Sometimes a lynch mob gets a guilty man, but it’s nevertheless an unspeakable evil. The accusations against Roy Moore in Alabama are sordid and serious, but so far they’re accusations, not charges, and he is entitled to his day in court. That day will be Dec. 12, and the jurors, in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate, will be the voters of Alabama.
The Republicans in Washington are in a panic, and nobody does panic better than Republicans when the Democrats say boo and the media puts them on the run. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate; Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House and the leader of Republicans there, and of course John McCain, have demanded that Mr. Moore resign his nomination to the Senate if it’s true that he, as a 32-year-old lawyer and assistant state prosecutor, fondled a 14-year-old girl 40 years ago. Mr. Moore says it’s not true.
Proving the accusation is true will be difficult, if it can be proved at all. On the early evidence, such as there is, it seems to be a classic and frustrating case of “he said, she said.” The incident, if it happened, was a long time ago. There were no witnesses. The Republican leaders in Congress add the qualifier, “if true,” almost as an afterthought, and want to get on with the hanging.
Confronting a lynch mob is always dangerous to someone with the foolish courage to say, “wait a minute, this is no way to get justice, we’ve got due process for this.” Roy Moore has few friends in the Republican establishment, and there’s universal agreement in those ranks that he’s a creep if not a child molester. If mere creephood meant a creep couldn’t serve, some legislative bodies couldn’t raise a quorum.
Alabama law requires that Mr. Moore’s name stay on the ballot even if he should resign, which he says he won’t, and he has demonstrated that he’s a stubborn man. He was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for resisting federal court orders, and won re-election. He was removed again by federal order, and returned to the court again. Then he was elected the Republican nominee to the Senate. New public-opinion polls taken at the end of last week find the race against Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, in a dead heat.
Many Republican officials in Alabama appear to be standing behind Mr. Moore, not necessarily because they think he’s innocent (though some think that, too) but they don’t like the smell of the mob. Others think the original account by The Washington Post about something that may have happened 40 years ago is, as a former Republican county chairman told The New York Times, “total contrived media garbage.” Still others don’t like outsiders, particularly Yankees, telling a sovereign state whom they can and cannot elect to the U.S. Senate.
The Republicans in Washington should calm themselves, lest they turn a close race into something they will regret.
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