When Mississippi inaugurated 39-year-old Ray Mabus - with his magna cum laude Harvard Law degree and a record of prosecuting entrenched public corruption - as governor in 1988, one supporter said, "Camelot has come to Mississippi."

Mabus ran a proto-Obama campaign centered on "basic, drastic change" and, according to his media advisors, "light on specifics and heavy on image."

The New York Times Magazine called him "a Sun Belt technocrat, the manager-politician." Adored by the state's intelligentsia, many Southern liberals thought him to be the progressive Democrat the New South could back for President of the United States.

Two political events derailed those dreams. First, a rough-edged, hard-talking contractor from Vicksburg emerged from his dark horse status in the Republican primary to defeat Mabus for re-election in 1991. Second, a BBQ scarfing, backslapping, womanizing Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas defeated incumbent President George H.W. Bush and held the White House as a Democrat for two terms.

A third but personal event, a highly publicized divorce from former First Lady Julie Hines - scion of a prominent Jackson family - further complicated his political aspirations. Even now, pending his confirmation as Secretary of Navy under President Barack Obama, every news story seems to mention the divorce just as surely as it proclaims it should not be an issue in his confirmation.

Marriage fidelity should play a role in the nomination of civilian leaders of the military who will oversee a structure that punishes adultery with discharge or courts martial. Likewise, choosing military leaders should make consideration of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. A leader of the Navy must be particularly mindful of abuses highlighted during the 1991 Tailhook scandal where naval pilots sexually abused female officers in a Las Vegas hotel.

But in the Mabus divorce, there is nothing to suggest a failure on his part to maintain marital integrity. His wife was having the affair.

While his divorce may not be an issue, the Senate's due diligence should examine Fusion Telecommunications on which Mabus served on the board along with former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, among others.

Allegations that Fusion's questionable contracts illegally benefited Haitian dictator Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the detriment of his impoverished island nation should be put to rest.

Unlike his predecessor, Mabus does not have ties or potential conflicts with the defense industry. Mabus will replace Donald Winter who - before his nomination as Navy Secretary - was head of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. However, Northrop Grumman wins again with Mabus as the industry is Mississippi's largest private employer through its shipyards facility on the Mississippi Coast.

How did Mabus go from re-election defeat to being nominated Secretary of Navy?

A few years after the "Savus from Mabus" campaign swept Mississippi and delivered his defeat at the hands of Kirk Fordice (after being bloodied in the Democratic Primary by former Congressman Wayne Dowdy), President Bill Clinton appointed Mabus ambassador to Saudi Arabia. To add to those foreign policy credentials, Mabus is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the RAND Corporation's Center for Middle East Public Policy, and has served on the board of directors of America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc.

His military career includes training in the Navy ROTC and two years active duty on the cruiser U.S.S. Little Rock in 1971-1972. During that time, the Little Rock was being repaired in dock at the Boston Naval Shipyard following a collision with a Greek destroyer, and then returned to the Mediterranean Sea.

It is the Mabus political connection to Obama more than his Naval experience that positions him for this appointment. He served as ambassador for Bill Clinton and worked on Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. But in 2007, while many Democrats expected Bill's wife Hillary to be the next Democratic nominee for President, Mabus signed up on the insurgent Obama Campaign as his Middle Eastern Foreign Policy Advisor. Mabus was on the Obama team before the first primary, and stumped for him throughout the election season.

Mabus is expected to be confirmed. Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker - both Republicans - support the nomination. Wicker serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Fourth District Congressman Gene Taylor (a Democrat) serves on the House Armed Services Committee where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces. Mississippi's military infrastructure will only be strengthened with Mabus directing Pentagon policy while Wicker and Taylor's push legislative initiatives.

Following the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission's (BRAC) recommendations, the Pentagon ordered Naval Station Pascagoula closed. Any chances that Naval Air Station Meridian could be on the block in the future will be diminished by a Wicker-Taylor-Mabus team. Twenty years after his gubernatorial inauguration, Mabus brings yet additional clout to Mississippi's military establishment.

Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.