By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”
It seems evident that Gov. Robert Bentley sits in a similar room without imagining the obvious way out.
If our sources are correct, on April 5, the State’s Ethics Commission will hear evidence of possible wrongdoing on his part. How Director Tom Albritton presents the facts of the investigation will be critical to what happens next. Albritton finds himself in the unenviable position of introducing the fruit of an almost year-long investigation. How he presents those facts, what he says and doesn’t say will perhaps mean more than the ethics probe itself.
When on July 5, 2016, FBI Director James B. Comey made his remarks on the FBI’s investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail system, he laid the groundwork for an onslaught of negative reports on her candidacy (This is not to argue any justification for Secretary Clinton but rather point to an example). Toward the end of his statement Comey said, “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” The words “extremely careless” condemned Clinton in the eyes of a great portion of the electorate.
This week, Comey made several statements that cast doubt on President Trump’s tweets and revealed an almost nine-month investigation into Russian influence or ties to President Trump’s campaign. In both instances, the FBI Director’s public statements were a harsh blow, uncharacteristic of FBI protocol.
Comey’s words had weight, as will Albritton’s in determining the perception of the investigation.
If there are serious charges or any the commission votes to refer to the State’s Attorney General’s Office, then it is widely believed there will be a stampede in the House of Representatives to impeach Bentley.
Would this be a rational course of action or an emotional response to a Governor, who has embarrassed his State, shamed himself, and continues to rub the Legislature’s nose into what appears to be an inappropriate relationship? Ferrying Rebekah Caldwell Mason and her husband to the Presidential Inauguration and having her sit in the First Lady’s seat at the State of the State has infuriated lawmakers and much of Alabama, notably, Republicans, who are feeling the sting of Bentley’s filtration. It is common knowledge within the bubble of Goat Hill that Mason, who announced over a year ago she was leaving government service, still writes his speeches, gives Bentley counsel, and is frequently his companion. The Legislature rightfully has a visceral disgust to Bentley recklessly flaunting this relationship.
But, are these impeachable offenses or just poor judgment, unrestrained behavior, and hubris in motion?
Another reason the House is so intent on Bentley’s impeachment is that they ignored, made excuses, and cowardly allowed Mike Hubbard to continue as Speaker, even after being indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption. Of course, all the House except Rep. Alvin Holmes feared Hubbard, but no one trembles before Bentley.
Recently, the Governor called his Cabinet together to say he would fight on until the end. In an “either you are for me or against me” speech, he told his cabinet he would not resign, or give quarter to those who want him removed from office. Why should he leave? There are no charges being presented by Law Enforcement, only a Special Grand Jury in Montgomery County. There is smoke but is there fire?
Let’s face it, Bentley has done some improper things; immoral things. Consider what he did to former ALEA Chief Spencer Collier, his wife, his own children, and those who believed in him.
He hasn’t even thought to honestly address his relationship with Mason. He defiantly refuses to acknowledge his failures.
As for now, Bentley lacks a fire brigade of supporters to help extinguish the blaze he has started.
The Ethics Commission meeting on April 5, may bring good news, bad news, or no news, but the State will be watching how Director Albritton chooses his words.
Bentley is his own worst enemy.
He keeps pushing when he should pull.