The Easiest Test To Fail

Former US Representative Tim Murphy was, evidently, a very optimistic man:

A text message sent in January to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by a woman with whom he had an extra-marital relationship took him to task for an anti-abortion statement posted on Facebook from his office’s public account.

“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,” Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25, in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare.

A text from Mr. Murphy’s cell phone number that same day in response says, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”

I say he was optimistic because he evidently thought that he would survive this. It was reasonable for him to believe he would survive the affair itself. Many don’t, but some do. Having had an affair – even as a theoretically socially conservative congressman – doesn’t make a whole lot of news these days. There usually has to be something especially salacious like sexts or at least hookers. Abandoning your state and dropping off the map for a few days. Cancer. The only real angle with Murphy is the hypocrisy angle, and really nobody is surprised by that anymore. I hadn’t even heard of it.

I did not share his optimism about the other thing, however. I knew he was done as soon as I heard about the proposed abortion. For anyone ostensibly against abortion, that is the easiest moral decision that there is. And if you fail it, and you rely on pro-life groups for support, you’re in a lot of trouble.

Getting away with having had an affair is pretty formulaic these days. You say that you were weak. Or in Mark Sanford’s case, you say that you finally found true love. If you break up your family and leave your spouse people might see something about new beginnings. If you stay with your family, you can spin that, too. In any event, weakness of the flesh is assumed on the part of a lot of people, including and especially social conservatives if that’s your base. It’s one of the reasons the Pence Rule has some traction. Avoid temptation, for we are weak.

It ties in to some of the issues with young Christians and contraception:

The psychology, as I’ve seen it, basically works like this: Sex before marriage is wrong. It is a sin. Now, lots of things are a sin and we all sin. Most Christians do keep this in perspective. Everyone makes mistakes. However, there is a difference between spontaneous sin and premeditated sin. It’s one thing to have a moment of weakness where you give in to the flesh. it’s spontaneous. You were weak. Maybe you are weak whenever you are around a particular guy or gal. Not good. Beg for forgiveness. Onward and upward. However, if you are on the pill or are taking a condom with you, that’s a different ballgame. That’s premeditation. That’s willful. It’s the difference between a child breaking the rules on a lark, and a deception meticulously planned and executed. Would your response be the same? Mine wouldn’t. And so it is with God.

There are some people in some situations who will get away with just about anything because there is so much on the line or they have such a deep well of support. And if there is some sort of defense you can hang your hat on such as having found Jesus in the interim, then people who want to believe you will. But it is easily one of the most difficult arguments to make in politics. It’s more difficult to justify than things that are actually objectively worse (say, the Chappaquiddick incident) because of the absence of an accidental or split-second decision component. It’s not strictly about how bad the sin is, but the premeditation and planning involved.

I am not pro-life the same way that Murphy professed to be, but I nonetheless see it as among the easiest decisions there is. And it involves not just doing a bad thing, but coercing another into doing the bad thing. At the least, you actually have to argue and convince someone else of the bad thing. It is just layers of bad on bad. You could see the thorough darkness in the tepid tone of the few defenses people put up. They weren’t active defenses and they were barely even passive defenses. It mostly came down to some variation of “The media is hypocrites!” and “Look at that shiny thing over there!” Even for the most rabid partisan, it was hard to put any sort of positive or defensive spin on it.

With the exception of virgins, most anti-abortion people I know well enough to know about it have been tested in this regard. If you are sexually active, this is one of those moral views that definitely has rubber meeting road potential. And in fact, I have more often seen these situations push people in the opposite direction towards anti-abortion hostility once they are contemplating a child that is potentially theirs. Nature does afford anti-abortion men the ability to punt in a way it does not afford anti-abortion women the same, but Murphy couldn’t even manage to do that right. It’s noteworthy how he evidently didn’t even try to justify its accordance with his stated beliefs on abortion. He just outsourced the latter to a staffer, as though he somehow had never taken a position on the subject.

I call this the “unforgivable sin” but of course under the right circumstances nothing is completely unforgivable. But if you’re a Republican who ever encouraged your mistress to have an abortion, you’d best hope that it was a long time ago (before some sort of religious conversion, preferably) or the Supreme Court hangs in the balance, or that you have some fixed hold on public opinion. Because if you’re just some congressman from Pennsylvania, nobody is going to perform the mental gymnastics required. Start slathering yourself in butter, because you’re toast.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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71 thoughts on “The Easiest Test To Fail

  1. And yet the same activist movement that (justifiably and correctly) turned on Murphy for betraying pro-life principles is giving Roy Moore the green light. There are about a dozen ways to spin this, each more grotesque than the last.

