Why I am posting old articles about Arizona Governor Evan Mecham

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.


Letter to The Boston Globe’s Ellen Goodman

April 20, 1989

Ms. Ellen Goodman
The Boston Globe
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Ms. Goodman:

Well, damn it. If the news media have a difficult time with complexities, they sure ain’t going to welcome the notion of independent invention. Here I am struggling to produce a book and writing infrequent articles about politics and journalism and you rush into print with the same thoughts and words I have written. One string of six words you wrote on the ASNE meeting was identical to a sentence of mine: “The real bias is against complexity.”

l am the public relations (former) genius the Republicans brought to Arizona in 1987 to save the troubled Governor Evan Mecham. I was not able to change the behavior or image of Mecham, but the experience provided me with a marvelous case study on how the news media use and are used by politicians.

I have long been interested in claims by both left wingers and right wingers that the news media are biased toward the opposite ends of their political poles. Logically, both sides could not be right but both could be wrong. The real bias is against complexity. (What a wonderful sentence!)

ln my direct personal involvement in the coverage of Mecham’s impeachment, I was frustrated but fascinated by my inability to get the media to do anything beyond the story line of “Bigoted Bozo Governor Thrown Out Of Office.” The irreversible, shallow news theme had Mecham as the devil incarnate and all who opposed him as unselfish saviors protecting the American way. Black and white, no shades of grey.

Mecham was not blameless. He relished being on stage, but could not see how his off-the-cuff comments to reporters were self-destructive. Without his co-operation, it was not possible to shift the coverage from style to substance. The real reason Mecham was impeached was because he volunteered as bait for a national media feeding frenzy.

Over my strong objections, Mecham once accepted an invitation to be interviewed by Ted Koppel. I knew that nothing good would come out of it, but Mecham had been enticed by “an opportunity to tell the other side of the story.” Once he had committed to appearing on the show, I coached him on how to shift from sensational questions to discussions of what he had accomplished.

As I anticipated, Mecham was asked and dodged repeated questions on his views toward homosexuality. He tried to focus on the positive things he had accomplished in office, including being the first governor in Arizona history to appoint a black and an Indian to cabinet level positions and establishing a foreign trade office in Taiwan and a tough anti-drug program. Mecham was stubborn. Koppel was persistent. The exchange produced nothing.

“Your accomplishments are not what have made you a national figure,” Koppel said. That’s right, Ted. What TV viewers want is a little gay-bashing from an amusing redneck.

In addition to the similar sentence, there is another reason I am writing to a Boston Globe columnist. In trying to understand Mecham and the news media, I found an essay by a former Boston Globe editorial writer which was precisely on point. Martin Linsky, now with the John F. Kennedy School of Government, perfectly described the actions of the news media in covering the short, stormy incumbency of Evan Mecham. He was writing about the news media generally and not Arizona politics, but l now take every opportunity to recommend “The Media and Public Deliberation,” in the book The Power of Public Ideas, edited by Robert Reich, also of the Kennedy School.

When one reporter for Arizona’s largest newspaper broke the three stories that led to the three major charges against Mecham, I asked his competitors why they were not more angry about not being selected as conduits for official leaks. I suggested to competing reporters that they break with tradition and write an article about “official sources” leaking materials damaging to Mecham. These and similar suggestions were not received well by the reporters who clustered to cover Mecham.

When the attorney general and the legislative prosecutors gave copies of subpoenas to the press before the original was delivered to Governor Mecham, it should have been obvious to even the greenest reporter that the media were being used to generate public antipathy toward Mecham. Looking for impartial support for my side of the argument and willing to try anything, l photocopied Linsky’s essay and gave it to several key reporters. I asked the reporters to pause and consider their personal role in the first impeachment of a governor in 60 years. l highlighted a dozen or so passages, including:

Linsky: “Objectivity permits coverage of accusations when they are formal — that is, when they are filed in writing with some public body, whether or not they bear any relationship to the truth. Filing charges takes more effort, but does it signal more truth?”

In Mecham’s case, the charges became the truth. He was convicted in a State Senate Court of Impeachment on two charges. The first was obstructing justice regarding a murder threat, but no one has ever been arrested, let alone prosecuted and convicted, on an alleged death threat. On the second charge of loaning state funds to his auto dealership, Mecham is continuing his claim that the money has never belonged to the state. Today, the same $80,000 which was used as the basis for removing Mecham from office sits in Mecham’s private bank account, despite legal efforts by the state to get the money given to the state. Other highlights given to the reporters:

Linsky: “… objective journalism dictates that whatever important people say is news, whether or not it is well founded or true. The classic and most obvious perversion of objectivity in this regard was the scope given to Senator Joseph McCarthy for his baseless accusations.”

