Whole world is watching – again
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–There was a story making the rounds in Montgomery this week end. It seems that Ringling Brothers or some other circus of note had cancelled its scheduled appearance here in a few weeks. The reason: It couldn't compete with the circus that has gone on at the State Judicial Building.
It has been a circus, and the chant that was heard so often decades ago during the many Civil Rights confrontations could be heard again: "The whole world is watching."
Not since those troubling days of the 1960s has so much media attention been focused on Alabama. Whether it was good or bad publicity depends on where you stand in the Ten Commandments debate.
Not wanting to sound like I am saying "I told you so", but the drama at the Judicial Building played out much like I suggested in this space a week ago.
Chief Justice Roy Moore didn't back down, but the eight other associate members of the Supreme Court took matters into their own hands and ordered the monument to be moved.
That seven of those eight associate justices are Republican…as is Moore…was significant.
Will they pay a price, politically, for their stand? Quite likely, but at least the man in the forefront…Associate Justice Gorman Houston of Eufaula…has no reason to fret. He will never face the voters again…he must retire at the end of his present term because of his age.
The Houston story is ironic. He is perhaps the most devout Christian on the court. He has a prayer stool in his office, which he uses regularly, one of his sons is a minister. No man was more troubled by the position he found himself in.
As of this writing no one seems to be sure where the monument will go, only that it will not remain in the rotunda of the building. The monument is so heavy that there are few other places in the building, which structurally could support it.
A likely place is on the portico at the rear of the building in front of the waterfall, but if placed there it would probably necessitate 24-hour security. It would likely be a target of vandals or souvenir collectors on both sides of the debate.
And what about the future of Chief Justice Moore? If you believe the polls, his political stock is at an all-time high. How does U. S. Sen. Moore or Gov. Moore sound?
The lawmakers did not adopt budgets for schools or the General Fund agencies during the earlier sessions, and some sort of spending plan must be in place by Oct. 1. That means if the session is delayed until after the referendum, less than three weeks would remain before the beginning of the new fiscal year.
One possibility is the lawmakers would convene before the election and be offered two budgets–one based on the assumption the Riley plan passes, the other that it did not pass.
As to what the governor and the legislature might do if the tax package fails is the subject of much speculation. The most likely action would be an increase in the sales tax by 1cent, a boost in the so-called "sin taxes"–cigarettes, beer and liquor–and possibly the legalization of gambling.
David Stewart, the policy director for Riley, was quoted in a Philadelphia newspaper as saying the amendment to be voted on Sept. 9 is lagging in the polls because "the people of Alabama are too stupid to know better."
David Azbell, the governor's press secretary, said Stewart told him that he did not remember making such a statement.
John Giles, the president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, which opposes the referendum, was not willing to forgive Stewart.
Said Giles: "He should be dismissed because of his distasteful remarks."