• Paul D. Wilke

Humbert Humbert Goes to Washington?

“Humbert Humbert tried hard to be good. Really and truly, he did. He had the utmost respect for ordinary children, with their purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances would he have interfered with the innocence of a child, if there was the least risk of a row.”

Vladimir Nabokov. “Lolita.

On December 12, Alabamans will go to the polls to fill the senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions. Normally, the outcome of such an election in a crimson state like Alabama would be a foregone conclusion. However, something interesting is happening this time around. You see, Roy Moore, the deeply conservative candidate for the GOP, has some skeletons in his closet that are giving even Alabamans pause. It turns out that the Bible blabbing Moore had a thing for underage girls back in the seventies and eighties. I won't rehash the details here, but you can follow this link to get caught up. While many die-hard Moore supporters dismiss the revelations as nothing more than a case of he-said/she-said, they are really now he-said/they-said. The sheer quantity of accusations and the similarities between them offer strong circumstantial evidence that Moore was involved romantically, and in one case sexually, with underage girls. Nevertheless, that's not an ethical dilemma for many prominent Alabamans. Even though many accept the accusations as credible, they plan on backing Moore anyway.

Take Alabama republican governor, Kay Ivey. She finds the reporting about Moore's past credible. She said, "I certainly have no reason to disbelieve any of them," Ivey said. "The timing is a little curious. But at the same time, I have no reason to disbelieve them." Also, she takes the time to condemn Moore's actions. "There's never an excuse for or rationale for sexual misconduct or sexual abuse. It bothers me." But not enough to pull her support. Governor Ivey was blunt about why she'll support Moore in the election. "Consider all the information that you have," Ivey said. "Certainly, it [the scandal] has an impact. But at the same time, the United States Senate needs to have, in my opinion, a majority of Republican votes to carry the day and when they have to consider other major decisions. So that's a factor, as well." And that deciding factor is winning. This was the same rationale for many Republicans in the run up to last year's presidential election. Sending Moore to Washington will allow Republicans to keep on doing all that winning they've been doing over the last year.

But then we hear a more troubling defense in support of Moore. It's the ballsy move of offering up a biblical argument for Moore's past predilection for underage girls. Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler told the Washington Examiner that, “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There's just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.” This idiotic statement only confirms my belief that you can justify just about any moral behavior, no matter how despicable, if you look hard enough in the Bible. Thanks, Jim.

Pastor Flip Benham told a radio show that Moore looked to much younger girls because he was seeking purity. "The lady that he’s [Roy Moore] married to now, Ms. Kayla, is a younger woman. He did that because there is something about a purity of a young woman, there is something that is good, that's true, that's straight and he looked for that." This is an odd attempt to turn Moore into some kind of chivalrous knight on a quest seeking virginal purity. What nonsense. That image is spoiled, of course, when we hear the details of how Moore tried to seduce a 14-year old. The supposed quest for purity then starts to sound like a predator trying to get off at the expense of the target girl's purity. There's nothing noble about that.

Benham went on to say that, "All of the ladies, or many of the ladies that he possibly could have married were not available then, they were already married, maybe, somewhere. So he looked in a different direction." Here is another attempt to explain away Moore's behavior while tacitly confirming it happened. The dating pool may have been thin for man in his thirties looking for a mate of similar age. But there's really little evidence to suggest that was his preferred way to go. But did Moore need to reach back to the 14-17 year age cohort to find a suitable mate? Remember, this guy was considered a "catch" in the local community at the time; he was a West Point graduate, a Vietnam vet, and an up-and-coming district attorney. No. He wasn't trolling the high schools and the Gadsen Mall looking for a marriage partner. His quest for purity little more than a quest to despoil that purity.

But for many Alabamans, whether the allegations are true or not is not relevant. At the end of the day, many Republicans still care more about winning at all costs, no matter how damning to the brand in the long run. The timing of the allegations lends itself to conspiracies about "Fake News" and liberal smear campaigns. The age of the allegations makes it easy to suspect the motivations of the accusers as politically driven. But those are lazy ways out of taking a hard look hard at the man's history. So, does Alabama elect a man who sexually preyed on underage girls decades ago? Do Alabamans maintain one set of ethical norms for conservatives and another for liberals? In the end, will Alabamans send Humbert Humbert to Washington to advance the conservative cause, whatever that is? These are questions that Alabamans will have to decide before heading to the polls on 12 December. The world is watching.