Foreign Policy Blogs

US Policymakers and the Press Ignoring Arpaio’s Allegations–Why?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

You know, I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about this. Promised. The fact is I heard about it yesterday, so we’re talking, what? 24 hours? But this is the Foreign Policy Association global blog site, right? And despite my focus on crime and corruption, I like to think I bring a certain (educated) perspective to events too often triggered by what even I, an east coast elitist, can only describe as bad, bad craziness. Boundaries–or their absence–can be important cultural markers, and I knew–I know–even as I write, that this is a name guaranteed to set a lot of very straight, very white teeth on edge: Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa Country, Arizona.

Still there? Let me tell you something. I have very mixed feelings about this guy. Yes, I know …the man comes trailing clouds of idiosyncrasy, and wingnuts on both sides regularly reach for the name of ‘ America’s toughest sheriff’ when every other synonym for whatever word in the dictionary should come after ‘unbridled lunacy’ eludes them.

It’s the man’s certainty, his black & white morality, his no-quarter-given attitude, and his fools-(read rest of world) be-damned attitude that tends to put some people off. People who believe that knowledge (and most everything else) is unreliable. That human behavior is always grey. And that everyone’s opinion is equally sound.

But then there’s this–a true story, no less.

My son, when it came time for him to leave his liberal private high school on the East Coast and travel, I thought, to an equally celebrated college somewhere not too far from New York City or DC, announced that like Kerouac, his plan was to leave not only his privileged stomping grounds, but also the fashionable intellectual environment in which he’d grown and flourished for 18 long and tedious years.

He was going to college, it seemed, in Arizona–to a state school filled with the unspoiled offspring of people ‘who really worked for a living.’ Unlike his mother, who wrote–not to be mistaken, my friends, for ‘manual labor.’

At first, the reports were of a western paradise, stories of bikini-clad coeds skating across a palm-strewn campus, eternal sunshine, relaxed, friendly people (‘not like the workaholics you know, Mom), and roommates with ‘regular names’–none ending in the ubiquitous ‘y’ (Dicky, Higgee, Hockee, Petey) sound that distinguishes the prep school A-list. The name of my son’s first roommate was ‘Couch,’ clearly meant, like the names of Native Americans, to describe that state-of-being which best distinguished him from the rest of the tribe. Hey, I was onboard. There were, I believed, valuable lessons everywhere.

And they were not long in coming. I remember the night I got the call from the ER in Tempe–he’d gone with a friend into ‘an Indian bar’–“You know, American Indians, the kind who carry knives…” He had imbibed his fair share of the local firewater, and gotten into a fight (his first, and I believe, his last) with a young, off-duty US Marine.

He was battered and bruised but somehow returned, along with his buddy, to campus. He was also in possession of a name that came to mean a great deal to him and his friends during the next few years–Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a guy, my son told me ‘who DID NOT FOOL AROUND.’ A guy who, after he’d filled the cells in his jail, or maybe just to save money on inmate housing, sent the criminal overflow outside to live in a fenced area known as ‘TENT CITY.’

Life in Tent City lacked the amenities offered by institutions in neighboring counties, and for Arpaio, that was the point. “Next time they want to break the law,” he was heard to say, “they’ll do it in Pima County.”

You could end up in Tent City for anything, no matter how small a violation of the law it might be. Arpaio took the offender right past denial and bargaining (forget about rage) and straight into acceptance.

There were no second chances, no referrals to a counselor, no rehab, no sad stories, no 12 steps that might lead you out of the fenced compound before you did your time. And if you ended up in Tent City, my son added (was it wonderment I heard?), there were no separate areas designed to house college kids from back East, no first-timers space–you were in there with real criminals.

Thus it was that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and I become co-parents of a sort, I, via frequent telephone calls, citing the letter and the spirit of the laws that underpin western civilization, and Sheriff Joe providing daily visible reminders of what happened in Maricopa Country when those laws were broken.

It was a good relationship, worth every penny of that out-of-state tuition.

