By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Steve Marshall might be a fine man.
He might be all of the things that his friends and his co-workers said he is during Marshall’s swearing-in ceremony as Alabama’s new Attorney General.
He might be.
But right now, most of the State and half of the big-time players around Montgomery believe he’s tainted.
He’s a patsy. He’s Gov. Robert Bentley’s get-out-of-jail-free card. He’s shady and crooked and part of the corruption.
This is what people are saying about Marshall.
And none of it is his fault.
This is what happens when elected officials act in their own self-interest instead of in the interest of the people. It’s what happens when laws and rules aren’t followed.
The people become distrustful of everyone. There is a cloud left hanging over everyone and every office involved.
Bentley and now-US Sen. Luther Strange did this to Marshall. They did it by so thoroughly botching Strange’s appointment to the Senate.
An ethical AG never would have accepted such an appointment. An ethical governor … well, that ship has sailed, but you know what I mean.
At the very least, Strange owed the people of Alabama an explanation for what happened to this mysterious investigation – whether of Bentley or not – that caused him to send a letter to the legislative impeachment committee asking that they pause their proceedings. In that letter, Strange said the committee’s work could overlap with an investigation being conducted by his office, possibly causing problems with witnesses and evidence.
Strange owed all of us an explanation for that.
But mostly, he owed Marshall an explanation. Because without that explanation, here’s what most of the state thinks: that Bentley appointed Strange to the Senate to move him out of the AG’s office so he could appoint Marshall as new AG, with an agreement that Marshall would kill or stifle the investigation into Bentley’s possible misuse of State resources.
Instead of an explanation from Strange, though, we got a goofy, grade-school, wink-and-nod statement about the AG’s office never saying officially it was investigating the Governor. It came despite numerous sources who have been directly involved with the investigation saying that there absolutely is an investigation of Bentley.
I have to say, I’ve been doing this awhile and that statement from Strange was the dumbest, weakest, most mind-boggling statement I’ve ever heard an elected official give.
It pretty much screamed: “Yeah, there’s an investigation and I shouldn’t be doing this, but you know what, I don’t care. I’m going anyway, because I think that once I get to DC, the dopes in this State will elect me forever.”
And because of it, the reality facing Marshall on Day One as AG – a fairly tough job – is that most of the state and some of the people he’s relying on to do that job don’t trust his motives.
He can resolve a lot of that by the way he handles himself and his office over the next few weeks and months. But his opening press conference did little assuage those fears, particularly when Marshall insisted that he never spoke with Bentley about the potential investigation and that he was unaware if one existed.
If that’s true, why?
Marshall was in Montgomery most of the weekend and he clearly has a relationship with some of the people who work in the AG’s office. How is his first question not: “So, what’s up with that investigation of Bentley?”
And how, during his interview with Bentley could he not ask about it to ensure the governor understood that he wouldn’t accept an appointment with strings?
That seems … strange.
As does Marshall’s refusal to say whether he’s planning to shake up the staff in AG’s public corruption unit – the one that took down Mike Hubbard, is investigating Bentley (allegedly) and handling another investigation in Birmingham.
But then, maybe it’s all worry for nothing. Maybe Marshall is the honest, straight-shooting guy his friends say he is.
If so, his first act will have to be figuring a way out of the cesspool he’s just jumped in.