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If Republicans believe Moore's accusers, why not Trump's?

Ruth Marcus on

The Moore situation backs Republicans, and the Trump White House, into an even more uncomfortable corner.

As with the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, the country is going through another national teach-in on the prevalence of sexual harassment and the systemic pressures on women to remain silent. Our collective understanding of the perniciousness of this behavior is greater than it was six weeks ago; our collective tolerance for it is, I believe, lower.

So what do Senate Republicans do now? Argue that Trump's accusers are less believable than Moore's? That doesn't seem persuasive. Argue that Trump's behavior wasn't as bad? Perhaps, but, again, not the strongest argument in the wake of Republicans having condemned Weinstein et al.

Of course the most credible explanation is both obvious and unspeakable in public: Republicans can afford to throw Moore under the bus, as difficult as it would be to narrow their already-thin Senate majority. They could not risk losing the presidency, even if it meant electing Trump.

If Republicans as a whole are in a difficult spot, imagine the White House pickle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with others in tow, has sided with Moore's accusers. Having deployed the if-then approach with Moore -- if he behaved as alleged, then he should withdraw -- what does Trump now say? "I'm unconvinced, even if McConnell & Co believe them"? Or, "OK, I'm convinced, too," in which case the question arises: And so what about the women who accused you?

One last point, for the what-about-ists out there. Yes, there are serious questions about Bill Clinton's behavior with women. I said they were fair game back in the campaign, when he was deployed as a chief surrogate for Hillary Clinton and she was complaining about Trump's "penchant for sexism."

 

But now, give it a rest. Bill Clinton is not the president. Hillary Clinton is not the president. Trump is. He's the one whose conduct, present and past, remains relevant, and for which he and his party should finally be held to account.

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Ruth Marcus' email address is ruthmarcus@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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