EDITORIAL: Toomey steps up; Moore should step down

York Dispatch

If U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore pulls out of Alabama’s special election — as indeed he should — Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey will deserve much of the credit.

While many Republicans, aghast at the possibility of putting a safe Senate seat in jeopardy, initially equivocated on whether Moore should step aside in the wake of allegations he pursued relationships with girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s, Toomey shot straight.

More:Toomey: Roy Moore should step aside

“From my point of view, I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside.”

Those accusations are nothing short of monstrous: The Washington Post detailed accusations from four women that Moore pursued them sexually when they were teenagers. The youngest alleged victim, 14 at the time, says Moore initiated sexual contact.

Still, many Republican leaders offered only qualified criticism. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed many a GOP lawmaker when he said last week that Moore should step down “if the allegations are true.”

But Toomey’s comments on Sunday seemed to break the logjam.

The second-term Republican joined what was then a relatively short list of Republican leaders — Sen. John McCain of Arizona among them — urging Moore to step down, not “if” the allegations are proven, but immediately.

More:Toomey: Roy Moore should step aside

Within 24 hours, McConnell followed suit, saying he now believed the accusers and repudiating Moore’s candidacy. Formerly hesitant party faithful followed their leader.

There remain holdouts. Even after a fifth women came forward Monday with an account of Moore allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was 16, many senators including John Cornyn of Texas wouldn’t back up National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Cory Gardner, who stated that if Moore were to stay in the race and win, he should be expelled.

More:New sex assault allegation hits Moore

Through it all, Moore has remained defiant, following the Donald Trump playbook of accusing the accusers, and blaming political enemies and the media. The allegations are a political conspiracy aimed at undermining his campaign, he maintains. “Fake news!” he crows, amid threats to sue the Post.

But Toomey was right. The allegations have more credibility than the denial. Even in the conservative-friendly confines of Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio program, Moore’s response when asked if he dated teenagers in his 30s was, "not generally, no" and "(it) would have been out of my customary behavior." The final defense: "I don't remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother."

It hardly needs stating that if a mother’s permission is needed for a date, there may be some age-discrepancy issues.

While Washington’s Republicans are evidently awakening to the realization that holding onto this Senate seat would not be worth the long-term damage to the party of turning a blind eye to credible allegations of sexual assault of a minor, not so in Alabama.

Many of Moore’s backers continue to defend him, calling it suspicious that the allegations should surface now, some 40 years after the alleged incidents occurred. (They have evidently missed stories about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo door to public acceptance that has — finally — opened to allow abused women to tell their stories.)

Others have tied themselves in knots attempting to justify or explain away the charges. One defender likened the acts to stealing a lawnmower. Another, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, dismissed Moore’s alleged misdeeds by invoking the Bible: “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There's just nothing immoral or illegal here.”

Or logical. (Also, as the National Review reminds us, Mary and Joseph’s ages are never explicitly recounted in the Bible.)

Moore was damaged goods before the abuse allegations. The former Alabama judge was twice thrown off the bench in Alabama for refusing to follow federal law, the second time in defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding same-sex marriage. (Moore called it worse than the Dred Scott decision.)

He also believes Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, homosexuality should be criminally prosecuted and the Bible trumps U.S. law.

Still, in deep-red Alabama, he was on the fast track to election to the U.S. Senate, and may still win. Some Republicans are exploring options — from running a write-in candidate to refusing to seat him.

Wish them luck. Not only would the Republican Party be better off without Roy Moore serving in the U.S. Senate, the American people would.