How much do you really need to know to serve in the Senate? The world's greatest deliberative body takes up complicated policy questions daily. Of course, there's going to be a learning curve, and senators have staff to aid in their decision-making.
On day one though, even the freshest senators should have a familiarity with the biggest political issues facing the nation. And that means Judge Roy Moore has some catching up to do.
Moore is currently the front-runner in a special Alabama Senate Republican primary runoff, and until recently he wasn't aware of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, let alone President Trump's long-standing promise to end a program that gives legal reprieve to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants.
"Pardon?" Moore asked during a July WVNN local interview first unearthed by the Washington Examiner. "The Dreamer program?" After two more cringe-worthy minutes, Moore finally settles on agnosticism. Running for Senate in deep-red Alabama, the former state Supreme Court justice didn't come down one way or the other on a marquee immigration policy.
The judge was just lost in translation, campaign spokeswoman Katie Frost, tells the Washington Examiner. "Moore doesn't speak the language of Washington," she says clarifying her boss' position, "he speaks the language of the Constitution. Judge Moore opposes amnesty under any name."
According to Frost, the acronym is just "Washington-speak." If that's true, every radio shock jock, tea partier, and Republican north and south of the Mason-Dixon is fluent in swamp-speak. They've been railing against the program since former President Barack Obama bypassed Congress to create the program via executive order in 2012.
With three weeks ahead of the Sept. 26 primary, it's still too early to tell what Moore's gaffe might mean at the ballot box. Politics seems to eclipse more and more policy each day, so it's possible the Alabama Aleppo moment won't matter. Then again, Moore has positioned himself as an immigration hardliner, and he's running for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' old seat.
Sessions made a name for himself in the Senate as a Southern immigration hawk. It was the issue that catapulted him to prominence and sent him into Trump's orbit. More than embarrassing, Moore's ignorance on the marquee immigration issue has been picked up by everyone from the Associated Press to The Washington Post.
Moore's opponent, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, quickly pounced on the blunder and reupped the former Alabama attorney general's past experience fighting the Obama administration in court.
"While career politician Roy Moore doesn't even know what DACA is," a campaign spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner, "Luther stands with President Trump, and has fought against Obama's illegal amnesty plan — and won."
Regardless of who wins, whether Moore or Strange advances to the general election ballot, where they'll be heavily favored against a Democrat, they better get smart — and fast.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.