Friday, November 10, 2017

Roy Moore

What should Alabama voters do in reference to the senate race? The GOP candidate and long-time culture warrior has been accused of misconduct with minors.

1. I'm guarded about politically motivated allegations like this. Take the case of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who was falsely indicted just in time to make him lose his bid for reelection. He was cleared after the fact, but the damage was done. There wasn't enough time before the election to clear his name. And that was the intention all along.

2. If Moore is guilty, then the issue may be moot. It's common for victims to be reluctant to be the first accuser to stick their neck out. But after one or more victims comes forward, that emboldens others, and there's an avalanche. If that's what happens in this case, then Moore's senate bid is sunk regardless of what voters do. 

3. I've seen some people defend Moore by appealing to his Christian character. But the very question at issue is whether his reputation was built on false pretenses. Just in passing, I'd note that there are different kinds of hypocrites. For instance:

i) Some people are morally blind. They are genuinely oblivious to their own hypocrisy. They lack any capacity for self-criticism.

ii) Some people deploy hypocrisy as a strategy of misdirection. They become outspoken moralists to camouflage their private vices and draw attention away from themselves.

4. Are all the allegations true, none are true, or some are true? Which ones?

The allegation, if true, that as a thirty-something bachelor, he dated underage girls is creepy. The claim, if true, that he asked their mothers permission to date their adolescent daughters is odd. Does that reflect a bizarre honor code or legal cover? 

If he dated adolescent girls, then at best he has a moral blindspot and at worst he is twisted. And there's one more serious allegation. 

5. What are the stakes? The US Senate currently has a razor thin margin of 52 GOP senators. As failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare have demonstrated, even as it stands, the GOP lacks a working majority in the Senate. It lacks a margin to overcome blue/purple Republican senators. 

This isn't primarily a question of power. It's a question of protecting the innocent from the malevolent social agenda of the secular progressives. In assessing what Alabama voters should do, there's more than one evil to avoid. We need to compare the evil consequences of different outcomes. 

On a related note, the Democrat party has rapidly radicalized. Does Moore's opponent buy into the political agenda of the national party? 

6. This goes to the issue of moral dilemmas. I don't mean a moral dilemma in the strong sense that whatever you do or fail to do will be morally wrong. Rather, I mean a choice between a bad option and a worse option.

The WaPo has created a situation where Alabama voters may have no decent choices. If, in a calculated strategy, the liberal establishment takes all the good options off the table, don't blame voters when you force them to make a morally distasteful choice. That's on you, not them. 

There are attenuating circumstances where an action that's normally wrong becomes permissible or even obligatory. Take wartime situations, viz. human shields. 

The Anabaptist alternative is to opt out, leaving other people to make the tough choices. There are situations in which opting out is appropriate, but delegating the tough choices to someone else doesn't necessarily preserve your own virtue. Contracting out the tough choices creates an illusory sense of virtue if you reap the benefit without the investment. A shell-game of shifting blame. 

7. Here's one possible scenario:

i) Vote for Moore

ii) If he wins, and the allegations are proven true, he should resign. The governor should then appoint a Republican to fill that seat.

That's a rather cynical strategy, but I don't fret too much over that in cases where evil people maneuvered us into a morally dismal situation. I didn't create the situation. I'm not responsible for the remaining choices. If possible, we should block Democrats from retaking the Senate, given the morally catastrophic consequences of putting Democrats back in power. But this scenario may be overtaken by events on the ground. 


  1. My view is this:

    1. There are only a handful of people who know the truth of these allegations and I'm not one.

    2. As far as corroboration goes, I haven't heard these people. And why did they wait decades to come forward? Moore has been known state-wide in Alabama for at least a dozen years. Why wait until after he wins the primary and it's too late for him to drop out? (Of course I don't know when the WAPO started researching the story so I could be wrong.) Yes people can be traumatized, but one of the accusers allegedly told friends that she liked dating an older man.

