They began the week-in-review segment on Friday’s PBS NewsHour with the Al Franken groping scandal, and both liberal Mark Shields and pseudoconservative David Brooks felt that Franken’s offense was minor compared to the Roy Moores and Bill Clintons…and Donald Trumps.
Brooks repeated his recent Charlie Rose line that Clinton’s impunity in these matters in the 1990s created a hostile environment for all women – and then added a new spin for “balance.” Christian defenders of Roy Moore at this point are practicing “idolatry" and are simply “heretics,” he proclaimed:
DAVID BROOKS: If I could add one thing on the — first on the Clinton thing, I think it’s — we just have to look back and say the people who ignored the testimony of Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick helped set the stage for this. And the Democrats who defended Clinton in those cases, they helped set the atmosphere for what we’re seeing and for the behavior that Harvey Weinstein and the rest can get away with.
The second thing to be said is, there is a word for what defenders of Roy Moore are doing, the people who said they were vote for him nonetheless, and — well, two words. One word is idolatry, and the other word is heresy, because the people who are putting — who are going to sacrifice morality for politics are making an idol out of politics.
They’re saying politics is higher than morality. And no honest person can possibly believe that. And if you’re putting politics above personal morality, above the way we treat each other, above the nature of your own soul, you’re just — you’re making an idol out of it. And that is the ultimate in heresy. And to see — I saw a tweet from Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, defending Moore, you know, sort of, oh, they’re all a bunch of hypocrites up there. It’s just appalling. It’s just — it’s almost mind-boggling that people who — especially people who have been steeped in any faith could make this kind of fundamental error, which is warned against again and again in the Bible, and to be heretics. They’re heretics.
One can understand the "making an idol out of politics" part, but "heresy" means something different to religious folks than it does to David Brooks. It means a false teaching against the core teachings of Christianity, a rejection of orthodoxy. He's not exactly separating church and state on the special election. Personally, I think the charges against Moore are serious enough that I would withhold my vote from him. But a Christian could look at the two choices left on the ballot and say if I need a Senator to vote against abortion, against the LGBT agenda, and for religious liberty, one cannot vote for the Democrat. That would be closer to a heretical vote, if we're buying the Brooks definition.
Franklin Graham spoke to Roy Moore on the phone, and is accepting Moore's denials of wrongdoing. He tweeted “The hypocrisy of Washington has no bounds. So many denouncing Roy Moore when they are guilty of doing much worse than what he has been accused of supposedly doing. Shame on those hypocrites.” This drew angry tweets from CNN's Jake Tapper and Andrew Kaczynski. But on its face, if Rev. Graham is talking about the Clintons and their defenders, then he has a point. The Broaddrick rape charge is a very serious charge that a vast majority of liberal journalists have dismissed as fake news for decades -- which makes them look hypocritical on Moore.
(No one at PBS is going to bring up how Brooks dumped his wife of 28 years to marry his researcher, Anne Snyder, 23 years his junior. So he's nobody's moral teacher.)
On Franken, Shields admitted that “for a party that has based an awful lot of its appeal on identity politics, that we are the women’s party, that we believe in women’s rights, that we respect women, and that Republicans don’t, this is a body blow. And Al Franken has been a major fund-raiser for Democrats, and he has been an aggressive inquisitor on committees and — representing the Democrats. So, I think it is serious.”
But then substitute anchor Hari Sreenivasan noted Trump had tweeted against Franken, so “Does this at this point open him up to a line of criticism, saying, well, if this is what you’re going to say about this person that was accused of misconduct, what about the 15 or so women who have publicly come out against you?” Shields unloaded on the president as a draft dodger and shameless smear artist:
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I guess I should not be surprised that somebody who found a friendly family podiatrist in 1968 to avoid the military draft and to not serve his country in Vietnam, and then went on to attack and disparage the heroic service of John McCain, who spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war, and saw no inconsistency in that hypocrisy, indefensibility, morality — morally about what he did, I shouldn’t be surprised that he, facing charges — having pledged that he was going to sue these women who had accused him of sexual harassment, sexual molestation and worse, and never having initiated any kind of action, never having responded to them, would go after Al Franken and duck the Roy Moore matter.
I mean, why he’d want to — it just invites the replaying of the “Access Hollywood” tape and his own how-to manual on how to molest women and how, if you’re rich and powerful, women are irresistible or indefensible to what you do. I mean, so, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But, still, he does surprise me from time to time on his shamelessness. He’s a shameless man.
Nowhere in this PBS discussion is there any questioning the timing or the liberal tilt of The Washington Post, who for whatever reason couldn't locate these charges until the very convenient (for Democrats) time that Alabama could not change the ballot. There was no reflection by Brooks that the Post sat on its Juanita Broaddrick story in 1999 -- as did NBC News -- until Bill Clinton was safely spared in a Senate impeachment trial. So are they hypocrites, or heretics? Once again, the press doesn't discuss its own political manuevering.