Journalists’ Roundtable

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Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simions: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary K. Reinhart of the "Arizona Republic." Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business Journal." And Dennis Welch of the "Arizona Guardian." President Obama this week paid a visit to a major new multibillion dollar Intel plant being built in Chandler. But the appearance wound up being overshadowed by the welcoming committee. Talk to us about this.

Mary K. Reinhart: All anyone remembers -- unless you've been under a rock, you know about finger-gate, or the finger wag, whatever we want to call it. The governor and Mesa mayor Scott Smith and Phoenix mayor Stanton, met President Obama on the tarmac and all anybody knows about now is that finger wagging. What was behind it, we're not sure. There's no transcript about what was said but evidently the governor says she presented the president with a letter inviting him to the border to discuss border issues and the president said I'm not sure I want to hang out with you again. I don't like the way I was portrayed in your book and hilarity ensued. But seems to have overshadowed everything else.
Ted Simons: My question -- there's a variety of things we can ask but if you meet the president on the tarmac, why do you give him a note? Why can't you say, hey, I'd like to have a meeting? What's with the note?

Mike Sunnucks: Maybe it was political theater which I think this is kind of all about but the note talked about our economy and she wanted to talk about some of the things we've done here in terms of tax cuts and there they are grabbing jobs back and she mentioned the border. Handwritten, it was very informal and she says that the president took umbrage to how he was portrayed in the book.

Ted Simons: How was he portrayed in the book?

Mike Sunnucks: Lecturing, kind of condescending during the meeting at the White House which she didn't really say when she came out of the White House but she wrote in the book. So it's kind of interesting that that would come up between both of them. He's the president of the United States, doesn't he have more to think about than chastising the governor and she shouldn't have wagged her finger. A lot of Democrats didn't like George Bush, I don't remember anyone doing that to him.

Dennis Welch: It is all about political theater. You don't meet the president of the United States and hand him a letter at this level of politics, regardless what happens afterwards shall the press is going to fixate on what was the letter? She knew full well what she was doing, she knew she was going to get a run out of it. Not quite maybe this kind of publicity but knew that people would be talking about it and she was going to be talking about, she stood up to the president and handed him a letter and said meet me at the border. This governor made a career out of bashing this president.

Mary K. Reinhart: This leads to chapter two though of finger gate. What was in the letter? What the heck did the letter say? Which went back to the governor's office. Gee, could we have the letter? No copy of the letter, we were told by the governor's spokesperson Wednesday. That was the only copy, no letter. However, a copy of the letter emerges.

Dennis Welch: Magically appears from Matt Benson, a former friend of the Journalists' Roundtable, he covered Brewer for the "Arizona Republic." And says earlier that -- what? -- we didn't have a copy and it wouldn't have been public record anyway and then comes back later and says we found a copy and sent it out to you immediately. Why is it a public record now. Earlier you were saying it wasn't a public record. What changed.

Ted Simons: If we have a meeting and you come out of the meeting saying everything is fine and dandy and then write a book saying everything wasn't, Ted lectured me and I'm not too crazy about it, and then you come back and say, hey, want another meeting? I might say something along the lines of, I'm not pleased.

Mike Sunnucks: He's been the reason her career has taken off. He engaged her on S.B. 1070, that's why she swept that primary. He took Janet away to be homeland security secretary. I mean you can have these discussions on both sides and you can talk to people and not have it be some theatrics on a tarmac and he's trying to get his message out about his re-election campaign which is going to be a challenge and state of the union and tax breaks for companies like Intel and this was the first trip out west for him and this is what he gets. The Nevada trip was totally overshadowed by this and he's still explaining it away.

Mary K. Reinhart: Which leads to chapter three, which is the governor's book. She went on Greta Van Susteren that evening and said my book, Scorpion's for Breakfast, make sure to enunciate the entire title and surprisingly now it's number seven passing up Steve job's autobiography on Amazon's best sellers list.

Ted Simons: Governor Jan Brewer is one of the more charmed political persons I've ever seen. I mean, she, no matter what she does, something good comes out of it. Even if someone else had done it and something bad would have come out of it.

Dennis Welch: Especially with this president which we've looked at. She got her job because this president tapped Napolitano to work for him. She moves up and signed 1070 and Obama sues the state to stop 1070, to implement that, and her approval rating is skyrocketing and using the presidency to boost her appearance in the media and her standing there.

Mary K. Reinhart: But at the end of the day if you look at the picture, take it for whatever its worth and all that was said, both sides of the immigration debate I think still come away feeling like they did the right thing and reinforced what one side believes and what the other side believes. I don't think one side scored necessarily more points than anyone else.

