Austin Hill: In the aftermath of the tragic murder at the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C., last week, it was Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s turn to seize an opportunity and take shots at his political nemesis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"Never let a great national tragedy go to waste.”
This would seem to be an appropriate adaptation of an assertion once made by President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel when he claimed that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
Since uttering that phrase, Mr. Emanuel and our president have certainly proven that in the midst of an economic “crisis,” politicians can score big time, even seizing control of entire banks and car manufacturers, so long as they promise enough “free stuff” and “security” to frightened American voters.
So in the aftermath of the tragic murder at the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C., last week, it was Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s turn to seize an opportunity and take shots at his political nemesis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
After the ethnically motivated shooting in D.C., Mayor Gordon used the incident as a reason to hold a press conference and insinuate some ugly things, claiming that Arpaio has “associations” with self-described “Nazis” and “neo-Nazis.”
Mayor Gordon also called upon Sheriff Arpaio to begin “righting the ship” in dealing with people who spread hate.
I’ve covered both Mayor Gordon and Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona media for the bigger part of a decade, both on local talk radio and here at the East Valley Tribune. There is much I admire about both of these men, yet I’ve always been honest when I believed that their conduct was wrong or reckless.
And my commitment to such candor hasn’t always brought me a lot of friends — certainly my life would be easier if I ascribed to the “thou shalt not question Sheriff Joe” mindset that many of Arpaio’s supporters embrace.
But this week I was shocked at Mayor Phil Gordon’s conduct. Politicizing a national tragedy and using the incident to malign one’s political foe is unacceptable. It reaches to a new low point in the history of Phoenix, and certainly a low point for the office of the Phoenix mayor.
This behavior exhibited by Mayor Gordon is inconsistent with the Phil Gordon that I’ve known. I first met Phil (he resists being called “Mr. Mayor” or “Mayor Gordon,” insisting that he be addressed on a first-name basis) back in 2001, long before he was the mayor.
I was struck back then by his apparent humility and his obvious work ethic, and remain so. I remember the many Christmas and New Year’s holiday seasons that Phil has spent making the rounds to local media, asking for the opportunity to remind residents to not drink and drive, and to not celebrate by shooting guns in the air. People consume media less during the holidays than at other times of the year, so Phil didn’t have a lot to gain politically by making holiday season media appearances.
I also remain keenly aware of the many hours of personal time that Phil has spent during the hot summer months collecting bottled water donations for the homeless, and helping to bolster homeless shelters. And despite the fact that it has largely gone unreported in the media (mostly because he has not sought the media's attention), Phil routinely gives up time from his nights and weekends to be at Sky Harbor Airport to greet U.S military veterans as they return home from foreign deployments.
Sheriff Arpaio is not perfect, but he is not a “white supremacist” either. He is actually a grandfather to adopted non-white children. He could probably score political points by raising that fact in the press, but to my knowledge, he has never done this — which suggests that he actually cares about his family more than his political career.
I’ve known Mayor Gordon over the years as a good and decent man. It is sad for me to see Phil behave in this way.
Austin Hill of Gilbert comments on political and social issues every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country and frequently is a guest host for Arizona’s Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM). He is the author of “White House: Confidential — The Little Book of Weird Presidential History” and is a national columnist at Townhall.com. Contact him at info@Austinhill.net.