Let’s start with a couple of baseline premises:
Full disclosure: I am not a Roy Moore fan. I don’t believe I’ve ever voted for him—if I did, it would have been during his first run for the Alabama Supreme Court, before all his shenanigans started (not counting the shenanigans currently under consideration). And the funny thing is, Moore and I come, ostensibly, from a very similar faith-centered background and worldview, and we see eye to eye on most of the big issues. My problem with Moore is not really ideological or philosophical (although we do differ on some key points there, apparently). I have no problem with a hand-carved wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments hanging in his courtroom, or a huge granite Ten Commandments monument in the foyer of our Supreme Court building in Montgomery. I, like Moore, also have a real legal problem with the imposition of gay marriage on the states by the United States Supreme Court (can you say “Tenth Amendment”?). But the way he handled those issues was totally inappropriate, and showed a lack of respect for our legal system, our social mores, and the rule of law. He’s a grandstander, and he takes every opportunity to spit in the eye of whatever institution is blocking his personal crusade. He’s not so much a conservative as a rabblerouser. In this respect, he’s probably more Trumpian than Trump. There are real questions regarding how he operated his tax-exempt charity, he has called for religious tests, he believes that 9/11 was the hand of God executing diving retribution for our nation’s sins, he has questioned whether homosexuals have a right to life (he suggests that homosexual behavior is like bestiality, and active homosexuals should be given the death penalty), and he believes that Sharia law is already being enforced in some American communities. Not to mention that Moore doesn’t seem to have a grasp on Trump’s political and social agenda (he did not know what DACA was, or who the Dreamers were; no word yet on his familiarity with the nuclear triad). But, then again, I’m not sure Trump has a grasp of his own political and social agenda, so I suppose we’ll just call that one a draw. As Jonah Goldberg put it:
The reality is policy expertise and ideological coherence are not central to Moore’s character. When he asks the director “What’s my motivation?” the answer is not “crafting sound legislation.” It’s “stick it to the hippies, ay-rabs, and queers!”
Now here we should keep in mind that at the time of the alleged incidents, the legal age of consent in Alabama was 16 (unless you are blood-related within 3 degrees of consanguinity, in which case the legal age was 12). Only one of his accusers—Leigh Corfman—claimed that he asked her out on a date when she was younger than 16. The other three women were of legal dating age (16-18, by their own accounts) when/if Moore asked them out, which made everything perfectly legal. Creepy, and imprudent, but legal. Two of them even had the blessing of their mothers to date Moore. Go figure.
Corfman’s case is, of course, quite different. She claims that she was 14 when Moore initiated their dating relationship, which would have been illegal, even in Alabama. She was also initially the one girl to claim that he touched her sexually in her private areas, albeit with her clothes on, which could have constituted some sort of sexual assault. Whole different kettle of fish. There is now a fifth woman accusing Moore of wooing her when she was in her teens, and she, too, alleges some potentially criminal activity (possibly attempted rape). More on that in a moment.
At first I was perfectly willing to believe Moore’s accusers. The Washington Post story (follow-up story here) was quite thorough, well-documented, and very well-sourced (the Post reporter spoke with over 30 people). None of the women speaking out had stepped forward on their own initiative; the Post had to seek them out, so there appeared to be no political or financial motivation. In fact, some of Moore’s accusers, including Corfman, were reluctant to speak out, even 40 years later. Several witnesses have corroborated the girls’ stories, at least insofar as the girls contemporaneously told their friends that they were dating Moore. The women don’t appear to know each other, so there doesn’t appear to be any collusion, though the details of the various women reflect a startlingly consistent pattern of behavior on Moore’s part. One former colleague of Moore, as well as several other witnesses, have stated that at the time it was common knowledge that Moore liked to date teenage girls. Many of Moore’s accusers appear to have voted Republican in the last few elections; the most damning accusers, Corfman and Nelson (see below), apparently voted for Trump.
I also was troubled by Moore’s incoherently inconsistent answers to Sean Hannity’s questions regarding his relationships with the young women. To say he doesn’t remember the girls at all—which is exactly what he said—but then turn around in the same interview and say that he and the girls’ parents were family friends, is not just contradictory, it flies in the face of common sense and experience. Moore stated—his own words—that he didn’t “generally” date teenagers when he was in his 30s. Not usually, huh? I don’t remember everything I did with whom 40 years ago (I would have been 10!), but I think I can remember if I was acquainted with someone or not. I could surely remember if I took a young lady out on a date. The whole interview was painful, and Moore came off either looking like he had something to hide, or like he’s lost too many brain cells to remember clearly and speak cogently. Either way, he didn’t appear Senatorial.
However . . .
I started to have my doubts about the allegations when, about a week after the story broke with allegations from the first 4 women, Beverly Young Nelson held a press conference accusing Moore of behavior that again might have amounted to sexual assault. According to her statement, Ms. Nelson was 16 a the time, so no statutory problem there, but the allegations are pretty damning. Ms. Nelson also produced a yearbook that Moore allegedly signed. There is now some serious doubt about the authenticity of that signature.
But the “conspirators” may have overplayed their hand here. The more women that subsequently come forward, the more trouble I have believing that although Moore engaged in this scandalous behavior apparently rampantly, it took 40 years for all these women to speak out. It doesn’t help Ms. Nelson’s credibility that she held a press conference, flanked by liberal lawyer Gloria Allred—the angel of light that gave us Roe v. Wade.
If this is a liberal/Democrat conspiracy, it’s a good one. Which means it’s probably not a conspiracy, at least in my book. It’s not that I don’t believe that liberal media outlets are above publishing false sexual scandal stories—they would, do, and have. It’s just that I believe that the more people you get involved in a conspiracy, the less likely it is to succeed. If the football team of your choice can’t get 11 men to work together and advance a football 100 yards down a field, then how am I supposed to believe that over 30 previously unacquainted people can construct and maintain a lie that will certainly undergo extreme political scrutiny? This is what I call the Football Insufficiency: if football teams can’t perform simple tasks with a small number of people, then large conspiracies, by their nature, cannot exist, because they would fall apart.
So where does that leave me? I’m not sure yet. Let’s say—let’s just say—that Ms. Corfman’s accusations are false (an assumption I am not ready to make, given the weight of the evidence before us, but let’s say anyway, just for funsies). I still think Moore is a poor candidate for Senate. I question his character, his judgment, and, to be honest, his mental fitness. Now, if Ms. Corfman’s accusations are true, that makes his character a whole lot worse. And if Ms. Nelson’s accusations are true, then we could conceivably be electing an attempted rapist to the United States Senate. Not that there haven’t been really bad people serving the Senate before (as Mary Jo Kopechne could attest, if she weren’t . . . you know . . . dead).
On the other hand, there’s Doug Jones. As a baseline, Mr. Jones is so pro-choice he makes Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, look positively moderate. He stated that he has always refused to support a single restriction on abortion. However, he has been a crusader for law and order (sometimes mistakenly, but that’s another story for another day).
We seem to have another lousy binary choice, a Kobayashi Maru. But, like Kirk, I don’t believe in no-win scenarios. I believe in Providence (an outdated concept, I know, but a key concept in classical conservatism, which doesn’t get nearly enough attention in contemporary conservative circles).
So, as TheBobbyFlay rightly says so often, when it comes to election day, I’m simply going to do the next right thing. I will vote, or not vote, according to what my conscience tells me about the men on the ballot. Their policies, yes, but also their character, acuity, and fitness for the position. And I will hold fast to this truth, as in all things:
Despite present appearances, God is in control.