Mike Sunnucks: He deserves blame for not being politically disciplined enough to go on the tarmac, shake her hand and smile and move on. But he's the president of the United States. And we've gone through a lot of stuff in this country in this decade and people not respecting each other on the other side of the aisle, and for her to wag her finger like that is not a classy act.
Ted Simons: Do you think wagging the finger was a premeditated act?

Mike Sunnucks: I doubt it. I don't think so. I think he came off and said something and she got flustered and --

Ted Simons: The envelope, that's a whole different matter, handing the note. That was premeditated And oh, by the way, the president spoke for about 20 minutes in front of a five some odd billion expansion to a Intel manufacturing plant in Chandler. That's a big deal and everyone wants to stand in front of that kind of facility with the cranes in the background. Totally lost in all of it.

Mike Sunnucks: He was so charmed, the last presidential campaign, Hilary Clinton couldn't do anything right and he had the media on his side and now comes out of the state of the union, and he had a lot of small ideas, more Clinton then the bold ideas we saw four years ago from Obama, and comes out and supposed to talk about job growth, we're going to have targeted tax cuts for companies like this and gets sidetracked by Jan Brewer of all things.

Ted Simons: Well political candidates, let's do a hypothetical here, does it help or hurt a Republican political candidate right now to side with the governor or -- not side with the president, but say that really was not the best way to greet --

David Welsh: I think you side with the governor if you're a Republican candidate. I think Republicans out there there's a yearning to stand up to this president. I mean, you -- you talk about almost this impossible reality that this governor has emerged as the leading face of Republicans taking on this Obama administration. She's taken him on on healthcare and immigration and now literally wagging her finger in his face on a tarmac in Mesa, it's incredible. Yeah, I think it benefits Republicans to side with her.

Ted Simons: And quickly, the latest poll, approval ratings for Governor Brewer up.

Mike Sunnucks: Piggybacks on Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is a flawed candidate and there's a lot who don't want him to win he has a lot of baggage but he calls Obama the food stamp president. All he does is go after Obama.
Ted Simons: Let's move way from the airport and get down to Tucson where -- and Washington, where Gabrielle Giffords officially now resigns. We haven't had a chance to talk with you on this. We had a different group here half the week. Was that announcement a surprise. The timing especially?

David Walsh: I think a little bit. People maybe expected her to do this later or would have been earlier for me. I thought if this happened it would have happened earlier.

Mary K. Reinhart: It was a surprise to most of us, but the other day when I saw her standing up there with speaker Boehner and handing in her resignation, I thought about the one-year anniversary of the tragic event in Tucson and the event there and some of the things that have just led up to this moment and somehow, it felt well timed all of a sudden. Just to see that -- that rehabilitation, that growth and then that one-year anniversary, allowing the public, went through the Diane Sawyer piece, that hard work she's doing, it just kind of made sense to me somehow.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the political folks around her lead everyone to believe she was going to try and run but personally, I think talking to people privately, saying -- she wants to move on and wants to rehabilitate and have a different type of life, going forward. That might change, going forward. But I think people right before this, it was not a big surprise. But the political folks kept giving the impression they were doing the constituent service work and looked like she was still going to run. But I think personally her and her husband were leading against it.

Ted Simons: Because this means essentially If you're going to try and run for this seat to fill out the CD8 seat and you're going to run again as a incumbent or something close to an incumbent for CD2, you're going to be running all the way until November.

David Walsh: If you intend on running for the seat and keeping the seat, this is not for the politically weak. You've got a schedule that's going to be grueling. You're going to have to run four campaigns, four elections in 10 months and it starts really -- when you think about this compressed schedule. Let's look at the special election first of all. The primary which is supposed to be by law, 80-90 days from when the seat is vacant. Voters start voting 50-60 days because of early balloting now, you're talking about two months from now, voters are going to be voting for this thing and it's going to be an incredible run which is going to test the skills of some of these politicians.

Mary K. Reinhart: Given the district now and the district in redistricting, it's a hugely competitive. Look how close the race was when she ran the last time. In some ways this is a gift for Republicans. This was hers to lose. Had she run, I think everyone agrees had she run she would have won. So now you've got to wide open and Republicans have just as good of a chance as anyone else.

Ted Simons: Wouldn't you think though, if she decides to get behind a particular democratic candidate, that's almost a shut case though isn't it?

David Walsh: I think it clears out the democratic primary of any legitimate candidates. I think if -- I mean, I've already had a couple of lawmakers who said, look, if -- if Giffords runs I'm not going to. On the Republican side, it's going to be a cattle call. So many people running in the district. But with Giffords with the attention on her and the sympathy on her, I think her endorsement is much more significant than normal endorsements.

Mike Sunnucks: What if she walks away and goes back to Texas and works on rehabilitate and goes on with her life.
Ted Simons: But that doesn't make sense in a situation like this.

