All of it hints that perhaps the state's two most powerful conservative political leaders have warped personalities.
The notion that someone on Team Riley caused me to be cheated out of my job as an editor at UAB in May 2008 is not new. I long have suspected that, mainly because a UAB human-resources official admitted that I was targeted because of my reporting about injustice in the Don Siegelman prosecution. No one has benefited more from the political destruction of Don Siegelman than Bob Riley and his children, especially the Birmingham lawyer duo of Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell.
When I tried to interview Rob Riley via phone in early 2013, his comments made it clear that he and "The Family" do not appreciate my reporting, to the point that Riley Jr. concocted a dubious defamation lawsuit that caused me to be unlawfully incarcerated in October 2013. (By the way, I tape recorded the conversation with UAB's Anita Bonasera, and the audio can be heard at the end of this post; I also have audio of the Riley interview, but it might collide with an unlawful permanent injunction that I'm under, so I will hold off on posting it for now.)
The Hubbard/Riley e-mails don't provide absolute proof about anyone's job loss. But they reveal a mindset where the speaker and former governor seem to have no qualms about ruining careers, almost as a form of political sport.
Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter, provides insight on the Hubbard/Riley mindset in a new article titled "Email Sheds Light on Clerk's Removal and New Sheriff's Methods." Britt comes close to labeling Hubbard and Riley as sociopaths, a diagnosis that I would say is pretty much on target.
The primary lesson from the e-mail exchange, Britt reports, is that "Hubbard wants to protect Riley’s State contracts, and demonstrate his personal toughness to State House staff." Britt points to the ouster of Dianne Harper, long-time clerk of the joint Legislative Contract Review Committee, as an example of Hubbard's "tough guy" approach.
Britt also notes Hubbard's reference to an article about Harper's exit, by former Huntsville Times reporter Bob Lowry. It seems clear from the e-mail, dated February 11, 2011, that neither Hubbard nor Riley appreciates Lowry's ability to investigate such matters. In September 2011, roughly seven months after the Hubbard/Riley communication, Lowry was forced out of his job. Is that coincidence? We doubt it.
Let's take a closer look at the e-mail in question. It begins with Hubbard touting the joyful news that he has just turned 49 years old. The speaker quickly turns to more serious topics:
We are shaking things up at the State House, that's for sure. I need to fire about 4 or 5 people pretty soon to really set the tone that new sheriffs are in town and in control.
Notice that Hubbard does not indicate any of these people are doing a poor job and deserve to be fired. He just likes the notion of others suffering so that his "tone" can be set. Perhaps they will have wonderful birthdays while standing in unemployment lines.
What was the chance of such a response from Bob Riley? It probably was zero. Here is part of what he said, and there is no indication he has any problem with Hubbard's plans to fire people:
Happy Birthday, Mike. . . . You are setting the agenda and getting more coverage than anyone! Keep it up!In other words, "Fire even more people if you want to. It's working!" Why would Hubbard mention the firing plans to Riley? Probably because he learned such tactics from the governor himself. You can almost hear Hubbard waiting for a pat on the head from his mentor, like a dog who has brought in a wet newspaper from the sidewalk.
That brings us back to the warped psychology behind the Hubbard/Riley missives. Britt tries to explain it by pointing to a Psychology Today article titled "The Narcissistic Boss." That caught my attention because my former UAB boss, who played a significant role in my unlawful termination, displayed almost all of the following characteristics:
1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance
2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique
4. requires excessive admiration
5. has a sense of entitlement
6. is interpersonally exploitative
7. lacks empathy
8. is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
As for Hubbard and Riley, I would suggest that they show major signs of sociopathy, with significant narcissistic traits. The main characteristic of sociopathy (also known as antisocial personality disorder) is lack of a conscience, a callous unconcern for the feelings of others. Interestingly, both sociopathy and narcissism are considered among 10 known personality disorders, and the two conditions share quite a few traits. In fact, psychologists place both of them in Cluster B of personality disorders, which are marked by erratic and dramatic behavior.
Both disorders are considered almost impossible to treat, and those who have them can inflict significant emotional damage on others.
This is from "Sociopath Next Door," an article by Allan Schwartz, Ph.D., at mentalhelp.net:
Perhaps the most difficult for the rest of us to understand is that the sociopath has absolutely no conscience. In other words, they are without any sense of morality or guilt. The cannot and do not empathize with others and how they feel. When most of us look at other people we feel a sense of commonality and shared humanity. That is why we find it difficult to believe that there is a type of person who does not share the kind of compassion and connectedness that characterizes most of humanity. . . .
No one knows what causes sociopathy except that there is accumulating evidence that it stems from parts of the brain that are abnormal. In other words, it's a biological problem that may be inherited. Early life experiences, such as having been abused, may contribute to worsening the sociopathy.
Hubbard has been indicted on 23 corruption charges, and the e-mails with Riley could become central to a criminal trial. But the psychological component of the communications might be of most interest to the public right now--and it paints a very ugly picture of politics in Alabama.