Human Shield

by David Safier

The Star's Political Notebook picked up on a comment I made on the blog last week about Bruce Ash accusing Regina Romero of using her newborn baby as "a political HUMAN SHIELD !!" [Those are his caps and exclamation points, not mine.] As Bodfield pointed out, I expressed outrage at Ash's choice of words. She portrayed my outrage as excessive. Believe me, I wasn't pretending to be outraged. Ash's comment honestly made me tremble, then settled in my stomach as a dark black ball.

Bodfield came to the conclusion that, since Romero and Ash were both trying to score political points, both deserve equal censure.

I disagree.

So let me get a bit more professorial here, leaving the outrage behind and analyzing the situation from a political/linguistic point of view.

Bodfield showed once again she's an excellent reporter, summing up the whole episode with clarity and precision. But she showed a lack of sophistication about the dramatic difference in the type of the language and imagery the two sides employed. Bodfield seems to think both Romero and Ash were equally guilty of trying to gain political advantage, and I was being overly partisan by condemning Ash and not Romero. I think there's a huge difference between the politically motivated statements from Romero and Ash. Romero's tone was playful. Ash's was brutal.


Here are some images I pulled up when I did a Google image search for "Mother and Crying Baby." The photos show an infant in helpless distress and its mother being loving, comforting, caring. This is the visual image Romero conveyed in her mailing when she wrote:

"Regina Romero's new baby girl says WAAHHH to the recall effort."

Playing politics with her newborn? Absolutely. It's a blatant, but playful, attempt to use her new motherhood to rouse people against the recall effort.


These are images I pulled up when I googled "Human Shield." Notice any difference?

There's nothing playful about the visual imagery Ash conjures up. It's violent, brutal and inhuman. If, as Ash says, Romero is "using [her] offspring as a political HUMAN SHIELD !!" that means she's holding her baby in front of her to catch the bullets while she guns for her enemy.

Ash is a major Republican political operator in Southern Arizona. He uses his money and influence to try and win elections and shape public opinion. His "human shield" statement shows he's the poltical love child of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. No language is too vile or over the top to use against your opponent. Call doctors who perform abortions baby killers. Accuse Max Cleland, who lost both legs and one arm in Vietnam, of being unpatriotic, and create a campaign ad linking him with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Accuse Romero of holding her baby in front of her to take a bullet for her. It's all part of the same Republican tactic. No accusations are too exaggerated, no imagery is too vile to use against your political opponent.

The headline for my original post was "Unspeakably vile." I used the terms "unfeeling," "inhuman" and "monstrous" to describe Ash's imagery. I stand by those accusations.

Would I retract any of my accusations if Ash said, truthfully, that he wrote the blog comment hastily and didn't really plan to evoke the imagery I've described? Absolutely not. As Freud said, people reveal themselves by the language they choose. Shakespeare understood that as well, making his characters give themselves away, not just by what they said, but the way they chose to say it. If "human shield" was the first term that popped into Ash's mind, and his immediate instinct was to put the words in all caps with two exclamation points following, that tells me the man has a twisted mind that could benefit from a few hours on Freud's couch to come to grips with some of the personal traumas that turned him into this kind of creature.

I'm also going to stand by the final statement in my original post. Bruce Ash owes Regina and her family a full, public apology.

NOTE: Ash's comment was on a post by Tedski congratulating Regina on the birth of her baby girl, Luciana Reyes. Tedski nicely — too nicely, in my opinion — offered to delete the comment if Ash wanted him to. Instead, Ash defended his comment, saying "Romero shows no class when she uses her new baby to complain about a recall election she will surely lose." Please, Mr. Ash, don't stop now. Express your thoughts here as well. I would love to read what you have to say.

0 responses to “Human Shield

  1. Mr. Ash:

    You have been involved in Tucson politics long before I ever heard the name Regina Romero. Our city – and our state – is in a big, hot mess right now and you and Regina share the distinction of being just two of many politicos who people can choose to blame.

    Your finger must be the strongest in all of Southern Arizona with all of the time that you spend sticking it in other people’s direction. While your constant name-calling and derogatory, sneering comments may whip some people into a frenzy, most of us are exhausted by it. I can’t even begin to identify with your brand of the Republican Party anymore. Ask yourself — is your rhetoric really helping local candidates? Do you think that most people will be swayed by the type of ‘messaging’ you demonstrated above?

    Honestly, I think the majority of us would rather move forward in a constructive way. Please reconsider the virulent approach – it isn’t helping.

  2. Thank you for all of your insightful comments about the character of the Republican National Committeeman.This is a typical democrat retort to facts. I understand the drill you all go through.Typical deconstruction by name calling and innuendo. Time to move on because the tactic is juvenile and useless. BTW Don’t waste your time speculating on why I do what I do either. I don’t think you get it.

