Goldwater vs. Goldwater vs. Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Print Friendly and PDF

September 08, 2009

Also by Peter B. Gemma: Abolishing America (contd.): Supremes Hear Indiana Anti-Illegal Voter Case

By Peter B. Gemma

The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona public policy research organization professedly devoted to reducing the size, scope, and cost of government, now has Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's job on its agenda. The popular personality—"America's Toughest Sheriff", as he likes to be called—is known nationwide for his tough and innovative policies that deter illegal immigration  

The September 2009 issue of the glossy lifestyle Phoenix Magazine has a feature entitled Goldwater's Group Goes After Arpaio (By Jana Bommersbach—email her). It opines: "Something's amiss when even the most conservative think tank in Arizona is calling on Sheriff Joe to get his act together".

The Goldwater Institute recently issued a report [Mission Unaccomplished: The Misplaced Priorities of the Maricopa County Sheriff 's Office, by Clint Bolick, PDF] saying Sheriff Arpaio's department "has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration". The report goes on to claim that the Maricopa Sheriff's department's "effectiveness has been compromised for the past several years by misplaced priorities".

Significantly, Bolick, the libertarian lawyer who seems to have emerged as the driving force at the Goldwater Institute in the last couple of years, even got to write an MSM Op-Ed in support of his own report: MCSO's flaws result in misguided mission, By Clint Bolick, December 6, 2008.

The Sheriff responded to Bolick's criticism by commenting: "When you talk about the Civil Liberties Union I think they treat me better than this guy [Bolick] does I never had any trouble in 14 years with the Goldwater Institute [until now] and I've done a lot of controversial things."[Think tank condemns Arpaio's priorities, by JJ Hensley, The Arizona Republic, December 2, 2008]

So why are the free market advocates at the Goldwater Institute picking a fight with Sheriff Arpaio?

Might it have something to do with political power and the financial clout of Arizona's elites?  

We'll get to that speculation in a moment. But first, some background.

Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater was the Republican nominee for President in 1964, 45 years ago. This "conservative" icon passed away in 1998 but his name and political legacy still have weight in some circles.

I use conservative in quotes—and assert his legacy has influence only in some circles—because the meaning of the term "conservative" is useless (i.e., National Review vs. Pat Buchanan). The impact of Goldwater's politics and positions is lauded by some libertarian-leaning GOPers, but exasperates others on the front lines of public policy fights.

The immigration issue is the prime example.

Senator Goldwater's record on immigration was, at best, mixed. He voted for President Reagan's amnesty for illegal aliens legislation in 1986. However, in 1978 he summed up his stance this way: "Don't offer amnesty to those already here illegally. Sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants are unfair; it is the government's responsibility to determine who is here legally. Start a guest worker program to 'channel the flow' of illegal immigrants through a legal mechanism." [quoted in Immigration: What would Barry do?, By Mark Kimble, Tucson Citizen, June 04, 2008]

We can best see the late Senator's legacy on immigration by looking at his politically active progeny.

Barry Goldwater, Jr., a former Congressman (R-CA), asserted in 2007 that "This hysteria [about immigration reform] has to stop. We all walk this world as human beings, and we should all seek to understand and help one another. We need to urge our lawmakers to practice tolerance and fairness, to become more involved in working for a comprehensive solution that will be just to all." Hysteria over illegal immigrants must stop, by Barry Goldwater Jr., Arizona Republic, November 25, 2007,

In contrast, Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Senator and a 2006 GOP candidate for Governor of Arizona—is forthright in his opposition to lax and non-existent immigration controls. "It [immigration] encompasses everything. A lot of these people coming across [the border] are entering into the gangs. A lot of the women coming across are going into prostitution". In support of a proposal to add 700 miles of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, he proclaimed: "I have a message for Mr. Bush: build us that wall now!" [Goldwater gets tough on immigration, by Chip Scutari, Arizona Republic, April 12, 2006] 

Don Goldwater was also active in the Minuteman movement. He promised that if elected he would use illegal immigrants to build the wall before deporting them. (Curiously, Don Goldwater also served on the board of the Goldwater Institute for a time.)