Linsky: “Objectivity is different from truth. It is a way of carrying on the business of reporting, a method that helps insulate the news organization from criticism because everything reported is so easily verifiable. Truth is something else altogether, much more elusive, and much more important to the deliberation over public affairs.”

Linsky: “When journalists cast themselves as outsiders in public affairs to relieve themselves of the worry about consequences, they not only raise ethical questions of responsibility, but also fly in the face of reality.”

Linsky: “…an item that squares with consumers’ existing notions of how the world works is more likely to be news than if it runs counter to those expectations.”

Consequently, when the news media learned that Mecham had been secretly attending services at black churches it was a one-day story in Arizona newspapers and not covered by television news. There was a brief AP rewrite, which did not make the national wire. There were no newspaper analyses nor editorials on Mecham attending black churches.

Linsky: “News organizations function a bit like the chorus in a Greek drama, commenting to the audience on the actors’ performances, interpreting their conduct, sometimes interacting with them. Although not central characters in the plot, they are set apart from the audience and are just as integral to the events of the drama as are the actors.”

Linsky: “Difficult as it is to engage the press on the subject of its role in public deliberation and its obligations to the conduct of public affairs, it is even more challenging to effect changes in practice. The central foundations of the practice of contemporary journalism (to the extent that they can be determined inductively, since they are not written down) run counter to the vision of public deliberation over public ideas.”

These last two profound, beautifully crafted thoughts by Linsky on American journalism are the seeds, the foundation, for a book I am putting together on the participatory role of the news media in the impeachment of Evan Mecham. Of course, Mecham was seen as an insensitive, obnoxious jerk. But, that is not a felony in Arizona nor should it have been an impeachable offense. Combining Linsky and Goodman, objective news is not complex. The real story has many facets, and you and I now know there is a bias against complexity.

My efforts to save Mecham were not terribly popular among my colleagues in either the media or politics. l wore a hair shirt for a year for my sins. In the past month, I have started coming out of the closet with guest columns, articles, radio talk shows, and all that. l am enclosing a recent column from the Phoenix Gazette which touches on the issue of this either/or approach to political news coverage. Also, the National Review in its May 5 issue will have an article of mine on Arizona’s Christian right and Mecham’s campaign to regain the governor’s office.

Please excuse the long letter. But, I believe there is still a good column to be written about Mecham, especially now that he is campaigning again. I guarantee that if you approach current Arizona politics with the assumption there is a media bias against complexity you will be ahead of the pack. Other than the editorials which appeared last year in The Wall Street Journal, no newspaper has captured what really happened with Mecham’s impeachment.

Sincerely,

Kenneth V. Smith

cc:
Martin Linsky
Editorial Page Editors

Jury Acquits Governor, Wall Street Journal editorial

Wall Street Journal

June 21, 1988

REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)

A jury has just acquitted former Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, recalling to mind the collapse of criminal cases against two other public figures, Labor Secretary Ray Donovan and former NASA Director Jim Beggs. But none of these things happened before the reputations of all three men were essentially ruined.

Such are the rules of political mudball. Asked last week about House Speaker Jim Wright’s problems, Michael Dukakis said, “I thought there was a presumption of innocence in this country.” To which the Associated Press’s reporter correctly noted: “That may be true in the courts; perhaps not in politics.” Further to the point, before a single indictment has been handed up, Washington is luxuriating in a new defense-procurement “scandal.” In this atmosphere, any Washington figure drawing public attention to archaic notions such as “presumption of innocence” would be laughed out of town.

We devoted considerable space to the Evan Mecham story because we believed it was emblematic of a disturbing turn in U.S. politics. Democratic elections — people putting officials in office with their votes — are losing force as the central, determining factor in the political process.

Elections can now be overturned or devalued by public melodramas that are making American politics look like the Roman Colosseum.

