Perhaps a therapist would have been better

Published 12:49 am Saturday, April 2, 2016

An editor friend lost the office pool Thursday, when Gov. Robert Bentley did not resign by noon as Bob had personally predicted. He’d publicly called for the governor’s resignation last week, and was sure Bentley would have bowed to public pressure by now.

I wasn’t invited to participate in his office pool. But if he’d invited me, I’d still be in.

Even as my friend was writing his editorial last week, we were disagreeing.

“Why?” I responded to his text announcing his intentions to call for a resignation.

“Because he’s no longer effective,” editor Bob said.

“When was he ever?” I countered.

He really didn’t – and doesn’t – have a good argument for that.

Bentley came from the back row of the legislature to win the governor’s office on almost a fluke. You might recall that Bradley Byrne was a frontrunner for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010, but the Alabama Education Association had a score to settle with him. They put tons of money into Bentley’s campaign, not because they were for him or felt any confidence in his ability to govern, but because they were against Byrne.

While he might not have been prepared for the job, the governor had the good sense in the beginning to listen to a smart, bipartisan group, that helped him get his politics in order. Count among them our own Speaker Seth Hammett, who reorganized the Alabama Development Office for Bentley and later was chief of staff.

But even with the help of some really good people, in six years, Bentley’s not been very effective with the legislature. It didn’t appear the final years of his administration would be any different, even before allegations of inappropriate behavior were made last week.

Bentley had just fired cabinet member Spencer Collier, who countered with the allegations. For far less money than Bentley has apparently paid his alleged paramour, Rebekah Mason, to give him political guidance, I would have offered him this advice: Be quiet.

If he had simply said, “It would be inappropriate for me to respond to Mr. Collier’s remarks while he is the subject of an investigation,” the topic of the day would have been the legislature’s passage of a General Fund budget, which by the way, is way more important than the governor’s alleged improprieties.

Instead, Bentley issued a statement, took questions, and slipped, starting a firestorm that has put him square in the center of state news. More than once, he’s trumped the presidential race on national evening news shows.

That the governor might have a girlfriend is such a tiny piece of the real story.

Why, I’d like to know, if my friend The Speaker needed Ethics Commission approval to be an employee on loan from PowerSouth while working for the state, could Ms. Mason work for the governor, be paid by undisclosed sources, and not need the same approval? Whether or not she’s the governor’s girlfriend, the same standard should apply.

And why would the same governor who charmed a whole bunch of Alabamians with his Alabama’s sick, and she needs a doctor line very sickly seek to influence a criminal investigation by ordering an employee, Mr. Collier, not to cooperate with those investigating current Speaker Mike Hubbard? Among the charges against Hubbard are several alleging he improperly lobbied the governor for his clients. No way any good attorney would call Robert Bentley as a witness in that case now.

My friend Bob still sees a future that features Gov. Kay Ivey. I say Bentley will hold out and hold on. Meanwhile, anyone know a good psychologist? It won’t be long until 2018 … Alabama politics are dysfunctional, and we need a therapist.


Michele Gerlach is the publisher of The Star-News. She can be reached by email at michele.gerlach@andalusiastarnews, or by phone at 222-2402.