    Spending decades lecturing us that gay marriage, condoms, teaching evolution in school, whatever, are all gateways to depravity, and then deciding a guy who molests 14 year old girls is fit to sit in the Senate: that’s not a good look.

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    • Some of them are. A lot of them are quiet. There’s not much to say in defense of those that are coming to Moore’s aid. It pretty much comes down to “The Supreme Court defeats every other consideration.” About all I will say about them in general is that a lot of people are extrapolating from a very limited data-set things like “Evangelicals rally behind Moore.” Even with that, though, rank-and-file will vote for him by-and-large.

      Anyway, part of the reason I was confident Murphy was gone was because, as I say in the last paragraph, he was expendable. We’ve seen what parties will do to back (or at least run interference) for someone if they’re important enough. If Murphy was one of a few crucial votes for party control and court picks, I am less confident about what they would do. (Actually, I fear I do know…)

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        • Oh, I think people should hold this (and their willingness to support and defend Trump last year) should be held over their heads in perpetuity. I’m just noting the difference between support and silence. (Though looking back your original comment went with “gave the green light” which can apply to both.)

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          • @pillsy

            Reading an article on NPR about Al Franken just now, I was shocked and pleased to note this:
            “One GOP senator, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, has said the Senate should expel [Roy Moore] if he wins”. (was re: Moore likely facing an ethics committee the moment he shows up).

            Generally speaking Gardner pisses me off, but I keep seeing these little signs that he’s growing a backbone…

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              • In addition to what said, McConnell also wants Franken in front of the Ethics Committee.

                I think he should resign immediately, what with a second allegation coming out, but if he was going to do the right thing on his own, this whole problem wouldn’t even exist.

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              • Yeah, as North says, all indications that he will be. That was part of what the article was about – the Moore thing was an afterthought / conclusion-that-leads-you-to-go-read-more-stuff, and as such, more “media business savvy” than politics.

                But since I’m in Colorado I’m actually way more interested in Gardner, who is showing surprising signs of moral development here and there in the last six months, than I am in either of those two. Seems like somewhere along the line he stopped thinking all the people calling his office were paid protesters from out of state and started listening to them, and remembering his “brand”.

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                • I think a straightforward political calculation would lead Gardner to a similar conclusion… but too much of recent history has involved people embracing awfulness despite straightforward political calculations supporting the more decent course of action that I’m not going to scoff.

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                  • Yeah, I don’t really care one way or the other why he’s showing signs of moral development, what’s in his heart is between him and … people or deities more intimate to him than I ever expect to be.

                    But going out further in the direction of wronging a malefactor than his party is willing to do gives me some hope.

                    Even, dumbly enough, re: Trump.

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                • I worked a bit with Gardner on budget legislation when he was in the state legislature, and he struck me as a reasonably bright man. Certainly one who could see which way the wind was blowing. 2018 has the potential to turn into a personal political disaster for him: (1) His voting record looks like he set out to tick off the metro Denver suburbs; (2) He’s in charge of the Senate money machine, which seems poised to abruptly dry up; (3) He’s set himself up as an establishment, national Republican in a year when that’s a risky thing to be, on multiple levels.

                  (1) and (3) certainly seem to me to reduce his reelection chances in 2020 (especially against a competent campaigner; Udall ran a terrible campaign). (2) makes it hard to find a place at the oft-mentioned Republican feeding trough if he loses in 2020.

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            • The most surprising one to me so far is Tom Cotton. He has no incentive to dig in his heels on this to the extent that he has. It wouldn’t even occur to me that he would be one of the people out there calling the accusations credible and Moore unworthy of support.

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            • “One GOP senator, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, has said the Senate should expel [Roy Moore] if he wins”. (was re: Moore likely facing an ethics committee the moment he shows up).

              I liked this idea a lot when I first heard about it, but now I’m solidly opposed.

              I don’t see how we can throw Moore out of office without that process leading to the GOP also throwing out of office all Dems who are in seats which “belong” to the GOP or vise versa. We’re looking at allegations of immorality, not convictions of crimes.

