John Cornyn, R-Texas, leaves Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office in the Capitol on Oct. 8, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Senate Republican leader flunks the Roy Moore test

Updated

With Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election drawing closer, Senate Republicans are gradually falling in line, announcing their official support for Roy Moore, despite his record of extremism. Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) joined the parade, endorsing the radical GOP nominee.

When NBC News’ Frank Thorp asked Cornyn if he agrees with Moore’s contention that homosexuality should be illegal, the Texas Republican said something interesting:

“I don’t have to agree with somebody to support them over the Democratic nominee. I support the nominee of my party.”

When Thorp pressed further, noting that Moore also believes religious minorities he disapproves of shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress, Cornyn was similarly unmoved.

“I have disagreement within my own family, [it] doesn’t mean I care for them any less, so I support the nominee of my party.”

In other words, Roy Moore is a Republican, therefore he’s entitled to Republicans’ support. A candidate’s record, beliefs, and agenda are ultimately meaningless so long as he has an “R” after his name.

As a result, we’re left with two unsettling possibilities: either Cornyn and others like him are prepared to support literally any Republican nominee, no matter how dangerous or offensive, or Cornyn and his allies believe Moore just isn’t enough of an extremist to warrant an objection.

And at this point, I’m not sure which of these is correct. If Republican primary voters nominated a Senate candidate with a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and a record of violence towards women – they haven’t, but just a hypothetical exercise – would John Cornyn tell reporters, “I don’t have to agree with somebody to support them over the Democratic nominee”? I sincerely hope not, but his comments yesterday opened the door pretty wide.

The GOP Senate leader said he supports the nominee of his party because he’s the nominee of his party. End of story.

But if we give Cornyn the benefit of the doubt, and say he wouldn’t support an imagined Senate candidate with a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and a record of violence towards women, that necessarily means he’s untroubled by Roy Moore’s record. In other words, Cornyn may not like Moore’s extremism, his contempt for democracy, and his belief that he can ignore court rulings he doesn’t like, but these aren’t deal-breakers.

Rather, they’re inconveniences that Cornyn and his allies are willing to overlook in pursuit of expanded partisan power – because in their minds, every other principle or consideration is a distant second on the Republican Party’s list of priorities.

John Cornyn

Senate Republican leader flunks the Roy Moore test

Updated