Op-Ed Columnist: The ‘If True’ Cowardice

Roy Moore — and John McCain’s moral clarity

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She was 14 years old at the time. Roy Moore was a 32-year-old prosecutor. He took her to his home in the woods, the woman says, removed both her clothes and his and then molested her.

The Washington Post’s story about Moore — centered around that allegation — is detailed and persuasive. It included named sources, corroborating evidence and multiple disturbing incidents.

After the story’s publication yesterday, the most common reaction from other Republicans was a conditional condemnation that revolved around the words “if true.” A spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence said, “If true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office.” Mitch McConnell’s statement was similar.

It’s a wholly insufficient response.

I understand why senators might make their immediate response conditional. Maybe they didn’t yet read the story. But once you have read the story, there is only one decent response: Moore, the Republican nominee to become Alabama’s next senator, needs to quit the race immediately.

The “if true” response wrongly suggests that there will be some final reckoning of facts to remove any doubt about what Moore did. But there won’t be. He will likely continue denying the allegations, and people will have to choose between The Post’s reams of evidence and Moore’s lack of it.

John McCain showed what an ethical response looked like, and he didn’t need long to issue it:

“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”

What Trumpworld hears. Seeking to downplay the Moore story, Steve Bannon said in a speech last night that “the Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump is the same Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore.” (He was referring to the Post’s reporting, in October 2016, about the tape in which Trump bragged about molesting women.)

Taxes. Should the Senate pass a tax bill that hurts the middle class but doesn’t hurt the middle class as much as a House tax bill?

Obviously not. And that appears to be the choice senators will have, based on yesterday’s early news about the Senate bill.

Republican Senate leaders seem to be putting together a bill designed to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy and little to the middle class. The bill would also create large budget deficits that middle-class families would ultimately have to help pay off.

The Senate will probably take away a few damaging provisions from the House bill, like a higher tax rate for low-income households. But the bill still seems geared overwhelmingly to the wealthy. One centerpiece is a reduction of the estate tax, which falls on only a sliver of rich families. Another provision makes the House bill worse: a lower income tax rate for the highest earners.

It is still possible for the Senate to write a bill that actually tries to clean up the tax code and make life easier on the middle class and poor. But the Senate is now a long way from doing so.

I’m encouraged to see several Republican senators raising concerns. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are worried about soaring deficits. Mike Lee and Marco Rubio want a larger child tax credit. There are also multiple differences between the Senate and House bills that could be difficult to square. Any three Republicans can likely keep a damaging bill from passing.

Elsewhere: John Harwood conducted a meaty CNBC interview with Gary Cohn, the top White House economics adviser, yesterday. Among the points Harwood made: Any additional economic growth that the bill might create through corporate tax changes is likely to be overwhelmed by the drag from larger deficits. Cohn didn’t have a good answer.

Red Century. My colleague Max Strasser, an Opinion editor, writes:

“One hundred years ago this week, the Bolshevik Revolution began in St. Petersburg, Russia. This year, the Opinion section’s Red Century series has looked back at the revolution and its aftershocks. In the first installment, in February, David Priestland wrote about not just Communism’s legacy but also what its future might hold. In the final installment, this week, Simon Sebag Montefiore looked at how the revolution reverberates, what might have happened if it never occurred — and how it almost didn’t.

“Those are just a couple of the great pieces in the series. If you want to know more about how this event in 1917 shaped our world, you should read the rest of the Red Century series here.”

The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Diana Nyad on her life after a childhood sexual assault.