    3. And let's face it the Washington Post doesn't exactly like conservatives.

    4. So I'd vote for him.

    Steve Jackson

    1. Editors at National Review think he should drop out:

  2. It looks highly probable that Moore did what he's accused of doing, which involves immoral behavior and the breaking of multiple laws. Given considerations like what Steve Hays mentions above, I'd vote for Moore, but look for an opportunity to replace him as soon as possible. Even if we have to wait until the next primaries when Moore is up for reelection, there will be some sort of opportunity to replace him within the next few years.

    Leigh Corfman, the woman who was 14 when Moore is supposed to have been involved with her, is said by a few people to have told them years ago about what Moore did. She didn't just recently start making these claims. Nancy Wells, Betsy Davis, Mike Ortiz, and a fourth individual interviewed by the Washington Post who wanted to remain anonymous say that Corfman told them about her relationship with Moore long before his current run for the Senate.

    The Post's story explains some of the reasons why Corfman waited so long to tell more people about what happened. And it's easy to imagine plausible reasons why people who were involved with Moore in the ways that are alleged would have been hesitant to talk publicly about what happened.

    I listened to Sean Hannity's interview with Moore today. Moore's evasiveness and qualifiers (his romantic relationships usually didn't involve teenagers, he supposedly didn't remember whether he was romantically involved with particular women, etc.) made him even less credible than he was before the interview.

    The arguments I'm seeing from conservatives in support of Moore (in the comment threads at sites like National Review and Red State, on talk radio, etc.) are absurd and reminiscent of the ridiculous defenses of Herman Cain and Donald Trump in previous years. A lot of the people defending Moore seem to have not read the Washington Post story or to have read it without giving it much thought. I doubt that many of them apply the same kind of reasoning to Democrats who have accusations brought against them by so many witnesses and with so much corroborating evidence. And I doubt that Christians who are defending Moore would be so dismissive of the testimony of so many people if the testimony in question was in support of Christianity rather than testimony against Moore.

  3. I'm not able to read the Washington Post article because my free visits have expired. I'm not goint to pay the Bezos blog any money.

    I listened to the Hannity interview. Moore denied any sexual/illegal contact. He was more forceful about that than the question of whether he dated teenage girls. I don't know what to say. He may have dated a teenage girl and knows that there is some evidence.

    Long story short, but I know "older" men from "traditional" European and Deep South (USA) backgrounds who dated and married late teen girls.

    1. Steve Jackson,

      During the interview with Hannity, Moore says that he wouldn't want a man in his thirties dating his daughter when she was 17 or 18 (see 3:35 onward in the second audio file on the page linked above). He also says that it would be inappropriate for a man in his thirties to date a girl in her late teens (see 3:55 onward in the second audio file).

      Yet, we have several individuals who are in a good position to have reliable information on the subject saying that Moore violated those standards. In addition to the witnesses discussed in the Washington Post story, a former colleague of Moore (Teresa Jones) recently said:

      "It was common knowledge that Roy Moore dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird…We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall…but you really wouldn't say anything to someone like that."

      The fact that so many sources are saying that Moore did what he claims he wouldn't want other people to do, a type of behavior that he described as "inappropriate" to Sean Hannity, is a significant problem. But to make matters worse, he had told Hannity earlier that he usually wouldn't date teenagers and didn't remember dating any (see 2:35 onward in the first audio file, 4:09 onward in that same file, etc.). So, are we to believe that he generally avoided acting in that inappropriate way, but didn't always? That he didn't remember having acted in that inappropriate manner, but wanted to leave the possibility that he did it so wide open? If dating teenagers was unusual for him, and he thinks it's inappropriate to do it, shouldn't that unusualness and inappropriateness have made the matter of whether it ever occurred, as well as the occasions when it did occur, highly memorable? Then why is he leaving the possibility that he dated the two girls in question so open, as though he thinks there's a good chance it happened and he doesn't remember it? By the time the interview with Hannity occurred, Moore had the girls' full names, with accompanying photographs showing what they looked like at the time in question, and he'd had many hours to gather his memories and thoughts on the subject. The Washington Post story explains that he's supposed to have dated each of the two girls in question for multiple months. He claims to remember so many other details about those girls, details he provided during the interview with Hannity, yet he acts as if it could easily be the case that he dated them, but doesn't remember it. It looks like he's being dishonest. Apparently, he wants to distance himself from the Washington Post's story by saying that he doesn't remember dating the girls, yet he wants to leave open the possibility of acknowledging having dated them in the future, if additional evidence comes to light that forces him to admit what he already knows.

