Whatever the legal arguments of the special prosecutor and the governor, it is clear the state needs impeachment distractions to end. Proceedings should either come to a quick conclusion, or Bentley should resign.
Alabama needs a strong governor right now, and it does not have one. Even as Gov. Robert Bentley gushes over President Donald Trump, Trump is proposing massive cuts that would devastate the state’s environmental programs and its programs for low-income citizens and the elderly. Alabamians need a chief executive officer who has the credibility to explain to members of Congress and to Trump the impact of the cuts on one of the nation’s poorest states.
But Bentley has become an embarrassing footnote to Alabama government. A collection of scandals surrounding his relationship with a top adviser while both were married to others has cascaded into a near-daily stream of humiliating missteps. His divorce, his clumsy retaliation against the state’s top law enforcement officer, his promotion to that position of the unqualified head of his protection detail, his shenanigans in appointing an attorney general who may have been investigating his alleged misconduct to a vacant U.S. Senate seat — all these and a dozen other issues are creating a circus in Montgomery.
The distractions have been public for more than a year, and no doubt were weakening the governorship long before that. The man who campaigned on Christian values and honesty no longer has any role in the state’s governance beyond impeding it.
Bentley’s taxpayer-funded lawyer on Thursday argued vigorously that an impeachment schedule to wrap up the House investigation of Bentley is unfair. It has been too secretive, lawyer Ross Garber claimed, even though it has been less secretive than grand jury proceedings that routinely begin the process of putting people in prison, rather than just removing them from a job for which they have declined compensation. The proposed schedule for the investigation, hearings and vote allow too little time, he argued, even though the governor’s office has turned down House Judiciary Counsel Jack Sharman’s requests to interview the governor and his staff members in the investigation.
What’s abundantly clear is that Bentley’s goal is to delay the matter, hoping he can drag it out until his term ends. The same goal appeared to be a motivating factor in his selection of former Attorney General Luther Strange to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat, a move that appeared likely to slow down an ongoing criminal investigation.
The embarrassing public revelations about Bentley and the shadow of the investigations have left Alabama without a functioning governor at a time when it needs one.
The House needs to quickly conclude its investigation and decide, one way or another, whether to impeach Bentley. If Bentley is impeached, the Senate should likewise be quick to hold a trial.
In his proposed federal budget, Trump made clear his goal is to eliminate massive amounts of state funding upon which this state relies. Alabamians need a strong and credible voice to explain how this would affect them.
Bentley needs to either cooperate fully in bringing the impeachment proceedings to a quick resolution, or he needs to resign so someone else can be an effective representative of a state that is heavily dependent on federal dollars.