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What would John McCain do?

The Left is melting down over President Trump’s righteous pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Tina Trent author image /

It isn’t surprising that the Left is having a meltdown over President Trump’s pardoning of former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R).

Leftist activists who worship cop-killers Mumia Abu Jamal and Assata Shakur and rage about wrongful convictions and “emptying the prisons” would love nothing more than to fill those same prison cells with wrongfully convicted law enforcement officials.

And Arpaio, now 85, was wrongfully convicted.

He was convicted of the crime of enforcing immigration laws. There is much that is politically sordid about Arpaio: he is no hero, but in the case for which President Trump pardoned him, he was targeted by politicized judges egged on by President Obama and Obama’s Justice Department, and what he was doing was enforcing immigration laws that Obama had decided, unilaterally and in defiance of the rule of law, should not be enforced.

Obama’s existentially destructive, America-hating, end-run around immigration law led to Trump’s pardon of Arpaio. Now media types and think tank types and politicians who are at least as politically sordid as Arpaio are attacking Trump for his pardon.

Most of the attacks are silly and flawed.

People who spent five minutes googling “Arpaio” are suddenly experts on his extraordinarily complex career as a law enforcement administrator and his long, frequently ugly record as a politician (which are two different things). People who spent five minutes looking up “presidential pardons” are claiming that Trump was not only being unethically, politically expedient in pardoning Arpaio but was also sullying the use of presidential pardons in some entirely new and unprecedented way.

On the latter charge, some legal pundits on the Right and most of them on the Left are grasping at straws and swirling the tea leaves to try to come up with justifications for claiming that Trump used his pardon power inappropriately. They know that dog won’t fight – there are no limits on pardons – and so pundits are delving into legal minutiae to argue that Trump should not have pardoned Arpaio before his case worked all the way through the appeals process, or before he was sentenced, or that Trump shouldn’t have pardoned him without going through the ordinary channels of consultation with the staffers tasked with reviewing pardons.

Those dogs won’t fight either. Dogs are having a busy week: they are rescuing their bags of food from floodwaters and going viral on the Internet being poignantly saved by heroic firefighters and heroically rescuing people from the floods themselves. They don’t have time to rescue legal pundits from stupid arguments about President Trump.

On the political expediency and morality of what Trump did, excuse me while I spit out my coffee. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama pardoned members of terrorist groups who killed and maimed scores of police officers and civilians and tried to kill many more, and Bill Clinton also pardoned fistfuls of political donors who slithered out from under rocks in Arkansas, and his stupid brother, Roger.

Yes, I now know, thanks to libertarian-Christian Minister-Trump-hater Erick Erickson making this extraordinarily groundbreaking observation during drive-time radio in Atlanta, that two wrongs don’t make a right, but there are molasses-consistency sticky matters of scale and legal relevance here: pardoning an otherwise controversial sheriff for the specific (purported) crime of refusing to abide by the terms of a judicial fiat to stop enforcing America’s immigration laws is not in the same moral universe as pardoning America-hating terrorist murderers for the crimes of murdering and maiming police and civilians.

Because they’re America-hating terrorist cop-killers, let’s not forget.

And on the matter of Joe Arpaio’s various political scandals: if Arpaio had been convicted for any of the serious crimes he is accused in the media of committing, then it would not have been appropriate for Trump to pardon him for those crimes.  But Trump didn’t pardon him for those crimes. Arpaio also wasn’t convicted of those crimes. Trump pardoned Arpaio because Arpaio was the victim of an administratively deployed judicial witch-hunt over enforcing immigration law. In pardoning Arpaio, Trump used a kind of presidential veto to declare that immigration law will be enforced, not meddled with by judges and bureaucrats and other non-legislators who have no business deciding whether or not laws they don’t like should be enforced.

That doesn’t mean I think the particular judge who convicted Arpaio made the wrong decision regarding the specific question before her: it is the larger effort to undermine immigration law through scores of federal administrative and bureaucratic channels that is the issue here.

Erick Erickson and other pundits are now trying to smear Trump with all the scandals associated with Arpaio’s career – as reported by journalists who reflexively hate any law enforcement, it must be noted. Some of the scandals attributed to Arpaio are credible, and damning, especially those involving crazy election shenanigans. But conservative commentators should be a lot less trusting when it comes to media reporting on Arpaio’s tenure as sheriff.

One of the claims currently getting the most airtime is that Arpaio was so obsessed with immigration that he failed to investigate some 400-plus sex crimes, or failed to supervise the officers tasked with investigating them, or something having to do with rape. This is being highlighted in the media to smear Trump, once again, with the false claim that he is a sexual predator, when in reality he is firmly in the law-and-order camp of putting rapists and other criminals away – unlike the radical, anti-incarceration extremists of the Democratic Party and growing numbers of libertarians and “Right on Crime” Republicans.

Unlike the radio talkers who discovered this scandal yesterday when their producers handed them a post-it note with talking points about it, I’ve followed it along with similar sex crime “un-founding” cases by police and non-prosecution by prosecutors in cities throughout the United States. There is a lot more to this story, and so much selective political score-settling in reporting it that neither Erickson nor any other pundit should repeat the accusations against Arpaio without a closer look.

Much of the story in Arpaio’s region has to do with the inevitable political battles between sheriffs and local law enforcement involving shifting jurisdictional control: Arpaio’s Sheriff’s Department took over law enforcement from local authorities, and then in some places it was parceled back to local law enforcement. As sheriff and the chief administrator setting policy, Arpaio undoubtedly was wrong not to allocate more resources to sex-crime investigations old and new when his department took over the jurisdictions involved.

But among law enforcement agencies, you find the same systematic and repetitive failures to investigate sex-crime reports and allocate enough resources to sex-crime investigations in every city and town in America – except the failures are more urgent and more systematic in cities under Democratic control. Arpaio was singled out for investigation and criticism while the other jurisdictional parties involved were not because the media was conducting a selective and around-the-clock effort to investigate him for everything and anything – because he was tough on illegal immigration and criminals.

I heartily encourage the pundits-suddenly-incensed and all reporters in Arizona and everywhere else to continue investigating and reporting on the millions of shelved and unfounded and non-prosecuted cases of rape and especially child molestation. What they will find ought to incense them, and they will find it everywhere, in quantities that will, one might hope, be unbelievable to them.

What they will find, too, is that Democrats and liberals and leftist legal activists at every level of politics and throughout the justice system are the ones cutting rapists and child molesters loose every day, as ACLU-besotted reporters turn a blind eye to this inconvenient fact. Instead of flinging the “dishonesty” label at Trump yet again, for just one day why don’t they try questioning their own double standards, selective outrage, and moral hubris on this one subject?

And regarding presidential pardons, I have another research assignment, this one regarding John McCain, who is currently attacking Trump for pardoning Arpaio: why was McCain one of the three senators who was absent from voting to censure President Clinton for pardoning FALN terrorists in 1999, when 95 of his fellow senators voted to censure the president? I’m sure he had a very good reason for being absent, but then why didn’t he enter his statement supporting the resolution into the record, as Nancy Pelosi did (opposing it) in the House, when she had been absent from the vote there, apparently delayed in traffic?

Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe, it’s not.

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Tina Trent

Tina Trent writes about crime and policing, political radicals, social service programs, and academia. She has published several reports for America’s Survival and helped the late Larry Grathwohl release a…