President Trump made two points today about the Alabama Senate race. First, he called Democrat Doug Jones “terrible on crime, terrible on borders, terrible on the military.” Trump added: “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat.”
Second, he noted that the alleged sexual misconduct by Roy Moore took place “40 years ago” and that the candidate has insisted “this did not happen.” Trump also said Moore has “totally denied it” and that “you have to listen to him, also.”
Trump is right that when allegations of sexual misconduct arise, you should listen to both the accuser and the accused. I don’t think many in Washington, D.C. (including Senate Republicans) or in mainstream media circles are truly listening to Moore, but presumably most Alabama voters are. Whether they believe him remains to be seen.
Trump is wrong if he meant to say that Moore has totally denied all statements made by the various women who have told their stories about him. Last I heard, he hadn’t denied dating teenagers.
He has, however, denied sexually touching 14 year-old Leigh Corfman and attempting to rape Beverly Young Nelson. These, of course, are the most serious allegations and, in my opinion, the only ones that, if true, should disqualify him from serving in the Senate.
I don’t believe Nelson’s allegations because it looks very much like she doctored the yearbook she adduced to support her claim. I’m basically at equipoise on Corfman’s allegations of improper touchings. Some problems, or at least questions, have arisen regarding the timeline she and the Post presented, but they don’t appear to be conclusive so far.
Conservative voters in Alabama face a difficult task — one they wouldn’t have to confront if GOP voters had been sensible enough to nominate either Rep. Mo Brooks or Sen. Luther Strange, both of whom are solid conservatives. They must adjudicate at least two “he says, she says” disputes. In addition, if they come out on the side of one or both accusers, they must weigh the personal odiousness of the accused against the non-conservative policy preferences of his opponent and the consequences of sending someone with those preferences to Washington.
Personally, considering the opposition, I could vote for a guy who, in his early 30s, dated teenagers almost 40 years ago. I could not vote for a guy who did what Corfman and Nelson say Moore did to them.
Nor could I vote for Doug Jones. My decision, if I believed either Corfman or Nelson, would be to vote for neither candidate.
President Trump faces a decision too. He must decide whether the campaign for Moore.
We can assume that his decision will be based on a balancing of potential political benefits and risks. I won’t hazard a guess as to the decision this balancing will produce.
Personally, I would not campaign for Moore unless I affirmatively believed he did not do what Corfman and Nelson allege. Though Trump didn’t express this belief today, Politico suggests that he holds it. I can imagine that Trump is predisposed for several reasons to disbelieve the two women.
In the Politico story, Alex Isenstadt claims that Trump’s stance on Moore represents an “extraordinary shift” from the White House’s original position. Others in the anti-Trump media have said basically the same thing.
They are wrong. The initial White House position was that if the allegations are true, Moore should withdraw. Team Trump took no position (1) as to whether the allegations are true and (2) as to what should happen if Moore doesn’t withdraw. Moore, of course, has not withdrawn and was never likely to.
Nothing in Trump’s statement today contradicts the original White House position, and Isenstadt doesn’t even attempt to explain how it might. Attacking Doug Jones isn’t inconsistent with the view that Moore should stand down if the allegations are true. Neither is pointing out that Moore denies the allegations and should, like his accusers, be listened to.
Trump’s enemies in the media are salivating at the opportunity to use Roy Moore, whom Trump did not support in the primary, to get at the president. Because Trump has thwarted them thus far, his media enemies have to misstate the facts.
What else is new?