Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

McConnell chooses politics over morals

(Alex Edelman/Zuma Press/TNS)

It’s been 13 months since the Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump discussing sexual misconduct broke. The audio recording featured Trump using lewd terms about a sexual encounter he had, during which he tried to seduce a married woman. Trump went on to brag about sexually assaulting a woman, saying, “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

This was not the first time Trump was accused of sexual misconduct, but it proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many Republicans. In the days and weeks that followed, as more allegations flowed against the then Republican nominee for president, many in the party withdrew their support for his candidacy.

But not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senate’s GOP quarterback—along with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan—took several hours to draft a statement in response to the tape, as their party looked to them for guidance. And while McConnell condemned the language used, he never withdrew his support for Trump.

The Majority Leader stood silently by his man for nearly a month, never officially pulling his endorsement, but not actively campaigning either. Finally, less than a week before the election, McConnell voiced his opinion in support of Trump.

A dozen women accused Trump of everything from groping on a commercial flight to walking into a teen dressing room for the Miss Teen USA Pageant, in addition to the admission in the Access Hollywood tape, and McConnell still felt he could put party above conscious and publicly support his candidate.

Flash forward to last Thursday when the Washington Post reported on allegations that Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had sexually harassed and assaulted four women (as young as 14 years old) in the early years of his career, and it took less than a day for McConnell to call for Moore to drop out of the race if the story was true.

But why would McConnell, who stood resolute in his support of Trump a year ago, be so adamantly against Moore continuing his Senate bid? Didn’t he already show that he was able to stomach the sexual assault of a man running for president? To answer these questions, we need to look back at how Moore earned the nomination.

Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, defeated Senator Luther Strange in the Republican primary election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat.

Strange was the ‘establishment pick’ for the seat, was serving as the acting Senator and was endorsed by McConnell, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in addition to many other party leaders.

On the other hand, Moore was less of an establishment Republican and was supported by Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News, popular with the white supremacist movement known as the “alt-right.”

McConnell-allied fundraisers poured $10 million into ensuring a victory for Strange, who could be a reliable rank-and-file member of the Majority Leader’s caucus. But in the end, Alabama Republicans were looking for someone outside the mainstream.

With that in mind, it becomes clearer why it was so easy for McConnell to call for Moore to drop out, while he couldn’t bring himself to drop support for Trump a year ago.

The pattern McConnell reflects is one where it’s only necessary to take a stand when it makes political sense to do so. Last year, he chose to not care about a dozen accusations of sexual assault when there was a winnable election on the line. But now, when accusations lead to a chance for a more classic Republican to take the Senate seat, McConnell’s moral compass aligns itself.

There was no grey area in Trump’s case, and there isn’t one now. Both instances featured candidates who clearly did something wrong, and both featured relatively equal amounts of proof that they’d done what they were accused of. The only difference is that it was more politically beneficial for McConnell to have Trump in the White House than it would be to have Moore in the Senate.

There was no hesitation from Democrats—even those no longer in office—when Harvey Weinstein was accused of widespread sexual misconduct over decades in Hollywood. And he was just a party donor. There was no double standard, no defending his actions, no question of whether it’d be politically beneficial to drop support. Democratic leaders saw someone who was aligned with their party, and made it clear that they did not condone his actions.

These allegations should be disqualifying for Roy Moore, and they should have been disqualifying for the President a year ago. McConnell can’t stand in front of reporters and draw a distinction between the two cases. Regardless of the validity of his statement that Moore should drop out, he has no moral ground to stand on. Politics and morals aren’t a decision that anyone—let alone the majority leader of the U.S. Senate—can weigh against each other.

Will Katcher is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @will_katcher.

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  • E

    Ed Cutting, Ed. D.Nov 17, 2017 at 2:19 am

    @ Jeffery Smith

    The cars of the 1970s did not have power door locks.
    Radial tires were just starting to appear, even though they had been invented in 1915.

  • J

    Jeffrey SmithNov 16, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    @ Ed Cutting:

    Ummm…hate to blow your bubble, but power door locks were invented in 1914. Try again.

  • E

    Ed Cutting, Ed. D.Nov 16, 2017 at 10:52 am

    What about Menendez who actually had sex with underaged prostitutes, or Ted Kennedy’s “Waitress Sandwiches” — or leaving Mary Jo to die after a drunk driving accident?

    And what about Bill Clinton?

    The outrage is selective — and in the case of Moore, may be misdirected. There were no power door locks in 1979, the dumpster is busy when a restaurant is closing, yearbooks come out in May, not December, and that writing is likely forged.

  • N

    NITZAKHONNov 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

    What a joke.

    First, to hear ANY liberal talking about the need to ditch politicians because of “sexual harassment” which, in this case, has not been proven in a court of law is laughable.

    Never mind Bill “multiple accusations of harassment and rape” Clinton. Let’s talk Massachusetts and it’s near-worship of Ted Kennedy – a drunk, an adulterer, a letch, a murderer, and a traitor.

    Second, this is classic Alinsky: “Make the enemy live up to its own rules.” Conservatives have standards, that’s why Moore is in trouble. Liberals have no ethics, no morality, no decency, and no honor.

    Being lectured about Moore now by liberals is like being lectured about chastity and fidelity by a hooker; you people simply have no moral standing to do so.