Roy Moore, where to begin.
Let’s just start with the fact that Moore’s “historic” victory over GOP establishment favorite and Trump-backed Sen. Luther Strange in the September Alabama Republican primary was widely seen as a potentially disastrous outcome. The winner of the special election on December 12 (which pits Moore against Democrat Doug Jones) will fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.
Moore was removed as state Supreme Court chief justice not once, but twice. The first time (in 2003) for refusing to comply with a court order demanding the removal of a monument to the Ten Commandments from the courthouse and then again in 2016 for deciding not to go along with a US Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
But that’s hardly the end of it. If there were a dictionary entry for “batshit crazy”, Moore’s picture would be next to it, possibly alongside Steve Bannon who embarked on a veritable crusade to bolster Moore in the primary even as Donald Trump endorsed Luther Strange at a raucous event in Huntsville on September 23. Here’s what Bannon said about Moore just three weeks ago:
Got that? Roy is part of Steve’s “populist, nationalist, conservative revolt,” although as the Washington Post notes, it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that Bannon delivered the nomination for Moore:
Saying the former head of Trump’s campaign and chief White House adviser delivered the nomination to Moore is giving him too much credit — Moore already led before Bannon came on-board and made an appearance for him — but Moore is the kind of candidate Bannon has promised to support in Republican primaries across the country. Bannon is seeking primary challengers to run against basically any Republican incumbent who doesn’t call for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) removal as majority leader. He’s looking for anti-establishment, nationalistic, Trumpian firebrands. But those firebrands also tend to be less vetted, more extreme and prone to spectacular downfalls that cost the GOP seats.
Let’s look back at some of the things that Moore has said over the years, in an effort to understand why it is that even before Thursday’s bombshell, quite a few people were concerned about his candidacy. And again, note that the following is in addition to his removal from the bench as outlined above.
Back in 2006, Moore was profoundly displeased with Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.) choice to take his oath of office on the Quran. Here’s what Moore said in a 2006 post on WorldNetDaily.com:
In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on ‘Mein Kampf,’ or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the ‘Communist Manifesto.’
You can see why comparing the Quran to Mein Kampf might be controversial.
So that’s one thing. Just to pull another one out of the hat, Moore gave a stump speech in early September in which he appeared to use a series of racial slurs to describe Native Americans and Asians. Here’s that clip:
Now, say what you will there (and there’s a lot you could say), but I’m not sure “reds and yellows” is the best way to go about saying what he’s trying to say. We are, after all, talking about people, not crayons.
And then there was the time back on February 5 (that would be February 5 of this year), when, in a speech delivered at the Open Door Baptist Church, Moore quoted Scripture on the way to suggesting that America deserved 9/11. To wit:
‘Because you have despised His word and trust in perverseness and oppression, and say thereon … therefore this iniquity will be to you as a breach ready to fall, swell out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instance.’
Sounds a little bit like the Pentagon, whose breaking came suddenly at an instance, doesn’t it?
If you think that’s coincidence, if you go to verse 25, ‘there should be up on every high mountain and upon every hill rivers and streams of water in the day of the great slaughter when the towers will fall.’
You know, we’ve suffered a lot in this country, maybe, just maybe, because we’ve distanced ourselves from the one that has it within his hands to heal this land.
As CNN noted, Moore would go on to suggest that God was angry at the United States because “we legitimize sodomy” and “legitimize abortion.”
Well if you weren’t skeptical of Roy before Thursday, you most assuredly are now because in what may well turn out to be one of this year’s most politically consequential pieces of journalism, Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites writing for The Washington Post, paint a truly disturbing picture of then 32-year-old assistant district attorney Moore.
The full piece is here if you haven’t read it, but I’ll just excerpt a few passages:
Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.
It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.
“He said, ‘Oh, you don’t want her to go in there and hear all that. I’ll stay out here with her,’ ” says Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, 71. “I thought, how nice for him to want to take care of my little girl.”
Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the three women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.
Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.
Needless to say, this is a fucking unmitigated disaster for Moore and indirectly for Steve Bannon.
For his part, Moore is of course furious and has denied the allegations, writing them off as a “completely false and desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post.”
