Monday, February 21, 2005

Tragedy, Farce, Rinse, Repeat: The Return of the Fifester!
Plus Special Watch-The-Republic-Do-The-Republicans'-Bidding Bonus

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a Fife Symington trial balloon! You think I'm kidding? They're taking it oh-so-seriously at The Republic.

Speaking of which, The Republic did a major piece on Tim Hogan, Executive Director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, on Sunday. It billed him as "The Most Powerful Private Person in Arizona," which is an interesting description of a lawyer who is dependent on the courts taking his side in litigation. The articles--one labelled as "news" and two op-ed pieces by state legislators on opposite sides under that incendiary headline--never really mentioned the fact that it's the courts who agreed with Hogan's arguments and if the legislators don't like the results, why are they going after Hogan and not changing the laws that let Hogan win the court victories? The news article credited/blamed Hogan with the Students FIRST capital program, without managing to mention that it was the legislature and Gov. Hull that came up with the program, that Hogan criticized it at the time, and that he didn't have a vote in the process. There were different ways to resolve the school funding issue that would have satisfied the court--and isn't that ultimately the point, that it was up to the judge, not to Tim Hogan?

The reporters examined Hogan's motivations, but never made explicit the legislators' motivations that they want to spend less on education and English instruction than the law requires and don't have the guts to change the law. The reporters never managed to examine the role and the motivation of the courts. It's a basic regurgitation of the current right-wing spin, which requires a boogeyman, and they've picked Hogan, for now. But the articles really begged the question. What I want to know is who is the truly most powerful private person in Arizona, who got The Republic to frame the issue this way?

Thanks to several readers for suggested Fife jokes. All jokes funny or your money back. Newsprint version available for two weeks here.

East Valley Tribune, Feb. 20, 2005

What was that saying about how life repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce? But then what comes after farce?

Unfortunately, we in Arizona may find out, this year’s hottest political story drops into our laps: Fife Symington’s potential comeback as the GOP nominee for governor in 2006. He’s tan, he’s rested, he’s ready, and he still doesn’t really have eyebrows.

You know how political cartoonists root for the candidate with the double chins, because it’s easier to do caricatures? Well, we dabblers in political humor are absolutely drooling at the thought of Fife getting his discharge from political Chapter 11.

You might think that some things are just too perfectly funny to joke about, but the editorial geniuses at the other daily newspaper are taking this leaden trial balloon oh-so-seriously. So repaying my debt to society requires mining Fife’s triumphant potential return from pastry-chef duties with the sarcasm it truly deserves. Here goes:

Yes, when the news hit that Fife was considering running for governor again, Democrats breathed a “Sy-mington” of relief at the prospect.

So where would Symington hold his campaign kickoff? Which of so many failed world-class mixed-use developments would he choose for the event? You could ask all the media to “meet at the Mercado” because it’s more convenient, but if Donald Trump really does get permission to build some “toupee tower” next to the Esplanade, I say hold the announcement there. For the event, with Trump and Symington together at last, Phoenix could rename Camelback Road “Bankruptcy Row.”

Of course, Symington would want to campaign with his secret weapon: Bill Clinton. It’s a win-win situation for both former officeholders. Fife gets to trot out the story of saving Clinton from drowning; Clinton gets to hang out with a politician with an even spottier moral history than his own.

But politics these days is all about personality, and the Fife Symington saga is a classic American riches-to-rags story. Like Horatio Alger's evil twin, Fife pulled his lenders down by his own bootstraps.

This would be the eighth chapter in the Fife Symington story; that’s what usually follows Chapter 7.

Of course, if Fife runs, it means that J.D. Hayworth isn't running -- and I know that truly disappoints thousands of Arizonans eager to hear loads more about stomach-stapling surgery.

But the real loser here is former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who clearly isn’t clearing Fife from the field. You have Romley, who spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars mailing out full-color pictures of himself and his wife under the guise of an “annual report,” and somebody who’s spent most of the past decade as a defendant simply gives a press interview and -- poof! -- who cares about Rick Romley anymore? Apparently, Republican true believers are less enamored with the former prosecutor than with the former crook.

But every campaign, even a Symington campaign, needs a new hard-hitting slogan. He can’t campaign anymore promising to run government like a business, especially his own. Is he considering returning to politics because you also can’t run a business like he ran government? (You want to know how to make a million dollars in Arizona real estate? Loan Fife Symington $10 million.)

I’m torn between two possibilities. Fife couldn’t go wrong with a slogan that captures the essence of both his business and his political careers: “Symington '06: Because Appearances Matter More Than Reality.”

But as I thought about it more, I think the slogan that’s absolutely perfect for Fife supporters is a quote from Laurence J. Peter, author of The Peter Principle: “There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”

Don’t find these jokes amusing? Then in that case, as Fife Symington said to Bill Clinton, “I beg your pardon.”

No comments: