Brazen move gives new mean­ing to ‘col­lu­sion’

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

Lots of folks are still mad about our lame duck gov­er­nor Robert Bent­ley nam­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Luther Strange to Jeff Ses­sions Se­nate seat.

If the sit­ting at­tor­ney gen­eral of a state openly states that he is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the gov­er­nor for mis­fea­sance and then that gov­er­nor ap­points that at­tor­ney gen­eral to the se­nate seat it looks funny. It gives new mean­ing to the word col­lu­sion.

This brazen move has in­censed leg­is­la­tors who have heard from their con­stituents back home. It has es­pe­cially up­set mem­bers of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. They were asked to cease the im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings last year in def­er­ence to Strange’s re­quest to lead an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the gov­er­nor’s shenani­gans. Need­less to say they have re­in­stated their im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against old Bent­ley with re­newed vigor.

Sev­eral leg­is­la­tors have taken is­sue with the gov­er­nor’s call­ing for the se­nate seat elec­tion in 2018, rather than im­me­di­ately. The con­sti­tu­tion says the elec­tion should be held forth­with. That is open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. The more pru­dent path is 2018, since there are elec­tions any­way. That is tra­di­tion­ally the way it has been done in the state in the past. How­ever, most seats in by­gone days were va­cated by the death of one of our se­na­tors and the gov­er­nor usu­ally ap­pointed the de­ceased se­na­tor’s widow for the re­main­ing year or so on the term. She was con­sid­ered a care­taker to the seat. There has been so much grief and ac­ri­mony to Strange’s ap­point­ment that he may be a care­taker.

I have never be­fore seen a gov­er­nor treated with such dis­dain and ir­rev­er­ence by a leg­is­la­ture as ole Bent­ley. They prob­a­bly will not tech­ni­cally im­peach the ole fel­low. He only has about 20 months left in his ten­ure and he is essen­tially im­peached from power any­way. Most of them look at him as a buf­foon or clown. He has about as much rel­e­vance in the leg­isla­tive process as one of the for­mer goats that used to graze on Goat Hill.

The ultimate fall­out from Bent­ley’s ac­tions and un­pop­u­lar­ity may ac­crue to Luther Strange in his elec­tion race in 14 months. Win­ning the GOP pri­mary in this Se­nate race is tan­ta­mount to elec­tion in Alabama. There­fore, the race is in June of next year.

Big Luther stands a good 6’9”. His height is daunt­ing. He was ac­tu­ally a col­lege bas­ket­ball player at Tu­lane. Luther spent the first 20 years of his ca­reer as a cor­po­rate lob­by­ist in Wash­ing­ton. See­ing the power and def­er­ence of be­ing a U.S. Se­na­tor made an im­pres­sion. He came home to run for a sec­ondary con­sti­tu­tional of­fice and get ready to run for a Se­nate seat va­cated by ei­ther of his friends, Richard Shelby or Jeff Ses­sions. He chose the right stepping stone job, At­tor­ney Gen­eral.

Big Luther is ba­si­cally a shy and re­served fel­low. He is not a nat­u­ral politi­cian. He was on the right course when he ini­tially said that he would not seek nor ac­cept Bent­ley’s ap­point­ment and that he was run­ning for the post in­de­pen­dent of the dis­cred­ited gov­er­nor’s ap­point­ment. He changed his mind and met with Bent­ley and took the ap­point­ment.

His trusted ad­vi­sors con­vinced him that folks have short mem­o­ries and that over the next year as a sit­ting U.S. Se­na­tor he can raise so much Wash­ing­ton cam­paign cash that he can out­spend his op­po­si­tion to such an ex­tent that it will wash away the taint of the Bent­ley ap­point­ment. He may be right. That may be a good bet.

How­ever, folks may be smarter and more cog­nizant of bold brazen back­room deals than some think. Just ask Bill Bax­ley how that worked out in 1986 when some Demo­cratic Party lead­ers got be­hind closed doors and se­lected Bax­ley to be the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee over Char­lie Grad­dick who got the most votes. The peo­ple were so in­censed they elected an un­known Repub­li­can named Guy Hunt as Gov­er­nor.

How­ever, there is the prag­matic side of the equa­tion. Dur­ing that 1986 de­ba­cle Bill Bax­ley, who was lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, had be­come close with the King of Alabama pol­i­tics, Gov. George Wal­lace. Wal­lace was in his last term as gov­er­nor and Bax­ley had sensed a back­lash might oc­cur with such an au­da­cious brazen move by his Demo­cratic Party bud­dies, so he went to Wal­lace for his ad­vice. Ole Wal­lace took a puff on his cigar and looked at Bax­ley wryly and said, “Bill you know what they call a gov­er­nor who gets to be gov­er­nor by a back­room deal?” Bax­ley asked “What?” Wal­lace said, “They call him Gov­er­nor.”

Steve Flow­ers is Alabama’s lead­ing po­lit­i­cal columnist. His weekly col­umn ap­pears in over 60 Alabama news­pa­pers. He served 16 years in the state leg­is­la­ture. Steve may be reached at www.steve­flow­ers. us.

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