What to my won­der­ing ears did he say?

West Hawaii Today - - Opinion - Kathleen Parker’s email ad­dress is kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.

WASHINGTON — With­out nearly enough fan­fare, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell made his­tory this week with a scant four words: “I be­lieve the women.”

All across Amer­ica, forks dropped, glasses shat­tered and knees wob­bled as women turned to each other in as­ton­ish­ment. Wait. What? Did he say what I think he said?

Sud­denly, McCon­nell, whose char­ac­ter­is­tic solem­nity in­spires envy in stat­ues, sud­denly be­came ir­re­sistibly mag­netic. Ad­mit it: You wanted to hug him.

The Se­nate leader was re­spond­ing to a reporter’s ques­tion about the al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct of Roy Moore, the erst­while “Ten Com­mand­ments” judge and aspir­ing U.S. se­na­tor from Alabama. Moore, as you surely know, has been ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct by five women who claim that he groped, at­tempted to rape or oth­er­wise made over­tures when they were teens and he was in his 30s in the 1970s.

McCon­nell and sev­eral other Repub­li­cans have urged Moore to step aside be­fore Alabama’s Dec. 12 spe­cial elec­tion, say­ing he is un­fit to serve. Any­one who knows Moore will tell you that he won’t quit, while skeptics and loy­al­ists shrug at the charges, say­ing they’re “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.” Shock­ing. As Bill Clin­ton can at­test, ugly things tend to sur­face when peo­ple as­pire to high places. Sadly, they’re of­ten also true things, though it seems th­ese days that one’s moral com­pass fol­lows the nee­dle of po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

This is why McCon­nell’s words were so stun­ning. Rather than try to en­sure that Repub­li­cans keep the seat, he opted to do the right thing. It’s a shame we have to be sur­prised when this hap­pens, but rare is the politi­cian who is also a states­man.

In fair­ness, one ob­serves that the man Moore al­legedly was in those days may not be the same man to­day. As a so­ci­ety, we tend to be­lieve that peo­ple can change and be for­given for past trans­gres­sions, es­pe­cially if they’ve led ex­em­plary lives in the in­terim. But for­give­ness first re­quires that one con­fess and re­pent — and Moore has done nei­ther.

His de­nial and stead­fast re­fusal to step aside may be viewed in one of two ways. Ei­ther he’s in­no­cent, or he’s con­fi­dent that his sup­port­ers don’t care if he is guilty. As in: That was a long time ago and that’s not the Roy Moore we know. Both sce­nar­ios could be true, though hav­ing lived in Alabama, I lean to­ward the lat­ter sce­nario. In a state where Moore achieved hero sta­tus in some quar­ters for re­fus­ing a fed­eral judge’s or­der to re­move a Ten Com­mand­ments mon­u­ment from his court build­ing — and where good ol’ boys look out for each other — it’s much eas­ier to blame the me­dia’s “fake news” for Moore’s trou­bles than to be be­dev­iled by women with their cursed agen­das.

Moore is threat­en­ing to sue The Washington Post, which broke the story af­ter a month-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­cluded cor­rob­o­rat­ing in­ter­views with at least 30 peo­ple. On Mon­day, a fifth woman, Bev­erly Young Nel­son, came for­ward with a de­tailed ac­cu­sa­tion of how Moore at­tempted to rape her in his car when she was 16. She claims Moore choked her and dumped her, cry­ing, onto the pave­ment. He al­legedly or­dered her to keep quiet since no one would be­lieve “just a child.”

Moore re­futes ever know­ing Nel­son, though this seems demon­stra­bly false. Nel­son pro­duced her 1977 high school year­book fea­tur­ing an in­scrip­tion by Moore. Ap­par­ently smit­ten by his in­ner muse, he wrote: “To a sweeter, more beau­ti­ful girl, I could not say Merry Christ­mas.” Could you maybe have said, “Con­grat­u­la­tions and best of luck in the fu­ture?”

Moore’s pearls seem rather per­sonal for some­one un­re­mem­bered. Then again, would-be po­ets in the South, es­pe­cially those who fa­vor them­selves “ladies’ men,” have been known to in­dulge in in­flated flat­tery. Had Moore been el­derly at the time, one might have thought him merely dotty — a harm­less hy­brid of Don Juan and Don Quixote, tilt­ing at maid­ens in a trance of ro­man­tic chivalry.

But Moore wasn’t el­derly or dotty. And five women who didn’t know each other have shared sim­i­larly sick­en­ing mem­o­ries. The Post stands by its ex­haus­tively re­searched story. And any­one with com­mon sense stands next to McCon­nell, whose words must have fallen like mu­si­cal notes on the ears of the si­lenced.

We’ll never know with cer­tainty what hap­pened some 40 years ago. But in the fu­ture, McCon­nell’s stand surely will make a dif­fer­ence for other women who fear they will not be be­lieved in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances. In the mean­time, here’s an in­scrip­tion for Moore’s year­book: I have two words for you, and they’re not Merry Christ­mas.

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