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Sinema looks out for Sinema — she’ll fit right in

November 21, 2018

Republicans recently chose Mitch McConnell to continue on as Senate Majority Leader.

Meanwhile, Arizona voters elected Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate.

No word yet on whether Sinema plans to break from her party and support McConnell in all legislative matters because she sees him as her “boss.”

It’s worth mentioning given that not so long ago, Sinema pulled a stunt like that back home.

If such extreme bipartisan cooperation sounds crazy, then you’ve never covered Arizona politics.

I was in the sandbox in the 1990s, when I wrote for the Arizona Republic. There, I covered the infancy of the modern immigration debate. And I still check in periodically — through friends, family, and sources — on the bizarre happenings in the Grand Canyon State.

One of the stranger things happened nearly seven years ago when a group called Citizens for a Better Arizona launched an effort to recall Republican lawmaker Russell Pearce. He was the author of SB 1070, the state’s racist immigration law, and he was also the powerful president of the Arizona state senate.

Pearce lost his recall election in November 2011.

Soon thereafter, according to the Phoenix New Times, at a meeting of the local chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, Sinema — who was then an Arizona state senator — was asked by Latina activist Lilia Alvarez why she hadn’t supported the effort to recall Pearce.

According to Alvarez, and several others in the room, Sinema gave what has to be one of the most ridiculous answers in the history of Arizona politics.

Something like: “Russell Pearce is my boss, and that’s why I couldn’t get involved.”According to the Huffington Post at the time, Sinema spokesman Rodd McLeod insisted that the Democrat did support the recall — just privately. He also claimed that her “boss” comment was taken out of context, and that she was merely trying to explain to the activists how the Senate worked.

Sinema said much the same thing, doubling down on the claim that Pearce was the “boss” of the senate.

Thus, Sinema wasn’t really being complicit in Pearce’s racist agenda. She was just being condescending as she tried to explain the workings of government to the great unwashed because — according to multiple sources — she always considers herself the smartest person in the room. Oh, that’s much better.

As Senate president, Pearce did indeed set the agenda, and he did decide the fate of bills. But the idea that a Republican senate president is the “boss” of a Democratic senator is absurd.

In fact, it’s just as outrageous as when Sinema told the NBC affiliate in Phoenix that she supported the idea of Pearce running for Congress because, she said, “I love Russell. We get along very well.”

Only in Arizona.

I’ve heard that Sinema condescension directly. A few years ago, when she was in the House of Representatives, I interviewed her and asked about her hardline stance on immigration enforcement.

In Congress, Sinema co-sponsored a bill calling for regular border threat analysis of terrorism, smuggling and human trafficking. She supported Kate’s Law, which sprang out of the hysteria over so-called sanctuary cities and would have expanded prison sentences for illegal immigrants who re-enter the country after being deported. She voted for the SAFE Act, which made it more difficult for refugees to enter the United States. And she broke with other Democrats in opposing efforts to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

At one point, in response to a question she didn’t like, she called me combative — and then ended the interview. As various activists in Phoenix have told me, she hates being challenged and doesn’t take criticism well.

She illustrates perfectly the great mirage of the Arizona immigration debate. Supposedly white Democrats stick their necks out every day to defend Latino constituents against anti-immigration nativists.

Yeah, not so much.

Sinema also doesn’t stick to her campaign promises. In July, while trying to win over conservatives, she told Politico that she wouldn’t support Chuck Schumer for Senate Minority Leader. This week, when Schumer was re-elected by acclamation, no one objected — including the Senator-elect from Arizona.

We’d better get used to such maneuvers. Sinema looks out for Sinema. She’ll say what you want to hear, and then do what is best for her.

In other words, when this one is sworn in and takes her seat in the Senate, she’ll fit right in.

ruben@rubennavarrette.com

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