    What none of you seem to focus on are the real grievances that many Tucsonans have with Ms Romero’s performance on the city council. I doubt if any of you progressives feel she has been really very effective do you? Do you expect anyone to believe they are happy about the hundreds of millions of TAX DOLLARS squandered on Rio Nuevo and nothing to show for it. Can you say with a straight face you would welcome 18% cuts from police , EMTS and firefighters ?
    I always thought democrats cared about the vulnerable……how do you balance your convictions about protecting the vulnerable against a RENTER’S TAX which Romero and company labeled “The Landlord’s Franchise Tax?” This isn’t about the property owners friends–it’s about hurting renters who are often young, disadvantaged or elderly.This Republican does not believe it is fair to balance the budget on the shoulders of people who can afford it least when the council continues to support their crony political form of local governance ? Wait until you get a load of the 2009 yearly audit and Rio Nuevo budget.

    Forget about the HUMAN SHIELD !! Think about the facts here and tell me………Is Tucson better off today than we were 4 years ago?

  3. Goodness, what a storm. And to think it all started with a dumb remark tossed off on a blog by a guy who says dumb things all the time.

    Bruce Ash, fortunate son of Paul Ash Management, is an aging rich kid whose nonsense is encouraged by folks on the right who want him to keep writing big checks. He’s not taken seriously even by many in his own party, and the spectacle he manages to create by constantly writing inflammatory stuff in the blogs tells a sad story of a guy who’s accomplished so little in life other than handing family cash to politicians and dreaming of being one himself.

    The bit about Regina’s baby is particularly ugly, and Ash’s remarks in the past have suggested he may have a strange preoccupation with Hispanic people. But I really don’t think he or his ridiculous remarks deserve all this attention. He’s probably loving it, but he’s a messed up guy and the kind of attention he really needs isn’t going to come online.

  4. “I’m outraged/I’m offended” is a tired bit in my book especially when claimed on behalf of third parties.

  5. You’re right that I used “you” incorrectly. I was using it as a general pronoun, kind of like people use “they” to describe the other side. It was a sloppy usage. My point was, Republicans don’t want anyone talking about tactics, because that exposes what they’re doing. The phrase, Lighten Up, or an equivalent, is used regularly when Democrats criticize their tactics. But Republicans’ ability to be outraged has no limits.

    As for Ash, I would say he’s on a perpetual campaign, not for an office for himself, maybe, but for other candidates and issues he’s promoting. If you doubt me, read his comment, the first on this post. That should make it clear he’s currently campaigning for the recall. Nothing wrong with that, obviously. It’s his campaigning tactics I deplore.

    As I said after your comment on the other post, we’ve pretty much exhausted this discussion in my opinion. You’re welcome to continue commenting, but I’m moving on to other posts.

  6. “And if you don’t think the discussion of vile campaign tactics is important, it may be because you want to keep using them without anyone calling your tactics into question.”

    2 questions…

    1) is Ash campaigning for something, and was his ‘human shield’ comment used in the context of any campaign? How was his comment a ‘campaign tactic?’

    2) What vile campaign tactics have I engaged in that I’m somehow trying to continue to use by pointing out that this ‘controversy’ is irrelevant to the real issues facing Tucson?

  7. Bob, for discussions of the recall on Blog for Arizona, see

    If you want to talk about problems with the city and pretend they began 4 years ago, that’s your prerogative. But expecting me to use your framing is like Giuliani insisting everyone who “cares about our freedoms” should use the term Islamofascists.

    And if you don’t think the discussion of vile campaign tactics like accusing a mother of using her child as a human shield is important, it may be because you want to keep using them without anyone calling your tactics into question.

  8. “the sad reality is due to their failed policies Tucson has become a pretty crappy place to try and find a good job.”

    Isn’t that the real issue? It sure seems to me that squibbling over a comment on a blog that about 25 people read is deflecting from real issues.

    The last several years of city leadership is completely indefensible, which is why the apologists have nothing to talk about other than personality issues and blog comments.

  9. Francine Shacter

    The recall is a cynical, exploitive tantrum on the part of people with more money than good judgment. The city of Tucson is in financial difficulty (understatement) so instead of helping, the folks who lost are willing to spend a lot of money to try to turn around the results of the election in November.

    SHAME on the poor loosers, those who have no loyalty to our Tucson community – just a determination to get their way, regardless of the consequences to the city!


  10. David–

    You can spin your silly story any way you want but the use of Ms Romero’s newborn child to fend off a recall was a cheap political move and I am sure this will come back to haunt her–

    As will the 2009 COT audit

    As will the COT budget deficit

    As will job losses inside her ward due to her incompetent style of governance

    As will the Rio Nuevo audit ( that ought to be very revealing )

    As will her support of a renter’s tax and then having the chutzpah to call it a “landlord’s franchise tax” ( you folks certainly have a way with words )

    As will her nearly irrelevant and incomprehensible bloviating from the dais of the council chambers

    As will her support of laying off police and firefighters

    As will the manner in which the COT is so unfriendly to the taxpayers and hard working Tucsonans

    Ms Romero will need more than a newborn baby’s waaaaaaaaah to get her out of the political jam she’s facing in the recall. There is no doubt Regina will be pounding the pavement looking for gainful employment after the recall and like so many in her ward and around town have discovered the Tucson City Council can scream from the top of Mt Lemmon they are business friendly but the sad reality is due to their failed policies Tucson has become a pretty crappy place to try and find a good job .