Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, showcasing 2,300 lbs of seized marijuana, waits to address the media Thursday, May 12 2011 outside the Sheriff's training center in Phoenix. Sheriff Arpaio confirms two agents were killed in a freight train collision. And he says the FBI will be taking over the investigation. (AP Photo/Matt York) (Matt York)

Sheriff Joe forms birther "posse"

Arizona's cartoonish right-wing folk hero promises to investigate the president's birth certificate

Alex Pareene
September 19, 2011 8:50PM (UTC)

Sheriff Joe has finally started a "posse" to go after Barack Obama, for all of his cattle-rustling birth certificate-forging. Joe Arpaio, the cartoonish Maricopa County "lawman" who became a national right-wing folk hero by dedicating himself to persecuting immigrants, recently met with some "Tea Party" people who wanted him to investigate the legitimacy of President Obama's "long-form" birth certificate. He told them he'd look into it, probably to get them to go away, but WorldNetDaily, the Internet's epicenter of unreconstructed birther thought, took him very seriously. Via Talking Points Memo, WND now reports that Arpaio has assembled an elite team of five crack investigators to uncover the truth about the president's citizenship.

Arpaio has a volunteer "posse program," which allows regular citizens to pretend to be heroic characters in old westerns, instead of just sad old white people terrified of a changing nation and some intangible decline of privilege. This "posse program" has been dormant lately, because of budget cuts, but WND says Arpaio's awakening his elite volunteer special forces for one last mission:


The "Cold Case Posse," however, has been described as a "posse within the posse," consisting of volunteers with professional experience in conducting investigations, including individuals chosen because of their professional backgrounds in law enforcement, as well as lawyers who have participated in criminal or civil cases and individuals with specialized skills in fields ranging from accounting to conducting criminal forensic examinations.

In the past few months, the Cold Case Posse has been inactive, largely because of budgetary limitations within the Maricopa County Sheriff's office.

But in the past few days, Arpaio has assigned a 5-person group serving under the auspices of the Cold Case Posse to undertake the Obama birth certificate investigation.

Sources within the sheriff's office explained to WND that the Cold Case Posse has been constituted as a 501(c)3 organization -- separately organized within the 3,000-member volunteer posse -- enabling people from around the country to contribute to its mission.

Hooray! Good on Sheriff Joe, for giving hope to the last remaining people unconvinced by the president's extensive documentation of his birth.

WND is not exactly known for its accuracy in reporting, so this story could be imaginary, but assuming it's not, I can't imagine anyone finding anything wrong with the prospect of a white western sheriff forming a volunteer "posse" to go after a black man. That certainly doesn't have any incredibly ugly historical echoes.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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