KJZZ's Friday NewsCap: Biden could lose Arizona over Lukeville standoff

By Mark Brodie
Published: Friday, December 8, 2023 - 12:52pm

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The Lukeville Port of Entry between Lukeville, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico
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The Lukeville Port of Entry between Lukeville, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico

KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap revisits some of the biggest stories of the week from Arizona and beyond.

Marcus Dell’Artino of First Strategic and former state lawmaker Aaron Lieberman joined The Show top talk about the closing of a key border crossing in Arizona, the decision to not replace an Arizona Supreme Court justice who’s recusing himself over abortion laws and more news of the week.

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Aaron Lieberman and Marcus Dell
Amber Victoria Singer/KJZZ
Aaron Lieberman (left) and Marcus Dell’Artino in the KJZZ studio in 2023

Conversation highlights

On the Lukeville Port of Entry closure

MARCUS DELL’ARTINO: Oh, it’s absolutely insane. And probably one of the most defining moments of this administration. If you come from the context of understanding that the road to the White House goes through Arizona, it’s one of the most critical, if not the most critical state in the electoral map moving into this next election. This is a folly by this White House that is just epic proportions.

And as you so aptly put it, Democrats and Republicans can agree that this is a disaster. I will also add to that that I really believe at the end of the day, this is a massive political maneuver by CBP, and it’s clear we know where their union stands, right? On who they want in the White House.

MARK BRODIE: Not the person who’s in there.

DELL’ARTINO: Certainly not Joe Biden. And so I think they pulled a power play here to accentuate what the problems are at the border. But this White House hasn’t reacted to that. I mean, you are the president. You are their boss. You’re supposed to be making these decisions. And this just absolutely lack of any response whatsoever is deafening.

BRODIE: Aaron, how significant could this be? Obviously, we know what it could do. We’ve been talking all week about what it could do economically, both in Arizona and on the Mexican side of the border. But politically, what kind of impact do you think this might have? Of course, depending on how long it lasts.

AARON LIEBERMAN: Yeah yeah. You know, everything in Arizona in these toss up presidential elections get down to thousands of votes. I mean, Joe Biden won by 10,000. And there’s innumerable things you can look back at and say it was that or this or the other thing. So everything really counts. This feels like an own goal situation where you’re scoring on yourself, and it just doesn’t make any sense. I think it’s time for some sort of “Apollo 13,” like work the problem, people. What is it going to take to solve this? And whether we need our own National Guard troops down there, whatever it takes, we should figure it out.

My sister’s got a place in Rocky Point, on the personal side here. There’s a lot of Arizonans who like to go down there, who’ve got places down there and Las Palomas, those places are totally empty, a ghost town right now because we haven’t been able to get this to work out. And I’m hoping for a Christmas miracle here.

BRODIE: Well, so, Marcus, you mentioned the National Guard and there was some talk very early on from some Republican lawmakers encouraging, urging Gov. Hobbs to put the National Guard on the border. She has said she’s not going to do that in large part, it seems, because the stuff that they would need to do, they’re not really allowed to do.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I think that always gets to the question of like, OK, is this actually helpful? And is there some way to work it? I’m a big get everybody in the room, get the Border Patrol, you know, get (Sen.) Mark Kelly — whoever needs to be in the room, get in the room and say, how are we going to get this open? How are we going to get it open now? That’s the type of leadership I think we definitely need. And to Marcus’ point, on some level it’s got to come from the White House. I mean, it's a federal border. You’d think they’d be super attuned to what’s going on in Arizona, given the political dynamic here. And hopefully something will get resolved quickly.

BRODIE: Marcus, how does this end? How does this port get reopened?

DELL’ARTINO: The short, the fastest way to do it, frankly, would be to move assets within the federal government to Lukeville. And so presumably those would be federal law enforcement officials. That’s not going to happen. And to your point, the National Guard doesn’t work either. So I think you’re going to have to come to some sort of agreement. I think it’s time for this president or somebody in the White House who presumably wants to keep their job to go to CBP and say, “OK, what assets can we move around to get Lukeville back open?” The danger that’s going to happen here is one of the routes down to Rocky Point that is open, that is a suggested reroute — which takes, I think, an hour and a half longer to get down there — is controlled by the cartels. And something really bad is going to happen to some nice tourist family that’s headed down there. And it’s going to be politically a wipeout. But this is a White House that Kamala Harris was the borders czar. She hasn’t been to the border. This president’s been in town more than a few times now and has lacked going down to the border. I’m not too sure they’re interested in solving it. And to that point, I think that they’ve guaranteed they’re going to lose Arizona. That’s how critical of an issue I think this is.

BRODIE: Well, so Marcus, going back to your earlier point, though, about CBP maybe doing a little bit of a power play here. Can the White House and that organization, can they come to some kind of agreement?

DELL’ARTINO: I think they can. It’s to Aaron’s point, go work the problem. Presumably we’re all grown-ups here, and they can get to some sort of resolution here. And at the end of the day, does it result in somebody getting a pay raise at CBP? I’m sure. But they also need more officers. That’s pretty clear. And again, back to my original point, you’re the president of the United States, for God’s sakes. You’re in control of this agency. You can order them to do certain things.

BRODIE: Aaron, do you think that — I mean, you mentioned that this sounds kind of like an own goal, it feels like, you know, sort of a self-inflicted wound for the White House. Do you think they really do understand how significant this is in Arizona?