In 1986 Evan Mecham won a three-way race for Governor of Arizona by taking 40% of the vote. Several months ago, the Arizona Senate voted to impeach Governor Mecham and replaced him with Secretary of State Rose Mofford. Then a court canceled the recall election, and so Mrs. Mofford ends up as governor until 1991. Last week, after deliberating six hours over the most serious charge ever leveled at Mr. Mecham — that he concealed a $350,000 campaign loan — a jury voted to acquit him. So a year-and-a-half after the people picked a governor, Evan Mecham is on the sidewalk and Rose Mofford is in the statehouse, running Arizona.

In the end, the state of Arizona stood before the rest of the nation as a pathetic circus. We never did read a good A.J. Liebling-type story explaining what this affair was really about. Apparently all anyone outside Arizona had to have reported to him was that Governor Mecham repealed Martin Luther King Day and routinely made tasteless remarks about people.

We continued to wonder, however, why polls showed a third of Arizonans solidly supporting Mr. Mecham. No one bothered to ask what was on the minds of these Arizonans. And we never found out about the place of the Mormons in Arizona politics, though they are about 15% of the electorate and Mr. Mecham is a Mormon. We wondered about independent Flagstaff City Councilman Murray Feldstein’s intriguing comment on the 1986 election: “Mecham had everything against him except that he opposed the higher taxes all of his establishment rivals favored.” But the issues of the ’86 election were never allowed to intrude on the melodrama.

Now the U.S. is about to proceed with a presidential election, and perhaps what we said at the outset of the Mecham affair bears repeating: We worry when scandal is used to overrule elections. The interpretation of complex laws, decisions about selective prosecution, the control and manipulation of the media — these are the skills of political elites. Since Watergate, it has become increasingly fashionable to use these skills to overrule the ballot box.

Over the same period, voting participation by the masses has plummeted and anti-establishment rhetoric has soared on both the right and left. These are not healthy trends.

We’ll know the trend is improving when a concept such as the presumption of innocence is no longer treated as irrelevant.

Power Grab, Wall Street Journal editorial

Wall Street Journal
April 14, 1988

REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)

The election called by the people was only a month away, ballots had been printed and candidates were campaigning.

Suddenly a court canceled the election, saying it no longer served a useful purpose. Americans know such banana-republic tactics are common abroad. The above events, however, occurred this week in Arizona. They highlight an antidemocratic trend in U.S. politics.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday canceled a scheduled May 17 recall election for governor because its target, Republican Evan Mecham, had just been removed from office by the legislature. The court’s decision allows Rose Mofford, the former secretary of state who replaced Mr. Mecham during the impeachment proceedings, to stay in office until 1991 without ever facing the voters.

The Arizona Republic, which helped lead the campaign to oust Mr. Mecham, editorialized that “there is no power of government or constitutional authority for canceling an election that has been called for directly by the people.

The court we fear usurped the rights of the people. GOP Senator John McCain, who called for Mr. Mecham to resign in favor of Mrs. Mofford months ago says, “I believe their decision was a political one.” What we are seeing in Arizona is the logical and unfortunate consequence of a recent political ethic that cares only about outcomes, an ethic that is causing a decline in respect for democratic processes. For certainly Arizona is not unique.

In 1983, after California voters rejected by two-to-one margins plans that would have gerrymandered their voting districts, some 600,000 voters signed petitions to put a “good government” redistricting plan on the ballot. The state Supreme Court, led by then Chief Justice Rose Bird, threw it off the ballot and permitted almost identical gerrymanders to become law. Finally in 1986, voters in turn threw her and two of her colleagues off the court.

The politics of outcomes is being learned by the young as well. The editors of the prestigious Yale Law Journal recently voted on an annual banquet speaker. The first vote produced Richard Nixon. The top editors didn’t like that. A second vote produced former Yale Law professor Robert Bork, a bad outcome. The editors canceled the banquet speaker.

The gerrymandering of the U.S. House of Representatives helps perpetuate one-party outcomes in that body. A President who won two landslide victories has seen one appointee of his after another pilloried and brought to heel on charges they engaged in conduct that is perfectly legal for a member of Congress. Others such as Ray Donovan and James Beggs were cleared by the courts of charges against them. All this has had very little to do with ethical piety and much to do with thwarting the uncongenial politics of a sitting President.

Measured by outcomes, much of this campaign has succeeded.

So we’re not surprised that Arizona’s political elite now is in the business of throwing out elections and creating a “governor” for three years. And we’re not surprised that for all the national coverage of the Mecham affair, it never dug deeper than the melodrama of the Mecham impeachment outcome, never tried to discover the reasons that a third of the electorate continued to support such an unlikely leader. We suspect the underlying politics of modern Arizona are exceedingly interesting, but the affair was represented to the country as a rolling circus. The outcome — removing Evan Mecham — was accomplished, and under an increasingly popular American political ethic, not much else matters.

