Wrapping up the Hunt-Arpaio Circus. Pt 1: the Sutra Event


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New OJ rock star Francisco Barragan. Videos of Francisco interviewing Hunt supporter are posted at the end of this article.

Your friendly OJ bloggers Art, Francisco and Vern swung by the final Hunt-Arpaio event this weekend – Saturday morning’s rally-fundraiser at Costa Mesa’s Sutra restaurant. The usual 20-30 protesters were doing their thing outside and Art joined them; Francisco and I got into Sutra wearing our snazzy new Orange Juice press passes. The event inside was much smaller than I expected – maybe seventy mostly older Republicans, none whom I recognized (none of the local nativist celebrities I envisioned in my epic poem.) Apparently Hunt organizer and ex-OJ’er Tim Whitacre was there but I wouldn’t recognize him. The most notable public figure present besides Arpaio and Hunt was San Bernardino Assembly candidate and “founder of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps” Tim Donnelly.

A few brief, telling observations

  • Amusingly, given the over-the-top, nonstop crowing about “patriotism” and “country,” the organizers originally placed the American flag incorrectly on the right side of the stage, and it took our own Francisco – a Marine veteran who takes such matters very seriously – to come up right before the event started and demand that they put it on the correct, left side, and then help them arrange it correctly. Added to the irony, Francisco, who immigrated (legally) from Mexico at age nine, was the only person there who wasn’t lily-white (your quarter-Mexican correspondent included.) His ethnicity combined with his military bling and sharp suit really disconcerted the assemblage.
  • You may be hearing this disturbing new “improvement” to the Pledge of Allegiance (brought to you by probably the same people who were so outraged at the idea of returning the Pledge to its original version without “under God.”) – Several female voices emphatically added an extra word at the very end: “…with liberty and justice for all CITIZENS!” I think I understand what they’re advocating: No LIBERTY for other American residents documented or not, and no JUSTICE either.
  • I noticed a funny little detail that seemed a bit wrong for a Sheriff race that is supposed to be non-partisan: several attendees were introduced as candidates for “the Central Committee.” No mention of what Party, it was just assumed there’d be no Democrats or other non-Republicans there. I leaned over to Bill Hunt (yeah, he was sitting right next to me the whole time actually) and whispered, “REPUBLICAN Central Committee?” He glanced at me like it was a strange question: “Of course!”
  • A rousing campaign video (apparently not yet online) presented Hunt’s campaign and career since 2006 as a bold grassroots insurgent movement against a corrupt establishment… but it was nearly drowned out by the oddest musical soundtrack: stern D-minor, pounding drums, roaring wordless choir, nearly a dead-ringer for the Carmina Burana chorus used in practically every horror movie since The Omen. I had to nudge Bill, “Why did you use such scary music?” Again he looked nonplussed: “This sounds scary to you?” And I reminded myself that not all people are sensitive to music. (My guess, in fact I’m pretty sure I remember that soundtrack – it’s been used in some recent angry teabagger overthrow-the-government videos, so it struck Bill’s people as politically correct, but it really doesn’t capture the optimistic-uplift message they seemed to be striving for.)
  • Bill, Joe, and the crowd loved joking around about all the protesters who follow Joe around everywhere – he calls them his “Joe-testers,” and wonders if they’re the same people following him to every state since they all look and behave alike. He obviously loves any attention he gets, positive or negative, boasts of being a “publicity hound,” and bitched about there being no TV cameras at this particular event. Make of that what you will, protester friends.

Issues besides immigration that Bill talked about

Although inviting Joe Arpaio to do a fundraiser for you, not to mention embracing Minuteman leader Barabara Coe, are by definition statements about immigration policy and race, Mr. Hunt spent most of his short speech talking about other issues. Some of those:

Most of his ideas have to do with “tougher” law enforcement combined with allegedly saving the public money. He is against the current “cite and release” policy for non-violent criminals, and against “kicking crooks loose.” He would instead “BOOK ‘EM ALL,” and not let them out till they post bail, so that the bondsman will be responsible for them. He says Sheriff Hutchens’ early releases have tragically opened up 2000 extra beds, which she plans to rent to the Feds – where they will allegedly place “illegals.” (At first blush that sounds like a good deal for the county.) He later told Francisco and me that he wants to convert the mess halls in the OC jails to house more inmates.

I’m not prepared to say right now if he is characterizing current policy fairly or not, or whether his solutions make any sense. It sounds like just more law-and-order lock-up-more-Americans talk, which makes me wonder why “Libertarians” like our Fullerton Fringer friends want him in charge. These are your drug-offender pals he’s talking about, Tony and Travis. Also pretty hard to see how this would save taxpayer money by any stretch.

But not to worry, he proposes to save a tiny bit thusly: He wants the public defender – who currently represents 90% of those arrested here – to ONLY be available to the “truly indigent.” And he wants the county to bill inmates for their health care. If you want, you can read more of his ideas on his website.

Bill and his supporters present him mainly as a revolutionary challenge to OC’s corrupt “machine” or “establishment.” The ghost of disgraced, convicted, former Sheriff Mike Carona (Bill’s superior against whom he bravely ran in 2006 for which he was later punished) was invoked so regularly, you would have thought he was still Bill’s opponent. There seemed to be a conscious policy of not uttering the name of his actual opponent, Sheriff Hutchens, who was instead snidely referred to as “the appointed sheriff.” (Bill made a strange comment at one point, that “One thing Sheriff Arpaio and I agree on is that Sheriffs should be elected, not appointed.” I didn’t realize that proposition was a matter of controversy. Wasn’t Hutchens’ 2008 appointment a one-time fluke resulting from Carona’s conviction?)

Finally as a segue into the main act, Bill listed “two things he admires about Arizona.” This was, first, no surprise, the new conceal and carry law – Hunt is the toast of every second-amendment absolutist (some of whom overlook his racial dog-whistles.) And second, more disappointingly, the controversial new SB 1070 – CHEERS FROM THE CROWD! – which practically requires Arizona police, under penalty of lawsuit, to check the documents of anyone who LOOKS like they might be an undocumented immigrant. So Sheriff Hunt comes down in favor of that. I’ll be saying plenty about the bill in the future, but two quick thoughts here:

What sort of sheriff would embrace a measure that would tie the hands of law enforcement so severely, both by taking away time and resources from pursuing serious crimes, and making undocumented witnesses afraid to come forward?

And if you want to say that extreme measures may be called for out in Arizona which is currently in the crossfire of a vicious border drug war, what the hell do we need anything like that for in Orange County? I think at the very least this calls into question the priorities of the man who wants to be our sheriff (as thought we didn’t know what he was trying to communicate by embracing Arpaio and Coe.)

Well, later Francisco managed to speak with Mr. Hunt for several minutes, and got a promise from Bill to respond to any e-mail questions, so since we have that to look forward to, I’ll take a break here. Look for the second half of MY two-part series in a day or two: JOE ARPAIO DRUNK! Along with musings on immigration policy, “racism” whatever that is, prison privatization which may be the real elephant in the room, and a CALL TO HISPANICS TO DEFEND THEMSELVES BY FINALLY COMING OUT TO VOTE, TONTOS!

Now, as promised, two videos of Francisco debating a Hunt supporter. Apologies for all the chatter nearly drowning them out, and the herky-jerky cell-phone video quality. I may add a transcript later. Thanks to Chris Xitco for the video. Francisco starts talking around 3:00…

PART TWO:

[Right before this starts, the Hunt supporter asks Vern - who's off-camera - if he supports "open borders." Vern says "No! I support immigration reform!" And the Huntista says "Then we agree..." and the video starts...]


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.