The people who claim to lead us dug deep on Tuesday and managed to reach a new low in Arizona politics.
I know, I didn't think it was possible either.
By Monday (a k a Day 10 of The Bundgaard Stories), I had begun to think that curiously silent Senate Republicans must be privately horrified by the recent carryings-on of their majority leader, but just reticent to speak publicly.
Turns out I was wrong.
They aren't horrified in the least. In fact, on Tuesday they stood by the Senate's self-proclaimed immunity expert, essentially giving him a vote of confidence by leaving him in the No. 2 leadership spot.
Apparently, the specter of a senator skirmishing on the side of a freeway and watching as his girlfriend is hauled off to jail while he invokes a legislative privilege from arrest is not cause for concern among his colleagues. Apparently, lying about it – insisting that he avoided arrest because police thought he was innocent rather than immune -- is no reason to question his fitness to lead his Republican brethren.
In this state, at least.
And so Scott Bundgaard remains as majority leader of the Arizona Senate.
Meanwhile, details continue to surface about the senator's oh-so-brief marriage in 2006 wherein the bride fled in the middle of their Hawaiian honeymoon, having asked for a police escort her to retrieve her belongings from their room.
She sold her engagement ring to hire an attorney and 26 days after saying I do, she filed for an annulment. In 2008, the Florida woman asked the court to let her appear by telephone for a court hearing, citing “past threats and intimidations and domestic violence” by Bundgaard, who had fought her attempts to quickly end the marriage.
He dismisses her version of events as fictitious and seems mystified still by her hurried honeymoon departure. Bundgaard told The Republic's Craig Harris on Monday that she left while he was out getting supplies for a picnic.
“If I had laid a hand on her, I would understand why she would leave and had wanted out of the marriage,” he said. “But I didn't and I never have with any women.”
So we are left to ponder why a bride unexpectedly left her honeymoon – or “fled,” as her attorney put it -- while her bridegroom was out planning a picnic.
And we are left to ponder why Aubry Ballard turned up bruised and police noted signs of domestic violence (on both of them) during their by-now infamous freeway fight on Feb. 25.
The one thing we aren't left to ponder is why Bundgaard thought he could invoke immunity, lie about it and get away with it.
Because he has.
Senate Republicans decided that he is, still, the man to lead them. Or Senate President Russell Pearce decided it and they just all went along like sheep because they owe him, or they're scared of him.
Bundgaard on Tuesday said he would have stepped aside had his fellow Republicans wanted him to and pronounced himself “grateful for my caucus members who are willing to wait (until) the facts are released and willing to wait for the judicial process to take its course.”
As if fitness to serve in a leadership post turns on whether you committed a crime. If it does, it's possible the Senate's standards a tad low.
Yet the only one who seemed to get it was Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Ron Gould who on Monday called for Bundgaard to step down and on Tuesday vowed an ethics investigation – assuming Pearce doesn't strip him of his post for mutiny.
“Getting in a fistfight with your girlfriend on the side of the freeway is behavior unbecoming a senator,” Gould said on Monday. “I won't be led by somebody who does those kinds of things.”
Or, as it turns out, he will.
We all will – for now -- and that's just shameful
(Column published March 9, 2011, The Arizona Republic