It's now looking like there is almost no way Roy Moore will not be the GOP's candidate for Senate in Alabama, after the state Republican Party united behind him Thursday night. And the one man who could have changed that fact — a guy who regularly charges into controversy — can't be bothered to tweet his thoughts about this one.
President Trump's silence is deafening.
Trump's White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, explained Thursday that the president is simply preoccupied. “Well, the president made a statement when he was in Asia, and he’s been very busy working on explaining to the country exactly what happened in his Asia trip,” Conway told Fox News when asked whether Trump would be weighing in on Moore.
Since those comments, of course, Trump has found time in his busy schedule to weigh in on sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). And yet, despite questions about Moore being shouted at him both during that Asia trip and on several occasions since his return three days ago, Trump is completely mum.
It's understandable why he wouldn't want to weigh in, politically speaking. The president has called the women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault “liars,” and calling on Moore to step aside would only lead to questions about why Trump believes Moore's accusers but casts doubt upon his own. By contrast, Trump offering anything except a condemnation of Moore would be read as him undercutting the Washington GOP establishment's consensus that Moore needs to go.
Trump is also a guy who thrives on going against the grain, against the media and against the GOP establishment — a guy who is always conscious of keeping his base happy. Denouncing Moore would risk alienating some of the most enthusiastic Trump supporters, which is completely anathema to everything we know about Trump.
But at this point, Trump's silence can't be read as anything except him condoning Moore's decision to press on as the GOP's candidate in Alabama. If he felt differently, he would've said something by now. And the fact that he hasn't done so is what gave the Alabama Republican Party license to do what it did Thursday: decide to stand behind Moore.
It's that same strategy of constantly minding the base that made Trump the one person who could have forced Moore out of the race. GOP voters have long been skeptical of their leaders in Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is increasingly a pariah in his own party, thanks to some prodding from Trump. The GOP base is completely unwieldy and answers to almost no one — except Trump, who has spoken their language since day one and commands their loyalty.
The operative comments from Trump are the ones first offered by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week — the ones who called what Moore was facing “mere allegations” and cautioned against ending his long political career because of those “mere allegations.” Trump's comment otherwise sounded like what other Republicans were saying at the time, including the if-the-allegations-are-true-Moore-should-resign part that was the GOP talking point at the time. But the important part was when he cast doubt on those allegations.
Trump never sent any signal except that Moore should continue his campaign and that state GOP leaders should give him license to do just that. And now Trump has saddled congressional leaders with another massive headache — and maybe even a slimmer majority to pass Trump's own agenda.