Gov. Robert Bentley may have the worst job in the world.
On the one hand, he appears sincere in his desire to raise a proud state above its perpetual status at the bottom of the heap. In his State of the State speech Tuesday, he made clear he was not content with the status quo.
Presumably he wants a state in which the people are not plagued by one of the nation’s highest rates of preventable diseases. He no doubt is weary of poverty rates that are close to the highest in the nation. He would like improvements in an infrastructure that is crumbling with neglect.
Most of all, Bentley was clear he wants Alabama to have an international reputation as a progressive state with intelligent workers. Securing such a reputation and the business that goes with it could help solve the many problems that hold down the state and its people.
But even as he struggles for ways to accomplish these goals, he must work with legislators who seem determined to damage the state’s reputation. The world heard none of his words Tuesday, yet it is reading with astonishment that state Sens. Shadrack McGill, R-Scottsboro, and Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, are pushing the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment, which purports to make it legal to display the Ten Commandments on state property and in public schools.
Didn’t an Alabama chief justice already try a similar tactic nine years ago and get ousted in the process? Indeed he did, and then the people elected Chief Justice Roy Moore again in 2012.
Even as Bentley tries to portray Alabama as the crown jewel of the United States, his legislators give every indication of being at war with the nation.
Rather than spend their time looking for solutions to the problems that bedevil Bentley and the state, they spend it pushing clearly unconstitutional laws in expensive temper tantrums aimed at President Barack Obama.
Not only is Bentley unable to get traction in leading his state, he can’t lead his party. In an open snub of the governor, Republicans chose Saturday to re-elect Bill Armistead as their chairman. Yes, he’s the same Bill Armistead who applauded a movie that claims Obama’s grandfather was a CIA operative who convinced Barack Obama Sr. to marry his teenage daughter to conceal the fact that a communist had gotten her pregnant.
“I’ve seen it,” said the chairman of the party that controls Alabama. “I verified that it is factual, all of it.”
Bentley wants what is best for Alabama. He wants the revenue the state needs if it is to lift itself from the depths, but he has legislators who are afraid to tax the companies that keep them in office. He wants to make the state a beacon of progress, yet he has legislators who are determined to make it an embarrassment.
Bentley is right. Alabama is a proud state with incredible potential. With tax reform and a few more rational lawmakers, it could be a symbol of American success.
Bentley, though, cannot pick legislators. He cannot even pick a party chairman. Like his constituents, he is doomed to watch as Alabama confronts its challenges not with wisdom, but with silly antics.
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