“Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”
— James Carville, Clinton campaign manager,
regarding Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual assault victims
I have truly hesitated to even address the allegations this week against Judge Roy Moore, mostly because the very idea of lowering oneself into the false dichotomy of justifying pederasty vs. capitalizing on pederasty for raw political advantage only makes one part of the growing and odious problem that has become the tabloid media. Anathema sit.
Let’s go down the list. One becomes rather tired of using one person’s bad behavior to justify another person’s bad behavior. One also becomes rather tired of the weaponization of suffering — news stories timed not out of any regard for the victims themselves, but in the pure and unadulterated pursuit of political power.
…which is precisely what this story about Roy Moore has become.
David Harsanyi — whose writing and perspective I came to enjoy when he was writing for the Denver Post a decade ago — writes over at The Federalist concerning why we don’t have to wait until a trial before we condemn Roy Moore:
Due process is a vital legal concept that establishes rules and procedures to guard against unfair, arbitrary, untrue, or unreasonable treatment that deprives Americans of “life, liberty or property.” That’s because anyone can lie — including self-professed victims of sexual assault. You needn’t look further than the numerous young lives that have been ruined on college campuses by fabricated allegations to understand why due process is important. And anyone can be railroaded. Witchhunts are real. Mobs tend to form rather easily these days. The politically motivated smear the innocent for partisan reasons. Biased organizations peddle innuendo and gossip to exploit the public’s existing biases.
. . .
Still, none of that means the accusations about Moore pursuing sexual relations with teen girls when he was in his 30s is any less plausible. Unlike a number stories that have simply relayed abuse allegations without proof or corroboration, The Washington Post’s article on Moore happens to be a solid piece of journalism with multiple sources and timelines that form a wholly credible, sordid story. Accusations of bias shouldn’t convince the fair-minded person to dismiss the testimonies of (at least) four women who don’t know each other but tell similar tales with some specificity.
Let’s get to the crux of what is truly bothering folks on the right — conservatives, Dixiecrats, and populists alike — about the political left. Democrats play by a lower set of moral and ethical standards; Republicans are asked to play by a higher set. Victims are leveraged for power; Republicans crack, Democrats rally around their black sheep, the decent to Averno continues at pace.
So when James Carville gave what was arguably a Trumpian response to sexual assault victims in the early 1990s, few Democrats blinked. We certainly are not calling Trump’s miscues “Carvillian” by any stretch.
But the double standard seems OK when it’s in the pursuit of power. To the political right who has learned from Trump that the only response to the exasperated “really?” expressed by the political left is to double down, stare them in the eyes, and say — “really — and go take a flying leap when you do.”
Case in point? The Weinstein scandal. For decades we have heard from celebrities and public figures of the left about the problem of “rape culture” — almost exclusively from the left. To the ears of mainstream America, it all seemed so very odd and out of place. That sort of viciousness simply doesn’t exist within our circles… until, of course, we discover that it was all too common and vicious in Hollywood celebrity circles (or those trying to get in).
…and that’s how begin to morally subsidize the likes of Roy Moore.
Then the dilemma sets in, or at least if not a moral dilemma, then two discordant ideas are forced to reconcile. On the one hand, we all instinctively know that this is a well-orchestrated (and it must be stressed, valid) political hit piece timed for maximum impact. On the other hand, the allegations within are beyond alarming — they are odious beyond measure.
Within that reconciliation is a realization that the Democrats don’t give a damn about the victims themselves, and perhaps that is why a good many of us stop and pause from commenting on the entire matter at all. It is the odious capitalization of suffering that is so off-putting about the entire Roy Moore fiasco.
…yet isn’t that what politics has become?
when James Carville gave what was arguably a Trumpian response to sexual assault victims in the early 1990s, few Democrats blinked.
The temptation to descend and “become like them” is the temptation that needs to be resisted. The additional temptation of becoming puritanical despots in the wake of every affair ought to be resisted with full fervor, as it is a uniquely American (and perhaps, British) phenomenon to whip ourselves into a Victorian-era frenze over things that in all likelihood are none of our damn business. We are not dealing with either in the instance of Roy Moore.
In contrast, pederasty crosses a line that ought never to be crossed. That such a principle even needs to be articulated should bother conservatives to their very core.
What is alarming again to this conservative — much like the embrace of nativism in the pursuit of political power that we saw on display in 2014 and again in 2016 — is that Republicans are waffling (and how gross is this? waffling) on whether pederasty disqualifies a person for public office. This is not a question that should even have to be raised.
We should and can do better. Prudence demands that an allegation ought to be weighed against character and evidence… but when the allegations themselves are not countered, or at best fobbed off? Justice and fortitude become easy virtues to exercise.
Decisions need to be made — and quickly.
I have often made the remark that politicians are not to blame for our current political climate, but rather the jokers who elect them. Representative democracies elect the leaders we deserve, after all.
If this is what settles for leadership and discourse? Physicians, heal thy selves.
UPDATE: From this morning’s National Review, courtesy of Rich Lowry:
In the Hannity interview, he first said, referring to Leigh Corfman and the other women in the Post report, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.” Then, in almost the same breath, he conceded, “I do recognize however the names of two these young ladies.” Oh.
Of one of the girls, he said: “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did.” How many men in their 30s are “friends” with teenage girls who they may or may not have dated? Then Moore said of these two girls, “neither of them have ever stated any inappropriate behavior” — even though both of them said he dated and kissed them.
Asked point-blank if he dated girls in their teens, he replied with the less than Shermanesque “Not generally, no.”
Read it all.