How can law-and-order Republicans stay silent on Joe Arpaio's pardon?

August 29, 2017

Last year, before winning the presidency, Donald Trump retweeted a Benito Mussolini quote about preferring to live a day as a lion rather than a century as a sheep. It was exactly the kind of sentiment a mediocre man such as Trump admires and considers profound.

When NBC’s Chuck Todd asked him whether he regretted it, Trump showed the contempt for democracy, history and other people’s intelligence we all know as his trademark: “I know who said it. What difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else?”

This is the same man who pardoned Joe Arpaio last Friday. Presidents weigh the dignity of their office and the specifics of a case before granting clemency; autocrats give their political allies get-out-of-jail-free cards. And we all know how much Trump admires autocrats past and present.

It’s tempting to focus on Arpaio’s long history of crimes, failures, bad decisions, federal investigations and electoral defeat and ask: why support this man? But we know why Trump supports Arpaio and those like him: it buys him a day’s worth of friendly coverage in the rightwing press. We know who these men really are, and turning them or their marriage of convenience into a mystery confuses the real issue here.

Read my full op-ed in The Guardian here.