Joe Arpaio provided my son and many of his friends with a lesson that has pretty much stuck: that at some point, life is going to teach you that the consequences of your actions are non-negotiable. That laws, great or small, are not meant to be broken. Neither are they meant to be dismissed as outworn, archaic, irrelevant, or socially backward. That if you break the law, you go to court, and then, very possibly, to jail.

My son never saw Tent City, but one of his roommates did (not Couch)–the cops caught the young man driving without his license or registration. And the stories this kid brought back to the house he shared with my son and a few other friends are still traveling the alumni circuit today.

So I, at least, owe Joe Arpaio my thanks, as do perhaps a number of parents whose kids ended up learning about the connections between one’s actions and the cost incurred by those choices from the Sheriff of Maricopa County.

Arpaio and Obama’s Forged Birth Certificate

Today Joe Arpaio is in the news again, not for introducing a college boy to the realities of law and order in America, but for suggesting that the President of the United States may have skated around the law that requires a presidential candidate to have been born in the United States of America. Arpaio says he has proof, supported by 2200 hours of investigation, that Obama’s birth certificate was forged.

Now, here’s the thing (and this article, read it, makes the same point): it may sound like a small transgression, an archiac requirement, an expectation (similar to the ones we used to have about senior government officials not exposing their privates via iPhone transmissions or committing adultery in the White House pantry) that progressive, secular, and highly educated voters no longer think is important.

But there’s still a school of thought (and if you went, as I did, to a Catholic university, you may recognize the logic) that suggests an individual who deceives in a small matter will most likely be equally or more ready to deceive in larger matters. Think about it.

For the chatterers and flatterers,the professional political classes, the hardboiled campaigners, and the easy-going, Ivy-professionals who claim that smart, grown-up people understand that some laws don’t really count (Arpaio may be reading the law correctly, but he’s missing the subtext), the Arizona sheriff’s challenge may appear to be nothing more than an unhinged, personal attack against an African-American President for whom Arpaio has little liking or respect.

And that could be the case–but let’s find out.

The point that Jeffrey T. Kuhner makes in The Washington Times is an important one: no one else in the MSM has even bothered to respond to Arpaio’s challenge.

No one has bothered to look at the evidence, even in an attempt to refute it.

Remember this: Arpaio is a seasoned law enforcement officer, a former DEA agent posted in Mexico City, and a duly elected sheriff, capable, by the way, of convening a grand jury in Maricopa Country, if he wished, to investigate the ATF debacle tagged Fast and Furious. Arpaio is claiming, based upon an extensive official investigation, that the President of the United States has broken the law, and he is calling on Congress to investigate.

If Congress can make time to listen to George Clooney, and Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt, surely the House Oversight Committee can pencil Arpaio in for an hour or two.

As unseemly or as outlandish as Arpaio’s claim may sound to the political establishment and the mainstream media, the fact is that a law enforcement official with the authority and the creds to do so has charged a US citizen with a violation of US law, forgery and fraud, and unless that man’s authority and the law can be diminished in any actual sense by a chronic lack of attention on the part of the public, the press, and the government, it looks like its time for the press and the government to wake up and start doing their jobs.

Even Pravda, the former official news outlet of the Communist Party, is covering Arpaio’s allegations–as is the international press. Not so the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN. or MSNBC.

Jeffrey Kuhner is right:

The media must follow up on the story. If it is false, then Mr. Arpaio will be rightly humiliated and publicly discredited. But if — and I stress if — it is true, then the press will have unearthed a scandal…either way, it’s time the media did their job…

If the press fails to report, investigate and push Congress to look at Arpaio’s evidence, then the story, when it breaks, may not be about a false birth certificate, but about a phoney press, outlets that have traded the burden imposed by the First Amendment for the risks and rewards of government PR.

  • Bruce Deitrick Price

    My sense of this oozing story is that more people are feeling the force of the word “forgery.” It is or it isn’t. A lot of forensic evidence says that it is! In which case, the media and the Democrats lose a lot of whatever credibility they have left.

    The media lie so relentlessly. In the weeks ahead, many liberals will be sincerely shocked: why didn’t anyone tell us????

    Here’s the overarching story I see. Our schools won’t teach. Our media won’t report. I often think we are living in the Big Silence.

