George F. Will: Trump's Moore support sinks presidency to new depths
In April, Alabama's Republican governor, Robert Bentley, resigned one step ahead of impeachment proceedings arising from his consensual affair with an adult woman. Eight months later, Alabamians spurned presidential pleas that they send to the U.S. Senate a man credibly accused of child molestation. But the dispiriting truth is this: Behavior that reportedly got Roy Moore banned from the Gadsden, Ala., mall was, for most Alabama Republicans, not a sufficient reason to deny him a U.S. Capitol desk. Although the president is not invariably a stickler for precision when bandying factoids, he said the Everest of evidence against Moore did not rise to his standards of persuasiveness.
Moore was such a comprehensive caricature that reports about his sexual predations, and his dissembling about them, almost benefited him by distracting attention from the remunerative use he made of a “charitable” foundation. And his actions as a public official that by themselves sufficed to disqualify him from any public office. He is an anti-constitutional recidivist, twice removed from Alabama's highest court for his theocratic insistence that his religious convictions take precedence over U.S. Supreme Court decisions, so he could not have sincerely sworn to “support and defend the Constitution” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
When reports of Al Franken's misbehaviors against adult women surfaced, the National Republican Congressional Committee pounced: “Democrats who took Senator Franken's campaign money need to ... return his donations.” (Combined, they totaled $15,500.) When, 18 days later, Trump endorsed Moore, the Republican National Committee immediately sent $170,000 to Alabama. If the RNC, which accurately represents the president's portion of the party, did not have situational ethics, it would have none.
The self-described “values voters” and “evangelicals” who have embraced Trump and his Alabama echo have some repenting to do before trying to reclaim their role as arbiters of Republican, and American, righteousness. We have, alas, not heard the last from them, but henceforth the first reaction to their “witness” should be resounding guffaws.
Elation is in order because a gross national embarrassment has been narrowly avoided.
But curb your enthusiasm because nationally, as in Alabama, most Republicans still support the president who supported the credibly accused child molester. After the president's full-throated support of the grotesque, he should be icily shunned by all but his diehard collaborators. For example: When the president stages a signing ceremony for the tax legislation, no etiquette requires any Republican to be photographed grinning over his shoulder. Stay away.
By basking in the president's approval, Moore became a clarifier. By joining Steve Bannon's buffoonery on Moore's behalf, the 45th president planted an exclamation point punctuating a year of hitherto unplumbed presidential depths. He completed his remarkably swift — it has taken less than 11 months — rescue of Andrew Johnson from the ignominy of ranking as the nation's worst president.
George F. Will is a columnist for Newsweek and The Washington Post.