Sasse to date has refused to address Moore’s candidacy although he did on Thursday approvingly tweet portions of President George W. Bush’s speech denouncing nativism, incivility, racism, etc. Sasse tweeted, “Patriotic Americans — regardless of party — should read today’s important speech by George W. Bush.” He then retweeted some lines from the speech. (“Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood.”) And yet he still has not responded to inquiries about his stance on Roy Moore or taken up Kristol’s challenge.
If one can refrain from endorsing President Trump and routinely criticize him, denounce Spencer and praise Bush’s speech repudiating Trumpism of the type the president and Moore subscribe to, why cannot a sitting U.S. senator denounce Moore? Sasse’s office did not respond.
So why hasn’t a single federal office-holding Republican repudiated Moore, and why have so many current and former lawmakers, even former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), endorsed him?
The easy answer might be the correct one, namely that we live in an era of moral cowards. GOP politicians run scared of the mob, afraid to stick their heads up for fear of drawing protests, angry tweets or — heavens forbid! — a primary challenger from the right by someone just like Roy Moore. The squeamish Republicans seek cover in the sea of other cowering politicians, knowing that there is safety in numbers. Attention normally gets focused only on him/her when they go against the prevailing tide. Being one of the crowd, even a detestable one, give them security, or so they think.
Another rationale would go something like this: All politicians are rotten so why not have a rotten one who’ll vote my way most of the time? This combines the bigotry of low expectations (all pols are morally depraved) with the notion that character does not have a place in political calculations. To be sure, those who voted for Trump might have expected him to change or improve, but many others were willing to tolerate the racism, ignorance, cruelty, etc. to get what they wanted (e.g., a tax cut). These voters decided en masse to put on the back burner considerations of character much the way this administration has back-burnered human rights. By prioritizing other things they allow the bad guys, whether despots in China or Islamophobes in Alabama, to keep behaving badly.
The back burner philosophy has it all wrong, as I think Trump has shown. Without character — some degree of honesty, diligence, empathy, decency — every day becomes a calamity. The morally-deficient pol’s inhumanity inevitably pops up again and again, turning otherwise easy photo ops into disasters and interfering with any semblance of an agenda. Throw paper towels in Puerto Rico. Use a general’s dead son to justify a clumsy condolence call or lack attachment to any position on a critical matter so as to utterly befuddle and paralyze Congress. The unworkability of an undisciplined, self-absorbed leader is precisely why the GOP after a time dumped House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He was too much trouble and was getting in the way.
Bush’s appearance Thursday reminded us that we have had good and bad presidents and some in between, but the precondition for performing in high office is embrace of American values and decent character. Trump didn’t make the grade; Moore surely doesn’t. Until pols like Coburn and Sasse recognize this, we will continue on the slippery slope downward to a place where we cannot govern ourselves or stand our elected leaders.