Bentley ‘rolls up sleeves,’ takes on challenges
Our new governor, Dr. Robert Bentley, now has two months under his belt as our state’s leader. Although he inherited a ship of state that is fiscally sinking, he has rolled up his sleeves and gotten to work.
Bentley is the right man for the job in these trying times. He is a plow horse rather than a show horse. He is a meat and potatoes type of guy who works to solve problems rather than worrying about who gets the credit. He has gathered around him an excellent cabinet and they are not panicking or anxiously throwing chairs off the deck. Instead, they are resolutely rearranging the chairs in an effort to keep the ship afloat.
Even though Bentley is not glamorous he does have a way with communication that depicts and displays his down home country doctor persona. He aptly says that he applied for the job of governor for 18 months and the people of Alabama hired him. He applied for the job for the right reasons. He wants to do a good job.
Bentley also realizes what the issue is and that is Alabamians need jobs. This drawn out deep national recession has rendered Alabama’s unemployment rate at about the national average of 9 percent. As promised, Dr. Bentley is not taking a salary as governor. He recognized what the issue was when he ran and he has not taken his eye off the ball. In his inaugural address he implored his cabinet to make jobs, jobs, jobs their priority.
Some folks on the liberal side of the media sought to make a mountain out of a mole hill with the governor’s second speech on Inauguration Day. During his Inaugural address, in addition to harping on the issue of jobs, Bentley reiterated a common theme of inclusiveness and less partisanship. Soon after his Inaugural address, in an exemplary display of inclusiveness, he strolled down Dexter Avenue to the famous church of Dr. Martin Luther King to address a MLK Day celebration event. In his remarks he said to the predominantly black participants, “you are by brothers and sisters.” Speaking off the cuff he forgot to add “In Christ.” He further stated that if you are not a believer in Christ then you are not my brother.
Most of us who grew up as Southern Baptists know what Bentley was saying. It is common Christian vernacular to refer to your fellow Christians as brothers and sisters. Some folks of other faiths outside the South did not understand this statement or terminology. Bentley, to his credit, quickly called a conference the next day and in a sincere conciliatory way apologized if his remarks had offended anyone. However, he adroitly did not apologize for his faith. It is now water under the bridge.
Bentley has never backed down from his devout Christian convictions nor has he tried to exploit them. He has been a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa for over three decades, serving five times as Chairman. He has also taught a young couples Sunday school class for two decades and missed only one class during his 18 month campaign for governor. However, in his unassuming way, Bentley has never made political hay out of his Baptist devotion.
Obviously Bentley is revered in Tuscaloosa. In both the Republican primary and General Election he garnered an amazing 84 percent of the vote in his home bailiwick. That, my friends, is what you call friends and neighbors politics. Indeed, there was quite a Tuscaloosa flavor to the Inauguration. The folks from the Druid City turned out in masse. Deference was also given to Bentley’s home county. This allegiance was best exemplified by his alma mater the University of Alabama Million Dollar Band leading off the parade and playing “Yea Alabama” continuously throughout the march up Dexter Avenue. The first song was sung by the Stillman College Choir of Tuscaloosa.
Throughout the day Dr. Bentley and his wife Diane exuded sincere humility and appeared to be humbled by the coronation and regal deference bestowed on the Governor and First Lady on their Inauguration Day. Bentley, who looked more like a farmer getting ready to get behind the plow for a hard day’s work driving a mule, is exactly what Alabama needs. Like Bentley said during his campaign, Alabama is sick and we need a doctor and that is exactly what we got in Dr. Bentley.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.