“They say The Pacific has no memory. That's where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.”
— Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
“Hatred is blind; rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.”
— Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
If you’re going to send a powerful man who believes he has done nothing wrong to prison, you better make his sentence a lengthy one, otherwise, your story is likely just beginning.
Former Alabama Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, is a perfect example. Hubbard went to prison over two years ago after a jury found him guilty of using his elected office for private gain, yet he still proclaims his innocence, calling the prosecution a “political hit job.” He was released on Jan. 8, 2023, having paid his debt to society.
As a free man, Hubbard must now choose his fate. Will he step away from politics, quietly settling down with family and friends and forgetting past wrongs, or will he brave Alabama politics again, going after those he believes have done him wrong? If he chooses the latter, one wonders what Hubbard might know, and whether there are people in Alabama who don’t want Hubbard’s story told.
Unfortunately, political corruption isn’t unique to Hubbard or Alabama. In my book, politics is forever tangled with force and fraud. The force isn’t always violent, nor the fraud always conspicuous, but power, it turns out, does corrupt.
Former Alabama Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart—the man who successfully prosecuted Hubbard—would agree. In a 2014 “off the record” phone call with talk radio commentator, Dale Jackson, Hart defended his integrity and his indictment of Mike Hubbard.
“You can look across this country and across the world when a particular group gets in power and they have access to the money, that’s who will be taking the money if anybody takes it,” Hart told Jackson. “It won’t be the people who don’t have access to it.”
“So for 50 years if you’re prosecuting corruption in Alabama,” Hart continued, “you were prosecuting Democrats because that’s who held power. As that shifts—and I’m not saying Republicans are equal or worse or better or anything like that but … as that changes and Republicans hold power … then the people who are crooked or who are prosecuted, there are going to be some Republicans.”
Indeed, money-grubbing in politics is a tale as old as time. In such a fallen world, liberty breathes best not on parchment and paper, but when power is set against power, when corrupt interests check the ambitions of other corrupt interests. The right to rough and tumble opposition—imperfect as it may be—is essential for a free society. Thus, we should be wary of the day any one Alabamian tribe becomes strong enough to swallow up the rest. Liberty dies when dissent and opposition fade away, whether from defeat, apathy, or atrophy.
So what’s next for Alabama’s political elite? I don’t know for sure, as it partially depends on what Hubbard decides to do with his freedom. But I do know this: if I was writing a screenplay foretelling Alabama politics in the new quadrennium, I would be inspired to script Hubbard as an opposition leader. Opposition to whom exactly and in what capacity? Again, I’m not exactly sure, but I bet Hubbard knows who his political enemies are and how he can get at them.
If Hubbard and his support network truly believe that he is the victim of a political hit job, then there is no better motivation for settling scores. An innocent man done wrong is a dangerous man, especially if he has money and friends.
Such a plot may not be on par with The Shawshank Redemption or The Count of Monte Cristo, but it would certainly make for an intriguing Alabamian political story. It would be in character for Alabama’s political elite, too. Things on the corruption front—particularly in exposing it—have been far too quiet for far too long in Montgomery.
But if I were Hubbard’s friend, I would advise him to find a warm place with no memory where he can carry on with life with his family. Revenge may indeed seem sweet and justified before it’s tasted, but it runs the risk of more bitter sips to swallow.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Commentary@1819news.com.
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