Roy Moore was a problem for Republicans before allegations were published that he made sexual advances to girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s.
Now the GOP Senate candidate in Alabama is a nightmare.
“I believe the women,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday, calling for Moore to step aside less than a month before the special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat.
Many other Republicans followed with similar statements. Even Sessions, now the attorney general, said Tuesday, “I have no reason to doubt these young women.”
McConnell was no fan of Moore in the first place. Moore was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court and holds views that are far out of the political mainstream. The Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with McConnell, spent $9 million on behalf of Luther Strange and against Moore in the September primary. Strange lost badly. Moore has called for ousting McConnell as the Republican leader — and did again in a tweet Monday: “The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell. He has failed conservatives and must be replaced. #DrainTheSwamp.”
Despite their bad blood, McConnell’s stance was extraordinary. If Moore loses to Democrat Doug Jones, the Republican majority in the Senate will shrink to 51-49. With two or three defections possible on every major vote, McConnell’s ability to deliver victories would be in grave danger. So the Kentucky senator must realize that something greater is at stake for his party: its integrity.
Moore denies even knowing the 53-year-old woman who now says she was 14 when Moore, then 32, took her to his home and made sexual advances in 1979. Indeed, there is no physical evidence to support her story, which was reported by The Washington Post. Yet it is corroborated in some respects by friends she told at the time and by her mother, whom she told a decade later. A former colleague of Moore’s, Teresa Jones, told CNN, “It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls; everyone we knew thought it was weird. We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall.” Asked by Fox’s Sean Hannity whether he dated teenagers when he was in his 30s, Moore said, “Not generally, no.”
When another woman came forward Tuesday with an emotional and detailed account of fending off an assault by Moore when she was 16, his protests that he’s a victim of “fake news” manufactured by “forces of evil” sounded even less credible.
While a new poll showed Jones pulling ahead of Moore since this news broke, it’s too soon to predict the outcome. Alabama is a solidly Republican state, and many of Moore’s supporters don’t believe these stories are true, while some say it doesn’t matter to them. They still will vote for Moore.
Our country is so bitterly divided over politics that some Americans would rather elect a sexual predator than a candidate of the opposite party. Even Hollywood has higher standards. Lately, reports about sexual misconduct have cost producers and actors their jobs. Not so, yet, in politics, where someone like Moore isn’t seen as just an individual. He is part of a team, and supporting the team requires voting for the individual.
Many voters who didn’t think Donald Trump’s personal conduct was appropriate elected him anyway, because Republicans needed to win the White House to enact their political agenda. Perhaps Democratic voters would have done the same.
McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed Trump to Washington in the expectation that he would sign their legislation. They haven’t sent many big bills to his desk. Now the Moore problem further threatens McConnell’s ability to produce. To his credit, however, McConnell this time put decency ahead of party. If Moore won’t quit his race, Alabama voters should soundly reject him — even if they have to elect a Democrat.