The Spectacle Blog

Guilty in Alabama

By on 6.29.06 | 4:46PM

The Mobile Register reports that former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has been found guilty on multiple counts, including bribery, in a long-running trial. Finally. And deservedly. The man has shown dishonesty again and again and again. The very first time I ever saw him in person, he looked directly into my eyes and told me a whopper of a lie. Good riddance to him.

But a further observation is in order. In bearing, partly in personality, and in some ways in looks, Siegelman has always reminded me of convicted former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Clearly too much political animals for their own good, they both lost sight of propriety while in pursuit of political advantage. But there is an important distinction between them, too: Tucker, I think really cared about trying to change things for the better. (Not that his policy prescriptions were always right, but he really was a policy pathfinder at heart.) I remember, when I worked in Arkansas, Tucker (then under house arrest) called me out of the blue to praise a column of mine on education issues, and invited me to his house for a sandwich and a policy chat. His political career was over; there was no ambition in it; he just wanted to push some ideas, some idealistic reforms, and trade some stories (including some veiled allusions to his skanky predecessor and longtime nemesis, Boy Clinton). He seemed quite sincere. If it was all mere performance, which I doubt, it certainly was a winning performance. One couldn't help but think that, absent the challenge of trying to keep up with the dizzying corruptions and preternatural political skills of the Clintons, Tucker might have been a fair-to-middling public official whose weak ethical compass led him only to non-criminal edge-skirting rather than prosecutable transgressions, but who also accomplished some decent things for his constituents.

One can't say the same for Don Siegelman. His conviction is one more reason to have faith in our system. Justice is sometimes hobbled, but more often than not it still reigns in these United States.

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