National Review has published an editorial urging everyone to disassociate themselves with Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff who is questioning whether President Obama is a real American. "Republicans who have chosen to associate with the birthers have done their party and their country a disservice," the magazine wrote. "And as Sheriff Arpaio settles comfortably into that political mental ward, the same must be said of those Republicans who choose to associate themselves with him more broadly. Those who cannot distinguish between the birthers' flim-flam and the critical questions that face our nation in 2012 will not win and do not deserve to."
They're absolutely right. Birthers beclown themselves. The conservative movement is well-served by repudiating them. So kudos on a good editorial. But part of me is bothered that Arpaio's words about a silly conspiracy theory are what has discredited him, given his long history of misdeeds. It's a reminder that bipartisan political culture elevates relatively meaningless controversy while alarming transgressions against civil liberties and the rule of law are ignored. Now that prominent intellectuals in the conservative movement acknowledge Arpaio's poor judgment, capacity for shoddy logic, and blinkered moral compass, it's worth looking back on all that he was able to do before conservatives and right-leaning moderates turned on him.