Washington watch: Moore trouble

A supporter of US Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore holds a sign as he waits for a campaign rally in Montgomery, Alabama, earlier this year. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A supporter of US Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore holds a sign as he waits for a campaign rally in Montgomery, Alabama, earlier this year.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Steve Bannon could not have picked a more deeply flawed candidate to be the point man in the opening battle of his war on the Republican establishment than Judge Roy Moore, who was twice removed as Alabama’s chief justice for flaunting federal court rulings and has a long history as a religious extremist, homophobe, racist, borderline fascist and well-known wacko.
He fought – successfully – to keep segregation and poll taxes in his state’s constitution, a document which he insists takes precedent over the Constitution and is subordinate only to the Bible – or at least his Protestant version, as he interprets it.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) may not have been aware of the third rank Moore assigned to the Constitution when he endorsed the candidate and praised him for “standing up for the Constitution while fighting for the people of Alabama.” The libertarian senator may have conveniently overlooked that the “people” Moore likes have to be white, straight and Christian.
In Moore’s view, Muslims practice a “false religion” that is not protected by the First Amendment, and they shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the US Congress.
Sounding like a disciple of Pat Robertson, he has declared “homosexual conduct should be illegal,” the 9/11 terrorist attacks were God’s punishment for America’s sins and it is unlawful for NFL athletes to take a knee during the national anthem.
Life begins at conception, giving the embryo full legal protection, says Moore, and “there is no such thing as evolution.”
In the Senate, Moore will be comfortable with what Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), referring to Bannon and President Donald Trump, called “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
In solid red Alabama, which Trump won by a 28-point margin last November, many were surprised by a recent Fox News poll showing Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, in a dead heat in the December 12 special election. The winner will fill the remaining two years in the term of Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become attorney general.
That poll has drawn more skeptics than believers. Its methodology (registered voters instead of the more reliable likely voters) and sponsor, the highly partisan Fox, suggesting it may have been done to motivate Moore’s followers and contributors.
Jones, 63, is a former US attorney who prosecuted the remaining two KKK perpetrators of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four African-American girls.
Referring to his opponent’s reputation as an unreliable loner, Jones has said, “I can work with Republicans better than Roy.”
Moore won notoriety for having erected a granite Ten Commandments at the state Supreme Court and for ordering court clerks around the state to refuse to issue marriage certificates for same sex couples – both in defiance of federal court rulings.
President Trump initially endorsed temporary placeholder Republican Sen. Luther Strange, even flying to Alabama to campaign for him, albeit half-heartedly, but when Moore won Trump quickly erased his endorsement of Strange from his Twitter account and backed Moore.
Bannon chose Moore to be the point man in his altright crusade to overthrow the GOP establishment. What particularly riled Bannon was that Strange had the backing of Republican majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, his current archnemesis.
Moore is the wave of the future, Bannon told the Evangelical Values Voters Summit in Washington, and his primary victory has focused the White House on its conservative agenda, USA Today reported.
Trump will be following up with more conservative policy moves in the wake of Moore’s victory, Bannon predicted, naming two: moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. He was speaking to Evangelical Christians, not Jews.
Moore, Bannon and Trump are on the wrong side of most issues important to American Jews, starting with church-state separation, the role of religion in civil society, First Amendment protection, race, human rights, gender rights, immigration, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to name a few.
Moore wants to push the nation into the arms of God, his god, while Bannon just wants to push it farther to the populist/nationalist alt-right and elect a Congress that will enact the Trump agenda.
Defeat in Alabama would be a major setback for Bannon, but the odds are against it. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign manager and top strategic adviser who is now back to running Breitbart news service, has a growing target list.
Bipartisanship is a mortal sin in his world and moderate Republicans are more dangerous than Democrats – which makes Moore an ideal spear-carrier for Bannon.
Moore is a deeply divisive figure within a deeply divided Republican party, and his victory in December could give impetus to more insurgencies from the farther right.
Bannon is recruiting like-minded insurgents to wage his war on the party’s establishment, and he is demanding they pledge to vote against McConnell’s reelection as leader in the next Congress. The Kentucky senator’s sin, in Bannon’s eyes, is his lack of total fealty to Trump and a failure to enact the president’s agenda toot sweet.
McConnell warned against recruiting fringe challengers, calling them “specialists in defeating Republican candidates,” Bloomberg.com reported.
He clearly had in mind losers like Christine (“I am not a witch”) O’Donnell, Todd (“legitimate rape”) Aiken, Sharron (“Second amendment remedies”) Angle and Richard (“We don’t need bipartisanship”) Mourdock.
Few Republican office holders are willing to go against Bannon because they are terrified he will recruit primary opponents from the farther Right while his wing man, the president, eviscerates them with firestorms of nasty tweets.
Despite his extremism, it’s hard to find a single elected Republican official who has openly criticized Moore. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake came close when he said, “I’m obviously not enamored with his politics.”
Bannon may succeed in bringing Moore and more alt-right extremists to infest the Washington swamp they claim to detest, and Republicans may even be able to retain control of one of both houses of Congress, but they will never be able to govern with their own party deeply divided under a polarizing president.