By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In what universe do we find Liberal Democrats from New York calling for the indicted speaker of the General Assembly to step down from his leadership post and so-called Southern Republican Conservatives doing just the opposite? Welcome to the “Brave New World: Politics of the Absurd.”
Last week, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly, was indicted on five counts of public corruption. Silver, a democrat, is considered the most power politico in the Empire State. Within days of his indictment he has been forced to step down as the head to the State’s General Assembly.
Here in the Heart of Dixie, the bastion of conservative law and order, they held a pep rally for Speaker Mike Hubbard, after he was charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption.
What do the Northern Democratic elite know that Southern Republican elite do not? Perhaps a better question is, what do New York Democrats fear that Alabama Republicans do not?
New York Democrats fear the press. Alabama politicians fear the press too, but here in Dixie, the press has been practically silent. Within hours of Silver’s arrest, the New York Times called for Silver to resign from the New York Assembly.
The Times editorial board wrote, “In New York’s sleazy political world, where fairly obvious corruption is not just tolerated but encouraged by ethics laws that barely deserve the name, Mr. Silver does not have to relinquish his power even temporarily. That, in fact, is something he should have done two years ago…”
The Poughkeepsie Journal editorial board shared the same theme, as did the New York Daily News and others. The News board wrote, “They got the bastard. So say the feds. Presumption of innocence granted, it was a pleasure to see Sheldon Silver in handcuffs, for his offenses against New Yorkers have long been criminal. As Assembly speaker, Silver has practiced gangster rule fit for a Mafia social club without the guns and goons. Cross him and you were dead politically. Pay tribute and you prospered—if he felt like it.”
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle editorial board said, “No matter how you regard New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, his arrest Thursday on corruption-related charges is a potential disaster for the smooth functioning of the Legislature.”
The editorial board at syracuse.com opined, “It should go without saying that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver— charged Thursday with taking millions of dollars in graft—must resign from that job. He’s politically crippled, ethically bankrupt and supremely unfit to lead.”
Please note that these editorial boards did not ask just for Silver to step down temporarily as Speaker, they called for him to resign.
Interestingly, syracuse.com is owned by the same company as al.com, and this may illustrate the problem most clearly.
Here in Alabama, only the Alabama Political Reporter and the Dothan Eagle has called for Hubbard to step down.
The Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Press Register are all represented by al.com, and their editorial board has been timid when it comes to Hubbard. The Anniston Star: quiet. The Decatur Daily: nothing. The Gadsden Times, well, silent.
John Archibald and Josh Moon have made some serious jabs at the farce surrounding Hubbard but the full force of their news organizations has been absent.
In Alabama, the Fourth Estate has been cowed by Hubbard and comprised by his attorney J. Mark White. For over two years, White and Hubbard lied to the media about the State’s investigation into Hubbard’s wrong doing. (Is this not an excellent reason to distrust every word that comes from their mouths?) Yet, reporters still cover their spin as if it were gospel. White even makes sure that certain reporters are given Hubbard’s legal motions even before the State prosecutors see them.
Alabama news outlets are running on a treadmill while the Grim Reaper gains ground, and the very reason is not the decline in readership, per se, but the absence of courage and integrity to stand up and fight. That attracts loyal readers.
In New York, Democrats control the government. They called for the all-powerful Democratic speaker to resign. Add to that, the same call from the press, and Silver had to, at least, relinquish his leadership roll in the Assembly. Here in Alabama, the press is as silent as the grave, and this is why Hubbard remains Speaker.
The editorial boards of Alabama’s leading publicans remain quiet at this time of great political crisis. They are the ones who are supposed to represent the people of our State, calling for justice and pointing a finger at corruption. But, with lips sealed and hands buried deep in their pockets, they let the corrupt run amok without so much as a peep.
The press is what New York Democrats fear, but in Alabama, the Republicans know a majority of them will be as silent as lambs.