Mike Sunnucks: Well this is kind of a unique situation and maybe she wants to get away from politics altogether.
Ted Simons: Give us some name. Frank Antonori apparently is going to go ahead go. Jesse Kelly is going to go ahead and go on the Republicans.

Mike Sunnucks: I think Kelly has a big advantage. I think in general the whole race. Last time he ran a good campaign last time, he's probably got a mailing list, he's probably ready to go.
David Walsh: I'd agree with that. Name I.D. is really the name of the game. You know, in this situation. Because you have such a compressed schedule. People remember him from, you know, a couple years ago already so I think there was a poll out or something that showed he's on the top of the heap right now.

Mike Sunnucks: And interested in how Democrats down there react, are they energized, are they subdued? I mean the whole race is going. The rhetoric is going to be toned down, hopefully. I would think so, a little more respect and it would be quieter than other races.

David Walsh: I think Democrats would be definitely energized. I think they'll look at this as let's keep Gabby's seat in Democrats' hands, however, I think Republicans will look at this special election. That's why I think you'll see a lot of money from the national party coming into this and say look, if we can take out this seat, just the symbolism of that would give them a lot of momentum moving into this fall election cycle.

Mike Sunnucks: The Republican wave. They won in Tucson, a democratic city. That we portrayed as we wanted Tucson, we won Gabby Gifford's seat and this is a precursor to a GOP wave.
Mary K. Reinhart: Which is a reason you'll see her endorsing a democratic candidate.

Ted Simons: And we talked about previously on the show that that race, and C.D. 1 and C.D. 9, especially this primary where you've got the primary in April 17th or something. The governor called it, and in June, the general, that's an early indication of perhaps national trends who is going to have the upper hand come November.
Mike Sunnucks: Democrats are banking on Carmona, doing a good job in that senate race. He's surgeon general, he's got a name I.D. a combat veteran in the special forces a swat guy down in Tucson, he's got a great story to tell. He's independent streak and I think those races leave Democrats to have some optimism where in the past they obviously lost.
Ted Simons: What's going on with the idea of no public testimony on the budget debate from the apropos over on the senate side. What's going on? What's that all about?

David Walsh: Well, the chairman of the senate appropriations committee says he's tired of long meetings and didn't want to sit through 14-hour meetings like they did a couple times last year. He said he wasn't going to allow testimony in the beginning at the first appropriations meeting of the year and said initially saying he may not have any testimony throughout the year and listening to the public isn't part of his job. The senate president came back later in the week and said, no, there will be public testimony about this. It may not be as much as people would like, but they're going to be heard when it comes to how the state should spend its money.

Mike Sunnucks: This is a legislature that, term limits, public financing, all against the old smoke filled rooms and this is how they do the budget. And basically they do the budget at the end of the session with the governor on the ninth floor anyway. But there should be a lot of folks kind of taking umbrage to that.

Mary K. Reinhart: It's the only opportunity as we know for the public to have their say other than writing a letter and one of the comments was they can email or call or write. In terms of getting on the record and making a statement, this is their only opportunity. Having said that, the budget -- whether anybody standing up in front of a microphone DOD Shooter's appropriation committee is going to make a whit of difference.

David Walsh: And the thing is, in realistic terms, ya 14-hour meetings are no fun, we've all covered them down there, we've had to sit through these things. Everybody comes up, they say the same thing, one after the other. But that's part of the public process. That's everybody's right as a voter and citizen of the state to come and tell their government what they think and that's why I thought it was tone deaf politically and civically to say, listening to the public is not part of my job.

Mike Sunnucks: It's so offensive to the democratic process, you see local city council, Glendale and Phoenix and county board of supervisors, have nighttime meetings and sit there with people talking about Coyotes or Joe Arpaio, and they sit through those things and that's your job. You get perks for being in public office. People call you senator and things like that and get to go to Fiesta Bowls and things like that. [Laughter]

Ted Simons: Efforts to repeal S.B. 1070. I know this led to protests and also -- I mean, again, talking realistic here in the real world. There's no chance of this. But does it get any debate going or a way to just say we're going to throw this out there and hope something sticks?

Mary K. Reinhart: It's a way -- it's politics. I mean that's everything we've been talking about so far. It's the political theater on the tarmac in Chandler. I'm not going to hear any public testimony. We're going to introduce a bill to repeal and have that conversation and then slap the Republicans not allowing us to have that conversation.

Ted Simons: This Arizona accord, similar to the Utah compact, does that have a chance of anything down there?

Mike Sunnucks: Not in the legislature. Maybe in the greater discourse, the business community, people who take a more moderate path on immigration. It basically takes a more moderate path, more humane, families together, we got to recognize some economic realities of immigration and it's a federal responsibility that flies in the face of everything that the legislature has done but moves the process forward and tries to build a coalition beyond kind of your activists left and tries to bring in more moderate folks in business communities.

