It’s starting to seem like Donald Trump feels he has nothing to lose.
After a weekend that saw the President incriminate himself (thereby compelling John Dowd to fall on his sword), renew his assault on the FBI, and encourage Americans to sue ABC news for sparking a short-lived stock selloff, Trump was up early on Monday endorsing Roy Moore on Twitter:
Moore has fallen behind in Alabama’s December 12 special election following a wave of allegations that collectively paint a disturbing picture of the Republican who, with the help of Steve Bannon, beat GOP establishment candidate Luther Strange in the September party primary despite a late endorsement for “Big Luther” from Trump.
As a reminder, Roy Moore had no business occupying public office even before anyone knew about the recent allegations.
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.
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.’
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 who he called “reds and yellows” as though he were looking at box of 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 because America “legitimized sodomy” and “legitimized abortion.”
Again, this man has no place holding public office irrespective of the recent allegations of misconduct with teenagers.
But this is Alabama we’re talking about and so, he’s still only a few points behind:
Underscoring how that’s possible is a new piece in the New York Times which sheds some light on what can only be described as a truly sad state of affairs in America. Consider these excerpts:
Anne Stickney does not have many good things to say about Roy S. Moore. She saw as mere “posturing” his name-making crusade over the display of the Ten Commandments in various Alabama courthouses. She has no reason to doubt the recent allegations that, as a man in his 30s, Mr. Moore harassed and sexually assaulted teenagers. In sum, Ms. Stickney has concluded that Mr. Moore, the Republican nominee for United States Senate here, will not get her vote.
But she will not be voting for his Democratic opponent in the Senate election on Dec. 12, either.
“Doug Jones has a good reputation for being a good man,” Ms. Stickney, 63, said. “But he’s still a Democrat.”
There you go. So instead of voting for Jones, Stickney is going to write in retired Marine colonel Lee Busby.
Of course not everyone in Alabama is, like Anne, willing to admit they have no reason to doubt the allegations against Moore. The poll cited in the chart above (it’s a Post-Schar School poll conducted last Monday to Thursday by the research firm Abt Associates among a sample of 739 likely voters and carries a 4.5-point margin of sampling error) shows that only 35% of likely voters believe it’s likely that Moore did in fact make unwanted advances toward teenage girls. 28% said Moore did not make the advances that were alleged.
Donald Trump is encouraging people to doubt the accusers. He has repeatedly told America that Moore has denied the allegations (as if we didn’t know that) and has cast doubt on the accounts of victims by referencing the length of time that passed between the alleged acts and when the women came forward.
And now here we are Monday morning just days ahead of the election and the President of the United States is openly endorsing a man who has been accused by multiple women of pursuing them (and worse) when they were teenagers.
Critical here is the context. Here’s how we explained this last month:
The problem for Trump is that his endorsement of “Big Luther” ran counter to Steve Bannon’s endorsement of Moore. When Moore won, it was widely seen as a testament to the idea that voters are still sympathetic to the populist message that got Trump elected – that would be the same message Steve Bannon is still pushing. So to Trump, there’s a sense in which Moore’s victory was “proof” that abandoning Bannon’s populism for mainstream Republican politics is not a good idea.
Once the allegations against Moore starting piling up, it became clear that Bannon had made an egregious miscalculation. The Washington Post story about Moore came just a day after Bannon called for Mitch McConnell to step aside, and as the furor grew over Moore’s alleged misdeeds, so did the backlash against the Führer’s “war” to replace GOP incumbents with “outsiders.” Bannon stood by Moore, but people close to the Breitbart boss would later reveal that he has his misgivings.
For Trump, this is and has always been a lose-lose proposition. Backing Strange was a way to curry favor with the mainstream Republicans Trump needs to push his agenda forward, but not backing Moore was seen as a move away from the populism that helped win Trump the election.
You’d think, given the allegations against Moore, that this would be an easy call for the President. But it’s not. Because Trump has already thrown Roy under the bus once by endorsing Strange. To throw him under the bus again would be to effectively double down on the same kind of mainstream Republican politics that his base despises and that Bannon spends every waking hour railing against. So what does Trump do? Well, he decides to roll the dice with Moore.
And make no mistake, it is a gamble. Because this just undermines whatever claim Trump had left on moral authority – although as noted here at the outset, he has no claim to that at all, so this is a nothing to lose-type scenario.
Regardless of the political calculus, this is a truly egregious thing for Trump to do. He had a list of outs handed to him by top Republicans on this issue and he effectively deep-sixed them all.
Now, he’s running with an outright endorsement of a man who has been accused of improper conduct with children.