Politico calls it a “wrenching” decision. To attack North Korea? To fix the Obamacare exchanges? No: President Donald Trump is flummoxed over the call for him to demand that Roy Moore, accused by multiple women of inappropriate sexual conduct when they were teens, leave the Alabama Senate race.
The state of the GOP is such, and Trump’s own moral unfitness is such, that a no-brainer for any other president becomes a perilous decision for a president elected despite accusations (by more women than have accused Moore publicly) of sexual aggression, which allegedly occurred more recently than Moore’s alleged actions.
Trump could be repudiated by voters in Alabama, certainly no swing state, if they vote for Moore despite Trump’s plea. Other Republicans could blast him for giving way to some kind of vast left-wing conspiracy (one so vast as to include a cop who heard that a shopping mall banned Moore for bothering young girls, a fellow prosecutor who recalls him “dating” teens when he was in his 30s, multiple women and The Washington Post).
True, the Republican National Committee has ended a campaign fundraising deal with Moore, but that is a far cry from Trump declaring sexual predation to be disqualifying.
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If voters listen to Trump and abandon Moore, who does that leave in the contest other than Doug Jones, whose election would move Democrats one notch closer to taking the Senate majority in 2018? Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to run for the Alabama seat.
That has no less than four problems: Sessions would have to quit immediately; Trump would pick a new attorney general who could fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller or impede his investigation; Sessions might not win; and Sessions would be a free agent, no longer deterred by any executive-privilege restraints in either testifying before Congress or spilling whatever he knows to Mueller.
And there is a fifth: Trump would reignite debate about his own accusers and the merits of their claims.
Republicans demanding that the previously-accused harasser demand the accused sexual predator to get out of the race make fools of themselves. Trump allegedly groped and assaulted multiple women who detailed their accounts. Teen pageant contestants said Trump barged into their dressing room while contestants were changing — but Hillary Clinton was less fit to be president, these Republicans insisted.
Their newfound faith in women accusers is convenient but would prompt them to answer tricky questions as to why they did not demand Trump step down in favor of Mike Pence. (Democrats should demand both Moore and Trump leave, if we are now arguing that sexual misconduct is disqualifying.)
This would not be so nearly entertaining if not for the Republicans’ constant resort to “whataboutism.” (Yes, Trump, but what about Hillary’s emails! Yes, Trump, but Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky!) For those of us who favored impeachment for Bill Clinton, believed Trump unfit (not solely because of his alleged sexual conduct) and find Moore monstrous (not only because of Moore’s accusers), it is small satisfaction to see the GOP tied up in knots.
The only GOP principle is to win at all costs, defend any member of the tribe — until he is a threat to the tribe. Too bad Republicans didn’t realize Trump was such a threat to the GOP (not to mention the country).
Whether they lose the seat or win it with Moore, they face the wrath of many voters, especially women convinced these people are unfit to watch their daughters, let alone hold office. And if Sessions, the man of so defective a memory as to raise questions about his capacity for such a high post and who has gone after immigrants without a shred of humanity, were to be pushed out of office, well, that would be political karma on stilts.