Stomach­turn­ing be­hav­ior

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - KATH­LEEN PARKER kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com

Des­per­a­tion seems to be driving Repub­li­cans this grate­ful sea­son as they seek to trade po­lar bears for tax cuts, while fer­vently pray­ing that for­mer Alabama Supreme Court chief jus­tice Roy Moore didn’t do what he’s al­leged to have done, which might give the U.S. Se­nate an­other Demo­cratic vote.

The race is on to pass tax re­form be­fore Dec. 12, when Alabama will select a new se­na­tor to fill the seat va­cated by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions. Moore, best known as the “Ten Com­mand­ments judge,” has been ac­cused of hav­ing pur­sued teenage girls sev­eral decades ago when he was in his 30s. He is set to face off against Demo­crat Doug Jones, who pros­e­cuted two of the Klans­men ac­cused of set­ting off the bomb in a Birm­ing­ham church that killed four African Amer­i­can girls in 1963.

Pag­ing Flan­nery O’Con­nor. Not that this evolv­ing South­ern gothic nar­ra­tive needs a fic­tion writer’s labors. Even O’Con­nor, who once ex­plained South­ern­ers’ ten­dency to write about “freaks” be­cause “we are still able to rec­og­nize one,” would be hard-pressed to em­bel­lish the already weird. We might also ping Wil­liam Faulkner while we’re at it, who noted that the past isn’t past. In Alabama, where I once worked as a re­porter, the past just keeps on truckin’.

In the wake of these ac­cu­sa­tions by four women, in­clud­ing one who was 14 at the time of Moore’s al­leged ad­vances, sev­eral Repub­li­can se­na­tors have of­fered cau­tious re­marks, say­ing that “if true,” then Moore should step aside. If true, Moore should prob­a­bly have reread those com­mand­ments more closely rather than forc­ing his court­room au­di­ences to study them as he presided over oth­ers’ moral fail­ings.

While it is nei­ther right nor fair to con­demn an­other with­out due process, the statute of lim­i­ta­tions is well past on these al­le­ga­tions, which were pub­lished by Post re­porters who spent a month in­ter­view­ing dozens of peo­ple in ad­di­tion to the accusers. In the case of one teen, Moore al­legedly of­fered al­co­hol to his un­der­age date and mod­eled his “tight white” un­der­wear. The swirl of al­le­ga­tions ar­rived at a mo­ment when it seemed likely that Moore was to be­come Alabama’s se­na­tor. The state hasn’t elected a Demo­crat to the of­fice in more than 20 years.

As mo­men­tum builds for Moore’s pos­si­ble re­treat and op­ti­mism grows among Alabama Democrats, Repub­li­cans des­per­ate to pass some­thing be­fore year’s end have been try­ing to pull ele­phants out of hats. Or some­thing. In ad­di­tion to propos­ing tax cuts for the rich, they’ve turned from drain­ing the swamp to thaw­ing the Arc­tic to scrounge up more money. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has in­tro­duced a bill that would open the Arc­tic Na­tional Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

Murkowski, usu­ally the more ra­tio­nal mem­ber of Alaska’s Se­nate duo, seems to have fallen un­der the spell of the greedy brother­hood. If we were des­per­ate for oil, her bill might make more sense, but we’re in the midst of a glut. Some en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, mean­while, have ques­tioned the Congressional Bud­get Of­fice’s pro­jec­tion that Arc­tic drilling would pro­duce $1.1 bil­lion over a decade. For this to be true, they say, oil would need to earn $70 per bar­rel. Yet, in West Texas to­day, a bar­rel of crude oil is sell­ing for about $57. Ob­vi­ously, this is only a $13 dif­fer­ence. And the refuge con­tains 19 mil­lion acres, of which Murkowski pro­poses ex­ploit­ing only 800,000.

For now. But what about later? And what refuge might be next?

More than 100 years ago, when the first na­tional wildlife refuge was es­tab­lished by Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt, we seemed to have a bet­ter sense of our role as war­dens of our na­tion’s nat­u­ral re­sources and the ecosys­tems that sup­port wildlife. The idea that we no longer need to pro­tect or man­age an­i­mals hu­manely — or that they still have more than enough acreage to sus­tain them — ig­nores the rea­sons we cre­ated these pro­tec­tions in the first place and the re­al­ity that the planet does not, in fact, re­quire our pres­ence.

The fact that this is a par­ti­san is­sue sim­ply ig­nores rea­son.

That a few Repub­li­cans would sac­ri­fice even a square inch of the Arc­tic un­nec­es­sar­ily for the profit of a po­lit­i­cal vic­tory is, frankly, as stomach­turn­ing as the im­age of a tighty­whitey-wear­ing Roy Moore paw­ing a 14-year-old. Surely, there’s a bet­ter way to make a buck — and a bet­ter soul to warm Ses­sions’s seat.

Repub­li­cans des­per­ate to pass some­thing be­fore year’s end have been try­ing to pull ele­phants out of hats.

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