Editorial: The Courage of a Few

Very few Congressional Republicans wanted Roy Moore to win. They knew, for one thing, that Democrats were prepared to link them to him for at least the next two years. Rather than make it clear that Moore had no place in the GOP, however, many referred blithely to “the will of the people” and the necessity of “letting the people of Alabama decide.”

Of course that was garbage. Moore had been credibly accused of pursuing teenaged girls, one of them 14 at the time, when he was in his thirties. He had claimed that Sharia law was in force in Illinois and Indiana. He had called the United States an “evil empire” on the grounds that it glorifies immorality. He had boasted of his admiration for Vladimir Putin. Worst of all, he had twice been removed from office as the Alabama Supreme Court’s chief justice for refusing to obey lawful federal authority.

Republicans on the Hill knew full well that Moore’s behavior nullified any moral claim to sit in the U.S. Senate. Almost all said so privately. Some said so publicly, but with a conditional clause: “if these allegations are true” or “if the story is credible.” But that was a truism, on the order of saying If he embezzled money, he should turn himself in. We didn’t need truisms; we needed judiciousness, clearly expressed.

A fair number, however, said openly that they credited the allegations against Moore and they would have nothing to do with him, whatever the voters might say. The most important was Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. On the Sunday before election day, speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union, Shelby said what (we hope) every Republican thought but couldn’t or wouldn’t say: “So many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip. When it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.” From a man who rarely appears on the Sunday morning television circuit, and for whom there was very little political upside, these words meant something.

Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, announced that his committee would not fund Moore’s campaign, and unlike the Republican National Committee he did not change his mind. Senator Mike Lee of Utah withdrew his endorsement without hedging, as did Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, John McCain of Arizona, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. “I believe the women,” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said on Twitter, and offered no weasel words. Senator Jeff Flake wrote a check to Moore’s competitor, Doug Jones, and posted a picture of the check on Twitter. Representative Lee Zeldin of New York said it plainly: “that creepy Roy Moore dude should exit stage left.”

Democrats will no doubt claim Republicans were silent about Moore, and some were. But far from all. And only one high-profile Republican was enthusiastic about Moore and stuck with him to the end—Donald Trump. The Republicans who defied him and opposed Moore deserve our admiration and our gratitude.

Others in the sordid affair acquitted themselves well. The Washington Post’s team of investigative journalists that brought us the story of Moore’s sexual aggression produced solidly sourced work and, when Project Veritas attempted to trick them into running scurrilous lies, easily passed the test. Exemplary reporting, real news.

More than anyone, perhaps, the women approached by the Post for the November 10 story, by putting their names to the allegations and inviting the scorn and abuse of Moore’s most ardent supporters, exhibited the sort of uncalculating courage we don’t see very often in Washington. Their conduct, especially, put us in mind of Winston Churchill’s remark about courage. It is, he wrote, “rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because . . . it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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