The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 51 – This week:
- Moore could well win Close Alabama race
- Amid harassment scandals, Trump’s transgressions continue to be eclipsed
- Trent Franks makes himself a casualty of the sexual harassment reporting wave
Scandal: This week’s Alabama Senate race has been clouded by the scandalous accusations against Judge Roy Moore. He is supposed to have dated teenagers while in his 30s, and two women who would have been underage girls at the time have accused him of taking advantage of them sexually.
Democrats seem to have it made, but for two things. First, their nominee, Doug Jones, might just be too far to the left to exploit what seems like an easy resulting race. Second, Democrats are suddenly filling up the ranks of accused workplace sexual predators.
Democrats hope that this race is a win-win for them. And there’s a sensible train of thought that suggests it could be. The basic idea Democrats are hoping for is that voters in Alabama may not mind electing someone under such a cloud, but voters nationally will be repulsed by any party that produces such a senator. A win by the Republican, this thinking goes, is a loss for the GOP.
What’s more, Republicans will make their own predicament worse if they follow through on their promises and investigate Moore’s behavior before throwing him out of the Senate. They will be casting additional attention onto their own weakness.
Democrats want to turn Moore into the next Todd Akin. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. And it might yet work that way, but there are some obstacles. Most of them are of Democrats’ own making.
With his resignation last week under a cloud of sexual harassment and assault charges of his own, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was supposed to give Democrats some moral high ground from which to preach. It was Democrats who ultimately clamored for and secured his departure from the Senate, after all. They policed their own. Don’t they deserve some credit? Franken bowed to pressure and resigned.
But Franken then marred the moment. He delivered a petulant, bitter speech to mark his departure. He defiantly maintained his innocence, raising the obvious question of why he was resigning at all if he was an innocent man, instead of fighting the accusations.
And even as he claimed to support the idea of believing all women who make accusations like the ones against himself and Moore, he asserted that all eight of his accusers’ accounts of his behavior were incorrect.
In other words, “Believe women,” he argued, but not these women.
It looks pretty bad when you put it together that way. Not just for Franken, but for Democrats in general. The “War on Women” theme that paid dividends in the 2012 campaign appears to have been compromised by the latest wave of Democrats caught up in the sexual harassment and assault dragnet. As it turns out, treating women with respect is not so much an ideological matter, as it is a personal test of character and virtue.
Despite his denials, Moore may well be guilty of everything he is accused of. Still, how do you translate his shortcomings into a partisan message that you can use in ads, when your own party has so many current villains of its own? In recent weeks, we have learned that Democrats might actually be the party more prone to harbor sexual predators, or at least not significantly less prone than the Republicans?
In short, Moore is likely to get away with everything — and if he does, he probably has Franken to thank.
Speaking of which, Franken’s departure will add an additional special Senate election to 2018 in a state that President Trump lost but came quite close to carrying in 2016.
More scandal: What about President Trump? Not only have accusers come forward to talk about his predatory behavior, but he was caught on tape bragging about it.
Whatever he says now, Trump did indeed say what went into those Hollywood Access tapes. It wasn’t enough to cost him the 2016 election, but it was enough to raise doubts in the minds even of many people who voted for him.
In the end, it seems like President Trump once again lives in a kind of no-stick bubble, where there’s just no practical political way to hold him to account for his own past actions as long as he’s president. No one could successfully make an issue of this during his campaign, and it’s just as hard to do so now. While other figures such as Franken go down to their doom as a result of this issue of misconduct, Trump will continue to survive, justly or unjustly.
Stranger scandal: The weirdest (although probably not the creepiest or most evil) sexual harassment case is that of Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who stands accused of trying to talk female staffers into surrogacy on behalf of himself and his wife (they are unable t have children of their own).
Franks’ subtle comments on this matter helped him elude notice sooner, but the strangeness of a member of Congress making such a request is palpable. This simply isn’t done, no matter how pure one’s motives. Franks’ resignation makes a lot of sense as a result. The House will thus be losing one of its most conservative members.
Tennessee: By recruiting former Gov. Phil Bredesen as their candidate, Democrats are showing that they won’t play dead, not even in a state where they have lost their competitive edge. They may be at a terrible disadvantage in the race to succeed Sen. Bob Corker, R, but with a Democratic wave forming, they might as well try their best in every state where there will be an open seat. Bredesen won his 2006 re-election race by 39 points, carrying every single county of his state. It was an unusual race against an unusually weak Republican opponent that ended up being the most one-sided in Tennessee history.
But that doesn’t mean Tennesseans will necessarily want to be represented by a Democrat — even a popular and familiar one — in the Senate.