Of all of the lunatic moments of the Donald Trump presidency thus far, one of my favorites came when he pardoned convicted criminal Joe Arpaio. Arpaio ruled the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department as the self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff” for 24 years, and he did it with a cold heart and an iron fist.
Among his better known antics: investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and claiming, even in 2018, that it’s forged; failing to investigate dozens of child molestation cases, including many in which the alleged victims were the children of undocumented immigrants; building a tent city, which Arpaio himself likened to a concentration camp, to house prisoners; and amassing such a record of civil rights violations that his department paid out more than $146 million in settlements, legal fees and court awards during his tenure, according to theArizona Republic. Arpaio was finally dethroned (by a Democrat) in 2017, and on Aug. 28 he lost his primary campaign for the Senate seat Republican Jeff Flake is vacating. (Before the election, one pollster commented that there’s a better chance of “finding a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” than of Arpaio winning the race.)
Arpaio and Trump formed a bromance, owing to their likemindedness when it comes to immigration. When Arpaio was convicted of contempt for disobeying a judge’s order to stop targeting and detaining Latino drivers, Trump rode to the rescue and, in August 2017, pardoned him. And when comedian Sacha Baron Cohen recently lured Arpaio onto his new Showtime series Who is America? under the guise that a Finnish media personality wanted to interview him, the exchange between Cohen’s character and the 86-year-old Arpaio was cringeworthy:
“If Donald Trump calls you up after this and says, ‘Sheriff Joe, I want to offer you an amazing blow job,’ would you say yes?” Cohen asks. “I may have to say yes,” Arpaio answers.
Why a newspaper on California’s Central Coast cares about Arpaio is this: He’s coming to Carmel Valley as the featured guest of the Monterey Peninsula Republican Women Federated – the educational wing of the local GOP organization – at their annual “Liberty Luncheon” on Sept. 13 at Palo Corona Regional Park. Also invited are a Breitbart “journalist,” the founder of Turning Point USA and an actress I’ve never heard of whose claim to fame is that she came out of the “conservative closet.”
You read that right. The women’s group that represents the party of Lincoln and Reagan and hell, even Bush (who doesn’t seem that bad in comparison to what we have now), has invited Joe Arpaio to lunch. They’ve aligned themselves with a once-dangerous law enforcement official who never believed the law applied to him, and who’s now become a sad old joke.
I sent several messages to the group’s president, Karen Reissman, to ask her why, but didn’t hear back.
The concessionaire that manages Palo Corona, which used to be the Rancho Cañada Golf Club, has rented the facility to the Republican women for their annual lunch for 13 years. The situation has led Rafael Payan, the head of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, to consult with the district’s attorney in the interests, he says, of making sure the public facility offers equal access and equal protection under the law. He’s heard “from a wide spectrum, from supporters to people who don’t support Sheriff Arpaio,” he says.
One of those non-supporters is Siobhan Wolfe, a Carmel Valley mom who “can barely manage anything,” she says. The idea of Arpaio coming to her sleepy little town was too much to take, and it’s spurred her to action. She’s become the de facto leader of a protest planned to take place outside the lunch, and she’s trying to figure out if she needs a permit to bring along a taco truck and a mariachi band.
“I’ve lived here 31 years. My kids were raised here. Joe Arpaio is a hatemonger and I don’t want to accept it,” she says. “Part of the thing I want to do is say, ‘We don’t like your message.’ Here in Carmel Valley and in Monterey County, we celebrate Latino culture.”