Yesterday, the Alabama House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing regarding the impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley. This was one of multiple political and criminal investigations into various ethics, campaign finance, and corruption charges relating to his affair with a much younger married senior political advisor, and subsequent divorce from his wife of 50 years. The Speaker of the House of Representatives had referred to the conclusion of the impeachment hearings as something everyone knows is coming, and had called for the Governor’s resignation – along with the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Alabama Republican Party’s Steering Committee. By the end of the day, he’d been arrested and pled guilty to multiple charges. He is no longer Governor, having resigned in disgrace.
The hundreds and hundreds of pages of evidence in the case released over the weekend outline exactly how we ended up in this situation, and reveal just how avoidable this whole process was.
Most of the potential criminal charges relate to the Governor’s abuse of power and use of state resources to cover up his affair and punish anyone that threatened to end or expose it. He allegedly based multiple hiring and firing decisions of top law enforcement officials on their willingness to help him keep his affair a secret. Suspicions among other staffers initially started to rise when the senior advisor in question, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, started spending significant amounts of time in one-on-one meetings with the Governor behind closed doors.
Ultimately, his wife uncovered the affair because of the 70+ year old Governor’s lack of understanding regarding how Apple products work. He let his wife use his state-issued iPad while he used his iPhone on the same account to send inappropriate texts to his paramour. For those of you not reading this article on an Apple device, this means that his wife received the texts as well. With the help of her younger chief of staff, Mrs. Bentley recorded some of their phone calls, and these were what eventually ended up being leaked to the media, exposing the affair for the rest of us to (regrettably) listen to.
We can argue all day long about whose fault the affair is. Regardless, it is safe to say that if our Governor, who we elected on a “family values” platform, had practiced what he preached, we would never have ended up in this situation.
Family values are important. Biblical, God-honoring marriage is incredibly important. But conservatives have become far too willing to bend to political correctness when it comes to actually applying the principles that we advocate for. We cannot stand up and preach Christian principles and the value of marriage, and then be totally unwilling to take basic, common sense steps to apply these principles. We all face temptation to sin, every single day. To refuse to protect ourselves from this temptation is pride, a declaration that we think we are above God’s Word, and that His truths do not apply to us. Inevitably, we will always fail, in one area or another, as long as we go through life trusting only in our ability to resist these temptations when they arise.
This means we have an obligation to seek out and establish accountability in our own life. We are imperfect, sinful people, and we must treat ourselves as such – before we assume the arrogance of forcing that same accountability on others through the force of law.
Our Vice President, Mike Pence recently came under fire for establishing some general boundaries when interacting with other women – in order to prevent even the appearance of impropriety. Not only does this avoid causing rumors, but it ultimately prevents him from caving to the temptation that he will inevitably face at some point in his life. It also sends a strong message to his wife that he considers honoring her as more important than any potential criticism or any consequences to his career.
These precautions are not about treating women as if they are inferior, or about trying to project some kind of moral superiority. They are a humble submission that we recognize our own imperfections, and that we are unwilling to place ourselves in situations where our judgement could potentially be compromised on a regular basis.
Imagine where Alabama would be today if our Governor had put some of the same protections in place for his marriage that Mike Pence put in place for his. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and judge other people for making what may appear on the outside to be odd or close-minded decisions. But we must always remember that our elected officials – just like us – are imperfect human beings. Mike Pence would prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to potential impropriety. We could all stand to learn from his example – especially Robert Bentley.