Former Democrat and GOP candidate for governor, Bradley Byrne, is widely considered to be the frontrunner for the nomination. (Danny at the Political Parlor says: “Favorite of the state's GOP establishment is still the one to beat.”)
Yet Byrne has found himself pretty much beaten by the news cycle this week. What's amazing is how self-inflicted the wounds are. From PACT to the Bible, Mr. Byrne seems to be having trouble choosing a position and sticking with it.
Furthermore, he's proving to be a candidate who's not just full of what King Cockfight calls “gentle Caucasian charm,” but a comparatively thinskinned one too. You have to wonder how he'll stand up under the pressures of a hard-fought primary and/or general election.
It's been pretty amazing to watch Byrne pull off a political hat trick and alienate these three important constituencies… all in one week:
- Approximately 45,000 PACT contract holders, their families, and friends.
- The Biblical inerrancy crowd that seems to form the base of Alabama's Republican Party.
- His own hometown paper – the Mobile Press-Register.
Learn more on the flip…
The Alabama PACT dust up.
C'mon, Bradley, is it a contract or not? Is the contract “legally binding” or not?
During numerous appearances before PACT parents and the Save Alabama PACT group, Byrne sounded all the right notes and said all the right things.
“Now, I am not telling you there is a legal obligation on behalf of the state to fix this problem. There’s not. But there is a moral obligation, and in my judgment, and the way I look at things, a moral obligation is actually a lot more important than a legal obligation. So, I think the state does have moral obligation to fix this problem.”
Imagine going before a judge and trying to argue that your contract isn't a legal but rather moral document. That's a novel legal opinion on a par with the “unitary executive” theory that caused so much damage during the Bush Administration.
Biblical Truth or Consequences?
There are few issues more dangerous for a politician to argue about than religion and the Bible. No matter what you say, somebody's doing to disagree with it.
Nine weeks ago, Byrne told the Mobile Press-Register:
Among the Republicans, only Byrne, Johnson and Potts expressed some belief in evolution. All three said they thought God was ultimately behind the process.
Byrne was an exception, saying it is unimportant whether some details of the Bible, such as people living for hundreds of years, are factually correct.
“I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not,” Byrne said.
Now, I think anybody could make a good case that this question should never be asked in a political campaign since it's a matter of faith, not policy. But this is Alabama, where my daughter's biology book comes with an “evolution disclaimer” glued to the front page.
The fact is, Byrne decided to answer the question and responded with an answer that sounded remarkably like sense – especially coming from an Alabama Republican politician. But it was too good to last. Just this week, he was singing from quite a different hymnal at an event held at the New Hope Piggly Wriggly grocery store:
“I believe the Bible is true,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne said here Wednesday. “Every word of it.”
I've always seen Byrne as the least objectionable of all the Republicans running. He seemed smart, reasonable, and not as likely as Moore, James, or Cowgirl Kay Ivey to make the state look ridiculous by mounting some quixotic quest to establish Christianity as the state religion, outlaw all abortions, or teach schoolchildren that humans and dinosaurs lived together during the same historical period.
Unfortunately, he's starting to resemble the first President Bush, who was quite happy to toss aside his lifetime of moderate political and personal beliefs in exchange for the Vice-Presidency and later the Presidency.
Will the real Bradley Byrne please raise your Bible?
Poor Reporting or a Poor Sport?
Next, Byrne – the guy so concerned about “moral obligations” – decided to blame someone else for his Biblical flip-flopping: the Mobile Press-Register, his hometown paper.
Byrne said at Piggly Wiggly that he had been misquoted. The report has been used by his opponents in anonymous attacks since November, Byrne added.
But Wednesday night, Press-Register Executive Editor Mike Marshall said “There is no way that the Press-Register misquoted Mr. Byrne in that story.”
Even if Byrne were misquoted, why did it take him this long to set the record straight? He says that opponents have used it against him since November, but he waits until NOW to speak out?
As Kristopher at The World Around You noted:
What makes this story matter is integrity.
I would submit that “integrity” is what makes all three issues matter.
- With PACT, if Byrne has been saying one thing to one crowd and telling another group something else, how can we believe any of his campaign promises?
- With the Bible, if Byrne changes positions when one isn't popular, what does that say about his core values – or lack thereof?
- Finally, if he's willing to snub his hometown paper – or any major Alabama media outlet – in such a public (and silly) way, what does that say about his political skills – or lack thereof?
Tim James, Roy Moore, Artur Davis, and Ron Sparks have to be breathing easier after Byrne's week of bumbling.
The race for the GOP nomination looks to be a lot closer than I had previously thought.