              The proper forum for evaluating Moore’s behavior is an election where he needs to justify himself to the voters. That’s happening now. I don’t want to give the Washington establishment the tools to overturn the will of the people when they make the “wrong” choice.

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              • I’m pretty skittish on the idea. As with delaying the election, it’s fundamentally a question of whether Moore represents a sufficient threat to flip the table. At this point, I’m not convinced he does.

                But if they do it, I won’t waste any time and energy in opposition.

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                  • Eh, the Senate has the power to expel people for a number of reasons, and one of them is that the voters absolutely sometimes do make the wrong choices.

                    Historically this is reserved for Senators who try to destroy the country via violent rebellion.

                    Lowering that bar to “the wrong guy won the election and it’s politically convenient” seems like something which could come back and bite us pretty hard.

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                    • I dunno. It seems the doomsday scenario we’re discussing here is, “People get thrown out of office for being grotesque crooks,” and worrying that this describes so much of the Senate that it will be a catastrophe.

                      I’m not saying that’s totally wrong, but somehow I think the worry points to a much bigger problem.

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                      • I dunno. It seems the doomsday scenario we’re discussing here is, “People get thrown out of office for being grotesque crooks,” and worrying that this describes so much of the Senate that it will be a catastrophe. I’m not saying that’s totally wrong, but somehow I think the worry points to a much bigger problem.

                        Every GOP candidate for President auto-magically becomes a Nazi. Every Dem is, by Pro-Life rhetoric, enabling mass murder.

                        The doomsday scenario isn’t “out of office for being crooks”, Moore hasn’t been convicted yet.

                        The doomsday scenario is one side gets 66 votes and can throw people out for being accused of being “unethical” by the standards of that side.

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                      • I’m not saying that’s totally wrong, but somehow I think the worry points to a much bigger problem.

                        Not to put too fine a point on it, but we have a system that can only be navigated by people with at least a touch of psychopathy/sociopathy. Enough that there will be a trail of indicators if you dig. The kind of people many of us would like to see elected to Congress run screaming from the actual job requirements.

                        Too much money, too much power, too few people at the top. Personally, I don’t see any way to fix the problem short of (a) breaking the country up into more manageable pieces and (b) regulating the hell out of giant corporations so they can’t move into the power vacuum created by (a).

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                        • First of all, no train has ever run on time in Italy.

                          Secondly, failing to seat Moore could both be a moral stand and a way to hide one’s own skeletons. The Moore Standard of credible accusations of underage sex before being seated, without overturning the will of the voters, seems like a defensible standard. It has tones of realism, morality, and political neutrality.

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              • To be clear, my opinion on it actually happening, much like my opinion on the wisdom of it actually happening is something like:

                “Start throwing people out for credible allegations of horrible immorality and we’ll have to get rid of more than half of everybody there.”

                Which on the one hand, that ain’t never gonna happen, and arguably, you’re right that it shouldn’t.

                On the other hand, if the *electorate* would start doing that, it’d be a whole new world in American politics…

                New-and-Improved Senator Gardner is still the kinda guy who thinks he should get protestors arrested and then realizes he should probably ask the people who arrested them to un-arrest them…

                But I prefer that to the mindlessly-toeing-the-party-line approach.

                Must be the Coloradan in me ;)

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                • “Start throwing people out for credible allegations of horrible immorality and we’ll have to get rid of more than half of everybody there.”

                  IMHO it’s FAR more than half. Playboy did some research back in the day and proclaimed every President with one exception had serious sexual improprieties on their record. That one exception was Nixon.

                  On the other hand, if the *electorate* would start doing that, it’d be a whole new world in American politics…

                  Very much agreed… but I’m not convinced it’d be a better world.

                  I want a ethical, non-nazi, non-sexist with good policy running things. But IMHO if I have to choose one of those four then “good policy” should win out and the others are distractions.

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              • …without that process leading to the GOP also throwing out of office all Dems who are in seats which “belong” to the GOP or vise versa.

                Remember that expulsion requires a two-thirds super-majority. The Republicans can’t expel Moore without the Dems’ help. Nor can one party start expelling members of the other party unless they already hold 67 seats. If I were Chuck Schumer, I’d be tempted to have all of my caucus withhold their vote until the Republicans were on record with a unanimous vote against Moore.

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  2. I’m with pillsy here. Honestly I have a grudging amount of respect for Evangelical voters because they are much more tactical voters than the left in general.