    Bruce Deitrick Price

    PS My own beat is education. The US is getting dumber, apparently by design. This has such luminous foreign policy implications. One entertaining way to cover all this is to interview me. For example, I just published a piece called “If Public Schools Were A Business, All Of Top Management Would Be Fired.”

  • Amy Weaver

    I dare the media to NOT cover this. I dare them to discredit themselves that much. To not rise to this challenge will completely be the unhinging of our journalists in this country. Do we have a free and investigative media anymore?? In America, dare we say that a free and truthful media is a thing of the past?

  • David Walker

    “I’m going to tell you what I know to be true so help me God. “This is exactly what the Government wants, to keep you involved in a story about something that is to late to do anything about, yet all I have heard recently, does the President that we elected, has a birth certificate or not. “To me, if that was an issue, then it should have been researched, prior to the American people, who elected President Obama.” Know what can we do? “If we find out that he has been dishonest, then he could be impeached, and charged with fraud, and many other things. “But let’s get back to reality. This man President Obama, was elected. “He is our President, and I thank rather than worrying about a birth certificate, we should be working on calling our State Senators, and Congressman, to get to work. “We need jobs, higher wages, lower taxes, better schools, better health care for our Brothers and Sisters that are in the armed forces. We need better care for our senior citizens, we need lower food cost, we need better housing, we need lower gas prices, we need to replace many of the Senators, and Congressman, we now have in office.”Bottom line, we need to forget, about the things we didn’t do, before we elected President Obama, and start concentrating on the things, I mention and try too, help our Commander and Chief. “When we began to do these things, then we just might find out what we want to know, while helping our Country, once again, be known, as the, Greatest Nation in the World.”God help me, and others like me, to be able to make a difference, and not get caught up, in the things that will only distract us, from being the target, for others just waiting and watching, to see if we, “Pass or Fail. “For {236} years we have stood Tall. “I know we can and will ‘Prevail”…!~ By: David Walker

  • S Austin

    Agreed. It’s only right that this sheriff’s investigation should launch an inquiry. in Congress and in the media. Whatcha got?
    I absolutely don’t care if it’s a matter of the docs alone. Bad copies, copies of copies? Typos? Not a disqualifier for citizenship.
    The only answer required is this: is Obama an American-born citizen, or is he not? I don’t care about anything else on this topic. If that’s been established (and it seems to be, I mean he was born in Honolulu in 1961 and announced in the local paper, right?), then we’re done with it. Back to work. I mean, the President clearly has a job to do and doesn’t need (and here, I’m presumptive) this BS.

    • The birth announcement in the Honolulu paper, I am told, is based on a birth having been registered, that is, relatives register an address in Hawaii as belonging to the family of the newly-born. A family could do this by mail in 1961 and did not have to enclose documents signed by hospital officials or the delivering physician which included the location of the birth.Perhaps this clarifies that point better:
      Recall that Hawaii Revised Statute 338-17.8 allows the state Health Department to register the foreign birth of any child as a native Hawaiian birth if the parents of that child can be proven to the satisfaction and criteria of the Director of the Department of Health only, they were residence of Hawaii within one year of the birth, regardless of the location of the birth. This law then mandates that the vital records registrar must register the birth with the vital records office in coordination with an official, original Hawaiian birth record. This law originated during Hawaii’s territorial era beginning with births in 1911 and was most recently revised in 1982 to allow the Health Department’s director to assume autonomous authority over the evaluation of applicants.

      “The Health Department director has complete autonomy in determining whether a foreign applicant qualifies for an original birth record under Hawaii’s administrative rules,” added Crosby

      “Essentially, this means that former Health Department director, Chiyome Fukino single-handedly determined the eligibility of Obama to be President of the U.S.”

      “Regardless,” he continued, “They (newspaper editors) don’t even confirm ‘native’ birth status. The newspaper doesn’t care if the birth occurred in the local hospital. They don’t even print the address of the birth. They publish the address of the registrant, not the birth place. They merely published information provided to them directly and exclusively from the Department of Health in 1961, which means that any birth meeting the criteria of this law can be registered in Hawaii, and therefore is published in a newspaper announcement. Obama could have been born on Mars and it wouldn’t matter to the DOH or the newspapers.”

