Strange days in politics, media

Posted 11/15/17

So, out of the blue, our political columnist was quoted this week in Politico about how some in Alabama wouldn’t believe any thing the Washington Post prints.

“Their attitude is, ‘If the …

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Strange days in politics, media

Posted

So, out of the blue, our political columnist was quoted this week in Politico about how some in Alabama wouldn’t believe any thing the Washington Post prints.

“Their attitude is, ‘If the Jasper Daily Mountain Eagle says it, I will believe it,’” Flowers said.

Well, now. Thanks, Steve — but the next time someone calls to complain about a statement I make about Trump in this space, I’ll let Steve answer the call.

The truth is that we get it, too. And after this column, I am sure I will get flack, too. That’s fine, because someone has to stand up for reporters and the truth they are writing about.

These are strange days in politics and media. The Roy Moore controversies have led many in Alabama to all but declare war on the Post and all the women who have recalled sexual abuse stories concerning Moore.

It’s all a great big liberal plot to oppose Roy Moore, because, don’t you know the head of Amazon owns the Post and all they want to do is elect Hillary? 

Well, I can tell you there are editors at newspapers and some of the top anchors and producers do sort of get captured sometimes by the Beltway mentality on either side of the aisle. Sure, we see some bias now and then. However, the average reporter in the field is usually pretty good at what he does, working in Nebraska, Arkansas, Arizona and places far from the Beltway or Brooklyn elite.

Many among us in the media — and we can be savage on our brotherhood when the work gets shoddy — have noted the Post story actually holds up well, with multiple sources. It was more than one woman involved, and names were used. The Post has been careful in the story to note a reporter was looking into other items concerning the election, and started asking questions only when he began to hear the old stories from Gadsden. It was solid reporting.

Moreover, everyone asks, “Why now?” Surely it was political, some say. But that ignores two basic facts.

In the past few days, we have seen in several news reports that many in Gadsden and in parts of the state — some Republicans — knew about these stories. People there couldn’t understand Moore’s reactions. Moreover, they couldn’t believe more had not made it to print yet. Reporters actually did try to get the scoop, but they always reached a dead end — at that time.

Secondly, we have to take into account the movement that has been building all year. We really started with the likes of comedian Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly at Fox. Although nothing came of it, the accusations against then-candidate Donald Trump raised awareness about sexual abuse or attitudes. Some other politicians got caught up as well.

Then came Harvey Weinstein, who was well known as a power player in Hollywood but not known to most Americans. The multiple reports for some reason led to reports of other celebrities, and then it seemed to be a cascade of stories. The "#MeToo" movement among women the past few weeks seems to have given courage among them to tell stories for the first time.

I think what men are beginning to understand, and maybe some women unaffected in the past, is that the women from decades past lived in a different era. I recall when First Lady Betty Ford announced she had breast cancer surgery. It was a taboo subject, not to be talked about. Now, it is not only talked about, but one that has led to actions in fighting the disease. It is nothing to be ashamed of now, but in the 1960s and 1970s, the attitudes were different.

It was the same for sexual abuse. The victims were embarrassed and did not want to tell even their families in some cases. Asked about it in those days, many would say, “That man is powerful. I am (young/a low wage worker/born from another country/of another race/a woman, period). Who would believe me? They will attack me.” 

And now, the Moore case shows that was exactly what could happen. In fact, Weinstein was so powerful that he sent detectives to follow others, including journalists, to silence them in his case. Congressional interns and women in other places knew how hard it was to get a job like that, and kept silent.

No longer. Asking why now ignores a movement that is giving courage for women to speak out, and we dismiss it at our own peril and our own ignorance of history.

And then there is Roy Moore. For years, he has been a great hero to the Christian community due to his stand on the Ten Commandments and other related issues, as well as for his religious talks in churches, usually without notes. He would not speak much to the media and he never spoke much on in-depth issues but he was popular for his stands and was elected twice to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The problem was that he would ignore higher rulings and expect to do what he wanted, using legal arguments that were somewhat mystifying in its defiance of federal rulings, as if Alabama was an entity above itself. He was thrown out of office twice, not by the voters but by legal panels who indicated he had violated the norms for justices. It now seems almost spooky that this man, in private and public, really was the man who thought he could do whatever he wanted.