    A lot of my liberal friends talk about how the Evangelicals sold their soul to voter for Trump. Maybe this is true. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t think the Evangelicals care. They care about the one thing that Trump can deliver on and that is judiciary appointments. Trump’s Federal Judiciary picks have all been young (for Judges) but doctrinaire right-wingers that can stay on the bench for decades. This will be Trump’s “gift” that keeps on giving.

    The Left is seemingly incapable of such voting. We would rather be right than win. Which might be a virtue but causes serious loses at the ballot box at times. Sometimes really stupid ones.

    I think in any increased partisan age, part of surviving a political scandal is going to involve whether the other side has a chance at victory. Perhaps Murphy got the boot because the chance of a Democratic victory in the district is not likely. Perhaps they are rallying around Moore because they know that if Moore drops out this late in the game, Doug Jones will win the special election. This means that Alabama will have a Democratic senator and that is a horrible thing that cannot happen.

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      • Parties are primarily (just shy of exclusively) focused on winning elections. They’ll tolerate any horrible old fuck [1] if they can get them into office, which is bad, but a familiar, grody sort of bad.

        Social conservatives, however, has spent basically my entire adult life endlessly reiterating that strict (one might even say narrow-minded), ostentatious displays of rectitude [2], especially when sex is in any way involved, are essential to maintaining public norms against depraved behavior. Now they’re either saying Moore is good, or hiding because he’s inconvenient.

        This is absolutely “YOU HAD ONE JOB” territory, and people who were happy to say, “Gee, your right to see the love of your life in the hospital even though she’s another woman has to be sacrificed to make it clear how important heterosexual marriage is,” are now (at best) ducking and covering when the matter is a guy who molests girls?

        Give. Me. A. Break.

        [1] The horrible old fuck who’s giving me the shits this week is Menendez, but there are so many of them to choose from.

        [2] Like, say, building a rock monstrosity depicting the Ten Commandments on state property.

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        • There is a certain irony in the fact that the party itself has done more against Moore than the activists one might expect to be out-in-front. Still plenty of time for the party to shift gears, though.

          The calculus is pretty similar, though. The goal of the party is to win elections. The goal of the activists are more in terms of policy and appointments. The question is what the stakeholders in each are willing to tolerate to meet those aims.

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          • I think the party can mostly recognize that Moore is a minor disaster in the making for every Republican who isn’t named Roy Moore, but any Republican with a pulse and no predilection for teen girls will be able to beat Doug Jones in a regular election.

            As for social conservative activists, well, what they’re doing here looks a lot like, I dunno, Grover Norquist saying we need full communism in order to have lower taxes. Moore isn’t just a generic scumbag–his form of scumbaggery is the kind of scumbaggery they’ve spent decades insisting is at the bottom of a slippery slope that starts with teaching kids that the world is 4 billion years old.

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              • Supporting Moore is—if you take what social conservatives have been saying repeatedly and loudly for my entirely life—a major policy concession for social conservatives in and of itself.

                That is, if you assume they actually meant what they said when they said that maintaining strict norms of sexual propriety is an essential policy goal because the alternative is a complete eradication of moral standards.

                If they didn’t actually mean that, despite saying it for roughly ever, I’m not sure why I would ever believe anything else they say about anything.

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                • Its more damning than that.

                  As noted Moore wasn’t/ isn’t some contradiction, like a Mormon with a drinking problem.

                  He was surrounded by a large community of fellow Christians who witnessed his behavior and either turned a blind eye or excused it, or practiced it themselves, for years and even to this day.

                  Even if we toss out the 14 year old as inexcusable, there is a very large and vocal group who see nothing wrong with a 32 year old man trolling high schools looking for 16 year old girls.

                  It is a standard of behavior by the most ardently fundamental religions that it is proper for adult men to groom and marry girls who are barely reaching adulthood.

                  For many of these people, Moore is not a violation of their sexual mores, he is the embodiment of it.

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                  • For what it’s worth, I’m not getting an it-comes-from-his-religion vibe in this case. When that happens, they tend to do it from within the church rather than trawling malls. Strikes me more as Generic Creep who is religious. Like the sort from the BBS.

                    Attitudes within Gadsden seem to be mixed. The community was sufficiently not-okay with it that he was apparently told to stop coming around the mall. Some parents seemed to approve of it with his daughter, though with the more problematic cases in particular he seemed to (contrary to his own proclamations) be avoiding the parents entirely.

