Roy Moore is a dirtbag. If I were an Alabama voter, I would write in a name — not to advance some Rube Goldberg plan for holding on to the Senate seat, but because I’m not going to vote for a doctrinaire liberal or for whatever Moore is. But for all that, there is something disgusting about how the Roy Moore allegations have produced smarmy contrition among liberals.
It is disgusting how liberal journalists such as Chris Hayes, Alyssa Rosenberg, Michelle Goldberg, and Matthew Yglesias (among others) have taken to forthrightly condemning Bill Clinton now that there is zero political cost (and some political gain) in doing so.
This isn’t just about 1999. Where was “I believe Juanita” last year? Yglesias said it best: “Attacking Bill was, by extension, an attack on Hillary — an attack that most people in leading positions in American progressive politics had no desire to make.”
That’s right. Being sharply critical of Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape was considered bad form by liberals in the same way that volunteering criticism of George W. Bush’s mistakes in Iraq is considered bad form by establishment Republicans. Clinton’s victims were known. The culture didn’t change in the sense that Yglesias, Rosenberg, Hayes, and Goldberg suddenly learned that rape is bad. They knew. What changed was that forthrightly attacking Bill Clinton was no longer giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And by enemy, they meant not rapists, but Republicans.
If our liberal journalists want to know what kind of person sticks with Roy Moore regardless of the recent revelations, they don’t have to go on a safari to rural Alabama. They can just look in the mirror and see someone who stands by a sexual predator as long as it is their sexual predator in a key position of power. And I don’t mean some younger, more naïve version of themselves. That’s who they are now. If they were serious, they would have condemned Clinton just as strongly even when doing so might have inconvenienced his accomplice-in-chief. But no, they waited until the political incentives shifted in favor of condemnation.
These liberal journalists wouldn’t be alone in being fine with having a sexual predator in the White House. If you look at electoral maps of 1996 and 2016, it is clear that there must be many millions of Bill Clinton–Donald Trump voters. The only major difference is that these voters don’t hold themselves out as the I-believe-women consciences of America.
Save your sanctimony. Save it for when your new, enlightened principles actually cost you something you value. Save it for when it costs you single-payer health care, or a Supreme Court seat, or control of Congress. Then we will be glad to listen about how you have evolved into some kind of higher life form.
In the the meantime, liberal journalists can make a small down payment on integrity in the form of humility. Oppose Roy Moore on moral grounds. Fine. Good. But when you find yourself talking about the kind of partisan who excuses someone like Moore, remind the audience that you are also talking about yourself.