“Here Come Da Judge!” It was 1968 and the show was Laugh-In and Flip Wilson said the words – and the judge was Flip Wilson, a hip black dude. The unfortunate white defendant didn’t understand hipness or blackness and paid the price, in ridicule. People should loosen up. Get with it. Sammy Davis Jr. later played the judge. He was beyond cool. He hung around with Frank Sinatra and that Las Vegas Rat Pack. He was one of them. He had married a blond Swedish actress. And he was now Jewish. So what? People should loosen up. Prissy tight-assed people, uncomfortable with the new multicultural America, would be laughed off the stage. Martin Luther King had done his thing. It was a new much cooler America. Prissy tight-assed people would be judged. They wouldn’t like it. That was just too bad.
That was long ago – a fine time in America in its way – but on September 16, 1968, Richard Nixon, running for president, popped up on Laugh-In for a few seconds asking “Sock it to me?” He was pretending that he couldn’t believe he was there – but there was no bucket of cold water. No one socked it to him. He wouldn’t be judged, and then he went on the win the election, and prissy tight-assed people, uncomfortable with the new multicultural America, took over the country. Laugh-in closed up shop on March 12, 1973 – it was over. Only very old people remember any of this.
That’s just as well, because everything has been reversed since then, and, as Greg Sargent notes, here comes the opposite kind of judge:
Roy Moore, the new GOP nominee for Senate in Alabama, defied a court order directing him to remove a tablet bearing the Ten Commandments from a state court building. He has said homosexuality is a “crime against nature” that defies the laws “of nature’s God” upon which (he claims) our nation is based, meaning homosexuality is illegal. He has opined that the 9/11 attacks might have represented punishment from God, adding that this wrath may be retribution for our legitimization of abortion and “sodomy.” He appears to have described Asians as “yellows” and Native Americans as “reds.”
President Trump enthusiastically endorsed Roy Moore this morning, describing him as a “great guy” who will help to realize Trump’s goal of making America great.
He’s not Flip Wilson, obviously, but he will face a 1968 kind of guy:
There is a Democratic candidate who is running against Moore (who prevailed in yesterday’s GOP primary runoff against Trump’s first choice, Luther Strange) in the Dec. 12 special election. He is Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who won the conviction of two members of the Ku Klux Klan who murdered four girls in a 1963 church bombing. Jones is running on a platform that includes more spending on education and opposition to tax cuts for the rich and to cuts to the safety net.
Sargent thinks that Doug Jones may have a chance here:
I spoke this morning with Jones’s senior strategist and media consultant, Joe Trippi. He said the Jones campaign would frame the coming contest as one “about integrity and character.”
“People in Alabama want a senator they can take pride in,” Trippi told me. “They don’t want to be embarrassed by Roy Moore.”
That might work:
Trippi noted that Moore had been removed as Alabama Supreme Court chief justice by a judicial ethics panel for defying the court order on the Ten Commandments’ monument; after running again and winning, Moore was suspended again by the panel after defying the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
“Having a senator you can take pride in is going to matter,” Trippi said, adding that Jones would campaign as someone who is “not throwing zingers out there every five minutes” and who is not a “stunt senator” or an “ideologue,” but rather “is actually going to listen to the other side and get things done. There’s no way Roy Moore is going to do that.”
When I asked him if Jones would go directly at Moore’s long history of anti-gay bigotry, Trippi said: “We’ll let Moore speak for himself. Doug Jones is going to be talking about jobs, health care, moving the country forward and uniting people, not dividing them.”
That’s nice, but those days are over. Trump has said it – “Here come da judge!” That has a different meaning these days. Those on the left will be judged this time, and they won’t like it, and that’s just too bad.
Perhaps so, but Robert Costa sees Donald Trump making the best of a bad situation:
As he headed to Huntsville, Ala., in a last-ditch effort to lift the floundering campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, President Trump was fuming – feeling dragged along by GOP senators who had pleaded with him to go and increasingly unenthusiastic about Strange, whom he described to aides as loyal but “low energy.”
