Bill Clinton. Herman Cain. Anthony Weiner. Donald Trump. All are men, all U.S. politicians with sexual assault or misconduct allegations in their past. Some watched their candidacies sink, others did not. There are differences in the behavior of each, of course, but it would be foolish to find absolute consistency and moral certainty in how the public, the press and their parties reacted to their circumstances. Times change. Standards change. What we expect from our elected office-holders changes.
Now with that out of the way, let’s recognize Roy Moore for what he is: Arthur Dimmesdale without the agonizing guilt. He has betrayed his party, his supporters and his religion, but instead of coming clean or seeking forgiveness, he is attempting to bully, harangue, preach and cajole his way to a seat in the U.S. Senate. Five women have accused him of sexual assault, including molesting one who was only 14 years old at the time. He is not a victim of an unlikely Democratic, media and Republican establishment conspiracy, he is a flaming serial misogynist, a sanctimonious teen stalker, an abuser of women.
Rarely do this nation’s political leaders, particularly at the national level, agree on something, but on Mr. Moore, Alabama’s GOP nominee, the consensus is clear. From Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (the so-called establishment figure) to Republican Sens. Ted Cruz Cruz and Mike Lee (representing the far-right and most Donald Trump supportive wing of the party), the call has gone forth for Mr. Moore to bow out. The allegations, first reported in considerable and highly credible detail by The Washington Post, but most recently reinforced Monday by the tearful Alabama woman who says she was attacked by Mr. Moore was she was just 16, are just too convincing to dismiss.
And the behavior by Mr. Moore and his supporters since many of these several decades old allegations have come to light has been nearly as embarrassing for his cause. There was the Alabama state auditor’s rationalization that there was a big age gap between Mary and Joseph. There was the goofy phony message left on a pastor’s answering machine in which the caller claims to be a non-existent Post reporter “Bernie Bernstein” offering thousands of dollars for women who will make “damaging remarks” about Mr. Moore that he promises will not be “fully” investigated. Or then there’s the atrocious, grammatically challenged letter from Mr. Moore’s lawyer to an Alabama news outlet seeking retraction and threatening a defamation lawsuit. (Tip: When a lawyer gets “its” and “it’s” confused on the first sentence, there’s reason to believe this isn’t an especially well thought out missive).
But mostly Judge Moore has gone full Donald Trump, complaining that the establishment and media and Democrats are out to get him. Unfortunately, that might actually fly with Alabama voters who haven’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in about a generation (Mr. Moore remains ahead by about six points in the latest poll) and think Mr. Trump is terrific no matter what he said on a hot mic during an“Access Hollywood” appearance about grabbing women’s crotches (having carried the state by 28 points last year). But that doesn’t mean the Senate might not do something it hasn’t done since 1862 — expel a seated member.
Think a member of Congress can’t be expelled over allegations of sexual misconduct? Talk to Sen. Bob Packwood, the Oregon Republican who resigned in 1995 when it became clear that he was facing that very fate because of sexual harassment charges — and none of his sexual advances involved 14-year-olds. Congress seems to be finally waking up to the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace, let alone in the local shopping mall. At a hearing on Tuesday, female lawmakers spoke out about their own experiences with inappropriate sexual advances and other behavior on Capitol Hill, and presiding officers have promised greater harassment training.
Perhaps 20 years ago, Mr. Moore’s behavior could have been ignored. Perhaps. But whether society’s awakening is from the spate of recent cases of sexual misconduct coming out of Hollywood or simply a matter of victims, the vast majority of them women, finally being heard is not especially important. What is vital is that we recognize molesting, attacking or otherwise taking sexual advantage of others, especially minors, is not acceptable behavior, particularly from anyone seeking to be elected to one of the most exulted positions of power in the world, a seat in the United States Senate. If Alabama voters fail to take corrective action next month, it is up to the Senate and its Republican members to do the right thing and toss the creep out.
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