Roy Moore: Why does McConnell call for me to quit but for Al Franken to be investigated?

A shrewd play. The Democrat *photographed* groping a woman gets the benefit of an Ethics Committee investigation while the populist Republican with no smoking-gun evidence against him is urged to quit immediately? McConnell is already a curse word among grassroots Republicans, partly because of the perception that he has more in common with liberal elites than grassroots conservatives. Moore’s going to use that, which is smart. “Vote for Roy” might not be selling in Alabama right now but “Send McConnell a Message” probably is.

The more trouble he gets into it over sexual misconduct accusations, the more he’ll try to turn the race into a referendum on McConnell. He hit him last night too, with a dare that earned him a thousand Twitter jokes about high-school cheerleaders:

Karl Rove had an interesting take on the Bannon playbook that Moore is following:

“Well,” Rove said, “[Bannon’s] a Leninist, and like all good Leninists he always puts his attacks in vivid terms. So what do you do if you’re a Leninist? Go back to Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ . . . Pick a highly visible target and personalize it.” In 2016, Rove noted, the target was the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, but the Bannon-backed primary candidate who challenged Ryan got only sixteen per cent of the vote. Now he’s fixating on Rove and McConnell instead.

There’s no question that McConnell pounced on the allegations against Moore to try to drive him from the race with an eagerness that he wouldn’t have with other Republicans. He wants Bannon’s fledging populist challenge to Senate Republican incumbents to crash as soon as possible and as spectacularly as possible. And he knows that Moore’s other baggage, his ambivalence about whether homosexual behavior should be criminalized and whether Muslims should be seated in Congress, will be ammo for Democrats nationally next November if he wins. Obviously he has an agenda in shoving Moore towards the exit and the misconduct allegations were a perfect opportunity to advance it.

In McConnell’s defense, the Senate has a process for dealing with allegations of misconduct against members, all of whom have been elected democratically by their home states. Moore hasn’t been elected to anything yet (which is why it’s so disingenuous of Gloria Allred to keep insisting that she wants a Senate hearing on Beverly Young Nelson’s allegations). When McConnell calls on Moore to quit, he’s speaking as a very interested observer; when he calls on Franken to be investigated by the ethics committee, he’s speaking as majority leader about a colleague who has certain procedural rights. Then again, McConnell hasn’t been shy about prejudging the results of an ethics investigation into Senator Moore if he wins next month election, reportedly “predicting” that that it’ll lead to a floor vote on whether to expel him. He made no such prediction in this morning’s anodyne statement about Franken.

Moore’s kidding himself, though (or rather, trying to kid us), when he claims there’s “zero evidence” against him. There’s lots of evidence against him in the form of contemporaneously corroborated accounts, just no smoking gun in the form of a photograph. If you’re looking to redeem McConnell’s double standard, that’s your firmest ground. As of now, Franken is facing one accuser. The initial WaPo story about Moore chasing teenaged girls had four, all of them on the record. It’ll be interesting to see if McConnell shifts to “Franken must go” mode if another accuser comes forward.

Moore should be careful about attacking Franken in the meantime. Lotta truth to this:

There’s more hard evidence against Franken but what Moore was accused of by Nelson, assaulting a teenaged girl, is worse. If Democrats show zero tolerance by forcing Franken out, Republicans will come under even heavier pressure to either oust Moore as nominee in Alabama or to push him out of the Senate if he wins. The Alabama GOP looks like it’s prepared to punt lest it piss off the local populists so the ball may end up in McConnell’s court. Easy prediction: McConnell will start pounding the table soon for Franken to resign for precisely the reason Charlie Sykes says — namely, it’ll make it easier for him to pound the table about kicking Moore out later.

Two clips for you here, one of Ron Johnson predicting that Moore’s tenure in the Senate will be short and one of Franken himself from 2010 remembering a “beautiful woman” from his USO touring days named Leeann Tweeden.