By Mike Wilcox
Michigan and Alabama have a thing or two in common. Most recently they can both point to their esteemed leader- The Governor, and can say unequivocally A DISGRACE.
Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder was riding on a high. He was really well thought of nationally as a politician that actually got things done. His handling of the City of Detroit bankruptcy had earned him high kudos. He had also tackled the need to finance road repair and had pulled out a victory despite a hesitant legislature. Many political pundits expected him to enter the race for the Republican Presidential nominee.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley wasn’t touted as a presidential candidate but he did win high praise in his first term in office. He was widely applauded for his emphasis on job creation and better educational opportunities for our youngsters. He also implemented many technological advances that helped streamline state bureaucracies that were working inefficiently.
Both governors were elected to second terms- Snyder won a close race a Democratic state, and Bentley rolled to victory in an extremely conservative state.
Then came 2016. For Snyder, his fall to disgrace came when it was discovered the City of Flint’s water supply was heavily tainted with lead and causing health problems, particularly for children. Although Flint had a mayor and city council that some would say were to blame, the City was actually in receivership and ruled by a Snyder appointee and emergency manager.
Emails show that Snyder and his staff knew about the problem in late 2015 but failed to act. They didn’t think it would create the firestorm it did. As the national media descended on Flint and demanded answers from Snyder and others, the problem only snowballed. Snyder’s answers were unacceptable to many and the once popular governor was skewered by citizens and media. Hillary Clinton made it a part of her campaign, visiting Flint and demanding Snyder’s resignation. Others followed suit.
Just last week FORTUNE MAGAZINE published their list of the World’s Most Disappointing Leaders. At the top of the list was Rick Snyder. He held a commanding lead over Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Governor, who held the dubious distinction of second worst.
Can it get any worse for Snyder. So far he’s weathered the storm, although there are a couple of groups attempting to get enough signatures to force a recall election. FORTUNE is right. His handling of the Flint water crisis was an exercise in how not to be a leader.
Governor Robert Bentley was not part of the FORTUNE list, probably because his scandal is just unfolding. Bentley, who divorced his wife of 40 plus years in 2015, has been implicated in a cover-up of an affair he was having with one of his top aides, Rebekah Mason.
Just a week ago a recording of Bentley talking about kissing Rebekah and touching her breasts was made public. Bentley claims the two did not have a sexual relationship but the recording would lead one to believe otherwise.
Beyond an affair however, are possible criminal charges that could be levied against Bentley. Reports indicate that Bentley used multiple burner phones and rented a private plane to keep Mason off a passenger list. There are also accusations that Bentley funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to Mason through a non-profit that he originally said would help foster children.
If the charges are found to be true Bentley will be in a heap of legal trouble. As it is he is fighting a media firestorm, much like Snyder, and state lawmakers are considering impeachment or a possible recall election.
I guess we could call this the “tale of two governors.” Once very popular, and within a month or two, fallen from grace and now fighting for their political lives, AND DESERVEDLY SO.