Honest Skepticism Is Not a Vice

Watching Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announce his intention to resign from the U.S. Senate was an unexpected pleasure last week. But Franken couldn’t just go quietly into the night. He called his downfall ironic because “a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.”

By that tape, he was referring to Donald Trump’s vulgar conversation with NBC journalist Billy Bush, captured on a hot mic in 2005 but not broadcast until 11 years later. It was so crude and offensive that even Trump’s vice presidential running mate condemned his comments.

The most outrageous comment, the one most cited by Democrats, involved grabbing women by their private parts. Trump apologized, but said it was just “locker room talk,” male banter, and that Bill Clinton had made worse comments to him on the golf course.

Without exaggeration, I would estimate that I listened to the Billy Bush tape at least 60 or 70 times last year, thanks mostly to MSNBC. This week I pulled up the Youtube to listen again, to be sure of my recollection. I would encourage you to do the same.

The fact is that Trump never bragged in that tape that he had grabbed women by their private parts. He didn’t joke that he had done so, either. What he said was that celebrities can grab women by their private parts with impunity.

Until very recently, that was mostly a true statement. Democrat celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer have groped their way through a couple of generations of ambitious, vulnerable interns, actresses, campaign volunteers, television producers and at least one 14-year-old boy. Chickens are coming home to roost now, but in 2005, and in 2016, they were getting away with it.

Franken claimed his forced resignation was ironic also because of Republicans’ “full support” for the Senate campaign of “a man who repeatedly preyed on young girls.” He was referring to Roy Moore, 70, of Alabama. Moore was recently accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his early thirties.

Senate (Republican) Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for Moore to “step aside” after he won the Republican primary, and said he is “obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate.” If that’s what Al Franken considers the”full support” of Republicans, I’d hate to see them oppose anybody.

Franken’s claim of a paradox is also based on the assumption that the accusations against Moore are true. It is an assumption. I believe that the accusations should be taken seriously, and that there should be no smear campaign against Moore’s accusers. But he has denied the accusations, and he is entitled to confront the evidence against him.

Ivanka Trump believes there should be a presumption of Moore’s guilt. “I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts,” she said last month. Fortunately for Moore, he lives in America, where a presumption of innocence puts the burden of proof on accusers. It puts a premium on evidence.

I wasn’t there, you weren’t there, most of the Alabama voters weren’t there, and so – even though this isn’t a criminal proceeding – we have to rely on evidence for our inferences about Moore’s guilt or innocence of the accusations against him.

One piece of evidence that Democrats and swamp Republicans found persuasive was an accuser’s 40-year-old high school yearbook, with a complimentary inscription that she said Moore had written. There was nothing salacious in the inscription, but in any case Moore denied writing it.

That accuser’s attorney, Gloria Allred, is a California Democrat who served as a Hillary Clinton delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She displayed the yearbook, opened to the inscription, at a press conference last month. After Moore denied writing in the yearbook, and said he doesn’t even remember the restaurant where his accuser said he signed it, Allred was questioned closely about it by various journalists.

Allred told them she had never asked her client if she actually saw Moore sign the yearbook. She said her client would be willing to produce the yearbook for expert testing and analysis. But she never handed the yearbook over to a third-party custodian to supervise independent expert analysis. She just hired her own expert, and reported his opinion to the press. That’s obviously not an acceptable substitute, and it suggests that the attorney is worried about her client’s evidence.

Last Friday, several weeks after vouching for the inscription in its entirety, Allred called another press conference to admit that part of it was added by her client as a notation of its date and location. This was important because the numerals in the inscription don’t match other samples of Moore’s 1977 handwriting. The accuser said she added “D.A.” after the signature, as a note to remind herself who Moore was (district attorney).

She needed a good explanation for this because skeptics pointed out that it was implausible that Moore would have signed anything that way. He was an assistant district attorney at the time, and it would be have been buffoonish for him to call himself the district attorney.

Moore’s attorney suggested that his accuser got the “D.A.” nomenclature from her own divorce document issued decades later by Moore, as a judge. It appeared after his signature on that document because “D.A.” were the initials of his assistant who stamped the judge’s signature. Although alleged victim never appeared in court before Moore, she certainly was provided with the document dismissing her divorce action.

If the accuser’s account of Moore’s sexual aggression in 1977 were true, you would expect that she would have asked for his recusal from her 1999 divorce case. She and her attorney could have asked to have it heard by a different judge. But she didn’t. That suggests that the accusation is younger than the divorce case.

The accuser told reporters that she recounted Moore’s assault to her most recent husband before they married. But her adult stepson has undermined that claim.

“If she told him, you would think that somewhere along the conversations of talking to his son and talking to his family that he would have mentioned something like that,” the Georgia man said. “That’s something you don’t hide from anybody.”

He said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that she is being paid to ruin Moore’s Senate election attempt.

I was in Alaska when swamp Republicans successfully defeated TEA Party Republican Joe Miller, who had beaten their incumbent in the primary. One incident that discredited Miller was when one of his security personnel roughed up a reporter at a rally. Later, after Miller was beaten in the general election, the security guy admitted that he had infiltrated the campaign with the intention of helping defeat Miller.

Perhaps Ivanka has no reason to doubt the accounts of the accusers. But I have. You can only ignore the timing of these accusations with steely determination. Moore has been a contentious, controversial candidate in four statewide elections in Alabama. How could he be in the fight this long without true victims ever telling their story to the media or to his rivals?

There’s a very important election at stake. Moore led in the polls until these accusations crashed over his bow. Democrats and swamp Republicans are united.

Would they lie to win? Would they persuade others to do their lying for them? They might. It wouldn’t be the first time. Honest skepticism is not a vice. Let them prove their cases.

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.