Columnist James Fenton called Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu "Republicans' latest nightmare" in a piece for the London Evening Standard.
Fentons' column hit the presses about a week after New Times reported that Babeu's Mexican ex-boyfriend lobbed allegations that the sheriff threatened him and that the sheriff's attorney raised threats of deportation over an supposed expired visa.
Cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other," as the old song has it. But here's a new twist to the Brokeback Mountain theme. You could call it Wetback Mountain. A prominent Right-wing Republican sheriff in Pinal Country, Arizona, known for his conspicuous campaign against illegal immigrants, is accused by his gay Mexican lover of three years, Jose Orozco, of threatening to have him deported if he revealed their affair.
Later, Fenton artfully points out the all too obvious hypocrisy in which Babeu has been wallowing:
"Si," as a vulgar remark on the internet put it, "the sheriff is fond of chorizo." For Pete's sake, though, if it were only a question of being fond of chorizo, the story of Paul Babeu would do nothing but add to the gaiety of nations. Instead it's this matter of being fond of chorizo in private while making others suffer for it in public, in harsh legislation, in discriminatory law enforcement, in crying up a crisis for political advantage. It's not the love of living dangerously that matters. It's living dangerously at the expense of others' happiness.
The columnist also nails just how toxic immigration has become in the political arena, and how, mostly, the "tone of debate has been set by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, furious Tea Partiers and ambitious populists like Babeu.
"The toxicity of the immigrant issue is seen in Rick Perry's attack on Mitt Romney earlier in the present campaign, when the Texas governor accused him of hiring an illegal immigrant to sweep his lawns. Romney in fact has never been shown to have hired an illegal immigrant, but in 2006 he used a garden maintenance firm which had hired some. When this was discovered, as Romney later explained in a TV debate, he went to the firm and said: "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake. I can't have illegals."
"I'm running for office, for Pete's sake!" enjoyed a little vogue as a catch-phrase. Somebody should have used it with Sheriff Babeu. You're running for office, for Pete's sake - you can't go posting nude photos of yourself, with an erection, on gay dating sites. You are entitled to all the fun of the erotic chase, and all the charms of a Latino lover, but, for Pete's sake, Sheriff, if you spend your working life calling for walls to be built separating Mexico from the States, don't let yourself be found sharing a bed with a Mexican of uncertain status.
At the time of writing, it is far from clear what the boyfriend's status is. He was said at first to be possessed of a 10-year multiple-entry tourist visa. But if that had been the case, he would undoubtedly have aroused suspicion of misusing the visa. He should have been living in Mexico for the past few years, making tourist visits as the visa allows. Nor will it be easy for Babeu to argue, should Orozco's papers turn out not to be in order, that he was, for three years, unaware of the fact. His job is law enforcement and his specialisation is this very field. He could well be in for legal trouble himself, whether or not he made the threats his boyfriend claims.