October 1, 2006
NO-where with Arizona Governor Janet NO-politano
By Dexter Duggan | View comments
A history of incumbent Arizona liberal Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano’s vetoes of pro-life legislation, which only received praise by her Comrades in the local mainstream media. Arizona’s governor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, being boosted in some media as a potential national leader, has received little national publicity in certain areas that voters could find important when weighing candidates. What follows isn’t a peek into anyone’s private life but a journey of recollection into some events in the first term of the governor, currently seeking re-election.On April 15, 2003, a news-page assessment of the Democratic governor’s first 100 days in office appeared in The Arizona Republic, the state’s largest daily newspaper. Beneath the upbeat headline “Governor energizes Arizona,” the article said that Napolitano “always wants an advantage” over opponents, has “a killer instinct,” and “uses her prosecutorial abilities” in negotiations with legislators. She “makes no excuses for her in-your-face method of budget talks,” the Republic said.If this was the governor’s behavior during the political “honeymoon” period of a new chief executive, what happened as years passed?A strong defender of permissive abortion and a protector of mountain lions’ lives, Napolitano isn’t allowed to have a platform at Catholic Church venues here, but she cultivates her contacts with Planned Parenthood and homosexual activists. In her third year as governor, a Republican legislative leader said Napolitano had “brought shame upon herself and her office, and has made the work of the state exponentially more difficult.”When Janet Napolitano was the Democratic candidate to fill Arizona’s open gubernatorial seat in 2002, she faced off not only against a Republican but also an independent and a Libertarian. Halfway through an Oct. 23, 2002, campaign-debate article, on Page B-6, The Arizona Republic acknowledged that Napolitano “is the only one of the four gubernatorial candidates that opposes parental consent and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions.”Even the Libertarian candidate was less favorable toward abortion than Napolitano.Reported two weeks before the 2002 election to be significantly ahead in the polls, Napolitano squeaked into office by less than one percentage point after days of vote counting. The general election was Nov. 5, 2002, but she wasn’t proclaimed winner until the evening of Nov. 10.Only two weeks before that election day, the Republic had front-paged a story saying three polls showed Napolitano with a lead over Republican Matt Salmon, with the Rocky Mountain Poll putting her 16 points ahead. Nothing devastating to Napolitano burst into news media in the final campaign days that would explain a 15-point collapse.In that campaign, her abortion stand was accorded little attention by media members who would be vigilant against conservatives’ “gaffes.” During her four years in office, Napolitano has vetoed various pro-life bills approved by the Legislature, including informed consent, notarized parental consent, rights of conscience, informed consent for human ova donors, and a prohibition of cities including abortion coverage in employee health-insurance plans. She vetoed a bill that would have required mothers seeking an abortion in the 20th week of pregnancy or later to be informed of medications to alleviate pain to the infants being aborted. She vetoed a prohibition of selling human ova for cloning. In 2006 Napolitano killed six pro-life bills, according to the Arizona Catholic Conference.She cast far more vetoes than any other Arizona governor in a comparable period – and even more nixes than Arizona’s Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt cast in more than twice as many years in office, from 1978 to 1987. Napolitano ruled by veto over a state less liberal than she. Her vetoes ranged from medical malpractice to tuition tax credits, from eminent domain to illegal immigration. According to a count by the Arizona Republican Party, “125 bills were entirely vetoed” by Napolitano, in addition to line-item vetoes. The Associated Press put Babbitt’s veto total at 114.The governor could be characterized as NO-politano, though her media admirers sought to create an image, both statewide and nationally, of capable moderation. Instances of intransigence and accusations of power hunger and lying soon sank from sight in coverage that could have been quite different.As March 2004 began, women expressing pain and regret over having chosen abortion pleaded with Napolitano in five 30-second TV commercials aired around Arizona to sign an informed-consent abortion