By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
From the revelations regarding Ashley Madison, to the pending divorce of our State’s governor, there has been an almost pornographic revelry in these most human of failings, each of which exposes the follies and temptations that can overtake any life.
The discovery that politicos, lobbyists, and others in state government were alleged to have used the affair-promising dating site to commit adultery kept the rumor mill running at full-speed, as now does the flush of speculation as to why first lady Dianne Bentley is divorcing her husband of 50 years.
Gov. Robert Bentley has enjoyed the reputation of a good and honest man, who could, above all else, be trusted. That popularity has eroded somewhat with his push for new taxes, and, to a leaser degree, with how he retired the Confederate flags from the Capital memorial.
Adultery and divorce do not spark the same flame of public condemnation as in bygone days, but it is fair to expect surprise, disgust, rumor, or one of its sisters to appear on blogs, in print, and in conversation.
While Bentley is not the first Governor of our State to be divorced (that distinction goes to George Wallace) it will surely be a significant body-blow to the political order of things.
Divorce is not a crime, and neither were the actions of the respective cheaters on Ashley Madison.
This all begs the question regarding morality in leadership. But, perhaps these questions have already been asked, and answered, when Mike Hubbard was indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption, only to be cheered by some fellow republicans, and then reelected Speaker of the House by all Republicans.
The Republican supermajority came to power preaching a gospel of transparency, accountability, and ending public corruption in Montgomery. Many espoused traditional family values as well. In just the last two years, five Republican lawmakers have been arrested with accusations of domestic violence, drunkenness, lying, and cheating.
This does not bode well for the ALGOP brand.
Now, once again, thunder cracks over the capitol, and we now wait to see where the lightning strikes.
It is easy to understand how this all becomes much worse for the Bentley family, and the State. But, how it becomes better seems difficult to imagine.
Already, the radio scandalmongers, and political bloodsuckers are poised to extract a pound of flesh.
Judge not, least you also be judged?
Those who cloak themselves in false outrage for political, or ratings gains, while fanning the embers of scandal, are themselves condemned in the eyes of decent people.
While there are no heroes in this saga, there will be plenty marked with villainy.
So, who has the moral authority to lead?
John Adams rightly observed, “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”
At a time when our State teeters on the brink of a major fiscal realignment, which may mean cutting services and closing government facilities across the board, two of the three most powerful officers responsible for managing these problems are out of frame. The Governor is going through a divorce, and the Speaker is going to criminal trial. That leaves the Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh as the only man standing with any real political capital left.
There is now a qualitative shift in power, giving Marsh and his allies the helm.
It is far too early to count Gov. Bentley out, but for the moment, he is only a minor figure in the equation. As for Hubbard, his very character should have excluded him from government service years ago. That he still remains Speaker is a testament to the moral weakness of the Republican supermajority, and the complicity of the Democrat minority.
A handful of House members have broken with Hubbard, and they may join forces with key Senators to navigate the State forward through these turbulent times, utilizing Marsh’s leadership.
This will be a test to determine who will show moral leadership in a time of moral failings.
The Governor’s press office issued the following statement, “The Governor asks that you please respect the privacy of the Bentley family during this difficult time.”
We should respect the privacy of the Bentley family, but the Governor is a public figure, who was elected and reelected because people perceived him as a good and honest man. Therefore, the public will demand answers and they deserve to have them.
Perhaps, in light of the Ashley Madison scandal, and the impending Bentley divorce, we should not focus on how terrible the world is, but how sad and broken it can become. But, for every broken promise, there is a new day in which to keep our vows. For every crook, there are hundreds and thousands who give more than they take. And yes, for every moral failing there are millions who live by love and faith.
So, what now shall we do?
Micah 6:8b instructs us, “and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God…”
That is the journey forward.