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Roy Moore and the conscience of conservatives

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

WASHINGTON -- Just how disordered have our politics become? And how off-the-rails is the Republican Party?

The good people of Alabama will help answer these questions in next Tuesday's special election for the U. S. Senate. The whole world will be watching them decide whether party and ideology trump decency and moderation; whether there is simply no end to the extremism Republican voters are willing to tolerate in their ranks; and whether a majority in their state believe that being a credibly accused sexual predator is better than being a Democrat.

They will also be telling us what they think the word "Christian" means.

The outcome is likely to be determined by the consciences of conservatives, and of a specific kind: Those who see Mitt Romney and Republicans like him as far more reflective of their moral sense than is Judge Roy Moore, the GOP's ethically defective nominee whose indifference to the law led him to be removed from Alabama's Supreme Court twice.

Steve Bannon, the former Trump Svengali who proudly peddles the ideological wares of the extreme right, inadvertently clarified the stakes at a Moore rally in south Alabama Tuesday night with a malicious and spiteful attack on Romney. The former Massachusetts governor tweeted this week that having Moore in the Senate "would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation."

Bannon's response? "Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinky finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA."

 

Yes, he really said that.

For good measure, Bannon not only accused Romney of avoiding service in Vietnam. He also trafficked in the anti-Mormon sentiments common among some evangelicals.

"You hid behind your religion," Bannon said of Romney. "You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity." (And never mind that "while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam," the president whom Bannon served also avoided the war, courtesy of five draft deferments.)

Bannon is many things, but a fool he is not. It's no accident he linked his Vietnam attack to Romney's missionary work, which underscored the 2012 Republican nominee's deep commitment to Mormonism.

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