Click to play video Terry Greene Sterling on the people in her book 'Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone'

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Herman Cain, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Gaffes, Sexual Harrassment Charges, Hubris
Herman Cain, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Gaffes, Sexual Harrassment Charges, Hubris


Recently,  Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain visited Phoenix and sought the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. When Cain and Arpaio walked into the conference room at the sheriff’s headquarters, Cain beamed.

Cain had enjoyed a huge uptick in national polls, which had him running neck-in-neck against Mitt  Romney in the Republican presidential primary.   He would soon speak at a sold-out fundraiser, where he would be feted by Tea Partier state Sen. Lori Klein, who is famous for packing a loaded gun to the senate building and pointing it at a reporter.

(This is a pic of Lori Klein taken at the fundraiser. It was taken by Gage Skidmore.)
6256695386 7a8005595f Herman Cain, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Gaffes, Sexual Harrassment Charges, Hubris

Klein wasn’t packing, at least not visibly, as she stood in the doorway of Sheriff Joe’s conference room while Herman Cain  listened to Sheriff Joe say Herman Cain was a good guy who spoke his mind.

Of course Sheriff Joe did not endorse Herman Cain.

He could take his time.

Republican presidential primary candidates seem to gravitate to Sheriff Joe.

Once, when I was writing my book, Sheriff Joe told me  everyone seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency  — even Bob Dole “the Viagra guy “– came to visit him for a photo op and presser and to get his endorsement. (Sheriff Joe had endorsed Romney over Arizona Sen. John McCain in the last presidential primary.)

Then Cain started talking. The usual stuff. About Godfather’s Pizza  and 9-9-9.

But then reporters began to question him about his notion of hot-wiring a border fence to electrocute Mexicans attempting to cross into the United States.

When a Latina reporter told Cain immigration is a sensitive subject in Arizona, Cain proffered a hollow apology.

I was just kidding. I am  sorry if  my  joke about the fence offended anyone.

Then  Brahm Resnik, an NBC reporter, forced Cain to own up to his comments. “Why don’t you take ownership of what you said…You weren’t kidding,” Resnik said.

OK, Herman Cain answered, I wasn’t kidding about the fence.

CAIN ARPAIO PHOENIX OCTOBER 2011 300x224 Herman Cain, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Gaffes, Sexual Harrassment Charges, Hubris

Herman Cain and Sheriff Joe at Phoenix Press Conference. Photo by Terry Greene Sterling

Reporters peppered Cain with questions. Sheriff Joe felt compelled to rescue him.

Sheriff Joe said something like this: “Why not pick on me? I’m the guy who jails immigrants in hot tents.”

No one paid attention. Then Cain left. Klein left. The sheriff left.

I walked outside, where a group of angry anti-Sheriff Joe demonstrators stood near the driveway leading out of the parking garage. They knew Cain would soon drive out, and they were red-hot angry with the guy who wanted to hot-wire the border fence.

Sheriff Joe came out to the plaza, hoping to divert the crowd. But mostly, reporters from other states clustered around him, which, of course, was fine with him.

When Cain and his entourage drove out of the parking garage, the demonstrators chased the car down the street.

It was a metaphor, really, because in the weeks to come Cain would be chased down the street … a lot.

By his own words and actions.

First, his campaign launched a campaign ad in which his chief of staff smoked a cigarette. Next, Cain questioned the existence of Palestinians.  And finally, he  faces mounting allegations of sexual harassment during his stint as a Washington lobbyist.

And not even Sheriff Joe can rescue Herman Cain from himself.