His agitation only worsened on the flight back last Friday. Trump bemoaned the headlines he expected to see once Strange was defeated – that he had stumbled and lost his grip on “my people,” as he calls his core voters. He also lamented the rally crowd’s tepid response to the 6-foot-9 incumbent he liked to call “Big Luther.”
“Trump was never fully behind Strange to begin with,” former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Wednesday after Strange was trounced in Tuesday’s GOP primary in Alabama. “But the party coaxed and cajoled him to get on the Strange Train, and he did.”
And now there seems to be nothing left for him:
For Trump, the trip to Alabama marked the dispiriting start to one of the lowest and perhaps most damaging stretches of his already troubled presidency, leaving him further weakened and isolated with few ways out of the thicket of challenges he faces, according to a half dozen people close to him interviewed on Wednesday.
His political vitality within his party – counted upon by Republicans who fear primary challenges in next year’s midterm elections – suddenly stands in question, as neither his vocal campaigning nor millions of dollars from the Republican establishment could save Strange from defeat by insurgent challenger Roy Moore.
And add this:
Trump’s legislative agenda lies in tatters, as Senate Republicans failed again this week to rally around legislation that would gut former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He is also increasingly under siege by members of both parties for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, which has left Puerto Rico devastated and begging for help from Washington.
By Wednesday, the downtrodden president tried to start anew by unveiling a tax plan at an event in Indiana – a proposal immediately met with withering attacks from the left as a deficit-busting giveaway to the rich and from the right as not aggressive enough in slashing tax rates. The Drudge Report, influential among conservatives, dubbed it “more betrayal.”
This judge isn’t going to help him:
“In Alabama and with so many things, Trump has helped to light a fire he can’t control, and there’s no sign he knows how to get out of this situation,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who worked in George W. Bush’s White House. “It’s going to cause him to lash out more rather than less as he starts to feel like the walls are closing in.”
Several of Trump’s longtime friends and associates said he is doing what he always does in times of trouble: attempt to overwhelm with liveliness. But they acknowledged that Trump may not be enjoying the experience.
“I’m told he’s unhappy,” said veteran Republican consultant Roger Stone. “He’s surrounded by people who don’t understand politics and don’t understand why he won the presidency. Instead of sending a message in Alabama to get behind his policies, they sadly lost the opportunity.”
And there’s this:
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, stewed over their own fates, anxious that Moore, a former state Supreme Court judge, would become a national burden for the party because of the long list of incendiary comments he has made on race, religion and sexuality…
The atmosphere of uncertainty and recriminations following the Alabama race prompted Republicans, even those close to Trump, to feel urgency to pass something – anything – that could somehow stabilize the party.
“If there was ever a time when Republicans feel pressure to perform, it’s now,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. “If big things don’t get done by Thanksgiving, there really won’t be enough spin to say Republicans here have done anything but fail.”
E. J. Dionne says that seems unlikely:
In Alabama’s Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, Steve Bannon defeated Donald Trump. The state’s GOP voters showed how sharply divided their party is. And right-wing insurgents were given a license to challenge Republican incumbents all over the country in 2018.
Former judge Roy Moore’s victory over Sen. Luther Strange was a sign of just how extreme Republican rank-and-filers have become… Moore is now 70 years old and was twice suspended as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to obey laws he saw as at odds with his religious beliefs. Normally all this would be career-ending. But that was before the Age of Trump. “What Donald Trump has done,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, “is emboldened the Roy Moores of the world.”
That’s Trump’s problem now:
The most remarkable aspect of the Moore-Strange confrontation is how it became a test of wills between President Trump and Bannon, the avatar of nationalist conservatism ousted last month as the president’s chief strategist…
Bannon saw the Alabama contest as an occasion for teaching his former boss a lesson. Trump seems to think that his support base is so loyal to him that it will follow him anywhere. Bannon would beg to differ. He threw his all behind Moore’s candidacy to show that Trump’s movement is attached even more to a rebellious right-wing ideology than it is to the president himself.
Bannon got exactly what he wanted. “Ironically, given who Trump supported, what got Moore nominated is what got Trump nominated,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. “What’s going on is bigger than Trump, and he is just a vehicle.”
