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Opinion

Near Nature, Near Canada

First, I’d like to welcome Cheryl Kilday, who was recently named the president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. Second, I’d like to suggest that she immediately capitalize on the self-inflicted pummeling of Arizona’s reputation.

What better place to steal tourism and convention dollars than a state that is trashed daily by its governor and other elected officials? We have “Near Nature, Near Perfect.” They have “Near Mexico, Near Beheadings.” Please, capture some video of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s pronouncements about illegal immigration and turn them into an ad campaign.

Here she is on Fox News: “We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings.”

And then on a Phoenix TV station: “Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded.”

She also said the majority of illegal immigrants coming into her state are involved in drug smuggling. Scary stuff.

Ably assisting the governor in chasing off visitors is U.S. Sen. John McCain, who told NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “Why is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world?”

Oh, and be sure to feature this portion of an e-mail from Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen: “In the last few years 80 percent of our law enforcement that have been killed or wounded have been by an illegal. The majority of people coming now are people we need to be worried about.”

OK, so it might be sneaky to capitalize on frightening “facts” that are entirely made up, but we’re in a battle for tourism dollars – and truth is always the first casualty of war.

So don’t be dissuaded by the fact that Arizona law enforcement has reported no beheadings. Never mind that Politifact, an online fact-checking outfit, judged the kidnapping claim by McCain to be false. To be fair, it has been reported and repeated by many media outlets, too. But no such statistics are kept by law enforcement agencies, so there is no way to confirm the claim. Global security companies say there are more kidnappings in Central American countries than in any U.S. city. Furthermore, the claim that most illegal immigrants are tied up in the illegal drug trade is patently false. So is the whopper about illegal immigrants being responsible for 80 percent of attacks on police officers.

And whatever you do, Ms. Kilday, do not feature this quote from Roy Bermudez, the assistant police chief of Nogales, Ariz., which sits right on the border:

“We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico,” Bermudez told the Arizona Republic. “You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America.”

The numbers, unfortunately, back him up. As the Republic reported: “FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.”

But look, if Arizona politicians want to transform their state into the Colombia of North America, I say we help them by repeating the claims and reaping the benefits.

It’s a win-win.

Muy intelligente. Now the Bonner County GOP has the right idea. Rather than dwell on the facts, they’ve embraced Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s portrait of murderous mayhem in her state. Cleverly, officials offered a show of support by asking for her help in getting an Arizona immigration law passed in Idaho. This, of course, achieves the purpose of spreading the horrible “news” about how dangerous it is to travel south.

They even sacrificed the alliteration of “Fiesta at the Fair” in a show of xenophobia. Worked perfectly. The media have picked up the story and are repeating it.

Well done, Bonner County Republicans. Pure genius.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or at (509) 459-5026.


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