Magazine article The American Conservative

A Need for Balance

Magazine article The American Conservative

A Need for Balance

Article excerpt

On the cover of our magazine is our institutional maxim: "Ideas Over Ideology, Principles Over Party." One principle that supersedes party is that presidents ought not to squander their moral authority. Without it they can't govern effectively. Therefore it is precious, something to be protected, nurtured, and revered.

Donald Trump squandered plenty of moral authority when he endorsed Roy Moore for U.S. senator from Alabama, notwithstanding credible allegations that Moore sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his thirties. In endorsing Moore, Trump said essentially that reprehensibly immoral behavior doesn't matter if the political stakes are high. And they were very high, as Republicans had merely a two-member advantage in the Senate (now, in the wake of the Alabama vote, that will be a one-member advantage).

Of course the president took pains to hang his hat on Moore's denials of any such behavior. But, based on the number and nature of the allegations, it's almost inconceivable that he was set up. Besides, this isn't a court of law; it's a political arena, and the question was whether men under such clouds, even absent definitive proof, should be sent to the United States Senate. That was a question the people of Alabama had to face.

But Donald Trump didn't have to face it. By endorsing such a man under the specter of such allegations, he demonstrated a moral obtuseness even greater than usual. Of course it's true that Americans for years have been "defining deviancy down," as Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously put it. But that's no excuse for presidents to yield their moral obligation to resist that phenomenon in their official and private actions. They represent the country, which calls for solemnity.

Another principle on our minds of late is the sanctity of due process when people come under the kind of scrutiny that could destroy their careers and reputations. …

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