the U.N is one of those institutions that wingnuts love to rail on. Same for Hillary, and the State Department, for that matter. Which is why the far-right Sonoran Alliance blog has labeled the date of Brewer's press release, "A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY." You know, like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but without the carnage and all those mangled ships.

Such hysteria is to be expected from its source, and from Brewer -- even though I doubt very much she's read the State Department report in question or even could understand it if she did so. Remember, her main educational accomplishment is a certification in X-ray technology.

But, hey, that's what advisors like Chuck Coughlin and Paul Senseman are for, right?

However, amidst all the blarney, there was one point in the Brewer letter that I had to agree with.

"The flow of illegal immigrant trafficking," the missive states, "to a large degree across the harsh Arizona desert is a result of the federal policy to secure the border in San Diego and El Paso and leave the Tucson (Arizona) sector less secured. For example, this federal policy has resulted in the deaths of untold numbers of illegal immigrants --- 170 bodies found in the desert so far this year according to the Pima County (Arizona) Medical Examiner."

Not that I think Brewer and her staff give a flying flick about those who die of dehydration crossing the Arizona desert, but this passage is fairly accurate. The federal government has adopted a border policy since the Clinton administration that creates what researchers call a "funnel effect," pushing migration through Arizona.

See, the feds thought the Arizona desert would provide a natural barrier to migrants. Instead, the desert has become a graveyard for thousands.

I'll give Brewer's ghost writers a spec of credit for pointing out the hypocrisy of the feds here, even though the rest of their diatribe is pure bunk. However, as a PR stunt, I must admit, it was quite successful, if you judge by the way the lemmings in the press covered it.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons