Mitt and the gay sheriff
February 21, 2012By Dick Polman
In our lifetimes, has there ever been a more entertaining Republican presidential race? Hardly a day goes by without a new farcical sideshow.
Welcome to the latest. Call it "Jose and Studboi1."
This one features the guy who (until Saturday, anyway) was being touted as the public face of the Mitt Romney campaign in Arizona. Paul Babeu, sheriff of Pinal County and a rising political star, appeared to be the perfect Romney surrogate to take on the crucial task of connecting the candidate to the grassroots conservatives who will vote heavily in next Tuesday's primary. Babeu, after all, is a law-and-order hardliner known for cracking down on border-crossing Mexicans. He was a top attraction at the CPAC conservative confab in Washington earlier this month.He's running for Congress this year, too; the plan was to ride Romney's (alleged) coattails all the way to Washington.
But since Romney is notoriously snakebit these days - a top aide insisted yesterday that next Tuesday's primary in Michigan is not a must-win (it is), thus lowering expectations in Romney's ancestral state - you almost had to assume that something would go wrong for Romney in Arizona as well.
And so it did. On Saturday, Sheriff Babeu abruptly resigned as Romney's most visible surrogate - and co-chair of Romney's Arizona campaign - after an Arizona newspaper broke the news that (a) Babeu is gay, and (b) that he had allegedly threatened to have an ex-boyfriend deported if the paramour went public with their affair. The paramour, identified only as "Jose," did indeed go public. Jose is a Mexican national who also says that hard-liner Babeu, during the span of their affair, never asked him about his immigrant status.
Well, that news certainly wasn't very helpful to Romney, was it? Grassroots conservatives in Arizona (a) are not particularly enamored of gays, and (b) not likely to be enamored of a tough-talking sheriff with a sweet spot for gay Mexican nationals. Babeu had been traveling the state with Romney, campaigning alongside Romney. There would be no more of that. Babeu announced Saturday that he would no longer co-chair the Romney campaign - his decision alone, he said. We can assume that Team Romney was only to happy to bid him farewell.
So the Babeu story is over, right? Nope. In accordance with the farcical nature of '12 Republican politics, it's more like a long goodbye. Because Babeu and Jose won't shut up.
There they were yesterday, in separate appearances on CNN. Jose said that Babeu trolled the gay dating websites, sometimes using the name "Studboi1." Jose said that Babeu "used" him, that Babeu never loved him, and that Babeu, in a bid to keep the affair private, subsequently threatened to have him deported, "so that I don't say anything about him, or about his behavior."
Babeu told CNN that, no, he never threatened to deport Jose - indeed, "I don't have deportation authority." Babeu said that Jose had been a volunteer on the congressional campaign, and that, when Jose felt jilted, he retaliated by tampering with the campaign's social media tools. Jose told CNN that he did no such tampering. And so on. I'll spare you the rest.
All told, Babeu said that he quit the Romney campaign because "I didn't want this to splash over on Mitt." Good thinking. The last thing Romney needs these days is a co-chair who goes by the handle of "Studboi1."
But Babeu had a lot more to say yesterday. He came out for gay marriage: "This is where our government needs to get the heck out of the way. You can't legislate love." He said that voters in his prospective congressional district should judge him not on his sexual orientation but on his record of public service: "I've served my country. I've answered thousands of emergency calls as a police officer, life saving medals. I served as an army officer in Iraq, commanded 700 soldiers in Yuma."
And he said that being an out gay in Arizona is actually a great thing, that it embodies American ideals: "We're different in America. And we celebrate our differences. And we see it as a strength, the beauty of our country...Our religion, our freedom of speech, our political views and even our diversity in orientation. And that's the same liberties, the same freedoms that I put my own personal safety and life on the line to defend for our country..."
Yeah, right. Good luck with that pitch. Tolerance toward gays (especially those who hunker down with Mexican nationals) is not a high-priority item in today's Republican party. And he can rest assured that Mitt Romney will treat him as a political leper for the duration. Having burned through $33 million in January alone (if one includes his Super PAC expenditures), yet still finding himself in peril despite all his strenuous pandering to the right, Mitt is in no position to rescue his ex-chairman with a paean to "the beauty of our country."
Speaking of entertainment: Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart, clearly channeling her boss, served up a thigh-slapping Santorumism yesterday.
Appearing on MSNBC, Stewart said that when Santorum accused President Obama this weekend of having a non-Biblical theology, he was referring to Obama's "radical Islamic policies."
But shortly after her appearance, Stewart phoned MSNBC to say that she had misspoken, that she had actually meant to reference Obama's "radical environmentalist policies."
Calling Doctor Freud!
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