Here’s what he posted on Twitter:
There are a lot of ironies in there, and it is by no means clear that Roy should have immediately responded to this by jumping on Twitter to talk about Christianity and “values.” Because even if these allegations are 100% false, you need to think very – very – carefully about how you respond – for obvious reasons.
Here’s what his campaign came up with and I’ve got to tell you, it’s not much better:
To be fair, anyone is going to want to immediately respond to incendiary accusations like these, and the knee-jerk is naturally going to be aggressive, but you also have to be cognizant of the fact that while many Americans do harbor a deep-seated distrust of the liberal media, it is not entirely lost on voters that there is a process for running stories like this. This isn’t the kind of thing that a couple of reporters throw together on a shared Google doc one night – these stories are carefully vetted and the Post is of course acutely aware of the legal ramifications.
The point being: the chances that this story is completely fabricated are slim to none. There’s something to this. Now you can very fairly ask “how much is something?” That is, you can question the details and you can suggest that the sources are grossly misrepresenting the facts, but the notion that this is 100% false is far-fetched in the extreme.
Meanwhile, Republicans are aghast and are universally calling for Moore to step aside. Here’s a sample of the reactions:
Roy is apparently not prepared to do any such thing. Here’s what he said in an e-mail to supporters:
I refuse to stand down. [This is an attack by] the Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs.
The forces of evil are on the march in our country…I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values.
He says that now, but it seems likely that the pressure will be too great. Consider, for instance, what Jennifer Rubin wrote for the Post this afternoon:
Bannon did not create Moore, but he found him and backed him, disregarding (embracing, even) Moore’s views. Bannon’s brand of incendiary politics and nihilism doesn’t believe in qualifications, experience or mental stability; the wackier the better. Perhaps this sordid episode will undercut his plan to run freakish candidates in GOP primaries.
Once upon a time conservatives believed in a set of principles and understood the demands of governance. No more. The freak show that now plays out is the foreseeable consequence of a party that has abandoned standards, morphed into a cult of personality and chosen to curl up in the right-wing media bubble.
She’s calling the GOP a “freak show” and she’s (correctly) identifying Steve Bannon as the collector of freaks.
This is not just “bad press”, this is the kind of thing that will effectively force the GOP establishment to figure out how to figuratively assassinate Steve Bannon once and for all. Republicans are already under enough pressure. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are the butt of every joke about legislative ineptitude and Donald Trump is the butt of every joke about everything.
Steve Bannon is in no small part responsible for this “deplorable” (pardon the bad pun) state of affairs and now he’s trying to install people like Roy Moore in the spots previously occupied by the same establishment which is suffering irreparable reputational damage from being associated with a President who Bannon also helped to install.
If you think the GOP is going to keep sitting idly by while Bannon turns the entire party into a collection of religious zealots, overt racists, raving homophobes, and now accused predators, you are crazier than Steve.
These are not the “values” of traditional Conservatives. Say what you will about the party’s penchant for putting religion over science and for being less than flexible when it comes to adapting to societal change, but no one wants to be associated with Steve Bannon and the people he’s backing. Even if you secretly agreed with the message, it’s long-term political suicide – and I mean like the kind of political suicide that lands you in history textbooks, only not in a good way.
“The vice president found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office,” Mike Pence’s Press Sec. Alyssa Farah said in statement late Thursday evening.
The immediate concern is that it’s not clear how they could even go about removing Moore from the race. Here’s CNN, from a separate story:
The Alabama Secretary of State’s office told CNN that Moore or the Alabama Republican Party can withdraw his nomination for the Senate seat, but there’s no process to replace him outside of a write-in candidate.
“We do not have the process of how the state party would decide that yet. Should the party decide to do withdraw his nomination, the state chairman will notify the Secretary of State,” the office told CNN.
If Moore’s name is withdrawn, there is no process to replace a candidate with another candidate’s name. That means, if the Alabama Republican Party wanted to try to get another Republican elected, it would have to be a write-in on the ballot.
If Moore’s nomination is withdrawn, the state canvassing board will not certify votes for him. So should he received the most votes after a withdrawal, it will not be counted.
Whatever the case, Moore is finished. That much seems clear.
The question now is what this means for Steve Bannon’s “populist, nationalist, conservative revolt.”
You know, the one he was so proud of Roy for participating in – right up until Thursday.