[guest post by Dana]
To which President Trump responded:
Well, he denies it. Look, if you look at what is really going on, you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen, and you know, you have to listen to him also.
The defense and “re-endorsement” of Roy Moore by the president came during a brief Q&A with reporters after having been relatively quiet about the matter for more than a week.
President Trump listed off his reasons for believing Moore is the better candidate in the race:
“We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones. I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on military,” Trump said. “I can tell you for a fact we do not need somebody who’s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad for the military, bad for the Second Amendment.”
Tuesday’s public support of Moore comes on the heels of White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirming to reporters that the president still believed Moore should step down if the allegations were true:
The president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously, and he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be.
The president said in his statement earlier this week that if the allegations are true then Roy Moore should step aside. He still firmly believes that.
So what caused Trump to no longer be troubled by the allegations, and not only defend Moore but embrace him as well? Possibly something personal:
President Donald Trump’s near-endorsement of Alabama Republican Roy Moore followed days of behind-the-scenes talks in which he vented about Moore’s accusers and expressed skepticism about their accounts.
During animated conversations with senior Republicans and White House aides, the president said he doubted the stories presented by Moore’s accusers and questioned why they were emerging now, just weeks before the election, according to two White House advisers and two other people familiar with the talks.
The White House advisers said the president drew parallels between Moore’s predicament and the one he faced just over a year ago when, during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, Trump confronted a long line of women who accused him of harassment. He adamantly denied the claims.
The president’s private sentiments broke into the open Tuesday when Trump all but declared he believed Moore’s denials.
While the report suggests that President Trump viewed the Moore allegations through a personal lens when making his decision to defend the candidate, there is also another factor. And a troubling one at that:
President Donald Trump’s decision to embrace Roy Moore on Tuesday was rooted in several factors, but one of the biggest: the noise and confusion from a recent tidal wave of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from Hollywood to media to politics.
“(It) made it easier and easier to stick with Moore,” a Republican source close to the White House said.
So, the justification for sticking with Moore was made easier because of the non-stop barrage of sexual misconduct allegations being made? So many allegations, in fact, that there is a desensitization happening as the behavior becomes normalized, thus making it easier to look the other way and cut loose of any principles. Because everybody is doing it.
But there is also this nugget of justification for sticking with Moore:
In the end, the officials said, Trump decided to do something familiar: Accept Moore’s denials — just as he delivered his own denials during the 2016 campaign.
“It’s the general consensus that Moore and his policies are better than a Democrat. This makes it about policy and not the sexual abuse allegations. The White House knows they cannot afford to lose an ‘R’ vote in the Senate,” a White House source familiar with the current thinking told CNN.
Just because they say it, does that make it so? Simply claiming that it’s only politics eliminates any question of morality? I don’t think so. As far as this White House is concerned, however, the moral question has been easily sidelined, and nothing of real value has been sacrificed to get to this point. Because a win in this election is so important, the support of Moore must be justified in any way possible.
So ultimately, in answer to the reporter’s question to President Trump of whether an accused child molester is better than a Democrat, the answer from this White House is a resounding yes.
(Note: I also believe that basic tribalism contributed to the decision to support Moore.)
As of today, the president has not committed to campaigning for Moore. He said he will announce his decision regarding that next week. Also as of today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, along with more than a dozen Senate Republicans have publicly called on Moore to drop out of the race. The campaign arm for Senate Republicans and the RNC have also cut ties with Moore.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)