David Walsh: And to your point, I think they're looking beyond this year, by all accounts a lot of people, even Republicans in the legislature, don't think they're going to be able to maintain this real big majority they have there and you may see Republicans next year, maybe more moderated because of the new lines and districts and maybe they're just setting out new markers to work from starting next year.
Mike Sunnucks: Nationally, Democrats, Obama folks want to mobilize Hispanics as much as possible. And even they do stuff in Arizona, that gets news that spills over to Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, these other states and that's a real focus. If they can turn those folks out in the battleground states including Carmona in the senate race, it could be the difference.
Ted Simons: So does yelling and shouting at the capitol on both sides, does it help or hurt getting out the Latino vote? The political theater that was attempted, did it succeed?

David Walsh: I don't know I mean the Latino vote has been one of those things that's talked about every election cycle and always under-performs and never meets those great expectations. It's my long winded way of saying I don't know who is going to win or lose after that.

Mike Sunnucks: I think they feel they got some momentum after Russell Pearce. I think maybe the issue's kind of moved us a little bit and let's try one more thing.

Mary K. Reinhart: And in between the house and senate, by the way, there's no yelling or shouting. No bullhorn, we've got new rules. And you've got to have a permit, you need a week at least I think.

Ted Simons: Talk about the new rules. That kind of snuck up on folks and that takes a lot of voices out of there.

Mary K. Reinhart: There were a lot of bullhorns over the last legislative session. We all heard them and talk about theater, drumming and there was all kinds of crazy stuff going on down there and this is an effort on the part of the Republican leadership to frankly eliminate that and no one is going to schedule a protest on a bill that just passed, that just comes up on the schedule. I mean that's not the nature necessarily of protesting. It's kind of here and it's kind of now. If you have to schedule a protest too far in advance, chances are you're not going to have that protest and I think that's the real goal.

Ted Simons: Alright, keep it moving now. We've got the medical pot dispensary. It looks like now the licensing, the applications, the licensing could be going through here. You could have -- what? -- a pharmaceutical head shop in your neighborhood here pretty close.

David Walsh: By July, something like that, they could be moving this thing forward and that's crazy thinking about where we've been after the past few months with these legal battles and we're still going to end up pretty much on schedule.

Mary K. Reinhart: I think it's a surprise considering how close we are and how far away we were with six separate lawsuits including a federal lawsuit that has been thrown out, the governor has given up on but yeah -- by the way, voters voted this in a few times and here we are. We're going to have what the voters said they wanted, and certainly a more regulated system, it's helped by the health department and state officials than most other states have. We'll see if landlords want to stick their necks out. Everybody went through zoning and that process when we were supposed to have the permits by last August. We have also seen in other states landlords getting nasty letters from federal prosecutors. It think it remains to be seen, the practical impact, whether people are going to jump up and down and start opening up those dispensaries or whether there's going to be a you go first and I'll see what happens.

Mike Sunnucks: The next fight is at the local level. You'll have neighborhoods come out. We don't want it near churches or schools or X, Y, Z where they're going to be put out where they'll be aloud. And you'll see a few bills at the legislature, there's a bill out now that says the health services department can report physicians they think are iffy directly to the medical board and see stuff like that kind of the intimidation factors but the local fights are going to be pronounced some place, you'll have neighborhoods that don't want these things and tenants that don't want these things. And then other places, you've got shopping centers that are empty that will welcome them.

David Walsh: It's amazing, you take some of this together, you're limiting the debate down there, they're telling people they can't protest and now, you're going to see again with more bills trying to usurp what the voters wanted. It's incredible when you package that together and see what the Republican leadership at the legislature is up to.

Ted Simons: It's interesting where some of these folks come from regarding the dispensaries, one of the original rules was you had to be here for three years and file taxes for three years, that's gone. If you're coming from California or Colorado or something like that, hello.

Mary K. Reinhart: I think that's a critical win for some folks I mean that was a lawsuit that said it's not fair to say I need to be a Arizona resident for three years, it's not fair to say I never have filed bankruptcy in my life, even the US bankruptcy law doesn't say that. The Supreme Court judge threw out those rules. All you have to be to run and own a dispensary in this state is, you can't be a felon, got to be 18, got to have $125,000 I mean you got to have some money or some money behind you, but this opens it up to a lottery system which the state health officials did not want to see. I'm as qualified as anybody else in the state to run a dispensary, that's not they want to have.

Mike Sunnucks: What usually happens in these other states is you have this first batch with a lot of amateurs, a lot of folks that don't do a good job, they come in and run it real well and [laughter]

Ted Simons: All right. Mike is talking about amateur marijuana dealing. Alright we'll leave that right at that. Thank you so much for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."

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