As an indication of the effectiveness of Mesa Police Chief George Gascon's testimony, Republican minority attack dogs went after him like a hunk of raw hamburger. This was after the Congress members returned from the floor of the House after a quick vote on an unrelated matter.
Texas Republican Congressman Ted Poe inquired about who paid for Gascon's trip, echoing a line uttered by Sheriff Joe Arpaio recently in the Arizona media. Gascon replied that the ticket was paid for by some immigration-reform groups. Poe pressed him, hard, as if the congressman were attempting to channel the spirit of long-dead demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Poe asked Gascon if he agreed that "you dance with those that bring you," and that Gascon's testimony was tailored to make those that paid for his plane ticket happy.
"I take offense to that sir," Gascon shot back. "I don't dance with anyone."
Gascon recounted his resume, his service in the armed forces, and with the Los Angeles Police Department. Poe would have hounded him further, but his time ran out.
Later, Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa picked up the cudgel and tried to intimate that Gascon had done something wrong regarding his plane ticket. Would King and Poe have preferred that the city of Mesa pay for it? Also, I can tell you that ticket can't have cost much. I was on the same plane as Gascon coming into D.C., and he did not fly first class. The police chief was seated with the common folk, just like me.
The issue was a red herring, meant to undermine Gascon and what he had to tell the committee. Gascon was there because he felt he had to be. It's not like the guy needs a hurried day-trip to Washington. This kerfuffle reminded me of when I once requested travel expenses on all of Arpaio's trips out of town, and got almost nothing in return from the MCSO. Who pays for all of Arpaio's trips? Didn't he pay for the one to New York, when he appeared on the Conan O'Brien show, for instance?
Ultimately, the Republicans were running defense on the 287(g) issue, and not too well.
Arizona's Trent Franks, Arpaio's main defender, was pulling stats out of thin air. Poe sounded arrogant and antagonistic for no reason. And King basically played the part of a cheerleader for the extreme right.
The Democrats, on the other hand, seemed genuinely concerned about the 287(g) program, and coming up with a solution to the immigration dilemma that works without terrorizing whole communities and trashing the U.S. Constitution. As Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren ended the hearing, she vowed there was more to come.
At one point earlier, Poe wondered why Joe Arpaio wasn't invited to attend, and Lofgren shot back that Arpaio had declined via statements in the media. Poe should know that the Republican minority had every right to call Arpaio, but they and Arpaio apparently wimped out.
Next time, the Democrats should subpoena Arpaio and force him to testify. And if the sheriff gets the county to pay his airfare, the committee should keep the septuagenarian under the same hot lamp that Gascon endured.
I did an interview with Gascon after his testimony, which I'll share with you once I transcibe it. All in all, this hearing ended up being more exciting than I expected.
(Phoenix New Times' special reports section on Joe Arpaio has all the background on Maricopa County's sheriff.)
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