bill just approved by the Legislature. The women lamented that they had abortions without having the facts, and wanted to give other women the right to informed consent. But Capitol Media Services news service reported that Napolitano said “any action on the bill would be based on her own beliefs and not on public sentiment.” She vetoed the popular bill within a half-hour after it reached her desk on March 4, 2004. One of the women in the commercials, Joan Maloof, who regrets the abortion she had as a college student, said that Napolitano refused to meet with remorseful women who had abortions and wanted her to sign the bill. “I don’t believe [Napolitano] is willing to listen to the people of Arizona,” Maloof told me.Under the headline “Moral intrusion,” a March 3, 2004, Arizona Republic editorial had urged Napolitano to veto informed consent. The editorial said the women’s TV commercial campaign “suffers from a huge credibility gap….” Why? Did it contain false statements? No. The credibility gap existed, the Republic said, “…because Gov. Janet Napolitano is on record opposing this sort of mandate. She’s pro-choice.”As the Republic saw it, if people petition their governor to change her mind, the people are guilty of hugely lacking credibility.An article in the Jan. 23, 2004, Arizona Capitol Times, a non-partisan political weekly, had cited obstetrician/gynecologist William Chavira as saying informed consent is needed and women don’t receive proper consultation at abortion provider Planned Parenthood.In a boxed statement on the editorial page of the March 18, 2004, issue of the Phoenix diocesan biweekly newspaper, The Catholic Sun, Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted lamented Napolitano’s veto. Citing “the grave harm that abortion brings not only to the unborn children killed, but also to their mothers,” Olmsted wrote, “This is why legislation that gives women more time and information to make such a monumental decision is badly needed.”One might conclude that Napolitano’s quick veto of this bill, which included a 24-hour waiting period before the abortion, revealed a cold attitude toward threatened lives. But later the same month, Napolitano fought for a waiting period when the Arizona Game and Fish Department wanted to shoot a few wild, prowling mountain lions deemed dangerous to humans near Tucson. The governor’s press secretary reportedly used the word “appalled” three times, in three consecutive sentences, to describe Napolitano’s reaction to the Game and Fish shooting plans. The governor said Game and Fish should wait longer to receive more public comment. A mountain lion even was seen on the grounds of a middle school, and students were kept inside for safety, but the state agency bowed to Napolitano and said it would only tranquilize the lions and helicopter them away in a costly operation. The Republic said Napolitano believed the agency hadn’t demonstrated the lions were a threat.As was often the case, the newspaper and governor saw things the same way. In a March 18, 2004, editorial headlined “Public be damned,” the Republic fumed over Game and Fish’s alleged indifference to public input about the lions’ lives. The paper said the agency was “sticking a sock in the public’s mouth” and using “the gag and the bum’s rush … an exercise in arrogance.” The lions faced “the death sentence” and received “a stay of execution,” said the paper.A caller to a Phoenix radio station, noting Napolitano’s different attitude toward preborn human infants and their mothers and mountain lions, said, “I guess that makes her perfect material to be a Democrat” vice presidential candidate.The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix will not even allow politicians like Napolitano to receive a platform or honors at Church venues because of their extreme positions. The publicity-fond governor has been noticeably absent at the annual Red Masses at St. Mary’s Basilica, held to mark the start of each year’s state legislative session in Phoenix.In December 2004 Thomas Olmsted, who had been installed as Phoenix Catholic bishop a year earlier, issued a directive against providing platforms or honors to public officials who consistently support intrinsically evil acts. The bishop’s letter said that “politicians or public officials who consistently support abortion on demand, or any other act that is always intrinsically evil, are never to be invited to speak at our institutions or to receive awards, even if the nature of the honor is unrelated to their opposition to pro-life causes.” Olmsted wrote that “all parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Phoenix, including Catholic organizations not operated by the diocese,” were to follow the directive.The news was promptly published in the Dec. 16, 