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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Our Lawless Republican Sheriff Clarke

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The state Republican Party spent its recent convention frantically trying to hide its craziest, most wild-eyed members who were crusading for Wisconsin’s right to secede from the United States and refuse to obey federal laws.

In Milwaukee County, however, the most dangerous politician advocating Republican lawlessness has the perfect cover. Like other Republicans did in the legislative recalls, Sheriff David Clarke runs for office as a fake Democrat.

This is a sheriff appointed by a Republican governor and constantly promoted by Republican talk radio, a sheriff who speaks at Republican Party fundraisers, endorses Republican candidates and advocates the most extreme right-wing Republican policies.

Clarke also publicly refuses to join and openly attacks the Democratic Party. But since it’s easier to be elected in Milwaukee County as a Democrat, Clarke has no scruples about running as a fake one.

Clarke clearly adopts mean-spirited Republican social views against the poor he keeps in his jail. Let them eat dog food. Clarke’s only deviance from right-wing Republican orthodoxy is to wildly overspend his already enormous budget by $4.6 million.

Clarke’s politics really mirror the far-right Posse Comitatus, which opposes the federal government and believes there should be no higher authority than the county sheriff.

This is out in the open now with Clarke’s enthusiastic support of a radical fringe group of right-wing sheriffs promoting violent resistance to “the tyranny of the federal government.”

The so-called Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association named Clarke its Sheriff of the Year in 2013.

That was the group on embarrassing national display during the armed standoff between the federal government and racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who’s illegally grazed his cattle on federal land for more than two decades while refusing to pay government grazing fees.

After absurdly embracing the nasty, law-breaking Bundy as some kind of right-wing, anti-government folk hero, Fox News and most national Republicans fled after Bundy started waxing poetic about African Americans living better lives under slavery.

It was Clarke’s fellow constitutional sheriffs and not-very-peaceable officers who raised the possibility of escalating the confrontation with the government into a bloodbath involving women and children.

Richard Mack, the screwball leader, told Fox News and right-wing radio his organization had a strategy to put women and children up front between federal agents and Bundy.

“I’m sorry, but to show the world how ruthless these people [federal agents] are, women needed to be the first ones shot,” Mack said. “I would have put my own wife or daughters there and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die. I would have gone next. I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here.”

 

Journal Sentinel Covers for Clarke

Accepting his award, Clarke said he was “extremely proud and humbled” to be honored by the crackpot group and said he was a “friend for life.” The organization’s website solicits funds nationally for Clarke’s re-election.

Could Clarke’s association with such an extremist group promoting violence affect his election? Not if voters don’t know about it.

A story by columnist Dan Bice making that connection appeared briefly on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website, but it didn’t run in the print edition of the newspaper until a week later, buried at the end of unrelated story.

In the story, Sachin Chheda, campaign manager for Milwaukee Police Lt. Chris Moews, the real Democrat (and real lawman) running against Clarke, said: “It’s wildly inappropriate and completely shameful for Clarke to have accepted an award from this radical fringe group that essentially advocates violence and law-breaking.”

Sometimes you have to search pretty deeply into the newspaper’s website to find stories that editors fear might not show Clarke in the best light during this election year.

One of Clarke’s most irresponsible acts as sheriff was broadcasting what he called “a public service announcement” telling the public it wouldn’t do any good to call 911. Instead, he said, citizens should arm themselves and be prepared to murder anyone who threatens them. “I need you in the game,” he said.

When your sheriff promotes killing people as a game, you’d think the local newspaper would cover Clarke speaking to the National Rifle Association, the leading lobby for arming everyone with deadly weapons.

That story never appeared in the daily newspaper. It was hidden in an online blog by Bruce Vielmetti.

Readers who found it learned Clarke was enthusiastically cheered as he described deadly shootings in Milwaukee of an armed robber by a South Side bar owner and two teenagers accused of attacking the janitor of a West Side apartment building.

Even though the shootings were ruled self-defense, it’s jarring to hear a law enforcement official receiving wild cheers and whistles from a frenzied crowd as he boasts about the killing of three people in his community.

In an election year, some Republicans try to downplay their scarier ideas. Clarke has help from the Journal Sentinel.