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Al Gore, Please Call Barney

New Kid in Town


SUSPICIOUS IN ARIZONA: I’m sorry to use the “A” word, but Arizona is cooking up another one of its not-so-little surprises. Ever alert for a new cause to promote democracy, its House of Representatives has voted to make sure that anyone desiring to appear on the state’s presidential ballot is an actual, real U.S. citizen.

Barney Brantingham

Apparently the Republican House majority fears that some Canadian or other foreigner could sneak into the Land of the Free under false pretenses and (horrors!) get elected as our next president, thanks to Arizona’s Electoral College votes. Arizona solons, of course, deny that the legislation is in any way inspired by the wacko birther movement that insists that President Obama holds office illegally because he wasn’t born in the U.S.

Nothing on earth can persuade the birthers that Obama was born in Hawai‘i and has a birth certificate to prove it. But are they going to believe the president of these United States or Hawaiian officials? No. I get the impression that some even question whether the state of Hawai‘i is genuinely part of the U.S., but actually, we snatched it from the native Hawaiian people fair and fairly square. Now, I suppose a case could be made in some world court that our grabbing Hawai‘i was illegal and should be revoked and the islands returned to their indigenous inhabitants, those who are left, anyway. Would the birthers then argue that Obama was after all born in Hawai‘i, but his citizenship is invalid?

Well, they’ll have to act fast, because the 2012 presidential election isn’t that far off, politically. But as far as I know, Arizona is not raising questions about the birthplace of its beloved Senator John McCain, who ran against Obama and lost. Back in 1936, McCain was born in a foreign country, Panama, a sovereign nation. He was the son of a U.S. Navy officer. (Panama is familiar to me because I served there in the U.S. Army.)

As far as I know, McCain is a legitimate U.S. citizen because he was born at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Canal Zone, which was considered U.S. territory at the time. Since then, the U.S. has transferred the canal and the rest of the Canal Zone to Panama, a move I seriously doubt erases McCain’s claim to citizenship. Unless the birthers turn against him, which is about as likely as Phoenix summers going from 115 degrees to 75.

California politics seem like a kindergarten squabble over Play-Doh compared to Arizona’s endless corruption scandals and the rabid screaming between the redneck legislature and liberals, rare as they are there. Then there’s the current California governor’s race. (Race? More like a trudge that everyone’s waiting to end.) In the Republican primary, you have a billionaire woman bashing the poor, against a guy who looks like a frightened CPA. Democrat Jerry Brown, with no primary opponents, hadn’t been saying much of anything until Monday, when, speaking at UCSB, he came out against offshore oil drilling.

Arizona has a tradition of governors in trouble with the law. Former governor Fife Symington is now in Santa Barbara, heading the embattled Botanic Garden board, his Arizona conviction for fraud having been overturned by the courts. Sen. McCain’s pro–gay-rights Republican daughter Meghan has the right wing hopping mad. When a conservative radio talker snipped about Meghan’s weight, McCain’s kid invited her to “kiss my fat ass.”

She supports same-sex marriage, which has won her few friends in Phoenix. She also opposes the recently enacted Arizona immigration law, which means that a brown-skinned jaywalker or snowbird Canadian lost at the Grand Canyon could face a grilling if stopped by a cop. Her dad favors it. Meghan also says she cares about the environment and loves punk rock. (“I have a tattoo,” she has been quoted as saying.) Thus persona non grata to many residents, she’s moved to New York.

The birther bill has yet to be acted on by the Arizona Senate and Governor Jan Brewer. It was introduced by Representative Judy Burges, a Skull Valley (I am not making this up) Republican.

GORE WON’T BE BORED: Just think: If the Supreme Court hadn’t gotten involved, it might have been former president Al Gore moving into Montecito. As it is, the man who was almost president will be shopping at Coast Village Vons, bumping carts with Oprah. I left a message with his office, asking for an interview about how, in these times, he managed to get a loan to buy the $8.875-million luxury getaway, but I haven’t heard from him.

According to ex-Montecitan Arianna Huffington’s HuffPost, Al and Tipper will be rattling around in a pad that boasts six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a large pool house, and six fireplaces. Judging from the ovation the former vice president and Nobel winner received at the 2007 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Gore figures to find a warm(ing) welcome. Gore says corporations need to be held cost-accountable for spewing global warming pollutants. “If it’s free and it’s okay to use the atmosphere as an open sewer, they’re gonna do it.”

His critics, however, are sneering, making cracks about his 6,500-square-foot Montecito carbon footprint. On the other hand, the footprint (built in 2002) was already there when he bought it. Call me, Al.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.



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