It would have been better if the GOP never severed ties with the alleged child molester in the first place.
Last month, the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled out of their joint fundraising agreements because Moore had been credibly accused by several women of having preyed upon them when they were teenagers, as first detailed in an exhaustively reported Washington Post story. One of the women, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 years old when Moore hit on her while her parents were enmeshed in a child custody suit. When they went on their second “date,” he served her alcohol and sexually molested her.
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When Moore’s initial denials to Fox News’ Sean Hannity seemed more like lawyerly confirmations — dating teenagers wasn’t his “customary behavior” he explained — a slew of top Republicans said they believed the women and called for Moore to drop out of the race.
There have been no new developments in the Moore story, at least none particularly helpful to Moore’s — now more full-throated — denials. Initially, he admitted to knowing two of the women, saying each one was a “good girl.” Now he says he never met any of them and they’re all liars.
But on Monday, the Post reported that one of the women, Debbie Wesson Gibson, who says she had consensually dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34, produced a high school graduation card handwritten from Moore.
If authentic, the note doesn’t prove anything beyond the fact that Moore lied when he denied knowing Gibson. But that’s not the point. The day Gibson produced yet more proof that his denials are not credible, the RNC renewed its partnership with Moore. In other words, on the same day the case against Moore got worse, the RNC decided to re-board the Moore train.
It would have been better if they never severed ties in the first place. Because now the RNC is basically saying, “We believe these women, we just don’t care anymore.” The RNC pulled its support when they thought Moore could be forced from the race. They renewed it when it was clear he lacked the decency to drop out. In other words, their real problem was with a potential loser, not a possible child molester. That is simply grotesque.
Never mind the fact that even before the sexual allegations against Moore surfaced, he was already a walking negative campaign ad for the Democrats. But now every donation to the RNC will go, at least in part, to a man pretty much the entire GOP congressional leadership said is guilty as charged. What great branding.
Of course, there’s one leading Republican who fancies himself an expert on branding, who sees things differently. President Trump even opted to endorse Moore on Monday.
“Democrats’ refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” Trump tweeted. He later followed up with a phone call to Moore, which reportedly ended with the president saying, “Go get ‘em, Roy!”
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As an understandably anonymous GOP official told CNN, “The RNC is the political arm of the president, and we support the president.”
It’s hardly news that Trump has always put his interests ahead of his party or nearly any other cause. But you have to wonder whether he understands his own interests. If the polls are right and Moore was going to win anyway, why throw away the RNC’s credibility like so much ballast off a sinking ship?
Moreover, every GOP politician will be forced to comment on Moore’s legitimacy. If they support him, they’re supporting a man most voters believe is a sexual predator. If they oppose him, they will be asked why they have one standard for Moore and another for the president, who has also been credibly accused of sexual assault. It’s no-win messaging for as far as the eye can see.
Yes, the White House needs Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat. But it also needs Senate and House seats in 49 other states, as will the GOP long after Trump has left the scene. The Republican Party also needs its integrity and its soul. This debacle makes holding on to any of them harder.
Jonah Goldberg, an American Enterprise Institute fellow and National Review contributing editor, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him @JonahNRO.
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