The president of the United States pardoned an 85-year-old former Arizona county sheriff, an old man the president praised as a "patriot" who was just doing his job.
Never mind that this particular former sheriff is Joe Arpaio, the long-time sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County, where he infamously locked up inmates behind electrified fences in an open-air tent city in desert temperatures.
At least he did until 2016 when voters there finally turned "Sheriff Joe" out of office.
Over his decades on the job, according to one biography, Arpaio was accused of various types of police misconduct -- abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws and election law violations.
Inmates and their families supposedly filed more than 2,000 lawsuits, some accusing the sheriff of brutality and others of the racial profiling that eventually brought him down.
Arpaio earned the tough-guy reputation he flaunted, while literally costing his county's taxpayers millions and millions of dollars in resulting fees, settlements and court awards.
His actions naturally came under intense U.S. Department of Justice scrutiny, ultimately resulting in the federal charges that ended with his conviction in July and his controversial pardon last week by President Trump.
It was but a misdemeanor conviction, subject to six months in jail, for violating a court order.
That might not sound like much. But the court order had demanded Arpaio stop abusive and unconstitutional enforcement tactics the Justice Department called one of the worst examples of racial profiling it had ever seen.
He ignored the court order, continuing the enforcement practices that had triggered it.
This was a serious abuse of power by Arpaio and his minions, primarily against Latinos, and a slap in the face of the court from someone who was supposed to enforce the law.
The court order in 2016 and the conviction earlier this year were intended to hold Arpaio personally accountable for his practices.
He won't be, now that President Trump has pardoned Arpaio, again for allegedly "doing his job."
Trump found a hero in the aging sheriff, who had first shown himself to be Trump's ally in the "birther" movement. (Arpaio also wasted Maricopa County resources to investigate President Obama's birth, even sending deputies to Hawaii.)
The president seems, too, to embrace the way Arpaio enforced immigration law -- no matter how many Latinos may have been subjected to improper traffic stops and arrests. According to the president, Arpaio was doing his job.
The court that ordered the sheriff to stop the practice didn't think so. Nor do a lot of others, including the two U.S. senators from Arizona and other public officials there and elsewhere who have reacted strongly against this early use of the presidential pardon.
To add insult a sorry situation, the pardon may have emboldened Arpaio to seek another public office, maybe even the U.S. Senate seat from Arizona.
As the Arizona Republic, the state's largest newspaper put it, Trump just resurrected Arpaio from irrelevance.
He had been defeated at the polls and wore a conviction for ignoring a court order. Then Trump pardoned him, even before the court could consider his sentencing.
Nevertheless, the resulting outrage isn't directed so much at the disgraced 85-year-old former sheriff as the embattled 71-year-old current president.
For President Trump, this is one more outrage in a long list of outrages piled up in his short tenure.
Yet, this one seems different somehow.
It is prompting questions about how else he might use the power of the presidency.
The wariness includes concerns about possible pardons related to that ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in U.S. elections, which seems to get closer each day to the Trump campaign, the Trump family and Trump business.
The wariness hardly stops there, however.
Consider the North Korean dictator who keeps ordering missile launches, clearly taunting the U.S. and this impulse-driven president.
Commentary on 08/30/2017
Print Headline: Say it ain't so ...