That is the correct word to describe the Roy Moore campaign, the accusations against him, how those accusations are being dealt with, the defenses against them, and the way the right is handling all things. Debacle.
One hardly knows where to begin. There are so many takes out there about the situation, and so many parts to the fiasco around it, that it can be daunting trying to make any sense of it. But one thing we cover a lot at RedState is GOP fault lines, and they are stark here.
Let me say up front that, despite much protestation to the contrary about who was endorsed by whom, the defense of Roy Moore has clearly and obviously been mounted by the Trumpists, whereas the people who sought to abandon or oust Moore are clearly of the non-Trump variety, be it the GOPe, “NeverTrump”, or simply individuals objecting on moral grounds or otherwise.
This is simply a fact. Trumpism is defending Moore. Hannity, Gateway Pundit, the list goes on. Whether Moore was theirs to start, he is theirs now. Dinesh D’Souza, a major voice in Trumpism, said it himself on Twitter. “I was lukewarm on Roy Moore,” he wrote, “until the last-minute smear. Now we must elect him to show that the @washingtonpost sleaze attack failed.”
And that characterization, that this is a calculated but flimsy political attack to take Moore out, is the line that Roy Moore is standing on. It is what nearly every defender is focused on. And nearly every defender is a Trumpist. That’s simply a fact.
Here are some other facts.
Nothing has been proven regarding Roy Moore’s alleged misconduct. No charges have been filed. There is no court case to refer to. Moore categorically denies the allegations.
Two women, not five, have alleged criminal conduct. The other women who were quoted regarding relationships with Moore while they were teenagers alleged no criminal acts, but only inappropriate behavior or interest in teenage girls by a man in his thirties.
The alleged misconduct and Moore’s purported interest in young girls are all to have taken place about four decades ago. Nothing has been alleged in this story to have occurred in the meantime. During that period of time, no similar allegations were made against Roy Moore, or at least none have yet been uncovered and reported. It is true that he ran many campaigns and was a controversial figure for a good deal of that time, without any such incidents or allegations thereof coming to light.
Roy Moore was interviewed by Sean Hannity on Friday. Hannity did not say that relationships with young girls and older men are fine as long as there is consent. However, Roy Moore came very close to saying so in his responses to Hannity.
The reports that one of the women in the original Washington Post article, Deborah Wesson Gibson, was a democrat plant rely on incorrect information. Gibson is a sign language interpreter and, as Sarah Rumpf lays out in detail here, she was working for the deaf community when translating for Hillary Clinton, not volunteering to aid the campaign.
Those are facts.
So the big issue on the Trump side is that this is a wild, unfounded accusation, concocted by the hated MSM, and is unfair and scary. You’ll have to suspend your dismay that this perceived problem of fairness is given far more weight and seriousness on the right than the notion of actually molesting a teenage girl, for the moment, so we can address that characterization.
The question raised is whether this is an incredibly unfair and dangerous precedent regarding how guilt is perceived and how careers are handled.
On Twitter last week, someone tweeted to me “pardon me, but I thought conservatives opposed crucifying someone over flimsy accusations.” That sort of encapsulates the outrage. You could see it all over social media all weekend. The words “due process” have seen more use than at any point in the last few years, and were especially being shared by people who last year couldn’t stop tweeting “#LockHerUp” over Hillary’s unadjudicated sins.
One wonders first why it would be assumed that conservatives, generally speaking, share an opposition to “crucifying’ someone over accusations. This is not a politically partisan point of view. I don’t want to crucify anyone over fake accusations, but it’s not because I’m a Republican.
This is part of a broad classification problem that the so-called right in America suffers from and is subject to. The ideas that unite the Trump point of view are not specifically or inherently political. Like with the left, they are a sort of checklist of things one is supposed to think. One is to think the media is bad. One is to think that everyone is out to get you if you’re on the nominal right. One is to think political correctness is a terrific scourge and among the greatest dangers facing the Republic.
There are so many more items on the checklist. And that checklist is part of the problem the GOP is facing in the Moore situation. I’ll get back to that in a moment. The question first is whether this is an unfair witch hunt.
Not just an unfair witch hunt, a flimsy one that can easily be repeated against anyone else. You see, part of the general sentiment is that this flimsy accusation can easily be repeated at any time. Indeed, many on social media and blogs assert that this is something that happens routinely, or “every” time a Republican runs for office.
That is demonstrably not the case, but it’s hard to convince a tribe of voters for whom political history began when Donald Trump descended the heavenly escalator.
At every level of Trumpism, this is the first line of defense.
Steve Bannon speaking in New Hampshire last week said this:
“The Bezos/Amazon/Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump is the same Bezos/Amazon/Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence? That’s what I mean when I say opposition party, right? It’s purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic party, they don’t make any bones about it.”
On Twitter, John Nolte, formerly of Breitbart dot com, said this:
If Moore is guilty of course he should step down. But in this world where the MSM defends Menendez for 5 years, I’m gunna need more than the word of Bezos’ Blog.
At Townhall, which owns RedState, columnist Kurt Schlicther summed it up this way:
We know the guy is guilty of being like Jerry Seinfeld, and he may be worse and actually criminal. If he is, Moore needs to drop and the Alabama legislature needs to redo the rules to get a viable Republican into the race. But we don’t know, and the voters have a right to wonder why the GOPe was so eager to embrace a shaky claim pushed by a media we have seen lie and lie again about Republicans to help their liberal masters.
