A neutron bomb was tossed into Alabama’s U.S. Senate race on Thursday.
Anyone who hasn’t been unconscious for the past couple of days knows about the Washington Post’s story — which we published; we subscribe to the Post’s news service through our parent company, GateHouse Media — in which four women made allegations of sexual misconduct by GOP candidate Roy Moore when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s, working as an assistant district attorney in Etowah County.
One of the women, who was 14 in 1979 when the alleged encounter happened, detailed behavior by Moore that would amount to sexual abuse if true.
We’re not going to spend time trying to do the impossible — gauge the truth of these allegations. The Post’s story featured names, faces and details, and obviously was the fruit of intense investigative journalism. It reads as tightly as a guitar string tuned to its breaking point.
Still, no one save Moore, the women and the Almighty know with metaphysical certitude (pilfering the late John McLaughlin’s signature line) what actually happened. There’s no statute of limitations in Alabama on a felony against someone 16 or younger, and Moore’s wife said she and her husband plan to sue the Post for defamation, but we’d be stunned to see any civil or criminal adjudication here.
Nearly 40-year-old cases are difficult for the legal system, and threats to sue often dissipate when it gets to the point of actually putting your hand on a Bible and swearing to tell the truth, on the record, at the risk of perjury.
We’re also not going to bray along with those demanding that Moore leave the race, because we know that’s unlikely to happen. He’s a determined if not downright stubborn man, which is part of his appeal to his followers.
Nor are we going to question those complaining about the timing of these accusations; this is how the political game is played these days. “Sewer” and “silage pit” aren’t strong enough words to describe that game (and we try to avoid profanity).
We’re not going tell you to vote for Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, or write in someone else’s name on Dec. 12, because we’re under no illusions on how this is playing out in Alabama. The applicable line has been attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, writer Franz Werfel and a few others: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”
What we will do is call out those who, in response to this story, have said they don’t care (Bibb County Republican Chairman Jerry Pow), or have turned to the Bible (State Auditor Jim Zeigler) or offered wobbly defenses of May-December relationships (Marion County GOP Chairman David Hall) to justify Moore’s behavior, should the allegations be true.
We absolutely understand Moore’s core constituency; it’s the same group that screamed so loudly at the polls a year ago.
They feel abandoned and ignored not just by their government, but by society and the business world. They feel pressured and compelled to accept that which they consider evil and unrighteous. They scoff when reminded of all the supposed advantages they’ve been given.
Of course there are counter arguments to those statements, but these folks are desperate for a champion, and aren’t willing to easily give one up when he materializes.
However, to say “no matter what,” including sexual misconduct, troubles us. It’s not surprising in this polarized era in which every political dispute, as we’ve observed, is treated as Armageddon and a threat to society’s very survival; variations of the words “liberal” and “conservative” are hurled as insults both in person and on social media by people who have lost all concept of what the words mean; and those with way too much time on their hands spend hours on the Internet looking for dirt on both the accused and their accusers.
We’re seeing politics devolve into the most destructive “ends justify the means” mode, and that’s potentially a bigger and more ominous deal than a mere stench.