                    One other interesting thing about Moore: Despite what he’s known for, his religious history is pretty sketchy. There is not much history of him attending church or being religiously active until some time after he got married.

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                    • The reason I am getting that vibe is because it is precisely the religious people who are his most ardent supporters.
                      Its not about his religious creed, so much as his religious culture.

                      There is an ongoing discussion over at Crooked Timber about Corey Robin’s thesis that conservatism has always been chiefly concerned with the preservation of private power.

                      Like the power of men over their wives and daughters, the power of employers (mostly always men) over employees, landlords (mostly always men) over tenants, wealthy (mostly always men) over the poor.

                      There does seem to be this ferocity in the conservative base that reacts to issues in a gendered way that supports Robin’s idea.

                      I wonder how the people of Gadsen would react to a 32 year old high school custodian asking a girl from trig class out on a date?

                      Not as well, I’m guessing, since Moore was not simply an adult, but a member of the local aristocracy, and entitled to certain privileges.

                      The contours of sexual propriety do seem to map very closely to the ideas of male dominance and class privilege.

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                      • I think that’s his base because that’s who he sold himself to, for the most part. What I’ve not yet seen is much indication that this was really the case until he did sell himself.

                        Not as well, I’m guessing, since Moore was not simply an adult, but a member of the local aristocracy, and entitled to certain privileges.

                        It seems likely his job helped him here. Or, at least, helped him look the other way. In the sense we’re talking about aristocracy in the sense of family and legacy, there isn’t much indication that’s the case. His father worked construction and his going into the military sounds like it was born of necessity. But he was a DA, and that’s not nothing.

                        The mall thing reminded me a lot of Jonas. He got by in part because a lot of people just didn’t quite know what to do about him.

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                      • Over at LGM they had a re-evaluation of Woody Allen in the movie Manhattan, where his character was having sex with a 17 year old.

                        It occurred to me that when men are horny and want to have sex with an underage girl, they use whatever rhetorical tools they have available.

                        A religious conservative will use the vocabulary of Old Testament argle bargle or patriarchal purity, whereas a secular sophisticate may speak in terms of individual liberty and sexual progress.

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                • “To be blunt, “quiet” isn’t remotely good enough…”

                  I was discussing the “Silents” that Will is talking about… you’re immediately jumping to supporting Moore.

                  It looks like the silents will probably hand Doug Jones a victory, my point is that it wouldn’t even be close (in my counter-factual) if the Democratic alternative were more like the neighboring state’s alternative.

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                • That is, if you assume they actually meant what they said when they said that maintaining strict norms of sexual propriety is an essential policy goal because the alternative is a complete eradication of moral standards.

                  Cart Horse. The policy goal is sexual propriety.

                  My assumption is most followers want the gov to “do something”. Either because “my point of view is Right”, or “I don’t want my offspring to be that”, or “I want to control other people”. The leaders presumably are a mix of “true believers” and “political power for it’s own sake”.

                  In any case if what you’re interested in is policy, then it makes sense to give any one guy a pass on his personal life, even Trump. Maybe even especially Trump both because of the Supremes and because he’s not presenting himself as an example of how to live life.

                  How much money would it take for someone to turn their life into a permanent public dumpster fire?

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                    • Roy Moore is sure as hell is presenting himself as an example of how to live life.

                      We’ll see how that works out for him. If this had come up last year he wouldn’t have made it onto the ballot. Actually I’m a little surprised he made it onto the ballot at all.

                      He’s a Judge who repeatedly puts his religious convictions above the law to the point where he gets thrown off the court. He’s dated 16 year olds when he was in his 30’s. He’s paid himself a million a year from his “charity”. Various other sex stuff. (Wiki) And yes, he tries to present himself as a White Hat.

                      My conclusion is he’s a general slimebag who is also charismatic, a gifted speaker, a great writer, and knows his audience. So he’s a test on how much people are paying attention and how well the media (and overall) system work.

                      Now he’s on the ballot and his tribe needs to choose between losing his seat and giving it to someone who clearly has no ethics what so ever… and it’s also a test to see if the Dems have someone electable running against him. :)

                      Having said that, some of this opposition is clearly hyperventilating and politically motivated. “Child molester” seems an exaggeration to the point of incoherence.

