Roy Moore, Donald Trump and the end of all Republican moral authority

There was a time when many in the Republican establishment were horrified by their party’s Senate nominee in Alabama, particularly by his well-documented sexual relationships with girls as young as 14 years old. Dozens of prominent GOP leaders spoke out about it. “I believe the women, yes,” was how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell summarized the feelings within his party. Well, that era of propriety, with conformity to decent standards of behavior and respect for young women, is now a relic of mid-November. Early December, it appears, reveals an entirely different view of Judge Roy Moore, of sexual exploitation of minors and of candidates who then lie about their days trolling the mall for teenage girls when they were in their mid-30s.

The formal endorsement of Mr. Moore by President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee on Monday was not predicated on any new or exculpatory information regarding Mr. Moore’s distasteful sexual history. He is still the same candidate he was three weeks ago. Indeed, the weight of the evidence to refute his denials has only gotten heavier. That includes the testimony of Debbie Wesson Gibson, who dated Judge Moore when he was 34 and she was 17. It was a relationship she was proud of — until she watched Mr. Moore lie over and over again about his time with her and at least eight other other young women he dated, calling all their claims false and malicious. “Roy Moore made an egregious mistake to attack that one thing — my integrity,” she recently told The Washington Post recounting (and providing further evidence of) their time together.

Remember the political party of two decades ago that got so incensed that a Democrat in the White House had lied about his sexual contact with a 22-year-old that members felt compelled to issue Articles of Impeachment against him and conduct a 21-day trial after which Bill Clinton was acquitted of all charges? It is just as crystal clear that Mr. Moore is lying about a far more distasteful pattern of behavior. Initially, that raised a bit of bile in the mouths of Republicans. Now, it doesn’t. One can only hope that when President Trump said, “Go, get ‘em, Roy,” to Mr. Moore during a call from Air Force One that he was talking about the Dec. 12 election. How ironic that this is happening, as The New York Times has reported, even as Mr. Trump is privately denying that it’s his voice on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape talking about grabbing women’s genitalia.

Sexual impropriety extends far beyond political boundaries, as the Democrats well know, and societal standards are clearly changing in the post-Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo backlash. Just ask Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose, television news personalities who were cut loose from their careers in a matter of days after credible allegations against them surfaced. Even congressional Democrats are recognizing misbehavior in their ranks, most recently calling on Rep. John Conyers to resign — which he finally agreed to do on Tuesday. Mr. Conyers has status as a historic figure, the dean of the House of Representatives and a veteran of the civil rights movement, but none of that changes the moral imperatives in his case. Mr. Moore’s status is that of being twice removed from judgeships for failing to follow the law, most recently for instructing fellow judges to uphold Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage after it was determined to be unconstitutional. Yet it is Mr. Conyers who is choosing to leave the arena.

Alabama voters can, of course, elect whomever they choose. Pigasus, a 145-pound hog, was once nominated as president by the Youth International Party as part of a protest outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, so an electoral preference for swine is not wholly unprecedented. But Mr. Trump and the GOP have no business embracing him, let alone accepting him into the Senate, whether he’s the 52nd vote in their caucus or the 99th. With this turnabout, Republicans are essentially broadcasting to the country that they are all-in with President Trump, not just in regards to his politics and his populism, but to his serial lying and his boasts about sexual predation. This is a shameful moment for the Party of Lincoln, now the Party of Look The Other Way. Even Mr. McConnell, who once upon a time played a leading role in drumming Bob Packwood out of the Senate, has now promised to “swear in whoever’s elected.” So much for believing women.

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