I feel kinda sorry for Joe Barton. Time was, a guy with a sleazy personal life and multiple affairs could become Speaker of the House. It’s not like Barton was accused of actually assaulting or even harassing anybody. (Although I did feel somewhat assaulted after seeing the photo that did him in).
In the current climate you just can’t get away with things. It’s not just assault or harassment that’ll bring you down. Now the catchall term “sexual misconduct” is in vogue. The fact is, Barton just wasn’t useful anymore. He didn’t retire politely when he lost his committee leadership post. He kept hanging around. And he wasn’t doing a very good job managing the GOP baseball team. A pissed off former girlfriend and a grotesque nude selfie was exactly what the Republican leadership needed. So long, Joe.
They haven’t been as lucky with Roy Moore. Barton was apparently capable of being embarrassed. Not our Roy. (Remember, I live in Alabama.) The tortoise from Kentucky was quick to believe the women this time. But Mitch hadn’t ever wanted him in the Senate. Big Luther was reliable, he could be counted on. But who knew what the Judge might do?
Coming from Alabama himself, Mitch can’t really be expected to be that offended by a 30 year old dating teenage girls. But the 14 year old – that’s a story you can use. It’s not Weinstein worthy, of course, and there haven’t been any tales of salacious behavior after Moore’s marriage (to a woman 14 years younger), but Mitch is an expert at spin. Riding the current wave of cultural disgust was easy as pie. Does anyone imagine that he actually gives a damn about the women?
I am a little puzzled, though, by Moore’s tactics. Why come out so strong and claim that he doesn’t even know them? Certainly he’d have to deny the story about the 14 year old and the one from the woman who accused him of physical assault, but those’d be easy to brush off. Why bother to deny his dating history when it’s so easy to check? That wouldn’t have bothered his voters. Debbie Wesson Gibson was one of the women in the original story. She said she’d dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34. She never accused him of anything inappropriate. It was a happy memory. She’d invited him to her graduation, they exchanged Christmas cards after she got married. So she was shocked and hurt and angry when Moore started claiming that he’d never dated any of the women, didn’t even know any of them. I guess he figures that in the current fact-free political environment a vehement blanket denial is a more effective tactic even when it’s easily shown to be false. He’s probably right.
What is truly outrageous about the whole Moore thing is that the Republican establishment didn’t oppose him for twice defying the Supreme Court when he was Alabama's Chief Justice. They didn’t find it problematic that he thinks Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress and that there are whole communities in the Midwest currently under Sharia law. His venomous hatred of same sex couples, his insistence that the first amendment only protects Christians, and his belief that his Bible supersedes all laws wasn’t sufficient to raise an eyebrow among the leaders in Congress. Apparently these are all acceptable views for a Republican Senator. Or at least acceptable enough. But “sexual impropriety” – now there’s something they can work with.
It still hasn’t been enough, though. And they need that vote. So Trump’s endorsed him and the RNC is back to pumping him with cash. The most important thing is to make sure the Democrat doesn’t win.
But McConnell’s still not quite giving up. Even though he’s leaving the matter “up to the voters of Alabama” he’ll start an ethics investigation if Moore gets elected. That might give him what he needs to push Moore out. Then he’ll have Governor Ivey appoint a safe replacement. Probably Big Luther. The tortoise will have what he wants.
And then Moore will run for governor of Alabama. He’ll probably win.