2004, issue of The Catholic Sun. But the Arizona Republic waited until the following Aug. 5, two-thirds of a year later, before publicizing this bad news for Napolitano’s image. And the spin atop the Republic’s Page One was that Olmsted was picking on the governor.Olmsted replied to the newspaper by citing the June 2004 declaration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that said, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”In addition, Napolitano was named in the diocesan newspaper column of Bishop Olmsted as a politician who forces Catholics to violate their conscience.In his Sept. 1, 2005, column in The Catholic Sun, Olmsted noted a prediction by the late Pope Paul VI that the day would come when people would see “the coercion by public authorities of persons to violate their consciences.” Olmsted went on to point to “legislation this year to protect the ‘rights of conscience’ for all health-care providers, including pharmacists, especially in matters of contraceptives and abortifacients. After a hard-fought battle, this bill was passed by the Legislature; sadly it was then vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.”And he recalled that in 2003 Napolitano vetoed a bill to exempt faith-based organizations from having to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance. This meant that religiously oriented organizations were required to violate their tenets.Planned Parenthood quickly put out a press release praising the 2003 veto to exempt faith-based organizations. And the morning after the veto, the April 26, 2003, issue of the Phoenix-area daily newspaper The Tribune spread a news report across the width of Page 5 under the headline, “Governor vetoes bill expanding contraception exemption.” But the Republic waited for three days before running a veto story back on Page B-5 by the Associated Press instead of by one of its own staff writers.In the April 21, 2005, issue of the Sun, a boxed statement on the editorial page by the three bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference said they were “deeply saddened” by Napolitano’s April 13 veto of the bill for conscience protection for pharmacists. (The Republic did put this veto story atop its April 14 Page One.) With this veto, the bishops said, “health-care providers’ inalienable civil rights are apparently deemed inconsequential. Consequently, we are extremely disappointed that Gov. Napolitano has rejected this important legislation.” A Phoenix diocesan official, Deacon Dick Petersen, was quoted in the Sun, “We have to remember these things” when voters are called upon to render their judgment on politicians. “Not only do you have the right to vote your conscience, but you have the responsibility to do that.”When Napolitano went to Tucson in March 2006 to support local Democratic candidates, she appeared at a hall of the Catholic fraternal Knights of Columbus organization, drawing “dozens of protesters” outside, according to a report by Tucson’s NBC affiliate, KVOA-TV, which quoted one: “[We’re protesting] the use of a Catholic facility by an obviously pro-death politician.” The KVOA report said that due to “other commitments and a strict work schedule,” Napolitano “had to rush away from the … building and was not able to talk” to the TV reporter. More than 50 protesters showed up, according to the Arizona Right to Life Web site, which said the hall had been rented from the Knights “without disclosing the purpose for the event” to them.If Napolitano had placed herself directly in opposition to moral tradition, she didn’t seem to want to explain herself when challenged, as with her fast exit from the Knights of Columbus hall. After the Republic eventually publicized Bishop Olmsted’s directive against allowing platforms or honors for public figures like her, the governor was asked to comment. Phoenix’s KFYI (550 AM) radio news on Aug. 5, 2005, had Napolitano’s voice responding, “You know, it is what it is.” One could wonder what Napolitano meant. The Democratic governor wasn’t aiding the reputation of her political party, which already was viewed as driving away people of faith.But if a Catholic Church platform wasn’t welcoming, Napolitano knew she’d find a greeting in some other quarters. She went to Planned Parenthood offices in Phoenix and Tucson as celebrations were held there for national permissive abortion. And Napolitano attended the annual local dinners of homosexual activists, the Arizona Human Rights Fund. The Phoenix-area daily The Tribune reported on June 19, 2005, that at the group’s banquet the previous evening, Napolitano announced the creation of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Human Rights Advocacy and presented it to a founder of the homosexual group.Reporting “two standing