By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Vice, vainer and corruption has left Alabama a leaderless State, but there is hope that some with integrity will step forward to fill the void.
Governor Robert Bentley has long ago forfeited any claim of moral leadership and to list his many failings would be as tedious as it is long.
However, calls for his impeachment may be premature.
How can those who defended former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard chanting “innocent until proven guilty” in the face of his indictment on 23 felony counts of public corruption now feign such righteous anger at this scoundrel Bentley? Hubbard was convicted of 12 of those charges and today, many of those same individuals who blithely ignored Hubbard’s malfeasance want to hang the fool on Goat Hill.
For years, State Auditor Jim Zeigler has been the most prominent voice in opposition to our State government’s incompetence, inefficiency, and squandering. There may be those who question his style, but the substance of his railings against Gov. Robert Bentley, the Department of Finance and other agencies are factual and honest.
Over the last several months, the House of Representatives, the Department of Finance, and now the Attorney General’s Office have witnessed changes in leadership. The reputations of those individuals who now hold these positions of power are not of self-serving, incompetence or corruption.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, Finance Director Clinton Carter, and Attorney General Steve Marshall have all taken their post at a time when our State is in dire need of competent moral leadership to right this floundering ship of State.
Not one of these individuals are new to command but they are recent occupants of such high offices.
McCutcheon and Marshall have an independence not afforded Carter, who serves at the pleasure of the Governor. But Carter is working diligently to restore integrity to a department that was subject to no less than four investigations under the former Acting Director.
So far Marshall is making the right moves to ensure the public that he will helm his office with tenacity and honesty. But it is McCutcheon who must show not only those in the House but for all Alabamians he is fighting on their behalf.
Like many individuals serving during Hubbard’s reign of corruption, McCutcheon made mistakes, and there are those who can’t seem to let that go. They should remember that they too cast their vote for Hubbard, even after he was indicted by a Lee County Grand Jury. And then there are the “Hubbardites” who so wildly feasted on the toxic elixir served during Hubbard’s orgy of greed, that they are even now delusional and threatening to divide the Republican House Caucus.
McCutcheon wants to wait to make leadership changes, but him may want to revisit that notion.
Bentley may very well deserve to be removed from office, but where’s the profit? What is the benefit to the State? How does the House now do to Bentley what it would not do to Hubbard? Hubbard was a crook who used his office and those around him for personal gain, while every House member stood by while Van Davis, Matt Hart and company use the courts to remove him from office.
Bentley has not been indicted so why the rush to judgment. Long-serving former Montgomery District Attorney Ellen Brooks is called upon to lead the team that toppled Hubbard, to investigate Bentley, and for now, that should be enough.
But what to do about Bentley?
Rather than impeaching the Governor, Speaker McCutcheon, joined by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, and all constitutional officers with spin, should quietly confront Bentley and if necessary his alleged lover and confidant Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and give them notice that it is time to shut up or stand down. They should tell Bentley that he must be content to visit Cracker Barrel and local groceries to tell the people how much he loves them. If not, then they should publicly denounce him and let the shame cow him into excepting the fact that he is the lamest of ducks. We are far past the hour when Bentley can earn political redemption, but if he can be put in a box before he is put out to pasture, all the better for the State.
Speaker McCutcheon is now the de facto leader of our State. If joined by Marsh, Marshall, Zeigler, Treasurer Young Boozer, Commissioner John McMilan, Secretary of State John Merrill and others, they together can bring Bentley to heel while assuring the State that they have the people’s best interest going forward.
Calmer heads will need to prevail so that the 2017 Legislative Session is not derailed by a sideshow of impeachment.
Impeachment before indict is a fools errand.