A Philosophy Professor Makes a Terrible Argument for Roy Moore

by David French

Earlier today The Federalist published a piece by a philosophy professor and self-proclaimed “superhero against the dark forces of political correctness” that purports to present the case for Roy Moore. Unlike many of Moore’s defenders, he’s trying to persuade Alabamians to vote for Moore even if the claims against him are “mostly true.”

It’s an embarrassing effort. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t waste my time responding to something so silly, but the author, Tully Borland, claims to be rebutting one of my pieces about Moore, and he’s making actual arguments I’m hearing from real life friends. So, today I’m making an exception.

Borland’s piece rests — as most defenses of Moore do — on minimizing Moore’s sins, maximizing his importance, and making incredibly stupid analogies. Indeed, the efforts to minimize Moore’s actions almost reach “Joseph married a teenager” levels of insanity. Here are some actual quotes from the piece:

Here is one thing we know and should admit from the start: in his early thirties, Moore had a penchant for dating teenagers. Apparently, this was not an uncommon occurrence during this time. In fact, this practice has a long history and is not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family.

Teens are fertile. Got it. Then he approvingly quotes another professor who actually asks, “What’s the big deal about a 32 year-old man courting a 14-year old girl.” After referring to his own grandparents, this professors says Moore’s behavior was “normal.” Yes, normal:

This was normal back then. I’m sure it was normal in Alabama 40 years ago as well. The age of consent in Alabama even today is 16 (with parental consent)…I’m sick to death of people imposing their own moral standards on people of the past, whether it’s Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, George Armstrong Custer, Martin Luther King Jr, or Roy Moore.

Good lord. Let’s be clear about this — 40 years ago was the ancient year of 1977. I was growing up in the rural South (yes, Kentucky counts as the South; it’s in the SEC), and a 32 year-old “courting” a 14 year-old would have been a very big deal. I never saw something like that, not once. As a writer remarked earlier today on Twitter, it’s strange to see conservatives who’d ordinarily and understandably bristle at negative caricatures of the South essentially argue that, yeah, it was totally normal and fine for 30-something lawyers to date young teens back in the day. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now.

But Borland’s not done. Not by a long shot. It just keeps getting worse. After offering a lame attempt at questioning the accusers’ accounts, he says this:

Then from a conservative moral perspective, Moore is guilty of lying, trying to have pre-marital sexual relations with girls half his age, and pressuring them to do so without first determining that they reciprocate. There is no sugar-coating what he did. Moore was a dirt bag and is currently lying about his actions rather than confessing the truth and asking for forgiveness. (Emphasis added.)

What? He just spent the entire first section of his piece “sugar-coating what he did.” Indeed, that very paragraph sugar-coats what he did. If you presume the allegations are “mostly true” (as Borland says he does), then Moore isn’t just guilty of “trying to have pre-marital sexual relations,” he’s guilty of sex crimes. Beverly Ann Nelson’s accusations are especially horrifying:

Nelson, who will turn 56 on Tuesday, said that when she was 16, Moore, a regular patron, offered her a ride home from work, then pulled his car around the back of the restaurant where he groped her, tried to force her head into his crotch, and tried to remove her shirt.

“I was alarmed and I immediately asked him what he was doing,” she said. “Instead of answering my questions, Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me and putting his hands on my breast. I tried to open my car door to leave but he reached over and he locked it.”

This is assault. She’s describing a sex crime. That’s a man who, if caught, could have served a long prison sentence. 

So why sugar-coat? Why make Moore sound better than the evidence indicates? To blur moral lines, of course. He says, “Never voting for a lesser evil means never voting.” Then he writes this:

French’s #NeverMoore and #NeverTrump stances fall prey to what philosophers call a reductio ad absurdum, an argument that reduces itself to absurdity. If one can’t vote for someone who is better (that is, less bad or less evil) or who is equally bad but has better policies, then one should opt out of politics and the voting process altogether! But since that’s not the case, the #Never_____ position fails. It’s that simple.

This man is a philosopher? Of course we’re always choosing between imperfect men, but there are profound differences between conventional politicians and a man who tried to rape a teenager when he was a D.A. Believe it or not, the American political ranks are chock-full of politicians who possess better character than Moore, whose pasts are far less checkered. I don’t even have to get to the difficult process of line-drawing to have confidence in declaring that Christians should not vote to put a credibly-accused child abuser in the Senate.

Borland then compares Moore to General George S. Patton. Yes, Patton:

Consider the similar case of Gen. George S. Patton in World War II. Patton was a known womanizer and adulterer. He was profane and foul-mouthed, often an embarrassment to his more well-behaved and refined chain of command. Thus it was no great surprise when he was temporarily relieved of command for slapping a shell-shocked soldier.

Patton was to his chain of command in many ways what Trump and Trumpians are to the establishment. But in a war—be it military or political—sometimes the profane is all you have left. So, it was again no shock when the military establishment held their collective noses and “voted” for Patton once again to lead the Third Army. In spite of his tremendous faults, he was not the enemy set on “fundamentally transforming” the freedom-loving republic of their ancestors.

Similar case? Can he possibly be serious? Patton, for all his flaws, was never accused of anything like Moore’s gross abuses. Moreover, he was held painfully accountable for many of his offenses. He was punished. His career was so damaged that he spent critical parts of World War II on the bench. And this man was one of the singular military talents of the age, in the middle of a war for civilizational survival.

Moore, by contrast isn’t a talent at all. He’s a half-wit, grandstanding constitutional ignoramus who’s been credibly accused of sex crimes against teenagers. He’s not a key man in the war for our nation’s very existence. He’s aiming to be one senator out of 100, serving out a half-term. And he’s not been held accountable in any way, shape, or form for his misconduct. Instead, he’s seeking elevation to a position of public trust. Other than that, yeah, he’s Patton.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Borland had approvingly quoted a professor who put Moore in the same sentence as the author of the Declaration of Independence, America’s foremost civil rights hero, another of our nation’s great military minds, and a Union prodigy in the Civil War. It’s not quite like comparing Donald Trump to King David, but not even Trumpkins believe that Moore alone can Make America Great Again. 

Finally, as so many Moore defenders do, Borland accuses me of “virtue-signaling.” It’s another way of claiming I’m making my arguments in bad faith — hoping that people will see me as moral rather than speaking out of sincere conviction. I’m past caring about that accusation. If condemning Roy Moore is “virtue-signaling,” then I’ll virtue-signal all day. I’m not urging any person to vote for Doug Jones. I would never vote for a pro-abortion politician. But if you believe this election will make any material difference in the prevalence or legality of abortion in the United States, then you need a civic education. In fact, it’s far more likely that electing a man like Moore will damage the pro-life cause.

Alabama’s choice isn’t binary. Our choices never are, and if you continue to believe that lie then you’ll forever be trapped by other people’s mistakes. Vote for a third candidate. Write someone in. Or stay home. Don’t lift one finger to put a credibly-accused sex criminal in the Senate.

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