Timothy Egan, liberal reporter turned liberal nytimes.com columnist, is the latest former reporter to weigh in on Arizona's anti-immigration law, "Desert Derangement Syndrome."
It would be hard to top former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse's hysterical conflation in her Tuesday print-edition column of Arizona's stricter enforcement of immigration laws with a Nazi police state, but Egan gets in his share of insults, some of them courtesy of comedian Jon Stewart, the "Mark Twain of our day."
But for all its diversity of land and people, Arizona is also a lunatic magnet. As I drove, I listened to the radio blather of a state in mob-rule frenzy of cranky old men. Once in Phoenix, I saw on television that sign in a car's rear window, the new image of Arizona to the rest of the world: "I'm Mexican. Pull me over."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state's the immigration law last Friday in Phoenix. The Associated Press Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state's immigration law last Friday.
This week, Jon Stewart called Arizona the "the meth lab of democracy." A few days ago, the governor signed the instantly infamous "show me your papers" law, allowing authorities to stop and question anyone who looks Hispanic. Another new measure lets people carry concealed weapons without a permit, following on the heels of the new-found freedom to pack heat in bars and restaurants, something that was outlawed in much of the Old West. And the state house has just approved a bill that would require candidates for high office to show a birth certificate.
Stewart, the Mark Twain of our day with a New Jersey quirk or two, got it right with his meth lab jab. But Arizona is more than a laboratory for intemperate times: this place is a warning of what a state can look like when it's run by talk-radio demagogues and their television cohorts.
The crackpot laws owe their genesis to the crackpots who dominate Republican politics, who in turn cannot get elected without the backing of crackpot media.
Egan must yell a lot at the radio as he drives; in a March 2009 column he referred to Rush Limbaugh as a "sweaty, swollen man."
Egan doesn't drop his self-righteous pose long enough to admit, as reporter Marc Lacey does, that Mexico is much stricter with migrants than the new Arizona law is. Neither does he try grasp the failure of the federal government to control its borders, a fundamental job for any government.