Friday, December 08, 2017

Moore's the pity

On the one hand, we can’t know for certain that Moore’s denials are themselves lies. It is not impossible given his subsequent behavior for decades that he is telling the truth. On the other hand, if he is lying, this doesn’t mean that he hasn’t repented at all. He appears to have been a sexually faithful, gentle, and thoughtful husband for years. He considers the behavior of which he is accused to be very wrong, which, if he committed the behavior decades ago, shows some change of mind. If he committed the behavior, should he tell the truth about it, whatever the cost to his reputation? Yes, certainly. At the same time, one could readily understand his human weakness at this point (if he is lying): Having already confessed his sins to God decades ago and considering himself a changed man ever since, he would not want to be subjected to national disgrace, viewed by others as the monster whom he no longer considers himself to be, and possibly put in peril of civil litigation. 
If he is lying, which for me can’t be known beyond a reasonable doubt (based on current evidence and not ruling out future allegations), in a context where he has exhibited a changed life in his sexual behavior for decades, how much weight should be given to the lying? Should it dominate all other considerations even though the politician that has never lied to his or her constituency is at best a rare species and at worse a cultural figment of our imagination (with apologies to George Washington)?

I posted part 1 of Gagnon's response to Carter. I thought he made a number of good observations. However, here's where his argument goes astray:

i) I'm struck by Christian pundits who fail to distinguish between defending the cause and defending the candidate. Fact is, Christians should always maintain some distance in relation to politicians. It's a mistake to become so personally invested in a candidate that you become a character witness. If you chain yourself to a candidate, then he takes you down with him if it turns out that he was a scoundrel. 

Some Christians need to practice more detachment. Politicians are temporary expedients. Just a means to an end. A better way to frame the issue is that tens of millions of innocent men, women, and children will be harmed if the secular progressives retake control. At the moment, Moore is a useful pawn. If he's a scoundrel, we should sacrifice the pawn after outliving its usefulness. That's poetic justice. If he's a scoundrel, it serves him right to dump him once he served his purpose. The cause is bigger than individuals who facilitate the cause. And scoundrels don't deserve our loyalty. 

I'm not saying for a fact that Moore's a scoundrel. I'm saying the case to vote for him doesn't depend on vouching for his sterling character. 

ii) There are limits to this. If after the nomination but before the election, it was discovered that he was a serial killer, then that would be a bridge to far. Vastly so.

By the same token, suppose there were credible rumors, not that he as hitting on teenage girls, but teenage boys. I'd say that crosses a line. 

iii) The bar for assessing candidates isn't certainties but probabilities. To say "it's not impossible that he's telling the truth" is a ridiculous standard of evidence. It's important that we not subvert basic standards of evidence. 

iv) To say "He considers the behavior of which he is accused to be very wrong, which, if he committed the behavior decades ago, shows some change of mind" is gullible What Gagnon evidently means is that Moore says he considers the behavior of which he's accused to be very wrong. Bu that doesn't show some change of mind. If guilty, we'd expect a candidate to say that. What's the alternative? To say, during the campaign, that he doesn't think such behavior is very wrong? 

If he's a scoundrel, that's part of the pose. I'm not saying for a fact that he's guilty of all or any of the more sensational charges. I'm just struck by Gagnon's credulity on this point. Moore is running for high office. That's what you'd expect him to say to preserve his political viability. He's committed to a certain script in order to win. If he didn't think it was wrong, and he did it, you'd expect him to say behavior like that is very wrong, then indignantly deny the allegations. That's entirely consistent with the modus operandi of an amorally ambitious man. 

v) Yes, it's psychologically understandable that he'd lie about his past conduct, if he did it. That, however, is inconsistent with true contrition. Assuming he did it, if he was truly penitent, he wouldn't run for high office in the first place, and if he was caught, he'd drop out. 

vi) I agree that telling a lie doesn't ipso facto disqualify a candidate. But that's very abstract. Depends on what you're lying about. If he's defaming people who have a genuine grievance to preserve a bogus reputation, then that's inexcusable. 

That said, there are many considerations that should go into voting. But since Gagnon is focussed on the character issue, I object to all the special pleading.  

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