Thursday, December 14, 2017

O tempora O Moores

By Mark Steyn
December 13, 2017

Related image
Roy Moore rides his horse to a polling station to vote in Tuesday's Alabama Senate election. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

To be honest, I regret that Mr Moore will not be going to Washington. I have a high degree of tolerance for people whose lines are almost as good as the concoctions of professional satirists, and the Moores kept that up until the end. I don't mean just Roy's varying answers in his train-wreck interview with Sean Hannity on whether he'd dated teenage girls ("not generally", and then, not "without the permission of her mother"). But I'm also thinking of Mrs Moore's eve-of-poll rejection of charges that she and her husband "don't care for Jews":
Well, one of our attorneys is a Jew.
I was reminded of my late comrade Mordecai Richler's novel St Urbain's Horseman, wherein a Union Nationale junior minister is dispatched to refute accusations that Quebec's government is similarly anti-semitic:
Speaking for myself, my accountant is a Jew and I always buy my cars from Sonny Fish.
In fact, I'm not sure Kayla Moore's line isn't funnier: I think "attorney" is droller in its implications than "accountant", and "one of our" is the capper.

Presumably, the reason they need all those attorneys is all these statements from Seventies nymphettes that Roy was lurking in the back booth of the malt shop eying them up for most of his early middle age. America has statutes of limitations for a reason - because the accuracy of accusation diminishes considerably with the passage of time. Speaking for myself, as that Quebec minister would say, I prefer worldly courtesans d'un certain ├óge to giggling jailbait, and regard the most pitiful passage in the Starr Report to be the moment when Monica Lewinsky demands to know of the President of the United States whether he loves the new Sarah McLachlan album as much as she does. Could have been worse, I suppose. Could have been Hootie and the Blowfish. But, at any rate, Moore's preferences as an eligible bachelor for the youngish end of Alabammy maidenhood doesn't make him the Jimmy Savile of Dixie.

Back then, there were lots of 32-year-old men chasing 19-year-old girls - the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, to cite only the most obvious example. It was a common plot in big worldwide hits: When the Oscar-winning Best Picture An American in Paris was shot, Leslie Caron was 19, and Gene Kelly was pushing 40; when the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady opened, Julie Andrews was 19, and Rex Harrison was pushing 50. You can't find a single contemporary review of either that so much as notices the age difference. My old friend Alan Jay Lerner authored both scripts and won Oscars and Tonys respectively, and, as a practical matter, it was the only plot he knew how to write: My Fair Lady (1956) - older, sophisticated, mature bachelor takes young unformed girl in hand and moulds her; Gigi (1958) - older, sophisticated, mature bachelor takes young unformed girl, etc, etc; Lolita, My Love (1971) - older, sophisticated mature, etc, etc, etc ...ah, but that was one reprise too many of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls".

As Alabama's most eligible bachelor, Roy Moore liked nubile young women, and nubile means "marriageable" (from the Latin, nubilis). Indeed, he eventually married one of them - the aforementioned client of barristerial Jewry. Today, in the western world, nubile girls are no longer regarded as marriageable: They're supposed to go to college and think about settling down and having one yuppie designer kid when they're 39. I see I'm in danger of connecting Roy Moore to my big-picture demographic thesis, so let me just note that the chattering classes' conviction that dating teenage girls makes one a paedo doesn't seem to extend to the expanding cohort of Muslim politicians: David Cameron's Islamic poster-gal Baroness Warsi was married at 19 to her Pakistani cousin.

Strictly on the merits, the original Washington Post story would have been better solely focused on the fourteen-year-old accuser, but they - and much of the coastal commentariat - couldn't resist what the locals evidently discerned as a not so subtle dig at Alabama mores more generally. Unfortunately for him, Moore lacks the nimbleness of Donald Trump, who can skip through fields of lethal mines like a frog skimming lily pads without a care in the world. For all the talk of the new populism, it's worth remembering that the Trump of 2015 is not of general application: he was a unique combination of brilliant instinct, low cunning, and a celebrity status that made him all but indestructible to the usual cannily timed "dirty tricks" - which is what the Moore story, like the Billy Bush tape, was.

Nonetheless, Moore lost narrowly enough to suggest that it wasn't the accusations that did him in. He could have survived those, just about. What killed him was that he was running against both the Democrats and the Republicans - including Alabama's own senior senator, Richard Shelby. (Trump post-Billy Bush was in a similar position, as the likes of Paul Ryan, Kelly Ayotte, etc, stampeded to distance themselves.) But Roy Moore was the nominee only because the smart guys over-invested in Luther Strange (just as in 2015 they over-invested in Jeb Bush). In the first round of primary voting, Mitch McConnell's priority was to prop up Strange by taking out what he regarded as his principal threat, Mo Brooks. Congressman Brooks would have made an excellent senator, and would have been elected in a walk, and he can also claim more plausibly than Moore to be a populist conservative aligned with the Trump agenda. But McConnell didn't want him in the Senate and, as he saw it, once Brooks was gone, Luther Strange would have no trouble walloping Moore in the run-off.

Unfortunately, Strange owed his eminence in Alabama to the patronage of a corrupt and discredited governor. As I wrote three months ago, given the disposition of GOP primary electorates in the Age of Trump, they were unlikely to turn to "a creature from the Alabama swamp drain the Washington swamp". So, thanks to McConnell and the ten million bucks he blew through, Moore won the run-off and became the candidate. And thus, of all preposterous outcomes, Alabama is now a blue state.

But don't worry, say the usual geniuses: Doug Jones is just this season's Scott Brown. As Massachusetts did with Elizabeth Warren, Alabama will return to the natural order of things in 2020. Well, maybe. But, as we've just seen, the one thing you can take to the bank is the Stupid Party's unerring knack to out-stupid themselves. In the meantime, a Congressional majority already vulnerable to the monstrous egos of John McCain, Susan Collins et al just got shaved to a micro-sliver: Mike Pence is going to be spending a lot of time at the Senate casting the deciding vote - assuming, that is, McConnell has any legislation he can actually get to the floor.

A final thought on Moore: Yes, he's a kook, and an insufficiently nimble one to dodge the incoming schoolgirls. But as I wrote three months ago:
Whatever one feels about Roy Moore, he's principled enough to be willing to lose his job over the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage. That's unusual in American politics.
I'll say. Listening to Doug Jones' victory speech, I found my heart sinking under the weight of all the usual tinny boilerplate, culminating inevitably in that most exhausted invocation of Martin Luther King and the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice, which was in fact formulated not by King but by the 19th-century abolitionist Theodore Parker. But Obama had it sewn on an Oval Office rug and no Dem is gonna argue with that. Jones seemed the very epitome of the hollow men of the professional political class. He'll fit right in.

By contrast, Moore may be a kook, but he's authentic. Listening to the outrage he's able to provoke merely by sounding like Jesse Helms' simpleton brother, I found myself pondering how far the GOP has gone in a generation - to the point where Moore is getting berated by Republicans for being insufficiently keen on gay sex. That's all very well, but it does rather give the impression that the GOP is merely the Democrats a couple of electoral cycles down the road, and that circa 2025 some Dixie troglodyte will be getting slapped around by the right-wing punditry for objecting to transgendered chiefs of staff or whatever. Putting aside the merits of those particular issues, it does not so subtly imply that on that justice-bending arc the Democrats are right at the time and the Republicans are there simply to play catch-up ...on everything.

~Mark will be back later today to read the latest episode of our nightly, and very seasonal, serial - Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. And tomorrow, Thursday, he'll be back on TV with Tucker Carlson, coast to coast across America.

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