      (continued below)

    2. (continued from above)

      The woman Moore is alleged to have been sexually involved with when she was 14, Leigh Corfman, says she voted Republican in recent presidential elections, and the Washington Post noted that "According to campaign reports, none of the women has donated to or worked for Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, or his rivals in the Republican primary". She doesn't seem to have been politically motivated to make up her charges. A few people have said that Corfman told them about her relationship with Moore years ago, so she apparently didn't just recently start making the claim. Two of those individuals were told about the relationship around the time it initiated. So, not only has Corfman been talking about the relationship for years, but she even did so just after the relationship started, a few decades ago. Corfman's mother has corroborated Corfman's account about meeting Moore at a courthouse in 1979. (In addition to the Post's coverage of what the mother has said, see here.) That means we have two people contradicting Moore's claim that he never even met Corfman. The Washington Post obtained divorce records showing that Corfman's mother was at the courthouse during the timeframe in question. Corfman has provided details about her relationship with Moore that are unlikely to have been made up (how far away Moore's house was from hers, that Moore's driveway was unpaved at the time, etc.), and her account has significant overlap with the accounts of the other women (e.g., that Moore provided alcohol to girls he was romantically involved with who weren't old enough to legally drink).

      It should be noted how often we have multiple individuals contradicting what Moore has said (whether he dated teenage girls, whether he ever met Corfman, whether he gave alcohol to underage girls). Repeatedly, we have to believe that multiple people are mistaken (in some cases, they'd have to be lying, not just honestly getting things wrong) in order to believe Moore.

  4. Jason, my Italian grandparents got married when they were young. My grandmothers were 16 and the men ten years older at least. My wife is from Italy and her parents are different in age (15 years). My mother in law got married when she was 17.

    OK, best of knowledge the men didn't trawl (sic?) the malls or high school games.

  5. Jason, in other words I don't have a problem with a 17 year old marrying a 32 year old.

    On the other hand, I don't believe in "dating."

    1. Steve Jackson,

      I agree that it's not inherently wrong for an older man to be romantically involved with a teenager. That's why I haven't raised that objection to Moore's behavior, but instead have been discussing other issues (whether Moore has been consistent with his own professed standards, his honesty, his sexual involvement with Leigh Corfman, his giving alcohol to underage girls, etc.).

      Though I haven't argued that an older man's romantic involvement with a teenage girl is inherently wrong, I do consider it wrong under some circumstances. Something that's permissible as a general principle can be unwise, too much of a stumbling block to other people, too easy to misunderstand or misrepresent, etc. under certain circumstances. For example, though Christians can drink alcohol, there are limits to how you should use that freedom while in the presence of a person who has a problem with abusing alcohol. From what I can tell, Moore's behavior in the late 1970s, in the setting in which he was living, was significantly problematic in that context, even though it's not always wrong for a man in his thirties to be romantically involved with a teenage girl. See the comments of Teresa Jones that I quoted above, for example.

  6. I emailed Beth Reinhard, one of the reporters who produced the Washington Post story. I asked if there's been verification of the details "that Moore lived about a half-hour drive from Corfman, in a wooded area, with an unpaved driveway". She told me that, yes, they verified those details. So, anybody arguing that Corfman made up her account will have to address how she knew those details about Moore's house in 1979.

  7. has a story quoting some current and former residents of Alabama about Roy Moore's "predatory" behavior toward teenage girls and older women from the 1970s to the 1990s. There are comments about the bad reputation he had with people who worked at the Gadsden Mall, for example. A waitress describes how Moore acted when he ate at a restaurant she worked for in the 1990s. The article also quotes a friend of Leigh Corfman, who refers to Corfman as a Republican and "very conservative" politically.