Let's begin today with a political truism. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is just about politically invulnerable as she approaches a run for her fifth term next year.
Let me count the ways: Smith is a moderate. She's a woman. She's a Republican, no bad thing in law enforcement. After 15 years in office, she has very high positives in the polls. And her office arrested a man in the Sierra LaMar case.
The only way she could lose to sheriff's Capt. Kevin Jensen would be if she makes four or five more mistakes like she did in an interview with Tony Kovaleski of NBC Bay Area News a week-and-a-half ago.
The Kovaleski piece (http://goo.gl/KBDqct) alleged that Smith's office engaged in preferential treatment toward Aldon Smith, the troubled and talented 49ers linebacker who lives in the east foothills.
Count one in the NBC indictment dealt with the release of the football player two hours after he was jailed on a DUI charge from Sept. 20. It was smallish potatoes.
Count two was more serious. Kovaleski revealed that Aldon Smith had been invited last June to a fundraising event of the sheriff's advisory board at the department's shooting range -- while he was being investigated for possessing illegal weapons.
That suspicion stemmed from a June 20, 2012, party at Smith's home at which the player was stabbed and two partygoers were shot.
At the sheriff's advisory board event, Aldon Smith got to ride in the sheriff's helicopter and fire weapons at the gun range. Given his background, that last bit was troublesome.
So what was the sheriff's reaction? When Kovaleski interviewed her, she said she was aware that Aldon Smith was a victim at the 2012 party, but she refused to acknowledge he was a suspect. That assertion was belied by the indictment of the linebacker two days after the interview on felony weapons charges.
Did the sheriff know the timing of the DA's indictment? You can argue persuasively that she did not. Should she have known that Aldon Smith was under investigation by her own department? Absolutely. He shouldn't have been at that event, even if people on the advisory board invited him.
What made matters worse is that the sheriff looked petulant under questioning by Kovaleski. It was a D-minus interview, and that might be kind. (She didn't respond to an email by my deadline.)
What's happening in the background? Well, it's hard to think that these stories would be emerging in a political vacuum. While Laurie Smith is very popular with the public, she is less so among the troops.
Two websites have already popped up that specialize in criticizing the sheriff anonymously. Her people say she has a good story to tell about her tenure. But the next time NBC Bay Area News calls, she might think long and hard about what she intends to say.