By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Mar 07, 2013 at 5:02 AM

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For a while Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has been kind of like your troubled cousin who comes to Thanksgiving dinner and makes everyone feel a little uneasy.

But he’s your cousin, so you all live with it.

But I think Clarke has finally gone over the edge and has become a danger, if not to himself, at least to the reputation of Milwaukee County.

And we ought to find something to do about it, rather than sit back and just talk about what a wacko the guy is.

Now, I don’t kid myself here. Clarke has a lot of supporters in this community, not the least of whom are the two biggest talk show hosts in Milwaukee, Mark Belling and Charles Sykes. When Clarke snaps his whip, the two of them roar loudly and flood the airwaves with praise for our courageous sheriff.

But even they must have some problem with the letter that Clarke wrote to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham may not live in the Tea Party house but he does have residence in the back yard.

The background is the recent appearance by Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn before a Congressional committee discussing gun control measures. Flynn and Graham got into a bit of a tiff over the question of banning assault rifles and magazines with all those bullets in them.

Well, Clarke has now written a self-serving letter to Graham apologizing for Flynn and his "embarrassing behavior" of Flynn during his appearance.

"Please do not see his arrogance as exemplary of the people in Milwaukee County ... he has no constituency of his own. He is an appointed bureaucrat."

After a few more shots at Flynn, Clarke got on his knees and began begging for political contributions.

"I watched in utter disbelief as he talked over and interrupted you. You Senator, are a distinguished and respected member of the United States Senate, and have represented the people of the state of South Carolina in Congress since 1994. The way you have conducted yourself on Capitol Hill personifies statesmanship."

And Clarke couldn’t stop there.

"Chief Flynn showed you none (of the respect you deserve) as he shamefully tried to shout you down and talk over you as you asked very relevant questions about street violence in Milwaukee, that he did not want to address because it would unveil his true motive, which is gun control, not a reduction in street violence."

Ask yourself why in the name of all that’s holy, would Clarke write a letter like this.

The answer is simple: campaign contributions.

Clarke must run for reelection in November next year and his bizarre behavior is bound to bring out a worthy challenger. But if Clarke can tap into the Tea Party fundraising machine, he could pile up enough money to bury any challenge. But it seems that beating him at the polls would be the only way to rid ourselves of our cowboy sheriff, complete with big belt buckle, cowboy hat, cowboy boots and a big horse to ride.

I checked with the attorney general’s office, the legal resource center of Milwaukee County, the State of Wisconsin Law Library reference desk and the Government Accountability Board if there was any way to remove a sheriff from office.

The answer was no, though Steve Pickett of the GAB said it may be possible to have the state legislature do something. But he wasn’t sure.

My guess is that we are stuck. But it will be fun to watch this guy continue to pander to the right wing and build his war chest.


Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.