In response, Barry Goldwater, Jr.—a fund raiser for the Goldwater Institute—claimed in the Arizona Republic Op Ed cited above that his cousin's bid for Governor had "become ensconced in the polarized political spectrum" and was "rapidly losing the respect of the business community and most rank-and-file Republican contributors". He asserted that Don Goldwater and other immigration reform patriots "have tarnished the image of the Republican Party with the extreme hysteria and rhetoric they represent".

The Goldwater vs. Goldwater controversy had its effect: Don Goldwater scored only40% of the vote in the GOP's four way primary. The winner, Len Munsil, a religious right candidate, went on to capture only 35% against incumbent Governor Janet Napolitano in the general election. Subsequently, Munsil endorsed Senator John McCain (who had endorsed him) as "worthy of the enthusiastic support of every thinking conservative."

So there are two kinds of Goldwaterites in Arizona. And the Goldwater Institute is certainly in one camp.

The Institute's report on Sheriff Arpaio has received a lot of attention from the media. The leftist Phoenix New Times  is ecstatic in its assessment of the results:

"What makes the report so remarkable is its very existence: While libertarian in its orientation, the Goldwater Institute is enormously influential among Arizona Republicans of all stripes".

Well, not exactly all stripes. The Institute has such allies as those who are seeking cheap labor (the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona), promote amnesty for illegal aliens (Congressman Jeff Flake, a former Executive Director of the Institute) and media elite types like Robert Robb, now a columnist with the Arizona Republic newspaper and who previously served on the executive committees of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerceand the Goldwater Institute itself.

There can be no doubt that Clint Bolick, [Email him] is a sincere if dogmatic Establishment libertarian. He has done brave work in opposing Affirmative Action—he helped kill Lani Guinier's nomination as Assistant Attorney General For Civil Rights in the Clinton Administration by labeling her a "Quota Queen"—but he has been quick to recoil in horror from any hint of Racial Incorrectness and he wrote a silly article for the Arizona Republic [GOP runs a big risk of losing Hispanics, June 17, 2007] supporting the Bush amnesty.

All of which just happens to fit the agenda of Arizona big business, the liberal media and the neoconservative grant machine (Bolick received a Bradley Prize in 2006.)

In her Phoenix magazine article, Jana Bommersbach refers to the Institute as "the bedrock of Republicanism in Arizona" and gleefully declares:

"The report sent shockwaves through the state's political structure. The anti-immigration crowd went berserk; the rest of us let our mouths drop in astonishment. The very same words had been coming out of other mouths for months—Democrats such as former Governor Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez—but to hear them come from the Goldwater Institute was amazing."

Amazingly confusing and inconsistent.

The Institute's report admits:

"There is no question that Sheriff Arpaio is 'tough' on people arrested for or convicted of crimes—and that a large majority of Maricopa County voters applaud that toughness as evidenced by polls and past elections. But toughness is only one ingredient for a successful sheriff's department, and by itself is far from sufficient."

The report states Arizonians should have a sheriff that isn't "diverting precious law-enforcement resources" on immigration sweeps. Yet it concedes: "no question exists that a large number of illegal immigrants reside in Maricopa County and that they are disproportionately associated with crime ... in 2007, illegal immigrants made up 18.7 percent of those who were actually convicted of felonies—including 33.5 percent of drug convictions, 20.7 percent of crimes with weapons ..."


Many points in the Goldwater Institute study were simply culled from newspapers and other media outlets (at least 52 out of the 81 footnotes), who in turn praised the report. The report recommendations call for additional laws and regulations, a surprising stance for a self-described libertarian think tank. As Sheriff Joe Arpaio observed: "We don't need new laws. [The Goldwater Institute] wants new legislation over and over again—we're too big now, with too many laws."

The ultimate assessment of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's job performance comes from his constituents. Maricopa County voters have re-elected him sheriff by double-digit margins in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. In 2007, a petition to recall Arpaio from office failed to gain enough signatures to get on the ballot. In a survey taken by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism while the petition was in circulation, nearly two-thirds of respondents opposed the recall, and 65 percent of those polled held a positive opinion of Arpaio.

Proving the adage that he who laughs last laughs best, Fox television network has awarded Joe Arpaio his own reality TV show: "Smile ... You're Under Arrest!"

Peter B. Gemma (email him) is a columnist with Middle American News and a Contributing Editor to The Social Contract.

Print Friendly and PDF