A page from Clinton's playbook
Pity poor Alabama voters. Tuesday, they must choose between a radical pro-abortion Democrat and an alleged sex predator who has been accused of pursuing and molesting teenage girls.
There is no good choice in that equation, and Alabamians should not have to make it. In an earlier era, Roy Moore either would have done the honorable thing out of his own sense of shame or would have been forced to step down so by state party leaders. Instead, he is staying in the race - with the full complicity of Alabama Republican leaders who have defended Moore and attacked his victims.
In refusing to step down, Moore is executing a playbook written three decades ago by the 42nd President, Bill Clinton. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton figured out that if you have no shame and ignore calls to resign, you can survive any scandal. All you have to do is lie repeatedly ("there is nothing going on between us") and show no remorse when you are caught doing so. When more women come forward with more allegations, deny them, too, and create just enough doubt that your supporters will feel justified sticking with you. Blame your opponents for conducting a political witch hunt to run you out of office. If the evidence becomes overwhelming, then admit "a critical lapse in judgment" but declare it is time "to move on" because "we have important work to do."
For Clinton, it worked like a charm. He forced his supporters to choose between power and principle - knowing full well that power would win out. The feminist movement - the very people who should have been championing Clinton's victims - instead sided with him. Gloria Steinem beclowned herself in a notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed where she attacked Clinton's accusers, made excuses for his deceit and made light of his crimes. All 45 Senate Democrats voted to acquit Clinton in his impeachment trial.
Today, with the cavalcade of revelations of sexual transgressions by politicians and celebrities, some Democrats are expressing belated regret that their party rallied around Clinton. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who occupies Senate seat that Hillary Clinton once held, now says that Bill Clinton should have resigned. Isn't that convenient? Now that the Clinton political machine is finally defunct, liberals come forward to condemn him? How courageous.
Liberals not only allowed Bill Clinton to survive; but in his post-presidency, they made him into a Democratic icon - feting him at party conventions and nominating his wife for the White House, hoping to recapture the old Clinton magic. Clinton gambled that Americans would eventually forget his misdeeds. And he was right. He paid no lasting political price for his serial sexual misconduct.
Moore is following the Clinton plan to the hilt: Deny the accusations, blame his opponents for carrying out a witch hunt and make his supporters complicit in his misdeeds through their disgusting rationalizations. "You can't be a victim 40 years later," said Alabama state Rep. Ed Henry, R, channeling his inner Gloria Steinem. "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became the parents of Jesus," Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler blasphemously declared.
Bill Clinton's legacy was to teach a generation of politicians that shame is for losers. After all, Moore is not alone. Across the aisle, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Al Franken , D-Minn., are also betting that if they just hang on, Americans will forget and they too can survive. Clinton paved the way for Donald Trump to weather the "Access Hollywood" video, for Franken and Conyers to get away with their allegedserial groping, and now for Moore to possibly become the next U.S. senator from Alabama.
As for Alabama's Republican majority, they are left with horrible choices. Some will choke down their bile and vote for Moore to stop a far-left Democrat from taking Alabama's Senate seat. Others will enthusiastically vote for Moore, believing the lie that the charges against him are all part of some "vast left-wing conspiracy." Others simply won't vote at all.
This much is certain: They are in this terrible position because of the death of shame in America. For that, we can thank one man: Bill Clinton.
Marc A. Thiessen is a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and former chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush.