Two steps forward, one step back in Arizona

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) talking to reporters.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) talking to reporters.
Associated Press

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), who oversees the state’s elections and serves as the state co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, created quite a mess for himself last week. Though he denied being a Birther, Bennett nevertheless threatened to keep President Obama off the Arizona ballot due to imaginary questions about his citizenship.

Yesterday, Bennett, the subject of national ridicule, changed course.

…Bennett on Tuesday backed off his threat to keep the president off the ballot in November and apologized to his state.

“If I embarrassed the state, I apologize, but that certainly wasn’t my intent,” Bennett said in an interview with Phoenix radio station KTAR. “He’ll be on the ballot as long as he fills out the same paperwork and does the same things that everybody else has.”

Bennett said he still intends to keep asking Hawaii for verification that Obama’s birth certificate is authentic. But he said he only plans to use Hawaii’s answer as a way to satisfy demands from constituents who remain unconvinced Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States and so therefore eligible to be president.

That’s not much of a motivation – it’s generally not the Arizona Secretary of State’s job to answer willfully confused people who believe in deranged conspiracy theories – but late yesterday, Hawaiian officials nevertheless provided additional verification of the president’s birth to Bennett, apparently resolving the matter.

So, with Bennett chastened and embarrassed over this ridiculous stunt, is it safe to say reason and decency will live to see another day in the Grand Canyon State? Well, almost.

While Bennett’s nonsense appears to have come to an end, there’s still that other Arizona Republican who’s even more detached from reality: Maricopa County’s unhinged sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who sent a “posse” to Hawaii this week, hoping to uncover documents that have already been released to the public.

Both the Arizona Republic and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported deputy Brian Mackiewcz traveled with Arpaio’s volunteer posse member Michael Zullo on Monday to try to get an official confirmation that Hawaii has the president’s birth certificate on file. […]

The Star-Advertiser reported that Zullo and Mackiewcz flashed badges on Monday when they showed up at the Hawaii Department of Health. Mackiewcz apparently also handed over a business card showing he is part of the Arizona sheriff’s “Threats Management Unit.”

This is not, by the way, an excerpt from a silly and implausible novel. It actually happened. Indeed, Arpaio’s office is spending tens of thousands of Arizona taxpayer dollars on this.

And in this matter, Hawaiian officials were reportedly underwhelmed by Zullo’s and Mackiewcz’s badges, which are about as relevant in Hawaii as the frequent-shopper card I keep in my wallet for trips to the grocery store.

Still no word from the Romney camp on his comfort level with all of this.

Birthers and Arizona

Two steps forward, one step back in Arizona