by Hardy Jackson
As the saga of Gov. Robert Bentley played out in the press and in the “social media” (a term I love to hate) I could not help but think about how the Bentley scandal compares to scandals of past politicians who governed in and around Alabama.
A quick review of the competition suggests that at least one thing sets the sorry story apart from the others.
In other states, and even in our own, past indiscretions and even crimes, committed by the voters’ choices, have about them a certain savoir faire, a certain jena se qua, a certain, you know, style.
Consider the case of Edwin Edwards, Gov. of Louisiana. Mired in one of the many scandals that ultimately sent him to prison, he was asked if the people of the Pelican State would ever elect him again. Of course they would. “The only way I can lose,” Edwards said, “is if they catch me in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” Finesse. His supporters had it too.
Although Edwards had the good fortune to be running against white supremacist David Duke, his campaign feared his legal problems would catch up with him, so backers plastered the state with bumper stickers reading “Vote for the Crook, it’s important.” Bazinga.
Have any anti-impeachment fans of Bentley some up with something better? How about “Keep the Groping Governor on Goat Hill.”
Of course, when the subject of sexual misconduct in Alabama is discussed, pretty soon someone brings up James E. “Big Jim” Folsom.
Bentley could learn a lot from how “Big Jim” defused a scandal.
When accused of having slept with a woman in a Phenix City motel, Folsom responded, “That’s a lie. Nobody slept.”
But the LuvGov ain’t fessin’ up. Inappropriate is about the best he gave us.
Then, while Alabamians were trying to come to grips with the idea that their governor had (gasp) “a girl friend” – as a friend put it, “if he can, anyone can”—word got out that there was more involved than a little hanky-panky on state time. Something criminal.
Well, other governors have known how to deal with that .
When Georgia Gov. Gene Talmadge was accused of using state money to help some farmers get a better price for their livestock, Ole Gene admitted it.
“Why shore I stole,” Talmadge boasted at a political rally, “but I stole for you.”
Don’t think that will work for Bro. Bentley. From what we hear, he would not want us looking too closely at who he stole for, assuming he stole at all. Anyway, as Talmadge knew, if you gonna steal, steal for the right people. Like Louisiana (that state again) Gov. Earl Long did.
Long carried on an affair with New Orleans stripper Blaze Starr, that shocked the good folks of the state. However, they forgave him, because he got kids free school lunches, got teachers raises, and got people jobs on public works projects.
What has Bentley given folks to atone for his sins? Right.
Nothing – though there may be a kickback or two we don’t know about.
He can’t even claim he (and she) have run an administration untainted by corruption, though if someone brings that up he could again fall back on Long, who famously said that “one day the people of Louisiana will elect good government, but they won’t like it.”
Truth is, rumors of the governor playing free and loose with the rules and regulations we are all supposed to follow have been circulating around the statehouse for a long time.
In Alabama, public indignation is hard to rise. As a college friend noted, “when did the public dive in? When they saw tits!”
In many ways, the most class, the most style, shown in this whole sordid mess was shown by my old Poutin’ House buddy, Jim Cox, whose newspaper empire has some folks calling him the Rupert Murdoch of Southwest Alabama – OK, I’m the only one who calls him that, but it has a certain ring to it.
Back in 2010, Jim endorsed Bentley in the Republican primary.Why?
Because (get ready) “we like his . . . hands on style.” Snort. Giggle.
Then, when word reached Jim of just how “hands on” the governor’s approach was, he did what few journalists and even fewer politicians do these days. He repented.
“The bottom line,” Jim wrote, “is this is all sad and embarrassing for Alabama.”
Then he added, “And so much for my endorsement too.”
A lot of other folks who endorsed this governor need to do what Jim did. Repent and be cleansed. While there is still time.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.