Back when he was the favorite to be the next senator from Alabama, Roy Moore liked to say, “We need to make America good again.” As I have noted, that is not a bad message, but Moore has proven to be a very bad messenger. A cascade of credible allegations about sexually laden actions that range from creepy to criminal has turned Moore’s campaign into a sad and likely futile double-down on indignation. Yes, the left-leaning media were out to get him. But, it increasingly appears, they legitimately got him.
Moore denies the most serious allegations (while admitting his eye for “young ladies”) and insists that “the Washington Post is certainly not evidence.” But the statements of the women reported in the Post most certainly are, especially when bolstered by consistent statements to others over the years and largely confirmed by even the likes of Breitbart News. Plenty of men have been convicted in a court of law based on less. Due to statutes of limitation, however, it is unlikely that the former judge will ever find himself in a courtroom facing any of his accusers.
Instead, as Moore re-tweeted, “Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election.” I expect the jurors are getting tired of the political circus that came to town after Jeff Sessions was tapped as U.S. attorney general. Moore is running for the Senate seat that is currently occupied by Luther Strange, whom Moore has already defeated in a memorable special election primary. Senator Strange was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley at a time when Strange, then the attorney general of Alabama, was investigating Bentley for illegalities surrounding an affair the governor was having with a former adult Sunday school pupil. Despite dispatching Strange to D.C., Bentley later resigned as part of a plea deal. In the wake of that, Moore said of Bentley’s evangelical supporters, “I would hope they’d be more cautious,” adding, “Sometimes, politicians take advantages of that attention to morality and they will profess things they don’t actually stand for.” The truth in Alabama can be stranger than fiction.
Moore is now asking voters to believe that this scandal is actually a highly orchestrated deception. His response to the allegations of (as I type) nine women and a high school yearbook is essentially to cast it all as a politically-motivated fabrication. It is hard not to hear echoes from 1998 of Hillary Clinton telling Matt Lauer about the “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband.” (Oddly, Moore’s own “jury” re-tweet amplifies the work of a reporter whose Twitter account highlights, tongue in cheek, that he has been declared “part of a vast left-wing conspiracy, or something” by Breitbart.)
President Clinton never let the truth get in the way of his political ambitions. Roy Moore seems to be following the same playbook. I believe that the women are being truthful and Moore is lying. If that is so, then the man who made his name as the “Ten Commandments Judge” is taking Clinton’s game to a new level. Clinton was willing to sacrifice the good of his family, party, and country in the interest of political self-preservation. Moore does all that and tosses onto the fire the reputation of Christian morality itself, as well as the reputations of those who, out of a delusional sense of loyalty, now stand by him.
What does Moore think when he watches various friends and social conservatives come to a podium emblazoned with the Decalogue and, as they advance his conspiracy theory, liken Moore to Christ being crucified? What does he think when his wife takes to the steps of the state capitol wearing golden cross earrings to read, “Most important, he is a Christian,” and declare, “He will not step down”? Does “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” or “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” ever cross his mind?
Even after his bad deeds came to light, Moore still had a chance to help make America good again. Bill Clinton bet correctly that the nation was not moral enough to care about his sex life, indirectly paving the way for Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton years later. Moore had the chance to reverse that trend and respond to personal sexual immorality as a Christian should—by repenting. He could have apologized to his victims, left the race, and closed his public life by exemplifying the lost art of dealing honorably with one’s own dishonor. Instead, the West Point graduate and founder of the Foundation for Moral Law is trying to shield his shame behind God and country.
Alabama voters currently face an awful choice, because the Democrats’ nominee, Doug Jones, supports abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Ironically, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—Moore’s main foil besides the liberal media—may have just presented Moore with his only viable path to victory. McConnell’s warning that Moore would face an immediate ethics investigation followed by the possibility of expulsion presents a means to get Moore testifying in detail under oath. The seat would remain under GOP control after Moore’s expulsion, because Governor Kay Ivey would appoint any replacement. Maybe this prospect will convince a few more conservative voters who are not inclined to believe the denials to hold their noses and vote for Moore.
That is likely too cute by half, though. More realistically, many will understandably chafe at the thought of voting for a likely molester and liar, and Jones will win, as current polls suggest. With several weeks to go, though, there is still time to do what is right under these circumstances: Moore should step aside in order to focus on the state of his family and his soul.
John Murdock is a professor at the Handong International Law School.