What is being lost as Republicans — the number dwindling every day — defend Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore from allegations of sexually assaulting teenage girls?
There is a cost to defending Moore. Don't kid yourselves that there is no cost to it.
And something is lost. So what is it?
With a corrupt establishment political center collapsing of its own rotten weight and the left pulling one way and the right pulling another, it seems that politics is everything to us now.
Yes, we have our tribes, our rhetorical weaponry and our mantras that we tweet at each other, again and again, like shamans on a mountaintop, until the words themselves begin to lose meaning. But politics isn't everything.
For the record, I believe the women who have accused Moore. And I think it would be best for the nation, for the United States Senate and the state of Alabama if Roy Moore just walked away and disappeared somewhere.
But as long as he fights this, even as more women come out with their accounts of what happened years ago and reports surface about how Moore, in his 30s, trolled shopping malls for teenage girls, there is the temptation for some in the GOP to defend him.
Unfortunately, that means casting doubt on the memories and the pain of the women giving their accounts of what happened when they were girls, some as young as 14 and 16, when Moore allegedly put his hands on them.
He calls all this a lie, threatens to sue The Washington Post and says he's the victim of the Democrats and the establishment Republicans. His answers seem incomplete and remarkably thin. He signed his name in a girl's yearbook? He can't remember the name of the restaurant where he met one of them, where an alleged assault took place?
Many of those still defending him, from Moore diehards in Alabama to those in the Breitbart sphere, can't stand the Democratic Washington political establishment, and they detest, perhaps even more so, the Republican establishment. I understand their concerns. They see giving any credence to the stories about Moore as capitulation to their enemies.
But that is politics.
The one thing we don't lose in all of this is our vast reserves of political hypocrisy. American politics is incapable of running a hypocrisy deficit.
Speaking of which, remember when Democrats rallied around their big dog, then-President Bill Clinton? Feminists and other Democrats trashed and ridiculed women who dared go public with their allegations against the most powerful man in the world.
"If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find," said James Carville, one of the lead Clinton defenders, about Paula Jones.
That was the beginning of team Clinton's "nuts-and-sluts" strategy.
"Did the president have a sexual relationship with this young lady? No," said then Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel on CNN, talking of White House intern Monica Lewinsky. "Did the president ask this young lady to lie? No," Emanuel continued. "That's what matters in a media frenzy about rumor and gossip. (You've) got to get back down with the facts."
The White House was in chaos then. And Emanuel climbed chaos as if it were a ladder. These days, as mayor of Chicago, he's a wealthy and powerful man. So he didn't lose much. He's too silky to take any blame.
But when it comes to politics and sexual predators, we know some facts. We know that Clinton was a sexual predator. His defenders — including his wife — protected him. The nation suffered.
And now, some 30 years later, the left has discovered that character counts, and that there should be some kind of reckoning.
Democrats had their chance. And many were silent and many others were loud and public in their trashing of women to benefit Clinton. And it appears that Roy Moore is a sexual predator as well. So, 30 years from now, will the Republicans who defend him remind us that character counts?
What is lost in all this isn't mere political advantage. And it's not the chance to forge human suffering into a weapon and use it to bash the brains out of political opponents so that your side, not the other side, may grab the levers of government power and win great treasure.
What is lost isn't the hysterical rantings of tribal partisans using the Moore allegations to trash the GOP while conveniently and cynically ignoring the Clinton history and the Democrats trashing women.
That kind of selective raving can be read on almost every news site now. All that is about is winning and shaming the other side. It's all about pure tribalism and clicks on a news site. It brings no light.
Republicans see this, and they dig their heels in; they take their swings and the Democrats take their swings, and it gets even worse.
So what is lost when partisans are sent out to conveniently lie, to trash a woman for telling us what happened to her at the hands of powerful men?
And what happens when, in our desire to win at politics, we grab eagerly at such silky partisan lies and devour them as if they were nourishment in our political fights?
What is lost is decency.
America has lost too much decency already. We can't afford to lose any more.
So go away, Roy Moore. Just go away.
John Kass has covered a variety of topics since arriving at the Chicago Tribune in 1983. Kass has received several awards for commentary and journalism, from organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi, the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Press Club of Atlantic City, the Chicago Headline Club's Lisagor Award for best daily newspaper columnist. In 1992, Kass won the Chicago Tribune's Beck Award for writing. to readmore of his reports, Click Here Now.