|Mo Brooks, Roy Moore, Luther Strange|
Kyle Whitmire, of al.com, wrote a piece yesterday, titled "What's Wrong With Alabama's Political Pipeline?" Whitmire's been around long enough to know the answer to that question is easy; it can be summed up in two words -- "Karl Rove."
If you want to go beyond a two-word explanation, you can add these phrases: (1) "Jack Abramoff"; and (2) "Complicity of the lazy, compromised, right-wing media."
Yes, Kyle Whitmire belongs in category No. 2; he's part of the problem that leads him to whine.
Whitmire is correct that the field is dreadful. The GOP field is led by the "Three Stooges" -- Roy Moore, Luther Strange, and Mo Brooks. Perhaps Donald Trump could join them to form a Mount Rushmore of the dysfunctional political right. A new poll shows that Strange -- the darling of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (and yes, Karl Rove) -- might not even make a runoff. Wouldn't that be a hoot?
On the Democratic side, recent polls show that an unknown from Mobile is leading, only because he has a familiar name -- Robert Kennedy Jr. The best-known candidate among the Democrats is Birmingham lawyer Doug Jones, who happens to be one of the biggest political phonies of the modern era. Jones tries to con black voters with his supposed civil-rights bona fides, but the reality is that he sucked up to the Riley Political Machine to make money off a HealthSouth civil case, and he helped cover up insurance fraud involving University of Alabama honcho Paul Bryant Jr., creating a toxic Tuscaloosa culture that would eventually fuel the Megan Rondini rape case.
If there is a candidate of competence and hope in the field, it probably is Democrat Michael Hansen, who is running as "an unapologetic progressive." Good for him. I just wish he was running as an unapologetic liberal because I get tired of seeing the "L word" used as a pejorative.
Says Hansen: "Democrats in Alabama have a clear choice this election. They can select a centrist that’s indistinguishable from the pack, or rally behind a candidate with real energy. As an unapologetic progressive, I’m talking about pocketbook issues that cross party lines. health care, wages, and the environment resonate with real voters and that’s how I’m winning.”
I like the sound of that, partly because it's a clear shot at Jones. Unfortunately, Hansen is openly gay, and that's generally not part of a winning recipe in Alabama. Still, I would like to see him make a runoff, with those races set for Sept. 26 -- and the general election on Dec. 12.
As for Rove, he ushered in what I call "The Modern Era of U.S. political corruption" by joining with Tom Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to turn state courts in the Deep South from Democrat to Republican. That started in 1994 with the race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme court, between Democrat Sonny Hornsby and Republican Perry Hooper. The race, brilliantly chronicled in a 2004 Joshua Green article at The Atlantic, served as a precursor to the Bush v. Gore presidential race of 2000. In both, the Rove candidate first appeared to have lost, setting off a chain of recounts, challenges, and dubious machinations that led to the Rove candidate being declared the winner.
An even more disturbing scenario came in 2002 when votes for Democratic incumbent governor Don Siegelman disappeared overnight in heavily Republican Baldwin County, turning the race in favor of Rove's candidate, Bob Riley. Jim Gundlach, an election expert from Auburn University, said it was virtually impossible for the Siegelman votes to disappear without human tampering. In other words, substantial evidence pointed to the election being stolen -- a Rove-related scenario that also was present in Hornsby v. Hooper (1994), Bush v. Gore (2000), and Bush v. John Kerry (2004).
The 2002 Siegelman-Riley fiasco was the race where GOP felon Jack Abramoff admitted to spending $20 million in an attempt to beat Siegelman because Mississippi Choctaws feared gaming competition from a possible Siegelman-supported lottery in Alabama.
When polls showed Siegelman likely would beat Riley in a 2006 rematch, the Bush Justice Department -- with Rove's fingerprints in all sorts of unlikely places -- decided to prosecute the Democrat in a "bribery" case that was brought more than a year after the five-year statute of limitations had expired. The trial, which by law could not happen, wound up with a conviction, largely thanks to bogus jury instructions from former U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who went on to be forced from the bench after facing assault charges for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room.
What three lessons has Karl Rove, over roughly 23 years, taught candidates who might run for office in Alabama?
(1) If you are a Democrat, or non-Rove Republican, the race likely will be stolen from you;
(2) If that doesn't dissuade you from competing, you likely will face trumped-up criminal charges that could ruin your career and your life; and
(3) If that doesn't work, your financial backers are likely to face prosecution, too.
Kyle Whitmire is surprised that Alabama has a lousy field of candidates for the upcoming special Senate election? Gee, why would any semi-competent candidate choose to run for public office in that environment. It's obvious the "political pipeline" is clogged with raw sewage, and who wants to swim around in that?
As for Alabama's MSM, it has trumpeted political prosecutions at every turn. Just consider the esteemed Mr. Whitmire. He has written multiple times that the Siegelman case was properly decided, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. In making such assessments, Whitmire has shown no indication that he has any knowledge about relevant law that was supposed to govern the case.
A strong argument could be made that Alabama corruption, starting in the mid 1990s, has infected our national political culture. In fact, it likely led to Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, leaving us with an unqualified and unstable Donald Trump in the White House, at a time when tensions with North Korea could lead to nuclear war. One must not forget that Trump's presidential campaign seemed to pick up steam when he received the endorsement of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions via a major rally in . . . Mobile, Alabama.
We long have referred to Alabama as "Ground Zero" for GOP-related political skulduggery. One reason involves geography; the state is smack in the middle of the band of Southern states (from Texas to North Carolina) that consistently vote "red" in presidential elections. Insiders like Rove know that if the Republican Party ever lost Alabama, the rest of the South likely would follow, leaving GOP prospects extraordinarily dim. That's one reason a Democrat like Don Siegelman, who consistently beat GOP opponents at the ballot box, was such a threat.
Now, we have Trump and North Korea tossing threats back and forth -- and one could argue we reached this point via a trail of political corruption that runs right through Alabama.