“Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” — George Orwell

I was incredibly uncomfortable.

Maybe it was the stuffy suit-and-tie I had donned for the evening’s festivities. Maybe it was the festivities themselves. 

Either way, as I walked from the parking garage to the gala venue under the late afternoon sun, I prayed for a brisk wind to carry me home or, at least, cool me down. 

There are few things a reclusive introvert and political malcontent (such as I am) loathes more than attending a large political fundraiser dinner party. Alas, there I was at the center of the Alabama GOP’s Summer Dinner, feeling like a distraught stranger in a strange land. 

Yet, however strange my own anxious attendance seemed to me, a certain person’s absence seemed all the more stranger. A brisk wind never answered my prayer to take me home, but soon a wind of hushed whispers inside the hall began to chill my anxiety into intrigue. 

Could it really be that she wasn’t there? She had just been seen that morning on the airport tarmac! How unfortunate for someone to be missing in action after a week of scurrilous health rumors! How well is she actually?

I looked around to make sure. 

There was John Merrill, Alabama’s Secretary of State, as gregarious and charming as ever. There was Young Boozer, Alabama’s State Treasurer, happy to share good tidings about the state's finances. Across the room I could see Rick Pate, Alabama’s Agriculture Commissioner, as I greeted my local state representative, Charlotte Meadows, then my local State Senators Will Barfoot and Clyde Chambliss. I also rubbed elbows with other past guests to my radio show, including recent gubernatorial candidates Lindy Blanchard and Tim James who essentially tied for second in their bids to upset the incumbent governor. 

“Supporting the party,” Lindy Blanchard said to me as she gestured to the Kay Ivey for Governor sticker on her otherwise lovely dress.

“Ah, there’s my favorite Libertarian!” Tim James exclaimed as he shook my hand firmly, “You know we agree on 90% of things.”

“I suppose it takes all types, Tim,” I said to him.

I made my way into the dining room and looked at the program for the evening’s speeches. Each headline speaker had a corresponding introductory speaker of equal rank. 

Alabama’s Attorney General, Steve Marshall, was to introduce Mississippi’s Attorney General, Lynn Fitch.

Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt was to introduce Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker. 

Yet, when it came time for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem to speak, she was to be introduced by Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor, Will Ainsworth.

Where was Governor Kay Ivey?

When ALGOP chairman John Wahl opened the program, he was sure to mention that though Governor Ivey could not make it tonight, he was proud she had shown strength and hospitality (or something to that effect) by welcoming Governor Noem at the airport. Though I cannot prove it, I could hear hundreds of eyeballs rolling in their sockets as hushed whispers rose from the lips of the crowd.

After all, earlier in the week, the whispers on the Alabama political wind had reached such a velocity that Governor Ivey’s communications director felt pressured into releasing this statement:

“When it’s a slow news day in the summer, rumors run rampant in the Capital City. While I did not want to give any credibility to these bogus rumors, I do want to be sure to clear the air and set the record straight. Governor Ivey is doing great, and she continues to thank the Good Lord for keeping her healthy and cancer-free. We look forward to her leading the state of Alabama for years to come.”

The rumors may be bogus, but this denial did not put the rumors to rest. 

The photo-op with Governor Kristi Noem at the airport may be genuine (as genuine as quick photo-ops can be), but it did not put the rumors to rest. 

And with every possible past and future contender to be the Governor of Alabama in attendance at the annual GOP summer dinner — from John Merrill to Steve Marshall to Will Ainsworth to Tim James and Lindy Blanchard — Kay Ivey’s absence that night did not put the rumors to rest. 

What will put the rumors to rest? 

Time. Enough time to prove the doubters of Ivey’s health wrong. Say four years' time. The clock is ticking.

But, if there is indeed any seed of solid truth to these health rumors, rest assured the wind will continue to carry the whispers to the chattering classes, even to those of us who would rather stay home and not hear what they have to say.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently, the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email [email protected]The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected]

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