…because here’s how that will go if I’m in charge of Moore’s messaging.
The primary issue here isn’t whether Moore exercised poor judgement in tamping down his carnal urges, or alternatively whether Moore was exceptionally old-fashioned in his courtship habits before meeting and marrying his current wife of 33 years. There is a definitive chasm here between the Old South culture that Moore clearly subscribed to as a man in his 20’s and 30’s and that of the swells on Capitol Hill and in newsrooms around the country, and that chasm explains a lot of the current controversy surrounding Moore.
Namely, this – it wasn’t all that long ago that a single man who had established himself to a degree professionally and was in the market for a wife would prefer a younger female to fill that role, and perhaps one just out of school. It wasn’t all that long ago that there were such things as “finishing schools” for young women from families of means which specialized in teaching skills useful for success as a wife, and the students at those institutions were often just out of high school. And in that environment – we’re talking about the late 1970’s, around which time the old culture was dying out amid the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution’s heyday – it was still not uncommon in small-town North Alabama that a man in his early 30’s would seek out a bride in her late teens or early 20’s.
One could even make the case that in former times when such arrangements were the rule rather than the exception marriages and large families were easier to make happen. I have no interest in relitigating the women’s liberation movement here; suffice it to say that if I was giving Roy Moore’s messaging advice I would suggest he emphasize the fact that he was essentially acting out scenes from Jane Austen novels in a slightly different context – or, if you prefer, that he was seeking an Elvis and Priscilla Presley scenario for his marital model.
And while this kind of strategy would hardly be in fashion now, I would take pains to make the audience understand that in the late 1970’s, for a single man who had established himself to a degree in the law and who was interested in a wife who would provide him with a large family and take care of his household, looking for a young bride was a practical choice rather than one giving evidence of strange sexual desires. That it didn’t quite work out that way – his wife of 33 years was 24 when they married – doesn’t invalidate his strategy per se.
And it must be made clear to the audience that Moore’s conduct during the courtship of these younger women – because courtship was what he engaged in, in his telling of the story – was honorable. That the accusations made against him to the effect that he had molested these women are embellishments and lies.
Is this true? None of us will ever know. Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 when Moore felt her up, is perhaps half-credible. Beverly Young Nelson, who showed up with the execrable Gloria Allred in tow to tell a fantastic tale of sexual abuse and being left by the roadside, is most certainly not credible; Nelson’s stepson immediately surfaced to cast doubt upon her story and noted that his father left her after uncovering a pattern of provable lies she told to him, and Moore’s campaign said he’d been the judge in a divorce case which went badly for her. The others coming forward haven’t really alleged anything which would be disqualifying of Moore.
So far, it’s at least plausible and arguably true that all Moore is guilty of is seeking a teenage bride some four decades ago when he was in his early 30’s, and while that wouldn’t be socially acceptable now it wasn’t so bizarre then – and what’s on trial if one accepts that framing of the issue is the old-fashioned social construct Moore belonged to then and still belongs to.
Given that the audience in question is the Alabama voting public, and not the readership of the Washington Post, Moore might well win that trial. Because while the more scandalous accusations could well make Roy Moore unpalatable, there is a balance to those – namely, that the people of Alabama have as much disdain for the “cosmopolitan” mores of the East Coast elite reflected in the reporting of this scandal as the Post has for them.
But the principal advice I would offer Moore isn’t to spend much time defending his marital strategy – after all, I find it marginal at best, and perhaps manipulative and oppressive in a slightly less generous light – as to put the onus on the Republicans in the Senate who have spent so much time over the last week preening over his travails.
The stampede for the hills where Moore is concerned is understandable to an extent, but it’s unseemly nonetheless. Even the more reasonable Republican senators like John Kennedy and Ted Cruz have fallen back on phrasing their comments on Moore as “if the charges are true he should leave the race.” That’s defensible – yes, if he was in fact a serial molester of young women, perhaps that should disqualify him as a senator.
But here’s how to test that. If I were to advise Moore, I would offer this challenge to his would-be Senate colleagues – that Moore would agree to drop out of the race as soon as the Senate were to expel Bob Menendez.
Menendez, after all, is on trial on a host of corruption charges containing lots of scandalous tidbits, including the long-running story of his having solicited sex from teenaged Dominican prostitutes. That would be a good deal less appropriate than Moore’s 40-year old strategy for getting girls, and what’s more, while Moore isn’t afforded a trial with the rules of evidence to protect him Menendez certainly is having one – and he isn’t persuading the jury, which is apparently deadlocked.
So if the Senate cares so much about honor, character and morality, then it should be an easy deal to take. Menendez is expelled, and New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie appoints his replacement, while Moore stands down and allows a write-in candidate – the obvious choice would be Jeff Sessions, who formerly held that seat and looks less and less like the Attorney General for much longer; if I’m Moore I refuse to stand down for the corrupt establishment choice Luther Strange – to attempt to save the seat.
In that case, the GOP is no worse off. It trades the Alabama seat for one in New Jersey, and the voters may reset the two at the next regularly-scheduled election.
That deal should be a no-brainer for Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Senate. But they won’t take it. Menendez is part of the club, and Moore is not. The ridiculously foppish Lindsey Graham testified as a character witness for Menendez, after all, and here he is taking shots at Moore.
But the refusal of the deal would signal to the audience – which, again, is not in Washington, but rather in Opelika and Hartselle and Spanish Fort – that like it or not, America needs Roy Moore, because whatever you think of his marital strategy as a younger man the corruption and hypocrisy in Washington is unquestionably worse. And that’s a winning message, because Alabama already knows it’s true.
As I’ve said – I don’t even particularly like Roy Moore. In fact, I think McConnell and NRSC chair Cory Gardner should both step down for their failure to endorse Mo Brooks in the primary rather than the corrupt Strange; had Brooks made the runoff he’d be well on his way to giving Alabama a robust conservative vote in the Senate with none of the problems of either Moore or Strange, and it was the unpalatable choice of Strange which opened the door for Moore to get the GOP nomination. There is so far no credible call for accountability for such atrocious performance, and it’s grossly overdue – it’s another straw on the camel’s back for McConnell and his thoroughly incompetent leadership team.
But make me Moore’s consultant, and we’ll make McConnell and his crowd bleed for their publicity stunts and abandonment. In Alabama, Moore is a lot more popular than Mitch McConnell. He ought to make use of that.