|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
A toxic psychological brew that helped touch off the scandal began when Gov. Bentley grew bored with a life that probably seemed idyllic to others. File that under "Idleness Is the Devil's Workshop."
Gov. Bentley was susceptible to sexual temptation because . . . well, he married young, was averaging looking (at best), and he was not used to receiving come-ons--especially from former beauty-queen types like Rebekah Caldwell Mason. File that under "You're Never Too Old to Become a Horndog."
Finally, a key moment in the scandal was touched off when Bentley's sons wisely realized that Mason, as their father's mistress, could take steps that would devastate their mother financially. File that under "No Scandal is Complete Without Courtroom Drama."
Those are four of many revelations in an article published yesterday by GQ about a man who has gone from being a mild-mannered dermatologist to being seen as our "horndog governor." That transformation has placed Bentley and Mason at the heart of a federal investigation that could see both of them serving lengthy prison sentences.
The article, by political reporter Jason Zengerle, is titled (appropriately enough) "The Love Song Of Robert Bentley: Alabama's Horndog Governor." Zengerle does not touch much on the legal problems hanging over Bentley and Mason. But he provides a compelling and incisive account of the human weaknesses and foibles that led the governor and his senior advisor into an "inappropriate relationship" of epic proportions.
In shades of the Mike Hubbard scandal, money problems -- or perhaps we should say perceived money problems -- led down a slippery slope. From Zengerle's GQ article:
As political temptresses go, Rebekah Mason was, in some ways, a familiar one. A onetime news anchor, she'd done a tour of minor Alabama media markets before leaving TV to raise her children. In the summer of 2010, she and her husband, a meteorologist, were facing financial difficulties. Their church, First Baptist of Tuscaloosa, had tried to help the young family, praying for God's assistance. When their fellow congregant Robert Bentley had an opening in his campaign press office, one of his sons suggested the nice young woman from church who was struggling to make ends meet, according to a person familiar with the circumstances behind Mason's hiring. After Bentley was elected, he appointed the former TV reporter the governor's communications director, and he even gave her husband, Jon, a $90,000-a-year job as the head of the governor's office of faith-based initiatives. It seemed that everyone's prayers had been answered.
None of this would have happened if Bentley had not decided, fairly late in life, to enter politics. And that would not have happened if he had not grown bored with his life as a respected dermatologist; (seemingly) devoted husband to Dianne; and attentive father to four sons. Writes Zengerle:
According to this friend, Mason was dismayed by how alone the governor felt. Bentley had gone into politics, he once told her, because he could no longer stand the tedium of his dermatology practice and the banality of those Lean Cuisine pizza lunches at home with Dianne. “He wanted more,” this Mason friend told me, “and his family didn't understand that.”
Mason was young, ambitious, and attractive and could present temptations that Bentley did not know how to handle, Mason's friends apparently saw her as the kind of "visionary" strategic planner the governor needed. Those close to Bentley saw Mason as . . . well, maybe the term is "political gold digger."
People close to Bentley, however, told me they viewed Mason's role in starkly different terms. They believe that Mason wormed her way into the governor's good graces through flattery and flirtation. To their minds, Bentley—an awkward man with a heart-rending comb-over who'd married young and come late to his lofty position—was unaccustomed to female attention. And foolishly susceptible to it. When his advisers would caution him about pushing for things the legislature wouldn't support, like a teacher pay raise, Mason would counter in a syrupy voice, “But you're the governor. People love you.”
The story of the Bentley/Mason affair finally became public in late August 2015 when Dianne Bentley filed for divorce to end a 50-year marriage. Legal Schnauzer was the first news outlet to report the affair and name Mason as the governor's mistress. At about the same time, attorney Donald Watkins presented a multi-part series on his Facebook page, describing many of the scandal's inner workings. The mainstream media (MSM) largely ignored the story, although MSM reporters offered a number of attacks on me.
What prompted Dianne Bentley to file for divorce when she did? GQ provides insight:
For the Bentley sons, according to people close to the family, anger now metastasized into a fear that Mason could bring further havoc. (Bentley family members have declined to comment.) Should things sour, they worried Mason could claim she was sexually harassed and file a devastating civil suit. They implored their mother—who they knew still loved their father—to divorce him so that she could at least lay claim to half his assets now. And so, last August, Dianne Bentley filed for divorce. She cited irreconcilable differences. She did not claim infidelity, nor did she make any mention of the incriminating tape.
Bentley might be a sorry excuse for a governor -- and a husband -- but he and Dianne did not raise dummies. The brothers provided shrewd advice that probably ensured their mother would live out a comfortable life. And yes, the possibility of Mason bringing a sexual harassment claim probably was very real.
How badly have the people of Alabama been served in all of this? That might be the most important question of all, and GQ provides insights:
Whatever Mason's motives—to buck up a governor who she felt needed to assert himself or to win the affections of a lovelorn old man—the ego-stroking worked so well that some people were shocked. “When she became his top political adviser, it was like the Hindenburg came down and fell on the Titanic as the Titanic hit the iceberg,” one person who was once close to Bentley told me. “I was watching a woman who didn't know how a bill becomes a law running the state of Alabama.”
Yep, those conservative, "Christian" Republicans sure know how to govern -- when they aren't busy figuring out ways to satisfy their inappropriate urges, on the public dime.