LIEBERMAN: I bet they’re hearing it from our congressmen and our senators, or certainly one of our senators. And I think that that’s honestly what it’s going to take. It’s a little bit how our system works, right? You’ve got your representative government who are looking at the local stuff. They’re they’re going back to D.C., and they’re calling the White House and saying, “We got to do something here.” And you would think those calls get returned first, where the president’s at and where the country is at with the road to the White House literally going through Arizona.

DELL’ARTINO: But to that point, I would also add that, you know, I think to a certain extent there is some tone deafness. I think we’ve all gotten used to delegations from Arizona, Texas and some of the southern states complaining about immigration, right? And so I think that after that complaining goes on for a while, you get tone deaf.

BRODIE: Like a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” situation?

DELL’ARTINO: Right. But now you’re looking at the mayor in New York screaming about it. Now you’re watching the effect of it happening in other states that are not conservative, that are not Republican states. And I think that that is starting to get a little attention in the White House. And if it doesn’t, then they’re going to learn a lesson the hard way.

LIEBERMAN: In a weird way, this is the opposite issue, right? This is Americans wanting to go to Mexico. It’s a different spin on the whole border thing, which is why it kind of feels so weird. Like we can’t even get that to work? These are Americans wanting to go sit on a beach in Mexico. Let’s all get together and make it happen.

On Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery recusing himself from a case involving Planned Parenthood

DELL’ARTINO: I’m not particularly surprised. I was more surprised at Bill Montgomery’s reversal. I think that took everybody by a little bit of shock. Because you remember he had a press release, I think the day before, saying I’m not going to recuse myself. And then even I got confused. I was like, wait, where are we? We’re recused? We’re not recused? So now he’s recused. So now we’re sitting at a 6-6. Even on the way in I heard the news was talking about, theoretically, we can do a 3-3. Theoretically, you can do a lot of things. But I'm going to tell you that I don’t think that that is a likely scenario. I think it will not be a 3-3. I think you’re looking more at a 4-2 or 5-1 or even a 6-0. But the least likely scenario, I think, in this case would be a 3-3.

BRODIE: What do you think, Aaron?

LIEBERMAN: I think that’s one of the reasons that, on some level, this was an easy recusal. Because it’s not going to change the outcome. This all goes back to a packed Supreme Court that our previous governor did. And I love hearing everyone rail against packing the Supreme Court in the United States. But we did that exact same thing here in Arizona. And that’s what we’re still dealing with. You know, a majority of appointees by one party who — and it’s pretty clear, I think, where this decision is going to go.

I was happy that Bill Montgomery did that. I mean, I think if you were on the record saying all these things about cases you’re supposed to hear impartially, it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes sense and what actually happens doesn’t line up. It was nice to see him make this move this time.

BRODIE: What do you think, Marcus, led him to make this change? And obviously we don’t want to get inside anybody’s head, inside anybody’s thought process. But as you pointed out, he had pretty strongly said he was not going to recuse himself. And then very shortly thereafter, he said, “Yeah, maybe I will.”

DELL’ARTINO: Yeah, I think I think upon further reflection, I’m certain somebody talked to him. I don’t know who that somebody is. But I think upon further reflection, it makes sense to recuse yourself. Right? A lot of people forget this, but judges are up on the ballot, and he is up on the ballot as well. So my point to him would have been, why not take the argument away from your opponents who are going to attack you? It’s pretty clear that there is an organization out there that's purpose is to oppose judges being retained on the ballot. I would assume that there’s going to be a couple of judges on the Supreme Court that have campaigns run against them. The easy argument … take the argument away. They’re going to attack you on being part of this, that you should have conflicted yourself. Take that argument off the table and walk away.

BRODIE: Aaron, do you think that this case — obviously we heard next week, we’ll expect a ruling some time after that — if as a lot of people and both of you suggested, if the case goes the way that a lot of people think it will go, what does that do for efforts to collect signatures to put the the constitutional amendment on the ballot?

LIEBERMAN: It definitely helps. I mean, the reality is we’ve seen in state after state — Republican dominated states — when this question gets to the ballot, voters come out. It’s great for Democrats, frankly, from a turnout perspective. It’s also great for democracy to actually have what the majority of people want be the state law. A lot of barriers have been built largely by the Republican-dominated Legislature over the last decade to … actually getting a petition signed.

So it’s a there’s a technical side to it. But in terms of the willingness of people to volunteer, for people to stop for that person in the supermarket parking lot and say, “Yeah, heck yeah, I’ll sign that,” it all goes up when there’s more attention and more exposure on this.

BRODIE: Marcus, do you see this case and sort of the arguments and eventually the ruling, is that a big driver for, for signature gathering efforts?

DELL’ARTINO: Yeah, I think so. You know, reflecting back, I mean, this is part of a national strategy by the Democrats in the White House to get this abortion questions on the ballot in states that are purple or close — whatever you want to define — to help turnout going into the general election for the Biden White House.

The thing that’s obviously different here in Arizona is we’ve also got this Supreme Court case coming, which is going to sort of be the driver in the dialog leading into that. So I fully expect it to drive signature gathering.

LIEBERMAN: Well, my response to that is you reap what you sow. It was fascinating to go back and look at that when Justice O’Connor passed, like her decision in some of these abortion cases. She very clearly tied it to not wanting to overrule the will of the people, basically. And that’s what’s kind of been unleashed here by a Supreme Court that had a minority view that they imposed on the entire country in terms of turning this back to the states. And when you turn things back to the states, people can make their voices heard a little bit easier than in the federal government. And that’s what we’re hearing right now.

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