From early 1998 through early 2003, Eric Rudolph’s elusiveness was a running joke. It was a lot like Saturday Night Live (when SNL was still funny and relevant) and the Weekend Update report that Spanish strongman Generalissimo Francisco Franco was ‘still dead.’
What Rudolph did was not funny. He planted bombs in Atlanta and Birmingham, targeting abortion clinics gay bars and the 1996 Olympics. But the federal task force set up to capture him was a Keystone Kops affair that failed miserably in its efforts to bring him in.
That task force of local, state and federal law enforcement was headed up by none other than the junior Senator from the state of Alabama.
President Bill Clinton appointed Jones as the US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in August 1997. He became point man for the task force in 1998.
For the next five years, Rudolph successfully evaded capture. He wasn’t caught until May 2003 when a rookie cop in a small town in North Carolina saw a bum rummaging through garbage for breakfast. Five years. Millions of federal dollars. And it took the sharp eye of a 21-year old Barney Fife to bring him in.
When Jones ran in the 2017 special election to fill the seat left by former Senator and eventual Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump correctly labeled him as ‘soft on crime.’ Local and national media raced to his defense and gave him all the bandwidth and column inches he needed to talk about his ‘record as a prosecutor.’
But no one asked about his miserable role in the task force that couldn’t find just one man. One man who had no outside help, no money, no job, no nothing. That one man was atop the FBI’s Most Wanted List for five years and had a $1 million bounty on his head.
Ask him today why a former federal prosecutor sits on exactly zero Senate committees with responsibility for law enforcement. Ask him why he has sponsored exactly zero Senate bills on the issues of crime and law enforcement.
He won’t answer because the one opportunity he had as a federal prosecutor came up empty. For five years.