Of mistakes and men - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Of mistakes and men

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Posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008 8:24 pm | Updated: 10:59 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

I've basically outsourced my memory to Google, so if it's not on the Internet, I'm at risk. And some people take my mistakes seriously; I don't get a free pass like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., referring to Czechoslovakia or inventing the Iraq-Pakistan border.

I even checked with three other political junkies, and we all thought we recalled, wrongly, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio endorsing Andrew Thomas for county attorney in 2004. But according to the Tribune archive (not available online, unfortunately), Arpaio didn't. This seemed odd, as Arpaio had a long-running (and litigious) feud with outgoing County Attorney Rick Romley, and was widely viewed as wanting the new county attorney to see things Joe's way.

The short June 2004 article reported Don Harris's announcement for the Democratic nomination for county attorney. Harris was a somewhat "colorful" candidate who only registered as a Democrat shortly before he announced, and who was not, shall we say, uniformly beloved in local legal and party circles.

The article quoted Harris beginning his campaign with kind words - no endorsement, but praise - from Arpaio, whom Harris described as a friend. Arpaio, with his buddy Harris in the race, didn't make a formal endorsement.

Which is not how I described it in my column two weeks ago, which is as big a blooper as confusing the Pittsburgh Steelers with the Green Bay Packers. I know, McCain can make those, but I can't. I was mortified by my factual error.

But in another way, it relieved me to now learn about Harris and Arpaio. That 2004 county attorney race was the only time since I started voting when I simply couldn't decide. Elections aren't about perfection, they're about which candidate is better, and there are always distinctions. But I couldn't figure out who would make a worse county attorney. Now that I learned that Harris was a self-proclaimed Friend of Joe, I feel better about not having played any role, no matter how minor, in electing either guy.

It's strange how newspapers are supposed to be perfectly balanced and correct. It was an absolute outrage to conservatives that The New York Times wouldn't print as submitted an op-ed by McCain attacking Obama. Suddenly, 'wingers like the idea of equal time, provided newsprint is involved.

If a newspaper runs an opinion by a Democrat, the newspaper must give a Republican room to say anything he or she wants. If the newspaper doesn't, then 'wingers complain nonstop - on talk radio programs which never have on Democrats. A newspaper has to be responsible, while all talk radio has to do is agree with the 'wingers.

The 2004 Trib squib was interesting also because the retiring Romley called himself "interested" in running for governor. But in 2006, he (and every other GOP luminary?) actually stood aside while Gov. Janet Napolitano won re-election in a landslide.

Republicans did well in 2004, but it was pretty close. Bush won re-election, thanks to a couple thousand voters in Ohio. In Arizona, Republicans made in-roads with Hispanics, who still voted Democratic, but more narrowly, possibly in part because the state GOP leadership - including then-Rep. J.D. Hayworth - opposed Proposition 200, the "Protect Arizona Now" initiative on the 2004 ballot.

So, after winning narrowly with a broadened coalition, what did Republicans do? They made the tent smaller. Hayworth and others who opposed Prop. 200 jumped in front of the anti-immigrant parade. Maybe you can lust for purity with an overwhelming majority, but winning with 51 percent doesn't give you the luxury of telling 2percent of your voters that you really don't want them anymore.

Even after losing big in 2006, with President Bush hugely unpopular and with both Americans and Iraqis wanting to end the war, Republican primaries are still competitions over which candidate is the most extreme. ("I'm the conservative." "No, I'm more conservative.")

Republicans want to blame the media, but the real problem is they're talking only among themselves. Good luck with that true believer stuff, guys. Feels good, loses elections.

Sam Coppersmith, Democratic party activist and former member of the U.S. House, can be reached at scoppersmith@cgsblaw.com.

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