Don Siegelman’s instant shackling over zealous

Published 2:54 am Wednesday, April 23, 2008

By By Adam Prestridge
The recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to release former Gov. Don Siegelman, while his appeal is pending, is significant. The federal panel gave a stinging rebuke to District Court Judge Mark Fuller for his harshness to Siegelman. Even Siegelman’s detractors felt like the instant shackling of Siegelman in federal court and whisking him off to prison like a mass murderer was over zealous.
The fireworks are set to begin next month in Washington when Siegelman is scheduled to appear before Congress. Siegelman’s case has become the linchpin in the Democratically controlled Congress’ plans to prove that the Bush administration used the Justice Department to prosecute high profile Democrats for political purposes. The villain they want to expose is Karl Rove.
Rove will be the villain and Siegelman the poster child for prosecutorial abuse in the U.S. House judiciary hearings. They will receive national exposure and it will be well worth watching. The Democrats will illuminate Rove’s Machiavellian manipulations. Although Rove has been very explicit about his exploits from his post as a Fox network commentator, he is wily and will not be easily trapped or intimidated.
Siegelman’s release on appeal would appear to be the biggest political news in the state thus far this year. However, in my opinion, the surprise announcement by Congressman Bud Cramer to retire tops the list of political blockbusters. Cramer is the lone white Democratic Congressman in Alabama. Out of our seven Congressmen five are Republican and only two are Democrats, Cramer and Arthur Davis.
Cramer’s Fifth District stretches across the northern tier of the state and borders Tennessee. This Tennessee Valley district is home to the last vestige of old New Deal Democrats in Alabama. These Tennessee Valley voters’ roots are deeply Democratic, not only by tradition but also philosophically. Their grandfathers saw the region transformed by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. These folks’ grandfathers, who were Yellow Dog Democrats, would turn over in their graves if they thought their grandchildren would vote for a Republican to represent them in Congress.
This region has traditionally been the last bastion of white Democrats in the state. However, Huntsville is the heart of the district both geographically and population wise. The city has grown tremendously and a lot of high income professionals have settled there. It has the highest per capita income and highest educational level of any city in the entire south. It is as if part of the North Carolina research triangle or Silicon Valley of California has been lifted up and placed in Huntsville.
Most political experts have suspected that if Cramer were not in the seat a Republican would win the coveted congressional post. Cramer was a popular District Attorney in Huntsville for ten years prior to being elected to Congress eighteen years ago. He has been extremely effective in protecting the high-tech aerospace industry in Huntsville. He has done a yeoman’s job regardless of which party controlled Congress. Cramer has sustained a very conservative voting record during his nine terms. In fact, he was a founding father of the conservative Blue Dog Democratic caucus in Congress.
This district has a legacy of outstanding Congressmen. Scottsboro’s Bob Jones was one of the greatest Congressmen the state has ever seen. He truly brought home the bacon for the Tennessee Valley, especially FDR’s TVA projects. Jones served nearly three decades. Florence’s Ronnie Flippo served twelve years and was very effective. Flippo served on the House Ways and Means Committee. Cramer, who has risen to power over his eighteen years, sits on the Appropriations Committee.
Cramer is one of those infamous Democratic super delegates. By virtue of his being a Democratic Congressman, he is awarded a seat and a vote at the Democratic National Convention. In fact, Cramer is one of the remaining 250 uncommitted delegates who may very well decide the nomination. Therefore, he has one final major decision and vote to cast in his waning days in politics. It will be interesting to see who he votes for in this epic battle between Obama and Clinton. Obama carried Alabama but Clinton carried his district.
Cramer, who is only 60 years old, is young by congressional standards. The folks in the Tennessee Valley wish he would stay another decade. They will miss his seniority and diligence to his district. The race for his seat will be very interesting. It will be watched closely in Alabama and Washington. The Republicans believe they have a good shot at capturing the Fifth District of Alabama. We will see.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at

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