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                      • As someone who was a molested child by even the most drastic definition (I was actually a raped child, from a very young age), groping 14 year olds would seem to be fairly precisely an act of child molestation.

                        Are you at odds with the word because of her age? Some states make that distinction and some don’t.

                        If it’s because of what he is or isn’t accused of doing, child molestation is the *umbrella* term that covers child sexual abuse, not the one specific to the worst kinds. CF https://www.justia.com/criminal/offenses/sex-crimes/child-molestation/

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                        • Are you at odds with the word because of her age?

                          Basically this.

                          I have a 14-year-old, she could pass for 16-18 pretty easily. I get that not all 14 year olds are done growing (and/or filling out), but at 5’10 if she’s not done she’s close.

                          Which doesn’t make Moore less of a multiple-way scumbag, but “child” seems like the wrong label and something designed to group him in with the guys who go after small children.

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                          • Ah. See for me there’s not much difference between them – my abuser is far from the only one I know of (infamous or just privately) who abused both small children and a fourteen-year-old (and for that matter, his wives and some, not all, of the other women he had sex with).

                            From my personal experience and the research I did, I would feel like I was hair-splitting to think there’s much difference between an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old (average ones) in terms of how much emotional harm the molester does. And I class child molesters (accused or verified) on how much damage they could do to fragile young minds, rather than on how perverted their actions seem to society.

                            It’s been a long time since our culture’s experience of child, or not, matched our physical expression of sexual coming-of-age. A lot longer than the 40-ish years since Moore’s accuser says he did those things to her.

                            All that to say, I can see why you feel it’s hyperbole, but I think a lot of the people using the term are doing it not out of hyperbole, but out of just having different definitions than you do of who children are. (I certainly wouldn’t object to anyone saying he’s a “teen molester” instead, except we don’t really have a clear concept of what that would mean in our society.) Insofar as I’ve been calling him a “child molester” I was probably distinguishing between his interest in 16-18 year olds at 30-something (gross but not outside of legal bounds where I grew up, and something I’ve seen actually work out tolerably well in rare cases), and his non-consensual treatment of at least one 14-year-old? Like, that *is* different from sexual abuse of someone 3 or 7 years old, but it’s almost equally different from sexual abuse of someone who is 18.

                            Sorry if the above is a bit rambly / contradictory, I’ve been trying really hard to stay present and balanced and kind during these discussions, and it’s a crapload of work to do so, for obvious reasons.

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                            • To be clear, the evidence shows Moore was a serious predator, not someone who wanted to “date” 16 year olds and culturally felt that was appropriate. (From the WSJ) He had the whole “target the weak” thing down, and even in a State where a 16 year old can consent, his behavior was still illegal because they didn’t.

                              Having said that, he followed a pattern and the 14 year old was enough of anomaly my (handwave) assumption is she hit his radar as older (like my daughter would).

                              Although none of my teens would be safe with him(*), presumably my ten year old would have been fine(**).

                              (*)(Ignoring they wouldn’t fit his profile because they have an involved father).

                              (**) (Yes, I have lots of daughters).

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                              • Meh. My experience is that there are plenty of teen molesters who turn out to be legally savvy enough to avoid 10 year olds, but if the opportunity presents itself and they convince themselves the risk is low (say in their own families) …

                                I certainly wouldn’t trust him near any child anywhere at this point.

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      • Indeed. There is a strain of Democrats who can’t stand the thought of their candidate having even a whiff of moral-signalling impurity. For instance, I’ve witnessed progressives trying to pre-emptively end a still-rumored Presidential campaign by Kamala Harris, because she was a prosecutor and therefore did bad things to people of color. Which strikes me as nonsense on stilts — Senator Harris has proven to be as progressive as they come, and is a person of color herself.

        But this isn’t most Democrats. Most Democrats, as far as I can see, are willing to give up some policy ground, some background territory, or some infelicitious remarks so long as the candidate promises to mostly deliver most of the things most Democrats want.

        And that’s what’s going on down in Alabama on the other side of the aisle. A whole lot of Republicans are willing to say, “I believe Roy Moore did do those things to those girls, and that’s an awful thing and I condemn it. But he’s going to vote the Republican line most of the time and that’s what I’m looking for in a Senator.”

