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Siegelman's legacy damaged for good

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
You could say this is unfair but the biggest impact of former Gov. Don Siegelman's indictment late last week is what it will do to his political future.
For months there has been much speculation that come 2006 Siegelman would make another run for governor. This talk has picked up steam as the political stock of Gov. Bob Riley…the man who beat Siegelman in 2002…has plummeted.
But the indictment last week may very well put an end to Siegelman as a major factor in Alabama politics. As I said above, that hardly seems fair. He has not been convicted of anything…in fact he may well be acquitted of this charge. But fair or not, the indictment is a devastating blow to his political future.
For one reason, it will be months, maybe a year or more, before his case reaches the courtroom. And as long as this cloud is over his head, Siegelman will have hard-pressed to line up support and pledges of money for a gubernatorial campaign. Who would want to pledge their support and money to a candidate who may not even be able to run?
For another reason, the mere fact that he was indicted will cause many people to wonder…if there is enough smoke to get an indictment, then there must be a fire somewhere.
If this is the end of the Siegelman political career what a sad end it is. I have said and written before that no governor in my memory came into office as well-equipped for the job as he did. He had an abundance of political smarts, more on-the-job training than any governor. He had an opportunity afforded few men to make a huge dent, a huge difference in this state.
But what is his legacy after four years in that office. I would refer you to what one of his staunchest supporters…The Montgomery Advertiser…had to say about him on the morning after his indictment:
"…his administration was marred with too much cronyism and favoritism, too many sweetheart deals for friends and supporters…he failed miserably at controlling the forces in his administration that placed power ahead of honor and the well-connected ahead of the people at large."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Mentioned in the story was the fact that the Elite had opened in the 1950's and became a popular gathering place.
As a matter of fact the Elite opened in 1911, a record of longevity few Montgomery businesses could match. It survived World War I, the Depression, World War II and on into the 1990s before closing its doors. I never saw an advertisement for the Elite which didn't include the words "Since 1911."
And to say the Elite was an institution is an understatement…it was surely the most remembered of Montgomery landmarks to tens of thousands of servicemen who have come through this city for decades.
I remember it as a political gathering place…an adjunct to the Capitol…where more bills were passed or killed than on the floor of the House or Senate.
I could tell a lot of Elite stories, but I must share only one…my favorite.
One night in the late 1950s a group of legislators were un-winding after a tough day at the Capitol A couple of them drank too much, the fun-making got
out of hand, and one legislator began shouting profanities.
The police were called and the legislator was arrested, charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
His legislative buddy was irate that his friend was being arrested.
When told it was because he had used language unacceptable in a public place he demanded to know what words he had used.
When told what they were he began to shout the same profanities as loud as he could.
"Now arrest me," he shouted. "If you are going to take my buddy to jail I wanna to go with him."
They did and he did.
Somebody ought to write a book about the Elite. Me, all I would like is one more order of their Shrimp Athenian or maybe their Steak Mediterranean…medium rare.