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Be strong, Judge Walker, for Alabama

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Perhaps this is it. Perhaps Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard won’t be able to delay his corruption trial yet again.

Perhaps we’re another day closer to putting this horrid scandal behind us. Or, should I say, away from us. What’s occurred will never be behind us. It’ll forever be in the history of Alabama.

Yes, even if Mike Hubbard is acquitted of all 23 corruption charges, it existed during some of the most crucial times when Alabama needed leadership it didn’t have.

The damage is certainly permanent. As was the damage caused by previous Alabama politicians caught up in corruption scandals.

They damage our state’s image – frankly, an image that didn’t need any more damage. The damage is done, and so many in Alabama leadership positions shrug and say: “So, what?”

The Republicans came in, all full of themselves, ready to govern. Except they didn’t know how. They embarrassed themselves and picked on teachers, public sector workers, and the poor. As usual.

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If this were new to Alabama, it’d be even more scandalous. Sadly, it’s not new, and that’s scandalous in itself.

As my editor here at Alabama Political Reporter so well noted this week, Lee County Judge Jacob Walker III is at the forefront. Walker has kept the Hubbard case on schedule as much as he could, despite desperate attempts by Hubbard to do most anything to get the trial delayed.

That trial is set for March 28, and Walker appears firmly determined that it’ll go forward this time.

Considering the pressure Hubbard and friends have put on just about everybody – government officials, friends, members of the media – it’s encouraging that Walker is staying the course.

That Hubbard so bad wants yet another delay, what does that say about Hubbard’s chances of surviving the trial?

To observers, it says Hubbard has lots to hide. So much so, that he’d rather outlast it than face it.

But eventually, Hubbard must face it. Let’s hope that face-to-face comes starting March 28.

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To say Hubbard is a disappointment is an understatement. His promise, like so many other Alabama politicians, has turned into a nightmare for him, his family and, yes, most important, our state.

The leadership of Gov. Robert Bentley and Senate leader Del Marsh have been underwhelming. But Hubbard has been a disaster.

Why the Speaker insists on seeing it through – and why Republicans who said they could govern let him – is a great mystery.

This is not unlike the Koch brothers as documented by Jane Mayer in her recently published “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” The Kochs live by their own rules. They undermine democracy in the nation and individual states with big money – hugely big money. And much of that big money is untraceable.

No doubt, Hubbard believed the rules applied to everybody but himself. As Mayer writes, the Koch brothers became livid when one of their schemes was exposed, when their companies were outed as polluters, when their treatment of their own employees was revealed.

Hubbard also throws tantrums. And he attacks those who he believes are plotting against him, those who tell the truth. Like my friend Bill Britt.

Let’s end this terrible mess. Please be strong, Judge Walker. Hold March 28 firm. We need to get Hubbard and his tantrums and his threats and his disastrous “leadership” behind us. Alabama needs it. Needs it terribly.

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As Britt wrote this week, the legendary federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, an immovable advocate of civil rights in an era when it was least popular: “Judge Johnson stood rock-ribbed against the political corruption of his day, and in doing so, changed not only the face of Alabama, but the nation. The New York Times wrote: ‘In that turbulent era, with the national conscience tottering, and a few courageous men and women asking Americans to decide what kind of people they wanted to be, Judge Johnson loomed as a towering figure, an uncompromising defender of civil liberties who came to be known as the Federal Judiciary’s most influential, innovative and controversial trial jurist.’”

What kind of people do we want to be? There is no telling what kind of pressure Judge Walker is under. Frank Johnson was under much pressure as well, including death threats. He stood firm and did the right thing.

Let’s do the right thing. Let’s get this Hubbard drama behind us and try to figure out how we’ll fix the mess left it its wake.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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