This really is a fire that’s out of control:
The good news for Bannon is very bad news for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who put millions of dollars behind the campaign to defeat Moore. Strange’s defeat came on the same day that McConnell was forced to back off his latest effort to repeal Obamacare. Taken together, the two events showed how the GOP is fractured several ways at once. Even as the party’s far right threatens to run rampant in future primaries, its more pragmatic wing in the Senate refused to rally behind a health-care bill destined to be deeply unpopular and rushed forward in a way that violated the norms of responsible legislating.
Bannon himself is determined to make the job of Congress’s current GOP leadership as difficult as possible. At an election eve Moore rally, Bannon called out McConnell and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s top political adviser, by name.
“Your day of reckoning is coming,” Bannon declared.
It’s a statement that also applies to Trump. The message from Alabama is clear; he and his party have unleashed forces they cannot control.
“Here Come Da Judge!” Trump and the Republicans had better hide too.
Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin explain why:
Republicans are confronting an insurrection on the right that is angry enough to imperil their grip on Congress, and senior party strategists have concluded that the conservative base now loathes its leaders in Washington the same way it detested President Barack Obama.
The defeat of Senator Luther Strange, Republican of Alabama, in a primary election on Tuesday night appears to have ushered in a season of savage nomination fights and activist-led attacks on party leaders, especially on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. Despite enjoying the strong backing of President Trump, Mr. Strange lost by a wide margin to Roy Moore, a firebrand religious activist and former judge, who denounced Mr. Strange as a puppet of the Senate leader.
Mr. Strange’s demise, senior party strategists and conservative activists said Wednesday, makes it likelier that Republican incumbents in the House and Senate will face serious primary challenges in 2018, fueled by anger at the party’s apparent ineptitude at wielding power in Washington. Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist and a vehement antagonist of the party establishment, said on Tuesday night that he intends to target Republican senators in Mississippi, Arizona and Nevada for defeat.
Yes, the “peasants” are revolting, in both senses of that word:
Trent Lott, a former Senate Republican leader, was blunt: “Every Republican senator had better get prepared for a challenge from the far right.”
If nothing else, divisive intraparty battles could cost party donors tens of millions of dollars and weaken Republicans’ position in a year when Democrats were already poised to make gains, at least in the House. They could also reshape the party’s agenda, driving it further in the direction of Mr. Trump’s strain of nationalism rather than the more conventional, business-oriented agenda espoused by Mr. McConnell and Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
This had gotten out of hand:
Republicans increasingly worry that their base’s contempt for Mr. McConnell is more potent than its love for Mr. Trump. Mr. McConnell could be an anchor around incumbents in the same fashion as Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, who is routinely used to undermine Democratic candidates. The loudest applause Mr. Moore received during an election-eve rally came when he declared, “Mitch McConnell needs to be replaced.”
In a memo about the Alabama election that circulated among Republican donors, Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” closely allied with Mr. McConnell, said primary voters were intensely angry and inclined to blame Republicans for dysfunction in Washington.
“The Republican Congress has replaced President Obama as the bogeyman for conservative GOP primary voters,” Mr. Law wrote, cautioning that the president was helping to amplify that point of view.
It’s a new world:
The convulsive mood on the right has considerably reshaped the political map for 2018, making a favorable list of Senate races somewhat less hospitable to Republicans. Two Republican senators, Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, have seen their poll numbers collapse after clashing with Mr. Trump and embracing unpopular legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In Tennessee, Senator Bob Corker, a well-liked lawmaker from a traditional Republican mold, on Tuesday became the first Senate Republican to announce that he would not seek re-election in 2018. His departure is likely to yield a contentious Republican primary, much like the one just concluded in Alabama.
The Alabama race “is going to inspire a lot of people,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview in Montgomery on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, there was this:
During an MSNBC interview on Wednesday morning, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) was asked to share his thoughts about Roy Moore, the homophobic and Islamophobic extremist who won a Republican primary election on Tuesday to fill an Alabama U.S. Senate seat, and who Trump quickly embraced on Wednesday.
