Ours is a system of jurisprudence in which the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty; it takes proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict one of criminal acts, and even in a civil court one cannot prevail without a preponderance of evidence. Thus, “he said, she said” matters, in court, are losers. In the court of public opinion, however, slander, calumny, and unscrupulousness can prevail, which is why, strangely enough, America’s Founders used to say there were only two ways to ruin a republic: an excess of luxury and the licentiousness of the press.
Is it licentious of the Washington Post to publish these allegations, which, even if they were true, occurred more than four decades ago? The founders probably employed the word “licentious” in its older connotation to denote behavior that went against established rules or practices, rather than the new meaning of sexually illicit or promiscuous. Even so, these days sex sells and not only is it politically potent, in our prurient age a charge such as that levied against Roy Moore is likely to be trumpeted to the four corners of our country by every conceivable media outlet.