The GOP readies itself to welcome Roy Moore
Fun fact: Under U.S. law, sexual assault allegations are now adjudicated by political election.
Don't believe me?
Just ask White House officials, Republican lawmakers and right-wing pundits, who lately argue that an electoral win provides absolution for any past sexual misconduct.
This troubling claim is being applied to (who else?) our president. But it also sets a terrible precedent for what happens if alleged child molester and sexual predator Roy Moore wins an Alabama Senate race.
Last week, after President Trump mocked Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., for sexual misconduct, a reporter asked the White House if it was fair to investigate similar accusations against the president by more than a dozen women.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no. Those allegations had all been nullified by the election last November.
"Look, I think that this was covered pretty extensively during the campaign," Sanders said. "We addressed that then. The American people I think spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president."
That's right, my fellow Americans. When you voted last November, it turns out you were actually volunteering for national jury duty. And you didn't even get your $40 daily stipend!
Sanders is not the only one making this argument.
On CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was asked by host John Dickerson whether the country's increasing willingness to believe victims of sexual harassment and assault should cause a "re-evaluation of those who came forward" against the president.
"Well, it happened in the middle of the campaign last year, John," he replied. "And the American people had their say on that as well."
Meanwhile, on Fox News, MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz questioned why the media would "resurrect" allegations against Trump in the first place.
"He's called these women horrible liars. There's certainly a debate about whether they should be believed," Kurtz said. "There's about a dozen of them. But we had an election after that. And he won."
To hear Trump apologists tell it, the 2016 election exonerated its victor not only of any past sexual misdeeds, but also of every possible transgression or broken norm.
Such as not releasing his tax returns.
On Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney was asked why anyone should believe Trump when he claims the Republican tax agenda will raise his tax bills, since the public still has no idea what Trump's current taxes look like.
Mulvaney ducked the question.
"I can't speak to the president's taxes. I think that was sort of litigated by the American public during the election," he said, echoing language that White House aide Kellyanne Conway has used on this subject.
These excuses are both dumb and dangerous.
Dumb because, well, if the American electorate was indeed serving as jury last year, its verdict was not exactly unanimous. Or even in the right direction, for Republicans' purposes.
A majority of American voters voted against Trump, as you may recall. If you buy Republicans' logic, that would mean the public found Trump guilty of sexual misconduct and wanted him to disclose his tax returns.
Moreover, casting a ballot for a politician does not necessarily mean you endorse a candidate's every policy stance, character trait and action.
When choosing between candidates, voters have to select one bundle of beliefs and behaviors or another. It's a combo plate. No substitutions allowed.
Maybe Trump's supporters backed him because they don't believe the allegations made against him. Or maybe they supported him in spite of finding those claims credible. (They heard him admit to grabbing women "by the p -- y" on tape, after all.)
In any case, by arguing that victory refutes all allegations against Trump, Republicans are laying the groundwork to welcome Moore to Washington if he wins next month.
Already, White House officials are ducking questions about whether Moore should be allowed to serve as senator. A mere week ago, Conway said there was "no Senate seat worth more than a child." On Monday, when asked whether Alabama voters should cast their ballots for Moore, she denounced his Democratic opponent and said, "I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through."
Sure, some Republican senators have said they believe Moore's accusers. Some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have even suggested that they might try to expel him if he gets elected.
But with tax cuts hanging in the balance, don't be surprised if they lose their nerve once "the voters have spoken."
Catherine Rampell's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.
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