During a panel discussion at the Conference on World Affairs in Colorado last April, a member of the audience rose to ask a tendentious political question, before adding that she was not interested in hearing a response from the only conservative on stage -- yours truly. I was a bit miffed by the close-minded slight until a fellow panelist, Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, pushed back on my behalf. The Democratic legislator slapped down the questioner's Lefty assumptions and waxed eloquent about the importance of bipartisanship. Sinema and I ended up chatting at length at a reception later that evening. She struck me as a delightful, moderate, and very ambitious politician whose gaze was set far above her State Senate seat. Sure enough, Ms. Sinema, 36, is now running for the US House seat in Arizona's newly-created 9th Congressional District. Her campaign website devotes an entire section to "overcoming partisanship," touting Sinema's strong bipartisan streak, a point she also emphasized during our conversation. Sinema is running as a self-stylized political moderate, a staunch Israel supporter, and a fiscal hawk -- somewhat in the mold of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. That's smart politics in a light red state. But there's a small problem with Sinema's carefully-constructed image: it cuts against her long record of far-Left radicalism, of which I only recently became aware. The Washington Free Beacon published a lengthy piece on Sinema's past activism in April, exposing some of the candidate's rather unusual views and behavior. A sampling (content warning):
Sinema’s foray into anti-Israel activism began in the early 2000s when she organized for the Arizona Alliance for Peace and Justice (AAPJ), a group whose members have denounced Israel’s “disproportionate” use of “violence and oppression.” The group also decried U.S. military aid to Israel as well as the expansion of Israeli settlements “into Palestinian lands.” Sinema later urged supporters of the AAPJ to deluge the phone lines of a radio show hosted by “an unapologetic unconditional supporter of Israeli policy.”
In 2006, Sinema penned a laudatory missive to the Israel critic Marwan Ahmad, a native Palestinian who was booted from a Phoenix political committee for “promoting messages of intolerance against Israel [and] the Jewish community.” Though Sinema later condemned Ahmad after local Jewish newspapers applied pressure, she initially praised him for “13 years of service to the mosaic ethnic communities here in the Valley of the Sun.” Since that incident, Sinema has continued to align herself with Ahmad, sending him videotaped messages of support and allowing her image to be featured on his website.
On the domestic front, Sinema has often displayed what some observers termed erratic behavior. In 2003, for instance, she recalled “singing and spiraling” in a “pagan” dance pit during an anti-war protest rally. Her liabilities are not limited to foreign policy. During a 2006 interview with a nightlife magazine, Sinema said, “These women who act like staying at home, leeching off their husbands or boyfriends, and just cashing the checks is some sort of feminism because they’re choosing to live that life. … That’s bullshit. I mean, what the fuck are we really talking about here?”
These items barely scratch the surface. A source familiar with Arizona politics offered a few additional tips, leading to the development of an astonishing dossier on Sinema's involvement with -- and, indeed, leadership of -- political groups with decidedly fringe views. Among other things, she has (a) emceed an anti-war rally co-sponsored by a 9/11 'Truther' organization, (b) co-hosted a radio program with a man who has indulged 9/11 conspiracies on his own show, even broadcasting from a "9/11 accountability" conference with ties to a prominent Holocaust denier, and (c) participated in a violent May Day riot in 2002. She documented her experience at the time:
"When [Sinema's organization] AAPJ attended May Day (sponsored by the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition), we knew that their guidelines differ from ours. They are okay with weapons and property destruction in some instances, and so those of us who chose to attend the event knew that it would be inappropriate to ask someone to not destroy property or to carry a weapon. It was their event, and they set the guidelines. As invited guests, we respected that and participated in a way that respected their guidelines. Personally, I was okay with that because, if I had felt uncomfortable with their guidelines or felt that I couldn't follow them, I would have chosen not to attend the event."
