Some songwriter once opined of the South, “Old times there are not forgotten. Look away, look away.”
While it’s doubtful the “old times” mentioned directly addressed Alabamians’ love of delivering political CPR to the most rigor mortised of candidates, the lyrics apply nicely to options in the fast-approaching attorney general’s primary election. And frankly, looking away makes perfect sense too if the train wreck that looks to be coming actually takes place. Just turn your head toward Georgia or Mississippi and wait until the screeching metal, explosions and death wails stop.
Then you’ll have your next Alabama Attorney General.
As I wrote last week in discussing the governor’s race, we appear ready to repeat dumb mistakes of the past. And when you stop to examine the AG’s race, that dumbness may be amped up to truly amazing levels.
Consider, for instance, that polls suggest former AG Troy King is actually leading the race to secure the Republican nomination and possibly win back a job he performed so poorly he should have been sued for malpractice. In fact, King was such a lousy AG that he was pounded in his re-election primary by the greasy Luther Strange, gathering just 40 percent of the vote as the sitting incumbent!
Eight years later and suddenly Alabama voters are nostalgic for the Troy King era? The old times being forgotten right now include rampant accusations of kickbacks and misuse of his office to help friends and punish enemies. King actually used his prosecutorial powers to try sending one of his own investigators to jail because the guy wouldn’t dish dirt on a political adversary or lie to help prosecute another King target. If justice were actually doled out as deserved, King would have been sent to the slammer for that move alone.
In the months leading up to King’s loss to Big Luther, word slipped out that he was under federal investigation regarding the running of his office. Nothing ever came of that, but I have little doubt the only thing that kept Troy King from being indicted was losing the election and becoming essentially not worth the trouble. But here’s a prime example of what happens when you don’t stomp a roach when you get a chance — next thing you know he’ll be dancing on top of the rest of that Hot Pocket you left out to finish before bed.
We have to give King some credit for being brave or deluded enough to seek public office again after his flameout eight years ago. It was aided by some truly ridiculous and embarrassing recordings of him singing with the no doubt gratefully deceased Johnny Cash. The Man in Black was posthumously forced to duet with the musically challenged AG, and the recording was cruelly released on Al Gore’s World Wide Web. You’d think that memory alone would be enough to sour Alabama voters.
And just as he was leaving office, King also faced a barrage of unsubstantiated sexual rumors. I mention that simply to say he left office in a mushroom cloud of bad publicity and rejection by the electorate.
But, like the gift that keeps on giving that it is, the Robert Bentley scandal appears to have opened the door for King to try to scurry back onto the countertop, I mean stage. And that’s because sitting AG Steve Marshall is rightfully seen as having been a tool in the Luv Guv’s bag of tricks to escape office without any real prosecution.
The voters have already shown disdain for those involved in Bentley’s slick departure from the governor’s mansion by delivering Big Luther the electoral defeat he so richly deserved. And it’s not hard to imagine Marshall falling on the same sword. Marshall was appointed by Bentley, and he turned around and appointed Ellen Brooks to investigate our most amorous governor. Of course the result of that was Brooks coming back and saying Bentley did bad things, but an absence of law kept her from indicting him. Neat trick. She’d already done the same a few years ago when asked to look into the activities of former Gov. Bob Riley and then Speaker of the House and future criminal Mike Hubbard.
Strange how sometimes there aren’t enough laws to nail the powerful, but the rest of us are pretty well covered. But I digress.
So the incumbent has Bentley goo all over him, which presents an opportunity for King to crawl out of his own slime pit and try to take back the office he already disgraced. There appear to be some qualified candidates left, but the question is whether there’s enough air in the room for them to breathe with Marshall and King going at it.
If you’d asked me eight years ago whether Troy King had any political viability going forward, I would said he had more viability as a country music star. These days he’s the one laughing even as he plots a duet with George Jones.
One thing this state desperately needs is an attorney general actually focused on the job. For at least the past 12 years the position has been held by someone who sees the next governor or U.S. Senator in the mirror every morning when he shaves, or perhaps the next Johnny Cash. Our AGs tend to spend most of their time signing on to high-profile briefs about gay marriage, gun control, abortion, opioids and gambling. King did that and also managed to fit in time fighting the scourge of adult sex toys, bludgeoning gambling interests opposed to the gamblers giving him money and getting cozy with Alabama Power.
Perhaps the biggest problem in Alabama politics is the total lack of fear office holders have of facing repercussions for unethical/illegal activity. I can count on one or two fingers the amount of times over the past dozen or so years we’ve seen the AG’s office start a big political corruption case in our neck of the woods. Typically it appears the farther away from Montgomery, the less likely it is the AG’s office is going to come knocking.
If Alabama voters really are nostalgic for the Troy King days, I’d recommend packing up the “personal massagers” and breaking out the Johnny Cash instead of voting for him. The old times he would bring definitely should be forgotten.