PHOENIX — It’s not exactly life imitating art, but a state senator from Mesa decided to air the fictional “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Tuesday for colleagues and staff.
Republican Sen. David Farnsworth said the 1939 movie would educate them about the nature of politics, corruption in government and “swamp creatures” that wear suits and ties at the state Capitol. He called the movie a lesson in caution.
And he’s convinced there’s corruption in state government in Arizona and a swamp to be drained here, just like in Washington in 1939 and now, he said.
“The message is, there’s a lot of influences that we deal with,” Farnsworth told Capitol Media Services of the classic Jimmy Stewart movie. “Some of them are positive and some of them are negative. And I think as legislators we need to be aware of those influences and have our eyes open and not be naive.”
Farnsworth said he does not fancy himself as a latter-day Jefferson Smith, the Stewart character in the Frank Capra movie about a naive innocent who finds himself in the U.S. Senate doing battle with corrupt lawmakers.
“The character in the movie was a very pure-minded individual. And I wouldn’t claim to be as good as he was,” Farnsworth quipped.
But he said there are parallels between his own decision to get involved in politics and what’s going on in Washington right now.
Those started, Farnsworth said, with the impeachment and conviction of Republican Gov. Evan Mecham in 1988 by the Arizona Legislature. Among the charges was that Mecham was guilty of obstruction of justice for telling the director of the Department of Public Safety not to cooperate in an investigation of an alleged death threat by a state official against a former Mecham aide.
Farnsworth said what happened to Mecham is “similar to what they’re doing to Trump in Washington right now,” with some Congress members saying the Mueller report left open the question of whether the president engaged in obstruction.
He said he “absolutely” believes there is corruption in Arizona.
“If I knew where it was, I would clean it up,” he said. “Thus, the film to remind us.
“Any time there’s big power and big money, it’s common sense that there’s a certain amount of corruption. We don’t know who the players are, but we need to be continually vigilant to see if we can root that corruption out.
“It’s difficult to drain the swamp because you don’t know who the swamp creatures are because they all wear suits and ties and big smiles.”
A handful of lawmakers attended the screening.