Instead, GOP leaders did themselves and the entire state a favor Tuesday by stripping Beason, R-Gardendale, of his prestigious Rules Committee chairmanship. Not only was it an appropriate move, it was a move long overdue. He no longer deserved that role.
How telling it is when a wayward senator seemingly addicted to accumulating power within his party is considered a pariah by his fellow party members.
We grant Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, a bit of latitude on his explanation for Beason’s sacking. It wasn’t because Beason had co-sponsored Alabama’s illegal-immigration bill, Marsh said. Rather, it was because reaction to Beason’s tape-recorded comments about black voters in Greene County — he called them “aborigines” — was causing profound discomfort to a Republican majority bent on recruiting jobs to the state during the coming months.
In essence, Beason is a detriment to the state’s reputation. It was time to hide him somewhere in Montgomery, out of the spotlight and with much less opportunity to direct either policy or scorn.
In all fairness to Marsh, however, it is because of that mean-spirited illegal-immigration law that Beason’s comments about Greene County voters were so relevant. Had a lesser-known — and less controversial — senator stepped in an unsightly quagmire of racial comments, it would have created only a momentary firestorm.
But Beason is not afforded the luxury of political anonymity.
In recent months, he, along with Gov. Robert Bentley, has become a national image for the state’s much-criticized illegal-immigration bill. Often — such as when visiting tomato farmers who can’t find labor to help harvest their crops — Beason has seemed more like an uncaring authoritarian than a humane legislator. He’s come across as brusque and aloof. This rising star in the Alabama Republican Party couldn’t control the blistering uproar.
Thus, when Beason’s recorded comments were played during the state’s recent bingo-corruption trial, they became the secret ingredient for a perfect storm of controversy. When U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said Beason and another prosecution witness “lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent,” neither Beason nor his party could flick away the criticism as normal political angst.
Beason has become a victim of two of Alabama’s recent dark moments. His willingness to be a political hero and wear a wiretap for the FBI backfired when he caught his own hateful viewpoint on tape. Some legislators now say they no longer trust him. And his role in turning Alabama into a breeding ground for xenophobic actions has been both reprehensible and impossible to ignore.
In this matter, Alabama’s Republican leaders had no choice. For the GOP majority to move forward, Beason’s chairmanship had to end. For that, he has no one to blame but himself.