When the Washington Post filed its story against Roy Moore last week, we took a cautious line, agreeing with Republican lawmakers who said “if true,” these charges disqualify the GOP's nominee in Alabama’s special election for the Senate. We pressed Republicans to extract more information from Moore.
Since then, plenty more information has emerged.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, after getting Moore’s side of the story last week, withdrew his endorsement of the former judge. A former boyfriend of the chief Washington Post subject, who says Moore fondled her as a 14-year-old after flirting with her outside a custody hearing, corroborated the story.
A new accuser also broke cover. Her story included familiar details of Moore flirting with her as a high school girl but ended with a terrifying tale of assault. An odd artifact provides some corroboration. Moore, as a 30-year-old, signed her high school yearbook and commented on her beauty.
The New Yorker reports that a local mall in Gadsden, Ala., barred Moore because he would cruise it for young girls. “The general knowledge at the time when I moved here was that this guy is a lawyer cruising the mall for high-school dates,” one police officer said.
A local paper confirmed these reports. In six days since the Post story, Moore has offered only partial and qualified denials, no alibis, and no explanations. He has granted only friendly interviews, and even allies he has spoken with have found him unreliable.
So, while is not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Moore sexually assaulted either female accuser, and it's also not a crime in Alabama for a 30-year-old prosecutor to date a 16-year-old girl, it goes to character and is not something conservatives should embrace.
The preponderance of evidence, in our opinion, is that Moore regularly crossed the lines of sexual propriety, to put it no more strongly. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose former Senate seat Moore seeks, put it, we “have no reason to doubt these women.”
Republicans shouldn’t welcome such a man into their Senate conference. It would be unfortunate to give up this seat to a Democrat for three years. It would also be disruptive to expel Moore from the Senate if he won in November.
The best course would be to convince Moore to drop out. Obviously, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lacks the clout to do that. Moore is running against McConnell. But a few men might have that power.
Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz have withdrawn their endorsements of Moore. They should go further and beseech him to drop out. Sessions, Gov. Kay Ivey, and Sen. Richard Shelby should do the same.
But ultimately, the only person with a fair chance of convincing Moore to step aside would be President Trump. He, as an anti-establishment hero, has credibility with Moore’s base, though obviously not full power of persuasion. Trump, being the head of the party, has the power to lean on would-be supporters and donors. Only with Trump's overt help and blessing will Alabama Republicans be able to anoint a suitable replacement as a write-in candidate, as it is too late for Moore to be replaced on the ballot even if he does drop out.
Trump wanted to lead the Republican Party last year when he set out to claim its nomination for president, and he defeated everyone who stood in his way. Now it is time for him to lead. The president has an opportunity and the obligation to do what is confrontational and controversial, but also arguably necessary for his party's political and moral well-being.