DRAFT OF INTRODUCTION
A collection of articles, speeches, notes and other materials regarding the impeachment of Arizona Governor Evan Mecham. This web site is intended to be a resource for historians, journalists, students and others who are writing articles or books about Evan Mecham.
I was the press secretary for Arizona Governor Evan Mecham for the last eight months of his short time in office (1987-88), when he was the first American governor to simultaneously face impeachment, recall and felony indictments.
Most of the articles here are from my archives that I had saved 25 years ago while writing a book about the impeachment of Governor Evan Mecham. At one point, I had a well connected literary agent and a respectable publisher ready to sign. One day we had a three-way conference call and everybody, especially including me, was quite enthusiastic. Two days later, I talked to the agent again and it was like a light switch had been turned off. There was no interest in my proposed book. I never learned what happened or why.
The spark of the idea to post some old stuff about Governor Evan Mecham came when Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was going through impeachment proceedings several years ago. There were hundreds of news articles about Blogojevich that mentioned Mecham, and at least half of them got the facts wrong.
I am not an apologist for Evan Mecham. He made some dumb mistakes and he was too stubborn to see the oncoming storm. But, I am absolutely convinced that he was honest, far more honest than most politicians, and he was not a racist.
Further, Mecham had some very good ideas on how to boost the economy of Arizona — such as building an international cargo airport at Casa Grande, which he liked to point out would be only seven minutes of flight time farther than Los Angeles on flights from Tokyo and that small bit of extra fuel cost would be quickly recovered with Arizona’s much cheaper warehousing expenses.
But, above all, I believed in supporting the ideal of fair and honest elections. I was greatly bothered by contrived political scandals and the subsequent coverage by sensationalist news media. I realize now that until age 50 I had idealistic, utopian expectations for the democratic process. I realize now that almost any political system, capitalist, socialist, whatever, would work if it were not for corruption and greed. But, expecting to find political bodies and governments free of corruption is foolish.
Now, I know that I can’t control political and diplomatic decisions so I don’t much care about them. I do follow some news about current events, but only to learn what might impact family and friends. However, I do care about history and I believe that attempts should be made to correct the facts.
I recently found some old disks that had my archives from my time in Mecham’s office, in addition some draft materials from two decades ago when I was thinking about writing a book. Then, I found a program that could read the old WordPerfect DOS files — some garbage control characters, but all the text was there. These old files included my contemporaneous notes. So, I started posting some of the old material along with my notes, which I am updating and adding more material.
Maureen Reagan and her husband, Dennis Revell, were the major factor leading to my becoming the press secretary for Arizona Governor Evan Mecham. Maureen was then co-chair of the Republican National Committee and Dennis was involved in the promotion of Arizona for the Superconducting Super Collider.
In 1986, I had leased a condo in downtown Sacramento. Two days after moving in, I learned that the unit directly above me was the home of Maureen and Dennis, and the unit next door to me was occupied by the Secret Service. My wife at the time had been a model, had owned a modeling school, and was then operating a casting agency and location scouting service. She and Maureen got along quite well, and the four of us occasionally socialized in Sacramento and in Los Angeles, where Maureen and Dennis had another home.
Both Maureen and Dennis were well aware that my political views were to the left of center on many issues. It was understood, but never discussed, that I did not vote for her father in his races for governor of California or for president of the United States. Maureen called one day from Washington to say that she thought I should consider interviewing for the job of press secretary to Governor Mecham. The Doonesbury cartoons lampooning Mecham had just started running and I had read the news about Mecham’s troubles. I told Maureen that I did not think my politics would fit well in the Mecham administration. She disagreed, saying there needed to be more balance in the Arizona governor’s office.
Earlier that year, Maureen had asked me to review the draft of a speech she was writing. After reading the draft, I told Maureen that she would certainly start a media firestorm, considering her position with the RNC and the fact that her father was in the White House. I was wrong. It barely caused a small blip. There was very little news coverage. See: “Right Wants Maureen to Close Her Big Mouth”.
When Maureen died of cancer in August 2001, there was one sentence in her obituary mentioning her call for indictments of Poindexter and North on charges of treason. Quoting her father.