        Republicans, too, have single-issue voters (particualrly abortion and guns) and others who insist on absolute moral purity and have let themselves be sucked to the functional endpoint of the “more-conservative-is-better” political calculus of lim(m->c) f(c:m) = L, where m is the policy constellation favored by mainline Republicans, c is the policy constellation favored by more-conservative-than-mainline Republicans, the function c:m is the dynamic by which holders of more conservative policy preferences win primaries, reciprocating their constellation of policies back into the mainstream, and L represents the limit by which the party as a whole approaches the theoretical limit of maximum conservativism, in whatever amusingly-frightening form (e.g., theocracy, banana-republic style authoritarianism, real-life enactment of Mike Judge’s movie “Idiocracy”) one wishes to characterize it.

        I suppose the question is whether there are more Democrats like this than Republicans.

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  3. However, if you are on the pill or are taking a condom with you, that’s a different ballgame. That’s premeditation. That’s willful. It’s the difference between a child breaking the rules on a lark, and a deception meticulously planned and executed.

    1. Is “premediation” your word choice, , or did you find that particular word used in some Christian discussion of sex-as-sin?

    2. I recall one parent in this community analogizing the idea of his children (one day, they’re far too young for that sort of thing right now) having sex and possibly using contraception: “No, you’re not allowed to ride motorcycles. Ever. And if you do anyway, you’d better wear a helmet.” (Or words to that effect.) This strikes me as a much healthier attitude which nevertheless doesn’t condone the underlying act that is made forbidden, and sneaks in a reminder of the non-punitive consequences of doing it anyway.

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    • While visiting Michigan, I was part of a number of conversations between my mom and my grandmother and many of the conversations wandered through territory of stuff that was scandalous back in the 1950s and 1960s and some of the stuff that had a bunch of bubblewrap around it to keep it from being scandalous.

      One of the jokes they told more than once in the middle of a story about a couple marrying in haste was “the second baby takes nine months, but the first one can show up at any time!”

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  4. “With the exception of virgins, most anti-abortion people I know well enough to know about it have been tested in this regard. If you are sexually active, this is one of those moral views that definitely has rubber meeting road potential.”

    This is a powerful insight Will. In my own experience, already having one child that was unplanned at a very young age, and having become fiercely pro-life after she was born, I really wonder how I would have responded if I had found myself in the same situation a second time. Luckily, I was never tested and of course, once you are happily married and financially stable, it makes a pro-life stance much easier. So I guess the next test would be if, god forbid, one of my daughters was in the same situation.

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  5. Well, Murphy may have been hoping to be given the same grace found by Rep. Scott Desjarlais, who pressured his ex-wife and mistress to have an abortion on three separate occasions.

    This isn’t schadenfruede. As I mentioned even before the Franken case hit, sexual misbehavior isn’t a partisan thing; its found everywhere.

    I suppose where this ties back into abstinence and contraception is that the “pro-life” camp tends to be more “anti-abortion” than pro-life.

    That is, when viewed as an entire tapestry, the thread of being against abortion is woven together with the one being opposed to contraception, which is woven to the support for the death penalty, which crosses the one which never seems to have a problem with people dying for lack of medical care, which is tied together with the thread of indifference to the justness or lack of, of our endless warmaking.

    And when viewed even more broadly, the tapestry presents a vision of the human person which seems quite a bit less loving and forgiving than the Gospel message would suggest.
    The laser-like fixation with sexuality to the near-exclusion of any other Gospel message displays less a desire for human fulfillment and flourishing than a desire for control, and specifically, the control of women’s sexual behavior.

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    • Ohhhhhhhh, yeah, forgot about that guy. He got really lucky with the timing of the revelation right in the middle of a presidential election. Two years later the party tried to take him out and two years after that the hard right tried and both came up short.

      #BanPrimaries

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    • That always struck me as a fairly cheap argument. It lists a bunch of things together, implying that there must be similarity between them. It implies hypocrisy without actually documenting it. It dismisses thousands of years of thought in favor of a series of false dichotomies. (For example: either you agree with a particular piece of legislation or you don’t have a problem with people dying from lack of medicine, making you a bad Christian and not a real pro-lifer.)

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      • A necessary digression about the term “pro-life”. It’s a fine line we try to walk in our political terminology, weighing the clarity of common use on one hand and the clarity of philosophical and historical consistency on the other. I don’t like the term “pro-life” but I use it because people know what it means, and I use the term “pro-choice” even though I want to argue about the subtle implications of the term, again because people’s familiarity with the term outweighs the other problems.

