So President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans think Roy Moore, the GOP Senate nominee from Alabama, should quit his Senate run only "if these allegations are true."
If true? Four women, on the record in The Washington Post, say Moore, when he was in his 30s, tried to date them as teens, and one of the women says he had sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Perhaps Republicans expect video and DNA evidence from 1979 magically to emerge, or a confession by Moore? (He denies the allegations.) More likely they are just dodging so that they can stick with Moore and keep the seat Republican — even if it means having an alleged pedophile join their caucus.
By comparison, there was more integrity in the defense of Moore offered by Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who told the Washington Examiner that, even if true, "there's just nothing immoral or illegal here." Indeed there's biblical precedent for Moore's alleged behavior.
"Take Joseph and Mary," Zeigler said. "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus."
Let us take seriously Zeigler's justification, which is consistent with Moore's view that "God's laws are always superior to man's laws," and the Bible stands above the Constitution and other piddling laws of man. It is true that the Bible does not say "thou shalt not strip to thine tighty whities and kiss a 14-year-old and touch her through her bra and underpants." The Bible also does not specifically prohibit colluding with the Russians, accepting emoluments, money laundering or conspiracy against the United States. So Moore, and for that matter President Trump and his administration, has nothing to worry about.
But if we are to accept the Bible literally as the legal standard (and not, say, age-of-consent laws), we will also have to accept as legal certain other activities in 21st-century America, including:
Sacrificing as a burnt offering your young son (Genesis 22:2) or your daughter, if she comes out of the doors of your house to meet you (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5).
Having rebellious children stoned to death by all the men of the city (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
Cutting off the hand of a woman if she grabs the penis of a man who is fighting with her husband (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).
Committing incest (Genesis 19:31-36) and cannibalism (2 Kings 6:28-29).
And having the military do all sorts of things to the enemy that would violate the Geneva accords:
Kill all boys and women but spare the girls who have not known man intimately for yourself (Numbers 31:17-18).
Destroy all that they have, killing man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel and donkey (1 Samuel 15:3).
If we are going to take biblical law as the literal legal standard, we're also going to have to ban some staples of modern life:
Non-submissive women (Ephesians 5:22).
Blended fabrics (Leviticus 19:19), rounded haircuts (Leviticus 19:27), tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), rude jokes (Ephesians 5:4), divorce (Luke 16:18) and using automobiles or electricity on Sabbath (Exodus 35:3).
Additionally, women will not be allowed to teach in houses of worship (1 Timothy 2:12), men will not be allowed in at all if their genitals have been injured (Deuteronomy 23:1), and blind people, dwarves and the lame will not be allowed at the altar (Leviticus 21:17-23).
I intend no disrespect to the Good Book — just pointing out a flaw in Zeigler's and Moore's selective application of it as a legal code. You don't have to be under shariah law (which, Moore has said, is in force in parts of Illinois and Indiana) to recognize that using the Bible as a literal source of law poses some challenges.
In this case, Moore's long-ago behavior will never be adjudicated in a court of law. Yet even Zeigler, in offering his biblical defense, appeared to acknowledge truth at the core of it: Moore getting romantically involved with teens when he was in his 30s.
There's no allegation of sexual intercourse, he said, and "Roy Moore fell in love with one of the younger women." That would be his wife, Kayla, who Zeigler says is 14 years his junior and whom he was dating around that time.
You don't need a judge and jury, Republicans, to determine that there was something icky going on or that there is something dangerous in having as a senator a man who places God's law over man's — and then interprets God's laws to suit himself.
— Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.