Did you hear the one about the tough-guy Arizona sheriff who threatened to have his boyfriend deported?
Yes, by now we've all heard the amazing tale of Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, who has made his career speaking out against illegal immigration and the need to secure the border with Mexico.
And it was a stellar career! Young Babeu (he is still just barely 43-years-old), joined the Massachusetts National Guard when he was twenty-one as a private and eventually became a major in the Arizona Army National Guard. He even served a tour in Iraq. Babeu was also deployed to Arizona for seventeen months while with the Guard where he served as a Commander with Operation Jump Start along the border. He went on to attend the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy where he graduated as the #1 overall police recruit. He served as a patrolman in Chandler, Arizona, where he received to life-saving medals in the performance of his duties. Babeu ran for Sheriff of Pinal County in 2008, defeated an incumbent Democrat, and became the first Republican sheriff of the county in its entire history.
Sheriff Babeu has a Bachelor's degree in History and Political Science from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and he graduated summa cum laude from American International College with a Master's in Public Administration. Paul Babeu is the President of the Arizona Sheriff's Association and was named National Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff's Association in 2011.
Golden boy? You betcha! He had even formed an exploratory committee to test the waters for running for Congress in 2012.
But then this illegal boyfriend thing came along, and the voters of Arizona are going to have a very tough time with it. First of all, the sheriff stepped forward once the story broke and admitted that he is gay. That may have been the most honorable course, especially considering all of the lurid information that was suddenly available to the public, but Arizonans aren't particularly concerned with honor. (After all, they keep electing people like Joe Arpaio!) Second, Mexicans, particularly ones who might be illegal, are not popular among the crackers who run the state or the crackers who vote for the crackers who run the state. And they certainly aren't going to be eager to cast their votes for a sheriff who is having an affair with one who was possibly an illegal and definitely gay.
I feel extremely sorry for Sheriff Paul Babeu. It takes a tough individual to survive the scorpion-infested political wasteland of Arizona, and he obviously managed to do it well for several years while maintaining a secret that could finish him off politically. Babeu has spoken previously of being molested over a couple of years in his youth by a Catholic priest, but was able to overcome that horrible experience and achieve scholastic, law enforcement, and political honors. He is obviously someone who has the grit and determination to make it in a place as hostile as Arizona.
This story, of course, is not over. If the sheriff actually did threaten to deport his lover over what he might tell the press (and the sheriff says he did not make such a threat), he should be arrested and tried for abuse of power. If the boyfriend was illegal (and he says he is not), then the sheriff may have to face some legal issues with regard to harboring someone who was in the country illegally. Clearly Paul Babeu will be in the news some more before this Arizona haboob blows its way off of the front pages and out of the press.
When Arizona turns its gnarly back on Paul Babeu, as it surely will, he will have a wonderful opportunity to shed some of the anti-immigrant and hate baggage that burdens every politician in the state, and emerge as a human being. And at the tender age of forty-three, Paul Babeu is still plenty young to be of more service to society. I wish him Godspeed as he heads into the next chapter of his life.
(Sheriff, have you ever thought about taking up the challenge of fixing the Catholic Church? With your education and life experiences, you might be the ideal person for the job.)