Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. Today: Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race, the repercussions of Weinstein’s fall, and Trump’s calculus on Jerusalem.
Though the Republican National Committee has restored funding for Alabama’s Roy Moore, Republican members of Congress — and even the committee’s own officials — are keeping their distance from party support. Is it better for the GOP if Moore wins or if he loses?
Even The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which sold its soul to Donald Trump after the election, said this morning that “you have to believe in magic to think this is going to end well for Republicans.” Anticipating the resignation of Al Franken, the editorial pleaded with its party, from Trump down, to disown Moore — if only because the departures of both Franken and John Conyers rendered moot the GOP’s main talking point to deflect any questions about the party’s embrace of Moore. But while the Democrats’ resignations have now ripped away that moral fig leaf, there’s zero chance the GOP will ditch Moore. Sure, some Republicans in Washington, including Mitch McConnell, have denounced Moore. But many of them have previously disowned Trump on multiple occasions — including, most pertinently, after the release of the Access Hollywood tape — only to fold soon after. The RNC’s renewed funding of Moore’s campaign tells you all you need to know about the Vichy Republicans. That’s an action that speaks louder than words. The GOP wants to add another vote to its slender Senate majority and will swallow anything required to get it.
The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Predators. Maybe it always was: Do recall the histories of such GOP congressional leaders as Denny Hastert and Mark Foley. It should also be noted that a tolerance for sexual predation may be well on its way to becoming a majority plank among the GOP rank and file. While a new Quinnipiac poll finds that 77 percent of Democrats believe elected officials should resign in the face of multiple sexual harassment accusations, only 51 percent of Republicans do.
Moore has the wholehearted support of the Republican president, and if he is elected on Tuesday in Alabama (the likely outcome, I’d guess), the Senate will seat him no matter the posturing to the contrary. Among Republican elites, the only naysayers to Trump are either out of power (Mitt Romney) or not likely to face another election. In that latter category, even John McCain violated his professed principles about deficits and a “regular” legislative process to sign on to the tax bill that extravagantly rewards Republican donors. He and his colleagues will shed crocodile tears about the new sexual miscreant in the Senate chamber all the way to the bank.
According to the Times’ latest Harvey Weinstein reporting, the mogul’s reign of sexual harassment and assault relied not just on his own lawyers and investigators, but on a “complicity machine” of lower-level enablers that included the National Enquirer, agents at Creative Artists Agency, executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies, and a wide web of managers, journalists, and business partners all incentivized to look the other way. Can the repercussions of Weinstein’s fall break up these kinds of networks, or is this just the way of doing business in Hollywood?This is the way of doing business not just in Hollywood but at every workplace where sexual harassment (and worse) is committed, tolerated, and covered up, from Congress to Fox News to NBC to The New Republic. The Times piece is a must-read, depressing as it is, because of its granular reporting of how sexual predators with power so easily enlist their own colleagues to enable their behavior, even when it rises to the level of the criminal. And not just colleagues, but prominent politicians (the Clintons), attorneys (David Boies), and corporate entities like C.A.A. and Disney. This is a story that is only just beginning to unravel, and until these kinds of networks are fully exposed, change will be incremental at best.
As I have written before, we still don’t know how NBC management can purport to have been ignorant of Matt Lauer’s behavior when it was clearly an open secret in its corporate ranks (and beyond). There has been no independent investigation of what went on — a step that even Fox News finally took to learn more about the sexual predation of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Nor has NBC explained satisfactorily why it passed on airing the Trump Access Hollywood tape or Ronan Farrow’s findings about Weinstein; nor has it explained why it won’t lean on the producer Mark Burnett to release Apprentice outtakes that may contain additional evidence of the serial sexual assaults already confessed to by the man who is now president. What we do know — courtesy of ThinkProgress this week — is that NBC-Universal and its parent company, Comcast, have contributed at least $100,000 to the RNC so far for the 2017–18 election cycle, money that is now helping elect Roy Moore.
NBC is hardly alone. Congress owes us an accounting of every taxpayer-funded settlement in sexual-harassment cases beyond the two that have now surfaced (the Texas Republican congressman Blake Farenthold as well as Conyers). It doesn’t pass the smell test that no one in management at House of Cards knew about Kevin Spacey’s behavior. ABC News has remained silent on how its management somehow missed all the signs about Mark Halperin while he was in its employ.
Looking at the larger culture, we can see that this reckoning has only just begun and will take a long time. Imagine the harassment that is tolerated and covered up at less elite workplaces where the predators are not celebrities and the victims are working women or men, many of them minorities, with even less power than the victims at a Fox News or Miramax or NBC.
Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital yesterday, upending nearly 70 years of U.S. policy. Critics of the decision include the Pope, some of the most powerful U.S. allies, and, reportedly, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis. What does Trump gain here?
Trump’s most incendiary presidential actions are generally prompted by one or all of three underlying motives: (1) to pander to the one third of the country that is his unfailingly loyal base; (2) to distract from the Mueller investigation and all its attendant story lines; (3) to enable the kleptocratic enrichment of himself, his family, and Trump business enterprises. At the very least (1) and (2) are at work here.
As reporting on the decision has made clear, a major component of the Trump base, the Evangelical right, led by its in-house representative Mike Pence, was the driver here. Evangelical Christians want to ensure that Jews remain in power in Jerusalem as a step toward the Second Coming. They see the provocative move of the American embassy as furthering that goal (which may prove to be far from the case). It tells you all you need to know about these lovely people that they clamor for an American embassy in Jerusalem, but back at home remain silent when Trump calls the alt-right stormtroopers of Charlottesville “very fine people” after they’ve chanted that “Jews will not replace us.”
Of course the announcement of the embassy move would fall on the day that Donald Trump Jr. was stonewalling investigators behind closed doors at the House Intelligence Committee. By coincidence, the Jerusalem announcement also served as a convenient distraction from the burning of Los Angeles, yet another example of the apocalyptic price America will pay for the Trump administration and GOP’s refusal to recognize or battle climate change.
Much was made by Republicans, not without reason, when Bill Clinton went on television to announce the American bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan at the height of the Lewinsky scandal. But how puny that Wag the Dog moment looks now when we have a president who thinks nothing of engulfing the world in war and environmental calamity to save himself from potential legal culpability on multiple fronts, from obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia to sexual assault.