ovations for the governor,” the story noted that Napolitano also attended the homosexuals’ banquet her first year in office to announce an executive order she issued “banning employment discrimination against gays and lesbians at state agencies under her control.” She signed the order after the Legislature didn’t pass a measure on the issue.The Tribune said gay activists at the 2005 dinner were disappointed when Napolitano didn’t express her opposition that night to an Arizona marriage-protection initiative then gathering steam. However, Napolitano later went on to oppose the Protect Marriage Arizona initiative on the November 2006 ballot that would define the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman. A spokesman said she viewed the marriage-protection measure as unnecessary.The Republic allows conservative columnist Robert Robb to sound a dissenting note on its op-ed page. After the governor vetoed the informed-consent abortion bill in 2004, Robb wrote that Napolitano “has again revealed herself as a cultural leftist, and a fairly extreme one at that,” a firm member of “the small camp who believe that abortion is no different than a tonsillectomy.” Robb, who at another time noted the protective media bubble around Napolitano, asserted, “This veto fits a largely unremarked pattern of Napolitano playing the leftist cultural warrior.”An admiring cover article in the Feb. 23, 2006, Phoenix New Times, the major local alternative weekly, looked back at Napolitano’s ascent through the power structure.Attorney John Frank, a liberal Democrat and major powerbroker here, had mentored “a young feminist attorney,” Napolitano, “at his politically powerful Phoenix firm, Lewis & Roca.” In 1991 she got “a more high-profile assignment from Frank – he put her on a team of attorneys to represent Anita Hill,” who quickly became national news as Hill alleged sexual harassment by the Republican administration’s Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. “For her benefit, for her exposure, John made sure that Janet was on the front line in that,” New Times writer Robert Nelson quoted former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.). Illustrating Frank’s clout, Nelson wrote that DeConcini “knew that Frank was the linchpin to his getting elected as and remaining a U.S. senator from Arizona.”The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill confrontation was the first time many people heard of Napolitano. Liberal Democrats seemed to like what they saw as the feminist future governor tried to help cause Thomas’ downfall – although she failed. The New York City-born Napolitano was fast-tracked through the power structure here, with liberal big-business, civic, labor and media supporters.After Democrat Bill Clinton became president, DeConcini had a talk with John Frank on the topic of presenting Napolitano’s name to become U.S. Attorney in Arizona, the New Times article recounted. Although DeConcini hadn’t been “so sure” about the idea, Frank said “that would be a real smart move, and I’d never forget it,” New Times quoted DeConcini.Although the New Times article treated at length Napolitano and Arizona politics, it ignored her strong pro-abortionism, alliance with Planned Parenthood, and problems with the Catholic diocese and other moral traditionalists.Soon after Napolitano took over as governor, phone lines to talk-radio programs began buzzing with calls that she be impeached. Whatever her driving emotions, Napolitano had to learn to watch her step. The occasion was the seemingly simple issue of a geographic name change, but the governor played hardball. She insisted that the politically incorrect name of Phoenix landmark Squaw Peak be changed immediately, contrary to established requirements for a five-year waiting period. The governor’s office put political muscle on no less than the Phoenix Police Department to force one of its officers to resign his position as volunteer chairman of Arizona’s Board on Geographic and Historic Names because he followed regulations instead of her wishes.The police officer, Tim Norton, gave a riveting interview on April 18, 2003, to Phoenix radio station KTAR (620 AM) about a phone call he received from Napolitano’s deputy chief of staff, Mario Diaz, who criticized Norton’s failure to quickly accede to Napolitano. Although the governor couldn’t fire him, Norton said he was told to submit an immediate letter of resignation and give the untrue reason of “time constraints,” or else she’d “find a way to remove me.” He told the radio station that Diaz said “you’re not serving the governor’s interests and you’re not pleasing her.” Norton said Diaz also phoned his police supervisor and the Phoenix police chief, telling them to urge him to resign. He wouldn’t quit but lost