I'll give Sheriff Joe Arpaio one thing, the guy is a class-A schmoozer. The almost-octogenarian knows how to butter up his adversaries for public consumption, all while he's plotting to have them arrested, investigated, tailed, or worse.
Though Arpaio is nominally in law enforcement, this is a classic la cosa nostra move. Smile in your enemy's face, moments before you slit his throat. Like when Joe Pesci's character in Goodfellas goes to attend what he thinks will be his induction ceremony into the mob, only to be executed instead.
The difference is, Arpaio's shuck and jive only fools the gullible. Anyone with a lick of sense knows it's bull. Still, he persists in it, like an ancient, third-rate comedian telling a once-funny joke for the umpteenth time.
Which explains why Sheriff Joe's inviting "the leaders of Puente" to his office for a confab. Guess he's read that the human rights group has planned a demonstration for June 23 at his notorious Tent City, an open-air gulag run by dangerous, racist gangs that Arpaio pretends to be in charge of.
And of course, Arpaio had to Tweet and Facebook about the upcoming demo, though he's got a whole team of PR flunkies to do the actual typing for him.
"Evidently Puente does not like my 19 year old successful tent city incarceration program with thousands protesting on June 23rd at the tents," reads the post on Arpaio's Facebook account. "Numerous presidential candidates have visited the tents and support the concept.
"I suggest leaders of Puente meet with me in my office to discuss concerns and save resources from demonstrating in the heat. I started tent city on Aug 2nd, 1993 and will be celebrating the 20th anniversary in August and plan on having some type of celebration."
What Arpaio doesn't tell you is that a visit to Tent City is practically the kiss of death for a presidential candidate (not unlike Joe's endorsement). Every time one visits the tents, they lose.
Know who first made that observation to me? Arpaio himself.
As far as Tent City being "successful," I reckon that depends on your measure of success. Arpaio famously referred to Tent City as his own personal "concentration camp." And how do you measure the effectiveness of a concentration camp?
I suppose if you regard inhumane and poorly-staffed conditions, riots and wrongful deaths (like those of Brian Crenshaw and Phillip Wilson), and the absence of any impact on the recidivism rate to be a success, then by golly, it's a success, Pollyanna. Otherwise, it's an abject failure.
As for Puente's leaders, they ain't coming to visit , Joe. Know why? They don't like kibbutzing with criminals.
"There's nothing for us to discuss," Puente organizer Carlos Garcia told me in response to Arpaio's insincere invite. "The only thing there is for Arpaio to do is get arrested...We're tired of the investigations. We just want this guy out of office."
Don't we all.
Problem is, we have all of these old, racist ofays in this county who vote, and they tend to vote for Joe, because he's a sad, wrinkled hater just like them.
However, hope springs eternal. These people can't live forever. And neither can Joe, though before he shuffles off this mortal coil (of natural causes, natch), it would be nice to see him in a pair of his own pink handcuffs. Or better yet, defeated in a general election.
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