Turning anniversary into political ploy was ill-advised

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Gov. Bob Riley is running for re-election, and he had a crown jewel in his political treasure chest to celebrate today &8212; the Black Belt Action Committee marked its second anniversary with a gathering of people truly reflective of the diverse races, cultures and political idealogies that mark this region.

Instead of using what would have already been a political feather in his already massive plume, the governor decided he would take it a step further and interject partisan political posturing into the event.

That was an ill-advised move. By bringing Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who is considered the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, the governor sent the message that a bi-partisan approach to addressing the problems of the Black Belt takes a back seat to partisan Republican politics.

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McCain &8212; whose former Naval commander, Brian Compton, lives here &8212; is a well-respected politician who enjoys more bi-partisan support than most, but that persona is quickly changing. Once considered a maverick for bucking his political party&8217;s establishment leadership, the man who lost to President Bush in the 2000 Republican primary has run to the right to endear himself to the money Republicans who once reviled him.

Simply put, his presence surely did not sit well with Democratic leaders who have been integral to the BBAC. In a region dominated by Democratic politics, losing their support could mean the demise of the BBAC.

That said, one covert slap to the face by Riley will not be the downfall of the BBAC. But what was the purpose? Surely it changed few if any minds in this region.

Prior to the BBAC event, McCain spoke to a group of Marengo County Republicans. That was a spectacular event, having one of the nation&8217;s leading politicians to visit is always a treat. For that event, it was quite appropriate.

But at the BBAC? And with Riley as far ahead in the polls and preaching either to or against a choir of people who have by-and-large determined their voting allegiance? It makes no sense.

We applaud the work of the BBAC. Unlike previous attempts, this bi-partisan, multi-racial group has had early success. It is truly a remarkable undertaking commissioned by Riley. Too bad its anniversary was in part overshadowed by politics.