Later in the column he also referred to this as a “mere accusation.”
Even here at RedState, a number of people in the comments section have suggested that the charge against Moore could happen to “any of us” and that there would be no way to defend against it.
This objection completely fails to take into account the difference between an unfounded, unsubstantiated claim that someone might hurl at you on the internet, and the detailed, sourced reporting in the initial WaPo story. We’ve been over it here at RedState already. Dozens of people were interviewed. A woman made a credible claim about her past. Since that time, a second woman has made a credible claim.
Even if you don’t believe them, you can’t treat that as being exactly the same as just some rando tossing out insults in an Instagram post.
I mean, look, unsubstantiated and stupid allegations were brought against Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio during the 2016 primary (mostly by the Trump wing) yet they all survived them. Those foolish false claims didn’t become “known facts.” My question would be, if it’s so easy, if this is so flimsy, if it can happen to any of the Senators now distancing themselves from Moore … why hasn’t it? Why hasn’t “the media” taken out Ted Cruz in this way? Or Mike Lee? If it’s so easy, why not?
The answer, of course, is that it is not just some simple anonymous tweet. Besides, a simple anonymous and unsubstantiated claim WAS Tweeted during this Moore debacle, and the Moore defenders were all over it, repeating it breathlessly far and wide and treating it as credible and Very Serious.
And it is not just a “Bezos blog”. No one on the right has ever denied the MSM bias against Republicans. But everyone on the right, including Steve Bannon and his website, quote and reference and get information from those same MSM outfits. Selectively, of course, in the same way Trump does. But reporting does happen, and the truth, the unalterable truth that is not affected by your agenda or your outrage, is that people on the right rely on outlets like the Washington Post all the time, even thought they have gotten many things wrong and worked against Republicans in the past.
The reason that matters, the reason I bring it up, what it MEANS, is that you can’t simply write it off by saying “Oh it’s the WaPo.” That’s not a good enough reason to dismiss the story, and especially not a story involving the sexual violation of a minor. In fact doing so is despicably callous and sick.
You take this seriously. That’s what you do. Roy Moore was utterly dismissive of the charges, and so are his defenders. That’s inexcusable. Even if you believe he is innocent, you don’t blow it off as “Bezos blog.” There are real people making allegations. We know their names. They aren’t anonymous.
You can’t treat this as nothing, and you can’t just dismiss it as a “hit job.” Doing so is … ugly.
Still, the fair question of whether this is a just way for a man to potentially lose a duly voted nomination does linger.
I rely a lot on character assessment. It’s not wholly reliable, of course, as the last year and a half alone stands in testament. But it is important. It’s that sense we have of someone or something that isn’t quite right. The less right they are, the stronger the sense. In the case of Roy Moore, in my view, the sense is strong indeed.
I thought his interview with Hannity was just awful. His answers didn’t indicate in any way that he thought the notion of a man in his thirties romantically pursuing a 17-year old was inappropriate or even unusual. In fact he explicitly left open the possibility that he did, in fact, do that very thing.
His public appearances prior to this left the same bad taste. A man with bad judgment. A man with impulse control issues. Something indefinably unsettling about him.
These things come into play whether you admit or not. We all have a degree of sensing such things. Clearly, we are either not sensing the same things, or some of us are choosing to ignore the instinct for partisan reasons.
But it does matter with regard to the idea of the big smear. This accusation would be far more challenged to find purchase had it been made against, say, Mitt Romney. Or Billy Graham. It wouldn’t be so believable. But it was made against Moore, and so it is.
One more thing to consider is that, I’m sorry to say, it seems a great number of people in Alabama aren’t all that concerned about the accusations, even should they prove true. Morons have already defended him on the grounds of “so what”, others on the grounds of “democrats are worse,” and there does generally seem to be a notion that dating teenage girls is just fine. Perhaps, as Roy Moore said, with their parents permission anyway. I don’t want to use the term “backward” but, as a father to two teenage girls, let me just say that that’s a backward and ignorant way of thinking and the state should be ashamed.
You see, the truth is, you have to take the whole picture into account. Everyone on the right spends a lot of time worrying about slippery slopes and precedents, but not enough arguing each case on its own merits.
This is not a dangerous dip into trial by public opinion. There is no trial at all. It’s not weaponizing random accusations. These are not random. It’s not a witch hunt. It’s not going to be repeated against other candidates.
The fact is, these are credible accusations. They are not proven, but the are credible. In this case. With this man. With these witnesses.
The consequences of a Moore win would play out across the GOP. And to what end? You may think you are preserving a particular number of votes, but that’s not so if you’re tanking other races. Every Senator will have to answer for Moore now. Already. How much worse will that be if he sits?
And how much worse are we if he sits and then even more comes out? If he turns out to be guilty as sin. What are we, then?
Ann Coulter and National Review agree on something. They want a write-in opponent for Moore. Two opposite ends of the GOP spectrum with the same notion. For my part, I’m with them both. Let’s run someone against him or in place of him. Now. Before it’s too late.
The fiction is that Roy Moore wins and all this goes away. The truth is, it’s Moore that needs to go away.