Mitt Romney: It's time for Roy Moore to step aside

Ed is right. The drumbeat of “he should step aside if the allegations are true” statements from Republicans in the past 24 hours amount to nothing in practice, just box-checking that they disapprove in the abstract of a thirtysomething man playing around with teenaged girls. We’re not going to get hard proof that the accusations against Moore are true absent an admission by Moore himself and he has no incentive to make that admission. It would wreck his stature as a moral scold even if it didn’t wreck his Senate candidacy. There won’t be a trial for something that happened 40 years ago either. Maybe one of the women interviewed by the Washington Post would agree to a polygraph, but you know what the spin will be if she passes. Polygraphs can’t be trusted! They’re inadmissible in court for a reason.

We’re going to have to make a judgment about the truth or falsity of the allegations based on what we know from the Post story. Thirty sources, women on the record, all sought out by the Post rather than vice versa, their accounts corroborated contemporaneously by friends: If your child’s babysitter or Boy Scout troop leader had that sort of evidence against them, would you trust them with your kid?

Mitt Romney wouldn’t.

McCain’s not playing the “if true” game either:

The strongest defense available to Moore is that these allegations curiously were never made before even though he’s been an official of great notoriety in Alabama for years. Not only that, he’s a staunch enemy of the left. Imagine how much the media would have relished being able to hang this charge around Moore’s neck in the middle of his crusade to put a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state supreme court or to refuse to enforce SCOTUS’s ruling in the gay marriage case. And yet they never found any dirt. But that objection answers itself: A powerful official of great notoriety is one whom the average person doesn’t challenge lightly, especially in a de facto one-party state. The women who accused Moore in the Post piece may have been terrified of speaking up until recently, after the dam broke on accusations of sexual misconduct by Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, and even the president of the United States. They might have agreed to talk to the Post only because they now suspect they might be believed. How many years did it take for the allegations against Dennis Hastert to go public, asks Guy Benson?

I think the “if true” spin by big-name Republicans is essentially placeholder PR while this story plays out. If no further accusers come forward, Republicans will shrug it off the same way they did for Trump. If a new Moore story hits next week, the party will abandon ship. Although that’ll bring a new question: What does “abandon ship” mean? He’s probably going to win the Senate race regardless because Alabama’s deep red and Moore “makes the libs and RINOs cry” or whatever. If the mass of Senate Republicans declares him unfit for office and he’s then elected, McConnell will suddenly be in a tight spot. Schumer will insist that Moore should be expelled from the chamber — and he’ll have plenty of Republicans on record as saying Moore is unfit if the allegations are true. What’s McConnell’s justification then for allowing Moore to take his seat? The allegations *aren’t* true? The women are all liars?

The biggest disgrace of the past 24 hours, incidentally, isn’t the “if true” spin from Washington Republicans but the cover Moore is getting locally. Interestingly, some Alabama Republicans aren’t disputing that the charges might be true. They’ve already moved on to spin 2.0 — if it happened, no biggie. Do they know something Beltway GOPers don’t?

One Alabama state rep went “Leeroy Jenkins” on the whole matter by suggesting that Moore’s accusers be sued in civil court or even prosecuted. I bet Team Moore isn’t keen on that idea.

Exit question: Is there a single person on the right who was pro-Moore yesterday but running away from Moore today? Steve King tweeted this morning, “Judge Roy Moore told to withdraw by Senators who won’t or can’t help move Trump agenda.” That’s misleading — Ted Cruz, for instance, has been a good soldier for Trump so far and called on Moore to withdraw if the allegations are true — but there’s no doubt that Republicans who disliked Moore before yesterday are eager to believe the accusers while Republicans who backed Moore are eager to find reasons to dismiss the WaPo piece as a non-issue (it’s a lie, the women were of age, etc). Has *anyone* in the pro-Moore camp expressed misgivings now about supporting him? Hopefully there’s a “pedophilia” exception to modern tribalism. Here’s Scarborough and friends, stalwart Moore opponents from the beginning, seizing on the Post story to call him an “animal.”