“As a New Yorker, remember, Roy Moore is the guy who said 9/11 was God’s punishment for perverseness,” the host reminded Reed.
Reed – a Trump ally who stood by the president even after he defended the white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia last month – awkwardly tried to dodge the question.
“Well, my hope is Moore honors his commitment to the people of Alabama to get things done for the people back home,” Reed said.
The host pushed back, asking Reed, “You’re not rattled by those views?”
Reed again tried to dodge.
“Well, you know, obviously, the concern that he has expressed, and the, ah, rhetoric that he was expressed – I’ll let him answer to that question,” Reed said. “But the bottom line – he has to govern, just like we have to govern. We’re going to be held accountable by the people that we represent, and now it’s time to deliver for them.”
The video at the link shows how painful that was, as was this:
A short time later, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) joined MSNBC and was also asked about Moore.
“We talked about some of the things that Moore says he believes, like that homosexual conduct should be illegal, that 9/11 was God punishing U.S. perverseness, a personal belief President Obama was not born in the U.S. – if Roy Moore ends up winning in December, will you welcome him to the Senate? Do you have an issue with any of these things he’s saying?” the host asked him.
Hoeven dodged, saying “I haven’t had a chance to look through all of those things,” before adding that to him, “the key is going to be… what he does when he comes here.”
“Is he going to join with us and get the things done that are going to help our country and the American people?” Hoeven said. “Let’s give him a chance.”
That was generous, but Politico has more:
The day after Moore handily defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Luther Strange – who was backed by both McConnell and President Donald Trump – his potential future Senate GOP colleagues insist they’re not aware of the years of inflammatory comments and actions by the Alabama jurist. And they’re not going to “pre-judge” Moore at all because, well, he’ll just be one of 100 senators and they’re all equal in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.
Well-trained by now in ducking the latest Trump verbal or online gaffe, the only thing that matters for party leaders is what Moore does from now on – not what he’s done before.
All they could say was that they knew nothing of what everyone else knows:
“I don’t know anything about Roy Moore,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “If I’ve read anything he’s said, I wouldn’t have any recollection of it.”
“I don’t know him. I think I’ll leave it there,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who laughed when asked about Moore. “I supported Luther Strange.”
“I’ve never met the gentleman,” said Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson. “Being from Georgia, which is next to Alabama, I’ve heard his name in the Alabama Supreme Court. I know what I’ve seen on TV and what I’ve read in the papers.”
So what does Isakson think about Moore? “I like to keep my comments to my own.”
That was the general idea:
“He’s entitled to his opinion. This is America, you can believe what you want,” declared Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. Is Moore a racist or homophobe? “You’re gonna have to talk to him about that.”
Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada – who faces a potentially tough primary and general election challenge this cycle – told The Associated Press that he wasn’t even aware that Moore had won the Alabama Republican primary on Tuesday, despite a day of nonstop TV coverage of the race about what his victory meant for Trump, McConnell and the GOP.
“Who won? I wasn’t paying attention,” Heller said. “I’m just worried about taxes.”
Who, me? I know nothing about anything. I’m proud of that. Ask someone else.
That was the problem:
Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby backed Strange over Moore in the race to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But after Moore’s primary win in heavily red Alabama, Shelby predicted he’d be victorious in December.
Shelby, though, was less eager to talk about Moore’s record.
“Roy Moore is unique,” Shelby said cautiously. “A lot of people have history up here.”
When asked what Moore’s victory means for the GOP – whether winning is ultimately more important than the person who is elected – Shelby said, “I’m gonna leave that up to y’all.”
There was only one exception to all this:
There was one Republican who admitted to knowing about Moore’s record and not liking it – Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.
“Yeah, I know his history,” Flake said in an interview. “I’m obviously not enamored with his politics because that’s not the future of the Republican Party, that’s for sure.”
Well, guess what. Here Come Da Judge! Roy Moore is the future of the Republican Party. Get used to feeling like the unfortunate defendant on Laugh-In long ago – without the laughs. Those words aren’t funny anymore.