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Roy Moore has Republicans circling wagons against each other

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

I feel as though I know this emotion, after witnessing it firsthand. When President Bill Clinton touched off the Monica Lewinsky scandal by lying about his affair with a White House intern, I was furious at Clinton for risking his agenda and the fate of the nation on a frivolous affair.

But, as one who agreed with most of his agenda, I also found myself engaging in a dance of rationalizations and justifications to oppose his impeachment for the sake of the larger agenda.

Those are normal reflexes but they also cut both ways. Democrats have been haunted ever since by the "whataboutism" of President Trump and other conservatives who bring up the women who accuse Bill Clinton of sexual assault whenever liberals raise accusations such as those now being raised against Moore.

Last Thursday the Washington Post reported that four women claim that, when Moore was an assistant district attorney in his early 30s in Etowah County, Ala., he sexually molested one, who was only 14, and pursued other teen girls.

On Monday, another woman, Beverly Young Nelson, accused Moore of assaulting her when she was 16 years old.

By early Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and some other Republican senators called for Moore to step aside, which I do not expect him to do. He'd rather be forced out, if necessary, so he can claim full martyr status, which he already is using as a fundraising tool.

Thanks to Moore, his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, has gained ground in the polls to turn the campaign from a shoo-in to a horse race. Jones, who successfully prosecuted two of the men who killed four little black girls in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, offers a narrative far more appealing than Moore's.

That's the big long-range problem with the circle-the-wagons stance. It's self-destructive. The only thing worse than losing Session's seat to a Democrat, Senate Republicans are beginning to realize, would be losing it to Moore.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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