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GOP establishment looks like it's running from Roy Moore as ancient sex charges explode
Both McConnell and Gardner pronounce themselves troubled and drop the "step aside" suggestion.
I have no idea if any of this is true. We weren't going to do anything with it if the story remained isolated with the Washington Post, which first published it - not to protect Moore per se, but just to avoid becoming one more conduit for every set of personal allegations someone decides to drop on a candidate.
But the story has now exploded to the point where there's not much we'd accomplish by ignoring it. It's all over the place and it's the biggest political story of the day. Moore denies it. His accuser isn't backing down. The Post, of course, "stands by its story" as media always do. That's meaningless because the Post lies without remorse to take down people it doesn't like. But that doesn't prove anything one way or the other about this particular set of allegations.
The only thing we know is that, if it happened, it was a very long time ago. But that's not to say it's unserious. A 32-year-old dude messing around with a 14-year-old girl is beyond creepy. It's detestable. People can change a lot in 35 years, and perhaps Moore has. But Moore's position isn't that he did bad things and then changed. His position is that he didn't do the bad things at all.
And Alabama's Senate seat hangs in the balance, which almost seems incidental, but it's the only reason we're talking about this now. And the Republican establishment, which has little use for Moore, seems almost gleeful to have an excuse to tell him to get out of the race:
In a statement following the Post's report, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested if the allegations against Moore were in fact true, "he must step aside."
National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Cory Gardner echoed those calls, calling the allegations "deeply troubling", adding , "If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election."
The allegations themselves are just about impossible to prove, although they're very specific:
A woman named Leigh Corfman says that when she was 14 years old in 1979, Roy Moore, the current GOP Senate candidate in Alabama initiated a sexual encounter with her when he was 32 years old, according to The Washington Post.
Moore approached Corfman, outside a courtroom in Alabama, the report said, while her mother was inside at a child custody hearing and struck up a conversation with her.
He asked for Corfman's phone number and picked up a few days later near her house and drove her to his home in the woods 30 minutes away, the report said. Moore told Corfman "how pretty she was and kissed her," the report said.
Moore, on a second visit, took off Corfman's shirt and pants and he removed his own clothes, the report said, which added that he touched her over her bra and underwear and "he guided her hand to touch him over his underwear."
Three other women told the Post in recent weeks, the report said, that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, working at the district attorney's office. He gave some of them alcohol -- at a time when the legal drinking age was 19.
Corfman is the only woman who had sexual contact with Moore, the report said, and they did not have intercourse. The legal age of consent in Alabama is 16 years of age, and sexual contact between someone who is 19 years of age or older and a person who is 12 to 16 years of age is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year. The Post points out that enticing a child under 16 years of age into a home with the purpose of proposing sexual contact is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The statute of limitations on the felony charge would have run out in three years in 1979. Corfman never filed a police report.
The biggest problem for Moore here is the presence of the other three women who said that, yeah, he tried to put moves on them too. If it was just Cortman's story - detailed though it is - you could write it off at least potentially as one troubled person who had invented over the course of many years an incident that never took place. And it still could be that, but how do you explain away the apparent pattern of Moore turning his romantic attentions to girls in their teens?
I suppose it's possible that Moore took an interest in the girls in a non-sexual way and they simply misinterpreted his behavior. Maybe he's one of these guys who has a way about him that comes off as more creepy and deviant than it really is. I have no idea. Maybe he did all of this and more.
Let's say for the sake of argument it's true. Could he survive it? The best case he could make for himself is simply that, at 70, he's a very different man than he was when he was in his 30s and that the 70-year-old version we'd be electing to the Senate would be chastened and improved version. I'm largely sympathetic to the idea that people shouldn't be judged today on the worst behaviors of their distant past, especially those involving romance and dating, because if there's anyone who didn't make an ass himself at one time or another on that scene, I sure don't know who it is.
It's not me, that's for sure.
But there's awkward behavior we feel dumb about later, and then there's a sustained pattern of what borders on pedophilia. Or maybe it's crossed the border. I believe as strongly as I did three weeks ago that men have a lot to account for in their behavior toward women, and if Roy Moore behaved in this manner - even if it was many decades ago - it's too serious a thing for him to just dismiss it as a political dirty trick.
Then again, I suppose it could be just that. His stance, at least at the moment, is a complete and total denial. I don't know anything about Leigh Corfman or what her motivations to lie might be. But I don't think Roy Moore is going to get much help from the Republican Party on this because they're not happy to have him around in the first place.
This feels a little like the situation with Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood tape release. There were lots of people calling on him to step aside and let Mike Pence lead the ticket. Most people thought his candidacy was dead. Obviously he not only refused to step aside . . . he won the election. Maybe Moore thinks he can do that too. Maybe he can.
But here's the difference. Trump didn't deny that he said the things we heard on that tape, not that he really had that option since we all heard it. He owned it and apologized for it, and I don't think it changed many people's votes because even those of us who had made up our minds to vote for him sort of knew Trump could be a cad in his dealing with women. We didn't like it, didn't think it was OK, but we weren't going to hand Hillary the keys to the White House because of it.
In the case of Moore, he's not owning it, he's not apologizing - and unlike Trump, many of Moore's supporters like him because of his outspoken alignment with Christianity. Was he once the antithesis of that? And if he's refusing to own up to it, does that mean we can't trust his sincerity even now?
I believe there are few things worse you can do to another person than to bear false witness against them. It didn't become one of the Ten Commandments for no reason. If that's being done to Roy Moore right now, it's despicible.
I just don't know how we can tell one way or the other. I hate politics.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!