No gentility in Alabama politics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 1, 2002

I attended a company meeting last weekend in Birmingham, Ala. I have always loved Alabama and lived near Mobile for a year in the late 1980s.

The pace is slow and the scenery is beautiful, from the mountains in the north to the coastline in the south (There’s some pretty ugly stuff in between those two extremes, but every state has some of that.)

But most of all, I like the people here. Friendliest I’ve ever met. My wife didn’t care for it much. Two things she can’t tolerate are extreme heat and stupid rednecks, and Alabama has its share of both. Nonetheless, they are nice people if you can overlook that penchant some of them have for cross-burning and racial lynchings, but we all have our faults – I’ve been told I snore loudly.

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Seriously, another thing I like about Alabama is the politics. You won’t find Alabama politicians talking about nonsense like taxes or education. It’s nothing but low-down and dirty – may the worst man win.

It’s campaign season now and there are lots of issues Alabama must confront if it is to advance into the 20th century.

Tax reform, rewriting an antiquated constitution that is a stumbling block to just about anything they try to do (Virtually the entire document is focused on college football), and coming up with education funding so that they can add grades in public schools beyond 5th.

With all these pressing issues, Over in East Central Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District, where Democrat Joe Turnham and Republican Mike Rogers are squaring off, the race is going to hinge on who voters perceive as the better &uot;Bubba.&uot;

I swear I’m not making this up. According to the Friday, Sept. 27, edition of The Birmingham News, Turnham has been pushing for Rogers to confront him in a skeet shooting match and to show his hunting and fishing licenses, if he really has them.

&uot;If that’s not enough to woo the district’s blue-collar voters, Turnham also is proposing a congressional caucus to promote auto racing,&uot; The News reported. &uot;Asked if the industry was under fire, Turnham said auto racing is a sports phenomenon and should be protected.&uot;

Turnham’s entire platform seems to be based on the fact that he is a stupid redneck and proud of it. The Republican Rogers, to his credit, has yet to engage in such goofy stuff. The sad part is, he’s likely to lose as a result. In Alabama politics, the high ground is not a good place to be. If Rogers is to stand a chance, he needs to get behind legislation that allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of the beer they drink while driving their pickup trucks.

While this might all seem funny, it’s really not. Alabamans, most of whom are decent, kind, intelligent people, get painted by jerks like me with this Bubba brush, and in the meantime, their problems persist. They deserve better. I wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Small world

While waiting on my flight Sunday morning at Birmingham International Airport, I was perusing The Birmingham News. A front-page story caught my attention: &uot;Christian group exerts quiet influence over foreign affairs.&uot; The story had an Arlington dateline and was written by a Los Angeles Times reporter.

The story focused the Fellowship, the nonpartisan Christian group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast and the wide influence the group has wielded over congressmen and presidents for the past half-century.

According to the story, thousands of government officials, international leaders and select business executives meet on the first Thursday of every February for 90 minutes of &uot;prayer, granola, fresh fruit, bagels, pastries, coffee and juice.&uot;

Eight thousand people are invited to the event and 3,000 accepted last year and paid for the $425 tickets.

One of those, quoted in the story, was Suffolk’s own Kit Webb, one of the main sponsors of the Suffolk Leadership Prayer Breakfast.

&uot;It’s the government leaders who invited everyone,&uot; Webb said as she mingled in the lobby with other guests. &uot;It’s owned by Congress.&uot;

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.