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Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaking to the Eastern Orlando Tea Party Saturday  (WND photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. – While the top Republican candidates refuse to touch the issue of Barack Obama’s eligibility, at least four are eagerly seeking the endorsement of America’s best-known lawman, who told a gathering of Florida tea partiers yesterday that his “Cold Case Posse” probe examining the president’s qualification for his state’s 2012 ballot is in full swing.

Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known nationally for his tough and sometimes unorthodox enforcement of immigration laws, delivered a steady stream of one-liners at the expense of his fierce critics in an hour-long talk that drew frequent laughter from attendees of the Eastern Orlando Tea Party’s “Choose Liberty 2012″ conference.

With his trademark prison-issue pink shorts on sale at the back of the room, Arpaio explained why he undertook the controversial “inquiry,” as he called it, into the president’s eligibility for the Arizona state ballot next year and assigned it to his volunteer team of former cops and lawyers.

He’s already come to the conclusion that a simple way to determine the validity of the birth certificate issued by the White House April 27 is to obtain a microfiche version of it. It should exist, he said, since copies from microfiche of birth certificates for twins born the day before Obama, the Nordykes, have been published.

“I would highly recommend to the president that if there is microfilm, let’s get it,” he told the Orlando crowd. “If we could show he was on the microfilm the next day – that he was born in Hawaii – all the controversy would go.”

Jerome Corsi’s New York Times best-seller, “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” is vailable for immediate shipping, autographed by the author, only from the WND Superstore

Arpaio deadpanned that if he can help Obama by proving “through the investigation” that he was born in America, “maybe he’ll invite me to Hawaii.”

Though controversy is never far from the maverick lawman, he said Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann have met with him to ask for his endorsement, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have had phone conversations. In 2008, Arpaio served as Arizona chairman of Romney’s campaign. He has said he might announce his endorsement before the Republican debate set for early December in Arizona.

To no one’s surprise, his tea party speech was interrupted in the first minutes by a handful of demonstrators in the audience who quickly were apprehended by security and hauled out of the Orlando Airport Marriott kicking and yelling.

Protesters are apprehended at a speech by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Orlando, Fla. (WND photo)

Arapaio seemed to find the spectacle amusing and wondered aloud why the disruption wasn’t more impressive.

Bonnie Rogers of Orlando told WND after the speech that many of her fellow tea party members have been following the sheriff’s inquiry into Obama’s eligibility.

“I think they’re very interested. We’re waiting for the report to come through,” she said. “I can’t wait to get the results.”

Her husband, Michael Zerofsky, concurred. He noted, though, that many members are quietly interested in the issue of Obama’s eligibility and reluctant to talk about it, because “they’ve been brainwashed by the mainstream media.”

The media says, “He’s got his piece of paper now, so what do you guys want out of this?”

Consequently, he said, his fellow tea party members are “just very reserved about what’s going on, and they’re waiting to see if anything of substance is going to happen.”

Another tea party member in attendance, James Youngblood, 34, of Lady Lake, Fla., said he’s been closely following Arpaio’s investigation and wishes “the tea party would embrace it a little more.”

“You’re not going to be able to move him,” he said of Obama. “I think the goal now is to find some way of keeping him off the ballot.”

Where there’s smoke

Arpaio recounted how members of the Surprise, Ariz., Tea Party, came to him in August with a petition for an investigation, saying, “You’re our last hope.”

The sheriff said that as an elected official, he answers to the citizens of Maricopa County.

“I have 4 million people in our county – that I know of,” he said to laughter, referring to the indeterminate number of illegal alien residents in his jurisdiction.

Arpaio noted that WND was the only media outlet “talking about the issue.”

“You don’t see the regular media talking about it, which is interesting,” he said, “because, I’m very controversial. I go to the toilet and I’m in the headlines.”

In a sit-down interview with WND before his speech, Arpaio was asked to clarify whether his decision to launch the inquiry was simply because his constituents asked him, and he felt obligated, or because he is convinced that there is something to find.

He replied: “The old saying, ‘Where there is smoke.’”

Tea party member Tom Martin of Winter Park, Fla., models Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s famous pink shorts. The sheriff explained that the prisoners are issued pink shorts because they’re less likely to be stolen  (WND photo)

Arapaio told WND the probe is complex, and his team is “putting a lot of time into this, looking into it 24 hours a day.”

“They’re living this thing,” he said. “I think they almost dream about it at night, with all the stuff that’s come.”

In a Q&A session after his speech to the tea party, Arpaio was asked what the consequence might be if his posse found Obama was ineligible.

“I don’t know, I’m just a sheriff,” he said. “Do you want me to go to the White House with my posse?”

Arpaio told WND he’s not sure what he will do with the report when it’s finished, likely in January.

“I don’t know if I have the jurisdiction. I probably don’t,” he said. “If I can’t handle it, I have to give it to somebody. Somebody should look at it. Maybe public opinion will drive someone to look at this information.”

Arpaio said Arizona’s secretary of state doesn’t have jurisdiction.

“I’ve just got a feeling that nobody wants to touch it, and it’s just going to fade away,” he said. “I just have to do what I promised the people of Maricopa County. And I just can’t ignore when 200 people from the tea party come to me and ask me to look into it.”

Arpaio said it would be “a shame if I couldn’t get anyone to look at it.”

“You would think that if there is enough smoke someone would look at it,” he said.

Heating up

Arpaio told WND he’s passed on “thousands of volumes of information” to his posse and is briefed two or three times a week on its progress.

In addition to combing through the information, his posse is talking to “witnesses” as well, although he would not elaborate.

“I talk to my guy quite often as to the major things that could come up,” he said.

He added that “things seem to be heating up a little.”

Arpaio said that aside from pursuing the microfiche angle, “We’ve got a couple of other things we’re looking at that could be damaging, to show that maybe the president wasn’t born in the United States.” Those issues could be resolved fairly soon, he noted.

Arpaio said Obama must be aware of his posse because the president mentioned his name last month.

“If I were the president I would say, ‘Hey, I want that thing released, and clear this whole thing up,’” Arpaio said. “Why doesn’t he?”

He speculated that some Republicans might not like what he’s doing, because it could lead to the election of Hillary Clinton.

Bring it on

Arizona media is buzzing about the implications for Arpaio of the defeat within the last year and a half of two of his key immigration allies. Last Tuesday the president of the state Senate, Sen. Russell Pearce, was recalled. Last year, County Attorney Andrew Thomas was defeated in the Republican primary for state attorney general.

Arpaio told WND he plans to run for a sixth term next November, if he doesn’t decide to run for the U.S. Senate, and argued that “the same group that brought Pearce down has been following me for three years.”

“So bring it on,” he said.

Even though he’s controversial, he said, he’s laid a strong foundation of trust with the people of Maricopa County.

“I don’t know where this is going,” he said of the eligibility probe, “but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not backing down. I’m not worried about politics.

“If I get defeated for going after this, well, OK.”

He paused.

“But I’m not going to not get re-elected.”

 

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