From the Weekly Standard:
We’re too close to all of this to know whether we are living through farce or tragedy. The return of President Trump’s former doctor Harold Bornstein to the national stage suggests the latter. Bornstein now admits that his glowing letter declaring “unequivocally,” that Trump “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” was, in fact dictated by Trump himself.
But we all sort of knew that, didn’t we? (We should have.)
We have also grown used to watching how proximity to Trump seems to diminish otherwise rational and respected players. Since Trump won’t adapt to the role of the presidency, others adapt to him, and the results are seldom pretty.
Which brings us to Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance in Arizona, and his shout out to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.
Where to even begin? Far from being a champion of the “rule of law,” Arpaio is a man who defied the law to violate constitutional rights. He was convicted of criminal contempt for violating a federal court order to stop detaining immigrants who had not broken the law.
Indeed, his pardon by Trump last year was actually an insult to law enforcement. Good cops regard Arpaio as a clownish fraud who defames the profession. Far from being a martyr who was persecuted for “doing his job,” Arpaio is a caricature of law enforcement—living up to every stereotype of a lawless, brutal, racist cop, who ignored fundamental rights and reveled in calculated cruelty. Pre-Trump, one would like to think that Mike Pence would have known this and cared about it.
None of this is a secret. Had Pence read National Review’s scathing piece from January, one hopes he might have hesitated. The magazine described the man whose presence “honored” Pence as a “limelight-seeking octogenarian petty criminal, a serial abuser of police power, a man who oversaw inhuman and indeed homicidal brutality committed against blind and paralyzed prisoners in his custody, a preening huckster of the first order.”
If Pence missed that piece, he might have missed a few other things he should know about Arpaio:
He ran a jail that he described as a ‘concentration camp.”
Prisoners there died at an alarming rate. Close to 160 people have died in Arpaio's jails.
Prisoners hanged themselves in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails at a rate that dwarfed other county lockups.
One of his jailers nearly broke the neck of a paraplegic guy who had the temerity to ask for a catheter.
One time, as a publicity stunt, he marched Latino prisoners into a segregated area with electric fencing.
He arrested New Times reporters for covering him. They won a $3.75 million settlement.
Under him, the sheriff’s department failed to investigate hundreds of sex abuse cases, many of which involved children.
But he somehow found time and money to send a deputy to Hawaii to look for Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
In 2013, a federal judge confirmed what literally everyone in Phoenix knew: he’s been racially profiling Latinos.
By 2015, his fondness for racial profiling had cost county taxpayers more than $44 million. On top of the lives he had ruined.
I’ll leave it to another time to ask how someone as bizarre and odious as Arpaio could become a hero to the right.
It’s no mystery why Trump would admire him so much or why the president would use his pardon power to free the sheriff from being held accountable for his conduct. With the pardon, Trump signaled his willingness to use his sweeping power to protect his political allies and put them above the law. It was a nakedly political pardon that did not even bother with a fig leaf of Justice Department vetting. But that was Trump, not Pence.
Until this week, the vice president has distanced himself from some of the most shambolic aspects of this presidency and often managed to keep a distance from some of the darker corners of Trump World. But Pence is all in. And in Arizona we saw where that can lead.