In spite of this professed embrace of violent protest tactics, Sinema was adamantly anti-war. In accordance with AAPJ's commitment to "world disarmament," Sinema wrote that US military and political leaders have "blood on their hands," and stated her opposition to using any military force to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. The Hill reports:
In the days and weeks after 9/11, as talk of retaliation reached a fever pitch, Sinema and others in Phoenix began organizing what would eventually become the Arizona Alliance for Peaceful Justice (AAPJ). The group’s mission statement at the time called military action “an inappropriate response to terrorism” and advocated for using the legal system — not violence — to bring Osama bin Laden and others to justice. Internal communications from AAPJ and related groups, obtained by The Hill, show that Sinema spent the first few years after 9/11 as a passionate and vocal advocate for a nonviolent response to the terrorist attacks and an opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Beyond opposing America's military response to the atrocities of 9/11 (the facts of which some of her associates call into question), Sinema has also promoted and appeared with radical characters, including convicted terrorist collaborator Lynne Stewart, and a self-described "pagan" and "witch" known as "Starhawk." While colluding with Starhawk to oppose US military efforts, Sinema wrote an email to her fellow activists in 2003, warning them against referring to any illegal activities in writing, lest the government be monitoring their communications:
"I would suggest that a heated dialogue on email may not be the best way to discuss our differences of opinion. We’ve started an amazing dialogue with Starhawk and want to continue our work. Let’s remember that our email is being monitored and what individuals say on email may be used in the future by law enforcement and/or the court system. So while this dialogue is important, it might be more strategic for all of us to have these conversations in person, not over email. In solidarity, Kyrsten"
She participated in a Left-wing pagan "spiral dance" protest in Miami, later accusing the police of "repression and brutality." A fellow protester (who claimed the US government was using "chemical weapons against [its] own people") recalled the anti-Capitalism chants of the burgeoning crowd:
Disease and starvation, will not be solved by corporations,
Get off it,
The enemy is profit.
Sinema confirmed her own anti-capitalism views in an Arizona Republic letter to the editor published on February 22, 2002, entitled "Capitalism Damaging." An excerpt:
"A huge dollar bill is the most accurate way to teach children the real motto of the United States: In the Almighty Dollar We Trust...Until the average American realizes that capitalism damages her livelihood while augmenting the livelihoods of the wealthy, the Almighty Dollar will continue to rule. It certainly is not ruling in our favor."
But why does any of this matter? First off, some Arizona insiders believe Sinema has the inside track to the Congressional seat she seeks -- and that she harbors even loftier ambitions. If she is able to sell her newfound bipartisan, middle-of-the-road identity to voters (she managed to convince me), her genuinely independent-minded district could end up sending a wildly out-of-the-mainstream Leftist to Washington on its behalf. Secondly, Sinema has ingratiated herself with the Obama administration, further confirming this White House's propensity to align itself with radicals and individuals who at least abide 9/11 'Trutherism.' She was an Obama delegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, has made nearly two-dozen visits to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (according to White House visitor logs), and was appointed to the official White House Health Reform Task Force, which helped shape Obamacare. She was in the room for the eventual bill signing.
Sinema (front left) appearing at the White House with her Obamacare task force and HHS Secretaty Kathleen Sebeius
Sinema with President Obama, whose White House she's visited more than 20 times in various official capacities.
I'll leave you with a series of questions:
(1) Was the Obama administration aware of Sinema's background when it enlisted her for the Obamacare task force and repeatedly welcomed her as an honored guest?
(2) Shouldn't Sinema's documented behavior and views (all of the above examples come from her mid-twenties and beyond -- clearly full adulthood) impact her ability to get elected anywhere, let alone a swing district in a right-leaning state?
(3) Who is Krysten Sinema? The Sinema I met -- and quite liked -- in Colorado bears no resemblance to the individual exposed in this post. Is she a hardcore Leftist cynically posing as a moderate, or is she merely a hyper-ambitious political chameleon, willing to do or say virtually anything to gain prominence at various stages in her public life? I'd prefer to think the latter scenario is more likely, but I really have no idea. Either way, the people of Arizona's 9th district deserve an honest and thorough accounting of what Sinema authentically believes and how she'd represent them, if elected.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography