Senate Republicans will have decisions to make. First, they must decide what to say. Members who believe the most serious allegations against Moore and don’t think the passage of nearly 40 years matters should feel free to say Moore is unfit for the Senate and thus should resign.
Once they say so, they will have done as much as Democrats did to John Conyers and Al Franken. And much more than they did to Bill Clinton.
But if they declare Moore unfit, they should be prepared to explain why they consider Donald Trump fit for the presidency. The allegations of sexual assault against Trump were much more recent than those against Moore. In addition, Moore denies the allegations. Trump admitted to sexual assault in the Billy Bush tapes.
Moore isn’t going to resign. Should Senators who believe his accusers and aren’t swayed by the dated nature of their allegations try to expel him?
Not in my view. Alabama voters have access to a vast amount of opposition research by the Washington Post and others regarding the allegations against Moore. If they decide they want him to serve as their Senator, the Senate should honor that decision, given that the alleged misconduct occurred before Moore was in the Senate and, indeed, decades ago.
Some readers may recall that I made the same argument regarding Al Franken before evidence emerged that his misconduct continued while he was in the Senate. I am not arguing as a partisan.
Should there be an ethics investigation of Moore, followed by censure if facts are found that warrant this measure? I don’t think so.
Again, the alleged misconduct long predates Moore’s candidacy for, and (if he wins) election, to the Senate. Moreover, it seems to me that publicly available reporting on the allegations against Moore should enable Senators to say right now, as Mitch McConnell has, “I believe the women,” or “I don’t believe the women,” or “it probably is not knowable what, if anything, happened between Moore and those who accuse him of serious misconduct decades ago.” Additional poking around strikes me as a waste of time and money.
As a political matter, however, I would understand if Republicans opt for an ethics investigation as a means of demonstrating serious concern without having to take any action that might alienate a portion of the base just now.
Democrats will say this isn’t enough. However, until they expel one of their members — and they, like the GOP, will probably be called upon soon deal with members whose sexual misconduct occurred while in office — the argument isn’t likely to be very persuasive.