Hit the road, Mack.
Then: Mack is back.
Those are two recent headlines from the ongoing saga of the Kootenai County Republican Party trying to lasso a charismatic keynote speaker for its annual Lincoln Day Dinner March 24.
The Richard Mack controversy makes for great reading and, if you're a Kootenai County Democrat, some political momentum. But the black eye goes well beyond the local Republican Party. We have to ask: Is this really the sort of speaker Kootenai County wants to hear?
Never mind that Mack has been a political chameleon, running for sheriff in Arizona as a Democrat and as a Republican in his current quest for a U.S. House seat in Texas. He ran for Senate in Arizona as a Libertarian. In Utah, he unsuccessfully ran for sheriff as a Republican and announced his candidacy for governor as a Libertarian but withdrew.
Rather, it is his views on important issues that cause the greatest concern among Republicans here who oppose Mack being hired as keynote speaker. In the online edition of The Press, cdapress.com, we're including a timeline that highlights some of Mack's career moves and public statements taken from numerous interviews. The timeline paints the picture of a handsome, charismatic figure with strong feelings favoring militias and legalized drugs.
What's not mentioned in the timeline profile is this excerpt from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Summer 2010 intelligence report. SPLC is the organization that, with local help, brought down the Aryan Nations in North Idaho:
"It seems hardly a day goes by without another Mack attack on the evils of the federal government. This one-time sheriff of a rural county in Arizona and present-day icon of the Patriot movement has parlayed his antigovernment ardor into a full-time job doing speaking gigs at county fairgrounds, high school auditoriums and hotel banquet rooms. He even has a sponsor.
Richard Mack is introduced - often to standing ovations - as "Sheriff Mack." His website calls him that too, even though he hasn't been the top cop of Graham County since 1996, when its population was around 30,000.
Mack's mantra is this: The federal government is too big, too corrupt and too oppressive. "The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government," he warns on his website."
If the local Republican Party's leadership wanted a lightning rod for controversy, someone whose stated beliefs represent the antithesis to the ideals of one great nation that Abraham Lincoln lived and died for, they got one. No wonder several state Republican leaders and numerous local party members are going to find a better way to spend Lincoln Day.