Republicans' response to the Roy Moore story sure sounds familiar
Roy Moore, the Republican Senate nominee in Alabama, is a great fan of the Bible. So one would assume he'd be familiar with this Old Testament verse:
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
As Republican officials in Washington respond to allegations that Moore, in the late 1970s, made advances on a 14-year-old girl and three more teenagers, there is an inescapable feeling of déjà vu.
We've walked this path before, and not too long ago. We know its turns, and where it ends.
When on October 7, 2016, The Washington Post -- which also broke the Moore story -- published a tape in which then-candidate Donald Trump could be heard bragging that, because he is "a star," women allow him to "grab them by the p---y," a raft of high-profile Capitol Hill Republicans rushed to unhitch their wagons from his campaign.
"While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him," Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said in a statement on October 8. "I will be voting for Mike Pence for President."
One year, one month and a day later, Portman was again confronted with a similar decision: how to respond to the allegations against Moore. This time, the stakes were lower. Moore isn't running for president. Senators from other states aren't traditionally expected to formally endorse their would-be colleagues. Nor do they, with one exception, have a vote to withhold.
"I think if what we read is true, and people are on the record so I assume it is," Portman said on Thursday, "then (Moore) should step aside."
Portman actually went a bit further than most of his GOP colleagues, who didn't publicly "assume" anything about the veracity of the women's accounts.
Of the claims against Moore, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said, "If they're accurate, he should step aside."
"If they're proven to be true, then he should step aside," North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said.
Did Republicans coordinate their response down to the word? We don't know. But here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Moore: "If these allegations are true, he must step aside."
In 2016, McConnell offered a similarly cautious rebuke to Trump, saying, "These comments are repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance. As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape."
Trump offered a qualified apology and, for many on his side of the aisle, that was enough. Former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who said he could "no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president" after the tape went public, reversed course a few weeks later, tweeting: "I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him. HRC is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA."
If anything, Republicans went further in their public statements -- if not actions: the NRSC has severed fundraising ties with Moore -- in condemning Trump than they have in Moore's case. The formulation of the "if true" talking point is a logical dead-end.
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