You know, sometimes I don’t even know what to say about the current state of American politics, because at this point, it’s devolved into something that is almost indistinguishable from a reality television show.
And I don’t just mean Trump – who is of course an actual reality TV show icon and who has done everything in his power to recast the White House in the image of The Apprentice.
The landscape gets more cartoonish by the day and the whole thing has a kind of self-fulfilling character to it. The more voters turn on the establishment the more paralyzed that establishment becomes and that paralysis feeds back into the legislative process creating still more of the same gridlock that enrages the electorate, begetting more support for anti-establishment candidates, and around we go.
But there’s an inherent risk to running “outsider” candidates. That risk came calling for Steve Bannon on Thursday when the Washington Post effectively deep-sixed Breitbart darling Roy Moore’s Senate run by publishing the account of a women who claims Moore pursued her when he was 32 and she was just 14.
We wrote extensively about that and about what the revelations mean for Bannon’s “populist/nationalist revolt” on Thursday evening in a post called “Roy Moore, Steve Bannon And The Freak Show.”
Moore was out on Friday afternoon claiming that he has “evidence” of some kind of “collusion” that he’s “not ready to release yet.”
Well Roy, we’ve gotta tell you, now would be a really good time to release that “evidence.” Because according to a new poll by Decision Desk and Opinion Savvy, Moore is now tied with Jones and 83% of respondents said they were aware of the WaPo story.
For his part, Steve Bannon actually tried to compare the Moore allegations with Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” tape: Here’s what Bannon said at a speech in New Hampshire on Thursday:
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. By the way, I don’t mind it. I’ll call them out every day.
Ok, so for one thing, “dropped a dime” is a rather peculiar way to describe this. That’s how you might describe a neighbor who snitches on you for selling drugs. “Dropped a dime” has a certain negative connotation to it for the person who is doing the snitching. It doesn’t entirely exonerate the person on whom the dime was dropped, but it implies some shared blame. Given that, it doesn’t really apply to people who are reporting that a man who is running for Senate might have preyed on 14-year-old girls when he was 32. There is no sense in which it makes sense to blame the Post for reporting that and you’re reminded that WaPo spoke to nearly three dozen people who knew Moore between 1977 and 1982.
In an interview with Sean Hannity (who else, right?), Moore now says he doesn’t even know the accuser. He would go on to say that beyond being “false and misleading,” the allegations “hurt him personally.” He continued:
This woman waited over forty years to bring complaint four weeks out from an election – something’s up here.
Roy is right. “Something is up here.” And I’ll tell you what it is. My guess would be that if this is any semblance of true, the women who spoke to the Post were at least partly motivated to speak out because Roy is running for Senate. For Moore to cast that as a conspiracy is silly. It would be like if 40 years ago, you were doing dishes in your kitchen and out the window you saw your neighbor beating the bejesus out of his wife, and then after keeping your mouth shut about it for four decades, that same neighbor is suddenly trying to be the director of a local center for battered women. That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to speak up about something that happened a long time ago.
Anyway, Moore would also state the obvious, which is this:
Nobody that abuses a 14-year-old at age 32 or at age 17, it doesn’t matter, if you abuse a 14-year-old you shouldn’t be a Senate candidate.
Thanks for that Roy – we know. That’s why everyone wants you to step aside. Moore continued:
But I did not do that.
Ok, so someone is lying and something tells me that neither side is going to back down here.
Meanwhile, Steve Bannon is giving interviews about this, and don’t let it be lost on you why he’s so concerned. Remember everything we said on Thursday night about Bannon’s connection to Moore. This is a big deal for Steve – Moore was his first big win in what he’s variously characterized as a “war” for the heart and soul of the GOP. The Alabama primary was supposed to pave the way for Bannon’s move to unseat GOP incumbents next year and replace them with Bannonites. Needless to say, the WaPo allegations have turned what was a resounding victory into a rather inauspicious start to Steve’s “war.” So here’s what he told Bloomberg News on Friday:
This is deeper than politics – it’s about trying to destroy a man’s life. I’ve seen this before with Trump. As Hillary Clinton would say, this is nothing less than the politics of personal destruction.
He went on to claim that the WaPo piece was a hit planted by Moore’s enemies. “He didn’t elaborate,” Bloomberg adds, dryly.
Of course he didn’t “elaborate” – because there’s nothing to “elaborate” on. And see this goes back to the problem for Steve. When you run these people, you are knowingly taking a risk that they do or say something crazy or worse, that something crazy they’ve said or done in the past comes back on them. And because these candidates are already seen as potentially unstable or otherwise not suited to occupy high public office (recall that Moore was removed as state Supreme Court chief justice not once, but twice), any new dirt that emerges on them is going to be magnified.
Steve’s sticking by Moore. In the same Bloomberg interview he said he spoke to ol’ Roy on Friday afternoon. But don’t kid yourself – Bannon doesn’t have a choice. This was his first run at ousting the GOP establishment. If this was one of many candidates who had similarly scored resounding victories, Roy would be expendable. But because he’s one of the first, he’s indispensable. Bannon has to stay onboard and if Roy’s ship sinks, Steve will have to just go down with it and hope nothing even more definitive comes out about Moore. The best Steve can hope for is to maintain some plausible deniability here and to keep pushing this line about how this is all part of an establishment conspiracy.
We’re going to leave you with a video of the entire Bannon New Hampshire speech mentioned and cited above. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s fucking stupid. And the reason we’re going with that rather crude assessment is because we actually expected more out of it, although I don’t know why. He doesn’t actually say anything. It’s all nonsense. As political scientists, we can appreciate artistry even when it’s being employed by people we find despicable, but there is no artistry in what you’ll watch below.
Sit through as much of this as you can stand and ask yourself (and this goes double for our Conservative readers) the following: does this really sound like a guy who knows what he’s talking about to you, or is this just a rambling charlatan preying on the uneducated?