      I think it is important to understand that the requirement that a presidential candidate be a ‘natural born citizen’ is a part of Article II of the US Constitution. It is the law, designed to protect the nation’s interests against someone whose allegiance to a different place of birth might at some point undermine his or her capacity to serve. Anyone running for President — and certainly a lawyer and constitutional scholar — understands this. So what does this mean? That if Obama was actually born outside the borders of the United States, he was not qualified to run as a candidate for President of the United States, and if this was the case, and he ran (and won) anyway, he broke the law knowingly and deliberately. Now, certainly it is reasonable to believe Mr. Obama knows where he was born. It is also reasonable to assume that he has a birth certificate signed by a hospital or doctor attesting to the facts surrounding his birth and the location. Why does he not just put this question to rest? I agree no President needs this kind of BS — he has important work to do, so let him end it.Arpaio’s alelgations may be false, but the man has devoted thousands of hours to his investigation–he is an elected law enforcement official with a background in federal investigations (DEA). This investigation needs to be treated seriously and the allegations proved or disproved. Thanks for you comment!

  • Kathleen Millar

    Michael, let’s revisit the comment you so kindly contributed: “The laws of our land are not the words or the imaginary understanding of it, it is the spirit and the very communal interpretation we give it, however, his assertion that Obama forged his birth certificate and your acknowledgement that you think we should give him attention speaks to your shallow and less appreciation of real facts and high acknowledgement of conspiracy. His dad came to the U.S like many of your ancestors, met a woman and had a baby with that woman here in the United States like most of you.”

    You sound confused, Michael. Not about sex, but about the US Constitution. My point is that Under Article II of that revered document, anyone running for President can only be considered eligible if he or she is a ‘natural born citizen,’ ie, actually delivered within the boundaries of the United States of America. Please go to

    “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.

    I don’t think Congress or any court in the US believes the above is open to interpretation, do you?

    Parents’ citizenship doesn’t matter. Race doesn’t matter. And at least in this case, the law of the land isn’t open to reinterpretation via the ‘communal interpretation we give it’ (do you, by any chance, live in California?) In any case, Obama is a Harvard law school graduate and I am betting he understands Article II of the Constitution as well as anyone else. If he ran for President knowing that his birth rendered him ineligible to do so, it raises serious questions about his fitness for office, don’t you think? Of course, as you say, Arpaio’s understanding of the Constitution (and mine) may be ‘imaginary’ –but I think Congress is on board with a literal intepretation as well. If you think it is a silly law, ‘one that’s made to be broken,’ perhaps you should work to have it changed. Until then, I believe, the law and the requirement stands–and if someone running for office ignores this law, or breaks it, I’m thinking he or she is getting off on the wrong foot–ambition clearly trumping the risk that one may be charged with fraud down the road. I’m betting the President probably knows exactly where he was born and that there is an original document of live birth complete with mother’s signature, and/or signature of delivering physician and perhaps name and location of hospital or location of delivery filed away somewhere. Why not just produce it–the President could then get on with more important work (stopping, as you recommend, Michael, the ‘damping of veterans,’ for example).


Kathleen Millar
Kathleen Millar

Kathleen Millar began her career in public affairs working for Lyn Nofziger, White House Communications Director. She has gone on to write about a wide range of enforcement and security issues for DHS, for the US Department of the Treasury (Customs & Border Patrol), for Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), then a Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and for top law enforcement officials in the United States and abroad.

A Founding Member of the Department of Homeland Security, Millar was also the deputy spokesperson-senior writer for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria. She has authored numerous speeches, articles and opeds under her own and client bylines, and her work, focusing on trafficking, terrorism, border and national security, has appeared in both national and international outlets, including The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Financial Times, and Vital Speeches of the Day.

Kathleen Millar holds an MA from Georgetown University and was the recipient of a United Nations Fellowship, International Affairs, Oxford. She is a member of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, Women in International Security (GU), the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and the American News Women’s Club in Washington, DC. Kathleen Millar is currently teaching and writing about efforts to combat transnational organized crime.