The interview with Sean Hannity did not help his case, and the signed high school annual has only condemned him more. Reports at this writing indicate even Hannity and Steve Bannon are close to possibly dumping him, and even Trump is concerned. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is openly talking expulsion if he makes it to the Senate. And U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby just announced he won’t vote for Moore.

Of course, Doug Jones is not my first choice. As a Christian, I’m not thrilled about the abortion stand, as many of you are not. And I don’t know he has taken a lot of stand on issues, either. However, on the other hand, I ask myself is it worse to elect Jones, who would from time to time cast a vote concerning abortion or to vote for a man who we see has committed sexual abuse against several underage girls. I think the cavalier way many Christians and Republicans are rushing to vote for Moore is shameful, in that they should at least be conflicted. I know I am.

Oh ... and those who want to compare this situation to Mary and Joseph should just shut up, thank you.

At this writing, it is unlikely Moore will leave the race, that state Republicans will withdraw his name (creating a new election if he wins and electing Jones if he gets the most votes), that Gov. Kay Ivey will move the election or that Sen. Luther Strange or Attorney General Jeff Sessions will run a write-in campaign. Some of those actions would anger Republican voters as the 2018 elections quickly approach, and state Republicans want to keep those waters smooth — regardless of what is good and right to do. National Republicans have shown more backbone and conviction than their state counterparts. (Of course, if Moore is elected, the Senate then has the problem of deciding whether to not seat him, which could make people in Alabama angry again.) 

It is interesting to note, by the way, we have to go through this all over again two years from now in 2020, when Session’s term would have been up again for election ­— and that will be a presidential election year.

All of this may be for naught, as several polls still show a lead for Moore, and I think the Democrats have been so demonized by the abortion stand at this point, and the polarization among the parties has been so emphasized by the cable news networks, that people will vote for Moore regardless in the state. Saying you will vote for Jones and put up with him for two years before deciding a new senator in 2020 just won’t do for many.

And then the Senate will have to use a moral authority that could anger Alabamians and cause Democrats to use the moral high ground against Republicans, costing the GOP seats, more than likely.

Regardless of the outcome, I think it is time to stand up for the truth and for the newspaper colleagues who print the truth. Just because someone works for the New York Times or the Post — or any media — shouldn’t mean they are lying, scheming political hacks out to overthrow the Trumps. We are mostly a serious bunch with a dedicated mission to tell the truth, regardless where it falls.

And this time the truth seems to rest with women who were assaulted by a major politician. Attacking reporters will not change the truth, and the sooner some people come to that conclusion, the better, whether you like us or not.

As for Moore, there is too much evidence he had a history of improper sexual behavior against teenagers, as witnessed by his own neighbors. I am haunted by the woman on Monday who cried in front of reporters having to relive Moore locking her in his car while he tried to make advances. I am disgusted with him and feel he has portrayed the Christian faith by hiding behind the cross. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Christian witness, ethics and justice for abused women who were silenced by shame and fear.

That is on top of ignoring the rule of law that he was sworn to uphold, either regarding the rulings that lost him his seat on the bench or by the laws that supposedly would protect these girls.

One could argue that party or government leaders should intervene to save the seat for Republicans. That makes sense, but there is a bigger step that should be taken, and only one man can take it to do justice.

For the good of the nation, for the state, for the rule of law, for the Senate, for the Republican Party, for the Christian church at large and for the sake of whatever Christian witness he has left, Roy Moore should suspend his candidacy.

He should not force the whole nation — and certainly not the state — to have to go through this agony. He has caused enough pain and embarrassment for us all. If you want to have your day in court, have it. But don’t make your nation — and certainly all those women — go through this torture.

And once again, as we did in days of Richard Nixon, we should all thank God that a hard working reporter or two at the Washington Post decided to keep asking questions. You can talk about freedom all you like, but, in the end, the truth really will set you free. A group of women in Gadsden probably can attest to that.