his chairmanship by a vote of state-employee members of the board who, it was said, feared Napolitano’s power.Napolitano issued a statement saying she regretted that Diaz acted “with a very heavy hand,” but she didn’t regret her push to change the landmark’s name.Coincidentally, the governor’s own heavy hand, or fist, was noted in The Arizona Republic in a different context. In the April 15, 2003, article mentioned above that reviewed her first 100 days in office, the Republic quoted Arizona House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth. He said that at a meeting concerning the state Department of Economic Security, Napolitano first tried to “shush” him. Then, the paper quoted Farnsworth: “She pounded on the table with both fists. I just let her rant… This is a governor that wants to control everything in the state, but we’re not going to roll over.”The newspaper said “Napolitano said she doesn’t quite remember the meeting that way but makes no excuses for her in-your-face method of budget talks.” As admiring as the Republic is of Napolitano, this story seemed to be a warning shot from the newspaper that the governor should get better control over her behavior or embarrassing things could happen.Two years later during key state budget negotiations, Napolitano’s office and Republican legislative leaders agreed that each side would get something it wanted but the other side didn’t. Napolitano would get $17 million for all-day kindergarten expansion and $7 million for a new Phoenix medical school, and the Republicans would get a tax credit for businesses donating to private-school scholarships, a measure Napolitano previously had vetoed. The Arizona Catholic Conference was a strong supporter of the tax credit. The organization’s executive director, Ron Johnson, told me, “The governor’s office even promised me at midnight that she would sign it,” but, “contrary to the promises her office made to me,” Napolitano vetoed the tax credit again, while approving the spending the Republicans had conceded to her.Republican leaders were outraged over her double dealing, with the leadership’s Steve Tully declaring in a letter to the Republic: “By this act of perfidy, she brought shame upon herself and her office, and has made the work of the state exponentially more difficult.”Napolitano’s opposition to restricting abortion played well at the Republic, which took a less favorable view of her Republican opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial race, Len Munsil. In a Sept. 8, 2006, editorial viewing Munsil as the “best of [a] weak GOP field,” the Republic pointed out it opposes “Munsil’s determined efforts to reduce access to abortion and his long-running campaign against gay rights.” The paper described the pro-marriage initiative on the November ballot as “both unnecessary and pernicious.” It said Munsil’s “social conservative agenda … calls for heavy-handed government intrusion into individual lives and decisions.”Finally, a word about pollsters. Even the Republic raised its eyebrow, although just a little, when prominent local pollster Bruce Merrill produced “some funny poll data” supposedly showing support for a Napolitano program. The Republic tucked away this news on Page B-6, as the second item of its “Political Insider” column of July 10, 2005. The column said Merrill wrote in an analysis that a recent survey “found a majority of voters in Arizona (59 percent) support Gov. Janet Napolitano’s proposal to use state and local law officers to enforce federal immigration laws.” The “Political Insider” found this strange because “at the time the poll was taken and released, Napolitano had no such plan”; indeed, “had been mum on the issue.” The newspaper quoted Nick Simonetta, a GOP spokesman, about the poll, “This is garbage. This is unbelievable.”On March 17, 2003, the Tribune had reported pollster Merrill as lamenting over “the ideologues and the right-wingers and more conservative people who actually vote.”If Merrill was committed to a less-than-conservative view, so was the Republic. The paper began election year 2006 with the Jan. 1 front-page banner headline, “Voters confident in Napolitano.” It was one more spin-heavy piece.Some conduct by politicians plays badly. Their comments deemed offensive have seriously damaged their careers. A recent example is Sen. George Allen (R-Va.). Media controversy continued for weeks after Allen made a reference that is “considered a racial slur in some parts of the world,” according to an Associated Press story, which added that “the gaffe … threatens any plans he has for a presidential bid in 2008.”If politicians’ throwaway words are so offensive as to cripple career hopes, what of politicians whose premeditated deeds bring damage? What of Janet Napolitano?