“I gave up arguing with my daughter long ago,” President Reagan explained to Republican leaders in 1987 after the Iran-Contra scandal when his daughter made headlines claiming that Oliver North and John Poindexter, his national security aides, should be court-martialed for treason.
((more to come))
“I don’t think it should have happened,” former Governor Rose Mofford said years later of the impeachment. She remembered Mecham as a “wonderful” if misunderstood man who treated her with dignity at the most difficult time in both their lives.
In the 1990s, I made a joke about myself that in the past century only four governors had been indicted on felony charges while in office — and I had worked for three of them and the fourth was my uncle. It’s an exaggeration, of course, but based in truth.
Here are the governors:
In 1965, I was an editor and reporter for a newspaper on Guam and one of the owners was Ricardo Bordallo. Ricky was later elected governor of Guam. It’s a sad story, but he was indicted and convicted on various charges, sentenced to federal prison, and committed suicide rather than being incarcerated.
In 1987, I went to work as Arizona Governor Evan Mecham’s press secretary. While in office, he was indicted on felony charges in what I regard as prosecutorial abuse. Mecham was later acquitted on all charges.
In 1989, J. Fife Symington was building a campaign staff in his campaign for governor of Arizona. I was invited to join the staff with the thought that I might pull in some of Mecham’s supporters. On my first day attending a staff meeting, Symington asked a half-dozen or so of us campaign workers if we had heard any negative rumors. I told him that the the local press was talking about Symington being “upside down to Dai-ichi Kangyo (a large Japanese bank) for a quarter of billion dollars.” His face grew even redder than normal and he yelled, “You Mechamites are all alike” — and he fired me on the spot. Shortest job tenure I’ve ever had at just two hours. Symington was later convicted of financial fraud and thrown out of office. Nothing to do with me, but on his last day in office sleezy President Clinton (Democrat) pardoned equally sleezy Symington (Republican).
The fourth governor is a stretch. Lee Cruce was the second governor of Oklahoma. He was my great-grandfather’s half-brother. He was not charged with a crime, but there were threats of indictment and impeachment — mostly because he was married to the Cherokee chief’s daughter and that did not sit well with the power elite. Among other good deeds, Uncle Lee as governor commuted the sentences of all prisoners on death row.
More on Lee Cruce:
After serving as Oklahoma’s second governor, Lee Cruce continued his career as a lawyer and banker. In 1930, Cruce was defeated in the primary for the United States Senate losing out to Thomas Gore, the maternal grandfather of author Gore Vidal. So, if Uncle Lee had won the election, we would not have had to have read and listened Vidal’s often repeated stories of reading proposed legislation to his blind grandfather.
Is Arizona Ready for Self-government?
Following the impeachment and removal from office of Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, the air in the capitol was thick with a smug sense of achievement as if a malignant tumor had been excised from the body politic. It seemed to make little difference that the legislative, judicial and media surgeons used meat cleavers instead of scalpels to perform the operation.
The comfortable posture for the victors was to dismiss all that Mecham stood for because he was a mud-slinging, maverick outsider who refused to join the team. The easy course is to forget all of Mecham’s wild charges about elite conspiracies and biased newspapers. It is also convenient to forget that Mecham touched a favorable nerve in the electorate and even as a branded, impeached ex-governor he still retained the solid support of a third of Arizona’s voters. And, it is downright expedient to ignore the reality that Mecham stood a better than even chance of winning a recall election.
Both friends and enemies of Mecham agreed that he was obsessed with appearing on live television, and jousting with newspaper reporters in his 15 months in office. Mecham was a lightning rod for bad news. Almost daily, he was quoted in print or broadcast on radio and television with another outrageous, offensive or insensitive comment. The targets of supposed bigoted comments were homosexuals, blacks, working mothers, Jews, Japanese, Democrats, bureaucrats, prosecutors, womanizers, judges, legislators and journalists, all of whom feigned serious wounds. Advocates of democratic principles are concerned about state-controlled press, yet there is seldom a discussion about a press-controlled state.
Mecham had been the subject of more media interest during his tenure than his 49 gubernatorial colleagues combined. An out-of-state reporter once remarked that Mecham was condescending toward blacks. Sure he was, but he was also condescending toward reporters, legislators, and nearly everybody else in the world. He did not just single out blacks.