By Peggy Noonan
Alabama has its back up, or at least its Republicans and conservatives do, and it’s understandable. They don’t like when Northerners and liberals and people in Washington tell them who their senator should be. They don’t like when reporters from outside come down and ask questions and turn over rocks looking for what’s crawling on the underside. There’s always an underside. Man is made from crooked timber.
People from the Deep South feel culturally patronized. This is because they are. Reporters from outside don’t admire or relate to them; when a Washington Post journalist presented as fact, in a 1993 news report, that evangelical Christians are “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command,” you know he was thinking of Southern evangelicals. Hollywood has long cast Southerners as witless and brutish in films from “Inherit the Wind” to “Deliverance” and “Mississippi Burning.”
Politically, Southern conservatives have long decried a double standard. Ted Kennedy spent much of his life as a somewhat inebriated roué whose actions caused the death of a young woman, but now we’re instructed to call him the Lion of the Senate. Bill Clinton was worse than Roy Moore. Mr. Clinton was accused of rape, harassment and exposing himself, but his party backed him and he kept the presidency. Democratic Sen. Al Franken was credibly accused Thursday, by an anchor at KABC radio in Los Angeles, of groping and harassing her on a USO tour in 2006. When she resisted him, Leeann Tweeden wrote, “Franken repaid me with petty insults,” and took an obscene photo of her on the way home, as she slept. Will the liberal media dig into Mr. Franken as they have dug into Mr. Moore? Or is he too good a source and friend?
Alabama Republicans are accused of mere tribalism in sticking with Mr. Moore, who has been accused of repeated sexual predation on teenage girls. But serious policy issues are at play in the December election, including ones that have to do with our character as a nation. Here is one. Alabama is one of the most pro-life states in the nation. Alabamans take abortion seriously and are profoundly opposed to partial-birth abortion, the aborting of a child so late in gestation that it could survive outside the womb, with or without medical assistance.
Most of Europe outlaws late-term abortion. They see the very idea of it as barbaric. As it is.
Roy Moore is against partial-birth abortion. His Democratic challenger, Doug Jones, was asked his position by Chuck Todd, in an interview in September on MSNBC.
Mr. Todd: “What are the limitations that you believe should be in the law when it comes to abortion?”
Mr. Jones replied: “I am a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body.”
Mr. Todd: “You wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?”
Mr. Jones: “I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose.”
If you care about late-term abortion, that is enough reason to oppose Mr. Jones. It is not surprising that Mr. Moore’s supporters would stick with him when seen through that light.
But still: It won’t do. All the above having been said, Alabamans who continue to back Mr. Moore are making a terrible mistake.
Just because something is understandable doesn’t mean it’s right. The charges against Mr. Moore are not only serious; they are completely credible.
If you read the original Washington Post story, you know it was rigorously reported, with great care and professionalism. Four women who did not seek out the press, who did not know each other, and who surely guessed going public would bring them nothing but grief, came forward and provided first-person details that established a pattern. Thirty people corroborated details. This is not attack journalism. It is great journalism.
If Roy Moore had a long and demonstrated history of randomly attacking children with a baseball bat, or if the FBI announced it had found in his possession a stash of child porn, Moore supporters would never back him. But that, in a way, figuratively, is what he stands accused of doing. His “porn,” his addiction, was cruising malls for young women, often teenagers. His “attacking children” was moving sexually on those young women and leaving them damaged.
Women around the world are moving against predators, harassers, bullies, rapists. It is inspiring. The legalities of the Alabama race may be at an impasse, but it would be good to see Republican women in the state lead a charge and insist on someone else. Find another conservative. There are plenty in Alabama.
I put it on the women because Republican men there right now are lost. They are busy playing to every stereotype every bigot ever held about them. They are busy comparing Roy Moore and his victims to St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. They are busy leaving phone messages falsely claiming to be Washington Post reporter “Bernie Bernstein,” offering big cash for dirt on Mr. Moore. They are busy saying they’d vote for any Republican over a Democrat. Gotta be loyal to your own.
They have been busy making themselves look like fools.
There is another reason Republican and conservative women should rise up. It has to do with the victims Moore chose.
Who were the girls he targeted? Interestingly, this tribune of the common folk and their earnest, believing ways allegedly preyed mostly on the unprotected. He chose young women he could push around. Some came to him at his law office, bringing with them all the problems of broken America—child-custody fights, violent divorces, bounced checks. They worked at Red Lobster, at a mill, on the night shift at Sears.
A thing about predators, from the men of the Catholic Church sex scandals to the man cruising the mall, is that they never prey on the protected. They don’t prey on the daughter of the biggest family in town, the child of the man who owns the factory or the local newspaper. They tend to prey on kids with no father in the home.
Tina Johnson “was 28 years old, in a difficult marriage headed toward divorce, and unemployed,” AL.com reported of the latest accuser, Wednesday. “She was at the office to sign over custody of her 12-year-old son to her mother.”
As they left the office, she said, Mr. Moore molested her. She told no one, not even her mother.
That is a tell, that she didn’t tell her mother. They almost never tell the mother. She’s got enough going on. Maybe she can’t handle more. Maybe she’s not interested in handling more.
Often the victims had had brushes with the law. Predators can smell that: It means no one will believe them if they talk.
Roy Moore targeted the deplorables. They were people with no sway, no pull. Some of them, in the presidential election, voted for Donald Trump.
There are better conservatives in Alabama than Roy Moore. Republican women, rise up and raise hell. That would be real loyalty, and to those who are really your own.