        The reason I bring this up is because Chip’s comment uses terms like “pro-life” and “death penalty” without exploring the implications of them. If you’re making connections between positions on a philosophical level, that’s when you really need to put greater weight on the philosophical meaning. Broad-brush terminology fails at that level.

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      • I used the tapestry metaphor to refer to the “seamless garment” argument in Catholic circles about the meaning of “pro-life”.

        There are, to be sure, many ways for a people to be consistently pro-life.
        But when they adopt the term for themselves, they take on the responsibility to articulate a clear and identifiable message.

        For instance, the evangelicals opposition to abortion is pretty clear; what is their stance on torture? On the death penalty, and how it is applied? On war? On poverty? On access to health care? On any issue regarding the human person that isn’t related to sexuality or reproduction?

        I mean, ask any person on the street that question and you get a confused silence, because although I am sure there is a document in a file cabinet somewhere articulating these positions, those who speak for the evangelicals and those most responsible for being its face, are pretty much silent.

        And its fair, I think, to note where they spend their treasure and resources to assess what is important to them and what isn’t.

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        • My bet is you could get 90% of evangelicals to sign off on an amendment that would:
          – outlaw abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake
          – forbid the US from entering wars except in defense of the homeland or allies
          – outlaw torture except in cases where innocent lives can be saved
          – outlaw the death penalty except in cases where innocent lives have been taken

          And you could probably still clear 80% acceptance if you added:
          – outlawing the use of guns except outside the range and hunting, except in cases where innocent lives are at risk
          – outlawing the use of deadly force by police except in cases where innocent lives are at stake
          – blocking all government spending on health care except in cases where the patient’s life is at stake

          We should all be so inconsistent.

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          • With the caveat of “unless innocent lives”, I could excuse Mao and Stalin, Hussein or Duterte or virtually any act by any government ever. No prisoner was ever executed without that as the justifying pretext.

            Abstractions are wonderful like that- they allow us to adopt principles which have no weight or affect.

            Are there major evangelicals protesting our warmaking in Iraq? In Africa? In Yemen? In Afghanistan?

            By their silence, can I assume they believe that the torture by Americans during the Iraq war was solely to save innocent lives?

            And so on.

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    • And most of the “pro-choice” camp is vehemently anti-choice on most issues. As I’ve said before, so-called “progressivism” is the fortune-cookie-game version of libertarianism: Consenting adults should be free to do as they please…in bed.

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  6. I don't think you can underestimate the degree to which many conservatives have this attitude: (a) we fought a battle over whether character counts, and got our asses handed to us and (b) liberal leaders always circle the wagons around their guys, and ours always cave. https://t.co/XE8sqK58ib— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) November 14, 2017

    I had come across that tweet last week and it really struck a chord with me. Why? Because there is a distinct Bill Clinton/Nina Burleigh problem here. “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.” Remember when during the pres. the campaign, a quote of Trumps surfaced? Of him …Grabbing? It had no effect on the people who it needed to effect. At least not vote wise and that is what really counts, isn’t it?

    Every voter weighs all the issues and then makes a decision. Ms. Burleigh seems to have chosen abortion over other things. I wouldn’t be surprised if AL voters make a calculus like that.

    I have zero taste for Moores actions nor his politics, but I think Trende has the whole of it.

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    • The liberal leaders are always strong and ours are weak is not all that factual. D’s have dropped leaders in the past. So that part of his tweet really rang hollow.

      The character counts part is interesting but i think is mostly wrong also. I agree character does count but has anyone, other than maybe a vanishing small minority, ever been unable to choose a candidate so they went with some non-partisan display of character. Character, to often, is way of praising, or damning, some politician while trying to sound above it all. How often is military service seen as a display of character. Certainly in 08 it was a reason why McCain was clearly filled with character more than that other guy.

      Character is seen in people we like or on the same team and not seen in the others. At least that is how it works in how people choose pols. So i’m all for character counting, i just haven’t’ seen many people separating character from the their other preferences outside of some big scandal.

      And the other obvious problem with the tweet is that after Clinton’s lack of character Bush and the R’s won.

      And the other thing, i’m sort of rambling over various issues here i admit, is that Clintion’s blow jobs, per se, were not the big issues with him. Rape claims and sex with subordinates was.

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