The Corner

The Political Sheriff

Let’s conduct a thought experiment.  Suppose Sheriff Dupnik had gone to the podium Saturday and said, “You know, hundreds of thousands of people violate the law in this county every year, crossing illegally into the United States.  Some of them commit murders along the way.  Arizona has become a Mecca for lawlessness.  And yet for certain people the only question is when we should give amnesty to the lawless.  That kind of talk breeds contempt for the law and for lawmakers.  This was an individual with mental issues, and when you excuse one kind of crime on a mass scale it’s bound to make an unbalanced individual think that all crimes can be excused.”  He would have been justly criticized for politicizing a law-enforcement investigation with a non sequitur.  There was no evidence linking illegal immigration to the attack on Rep. Giffords.  He’d have stepped down by now, amid a chorus of media catcalls.

Instead what he said was, “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”  There was no more evidence for his claim that this attack was linked to bigotry and prejudice than there was that it was linked to illegal immigration, and his outburst, repeated more mildly on Sunday, was every bit as political as dragging in immigration would have been.  So when does he step down?

— Stewart Baker served as assistant secretary of homeland security for policy under Pres. George W. Bush and is the author of Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism.

Stewart Baker — Mr. Baker, a partner in the law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP, was assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009. He is also the author of a forthcoming book on technology and terrorism.


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