Evan the Terrible, Wall Street Journal editorial

Wall Street Journal
March 2, 1988

REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)

Evan the Terrible is a certifiable oaf, but he was the elected head of state. The coup that deposed him was mounted by local mandarins offended by precisely the policies and rhetoric that won him election, and they installed a regent who promptly moved to reverse his most controversial appointments and actions. Though still supported by fellow members of a religious minority, he’s now on trial for vague offenses with heavy penalties. And some of the mandarins are ready to call off an impending election.

That’s how events in the Great State of Arizona look to us. This week the state Senate opened its trial of Gov. Evan Mecham, a redneck Republican who won election with 40% of the vote in a three-way race. When the impeachment resolution picked up enough Republican votes to pass the GOP-controlled House, Secretary of State Rose Mofford, a Democrat, became acting governor. The state attorney general, a Republican, has indicted the governor on criminal charges, for campaign-disclosure violations. And a petitioning group has succeeded in forcing a recall election on May 17.

In the Senate, Gov. Mecham is charged with three offenses.

The disclosure violation: His campaign lumped two large contributions together in its financial reports, perhaps to conceal the identity of one contributor, a real-estate developer. He raised an inaugural fund from private contributions, and upon finding he could not spend it for this purpose, loaned the fund (at interest) to his car dealership. Told of what could be construed as a death threat from one aide to another, he apparently said to cool it.

The reporting violations are a felony, the loans are a diversion of state funds, and the death-threat episode is an obstruction of justice, we are told. Therefore his election is overruled.

Whether or not these offenses look like felonies, they certainly do look boneheaded. Similarly, Gov. Mecham is guilty of revoking the Martin Luther King holiday, of some truly bizarre appointments, of tasteless remarks about blacks, women, homosexuals, Jews and Asians — as well as general ineptitude in his attempts to defend himself. Still, the American system generally has allowed state electorates wide latitude in their taste in governors — from Huey Long to George Wallace to Jerry Brown.

And when Arizona voters elected him, they knew from four previous gubernatorial campaigns what they were getting. His appeal was explicitly anti-establishment — in particular castigating the “Phoenix 40,” an elite group of business and media leaders. He pledged not to traffic with real-estate developers — the apparent motive for concealing a developer’s loan. Flagstaff city Councilman Murray Feldstein, a registered independent, sums up the race, “Mecham had everything against him except that he opposed the higher taxes all of his establishment rivals favored.” In most reports of the impeachment, two words seem to us conspicuously missing. One taboo is “Republic,” as in the Arizona Republic, the state’s leading newspaper. In these events, Republic publisher Pat Murphy, a leading member of the Phoenix 40, has been coming on like Jason Robards in “All the President’s Men.” The other taboo word is “Mormon,” the religious affiliation of Mr. Mecham and about 15% of Arizona voters. With his co-religionists and others circulating petitions to recall the legislators who voted in favor of impeachment, he still retains a solid core of support in the state.

So much so, indeed, that Mr. Mecham’s adversaries fear he or an ally might win all over again in the May 17 election.

The recall laws provide an open field, and it will be badly splintered. The Senate Judiciary Committee has — albeit narrowly — voted a bill specifying that if Mr. Mecham is permanently removed, the recall election will be stopped.

“Auntie Rose,” who would then remain as governor for three years, has said she would sign the bill if the legislature passes it. She’s said the same thing about tax increases.

We don’t particularly care whether Evan Mecham goes or stays, but a couple of things are of broader interest. For one thing, the chasm in the Arizona GOP is not a good omen for the Republicans’ national challenge of holding the allegiance of both the country club and Christian fundamentalist sets.

More important, we worry when scandal is used to overrule elections. The interpretation of complex laws, decisions about selective prosecution, the control and manipulation of the media — these are the skills of political elites. Since Watergate, it has become increasingly fashionable to use these skills to overrule the ballot box. Over the same period, voting participation by the masses has plummeted and anti-establishment rhetoric has soared on both the right and left. These are not healthy trends.

Whoever ends up as governor of Arizona, we would be a lot more comfortable if the impeachers and the prosecutors and the Arizona Republic all waited another 11 weeks to give the voters their say.