The Moore miasma

Yesterday the Washington Post published a long article on Roy Moore and his inappropriate relationships with four teenage girls more than 35 years ago.

The story focuses on a then 14-year-old girl with whom Moore had sexual contact in 1979, some 38 years ago. All the relationships discussed in the story are of this vintage, when Moore was in his early 30’s and serving as an assistant Etowah County district attorney. Moore is now 70 and the Republican candidate for Alabama’s open Senate seat. At National Review, David French sets forth the argument for taking the charges seriously.

Let me jump to Moore’s response to the charges. The Post article quotes Moore: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign.” (Fox News has more from Moore here.)

Moore’s response as quoted by the Post does not itself appear to be true. I draw an inference against Moore from the apparent falsity of his response.

I have two reservations about the substance of the Post story. First, it is confined to events that occurred long ago with respect to charges that were never aired before now. Second, and it describes behavior that is generally compulsive. Unfortunately, the Post article does not go beyond the ambit of a reconstruction of events that occurred long ago.

The proposition that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty is to be applied by a jury sitting in a criminal case. Jurors sitting in a criminal case are bound to apply the presumption of innocence until charges are proved beyond a reasonable doubt. No criminal case will be brought against Moore.

The presumption of innocence does not apply here. It does not apply to judging the fitness of a man for public office. Such a judgment necessarily implicates an imperfect assessment based on past behavior.

Alabama voters are left to judge Moore’s fitness for office based on a common sense reading of the facts and circumstances. The rest of us are left to render our own judgment simply as citizens participating in our public life. Now in each case that judgment must necessarily make reckon with the events recounted in the Post article. I have made my own reckoning based on the information available as of this morning.