The Magazine

No Moore in 2004

The Ten Commandments judge shalt not run.

Mar 1, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 24 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
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WHEN FORMER Alabama supreme court chief justice Roy Moore speaks in sympathetic venues, he is "treated like a rock star, signing autographs and getting thunderous standing ovations," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Moore's cult following (as well as his newly unemployed status) has prompted some of his more zealous supporters to suggest that Moore take his show on the road and run for president in 2004.

Moore, of course, became a household name after he erected a two-and-a-half ton monument of the Ten Commandments on public property (the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building) and then last year defied a federal judge's order to remove it.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund dedicated a column to the possibility of a Moore candidacy on the ticket of Howard Phillips's Constitution party. The Constitution party has the third-largest number of registered voters in the United States and was on the ballot in 41 states in 2000. If Moore gets "on the talk shows and stir[s] up conservative voters," Fund wondered, could he pose a threat to Bush in a close race, as Ralph Nader did to Al Gore in 2000?

Alas, the world will never know. Moore emphatically denies that he will challenge Bush this year, "period." Constitution party bigwig and sometime presidential candidate Phillips is an "old friend," says Moore. But the party's candidate for this cycle has already been selected, Phillips says. In fact, he "personally counseled [Moore] not to declare for office at this time."

Instead, Moore tells me, he's concentrating on a series of appeals to regain his seat on the Alabama bench. He has also teamed up with Georgia's Zell Miller, Sam Brownback of Kansas, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and a few other congressional stalwarts to introduce a bill to prohibit courts from preventing members of government from "acknowledging God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

The legislative route, says Moore, is the only way to rein in the activist courts. "Many people on the street have a sense that the courts have gone too far." The courts have "gotten into the business of making law, and it's bad law." They've removed God from public life and, in so doing, have undermined the "feasibility of a moral society."

And though he "understands what others are trying to do," he opposes the federal marriage amendment on the grounds that "you can't have a constitutional amendment for every act of immorality established by the courts."

Some will no doubt think it's a shame that Moore isn't running. His facility with the spoken word and unconventional stance on big issues like the marriage amendment could have provided an interesting contrast to the less verbally gifted candidates. One shivers to imagine the flights of rhetorical fancy that would have been unleashed by the Roy Moore/Alan Keyes ticket of which a few right-wingers dare to dream.

Despite Fund's scenario, in which Moore takes a dent out of Bush's support from the conservative base, numerous political analysts (between snickers and giggles) stress that the Constitution party has, thus far, utterly failed to emerge as a force in national campaigns. Moore might have provided a diverting rhetorical sideshow in a race full of verbal gaffes, but would otherwise have been unlikely to make or break the Bush campaign's ongoing efforts to keep conservatives happily in the fold.

Perhaps, though, if the Bush campaign wanted to hedge against the possibility of even a remote third-party threat, the president might consider tapping Judge Moore as poet laureate.Because it turns out that Moore--the conservative hard-liner given to quoting George Washington, Blackstone, and far more obscure constitutional commentary at length, from memory--has been writing poetry for years.

At the end of our chat, Moore honored me with a short recitation of one of his original works. He has turned his poetic gifts to such themes as the Declaration of Independence and "the spiritual battle raging" in "our great nation." But, as he humbly points out, "we all start off with love poems."

With only the slightest prompting, he launches into a poem that he wrote for his wife, Kayla, shortly after he was appointed to the bench. "The Verdict" consists of rhyming couplets tying together judicial imagery and romance. "Condemned to a life of marital bliss / Our fate was sealed by a very first kiss . . ."

But perhaps the rest of the poem, like Moore's campaign for the Oval Office in 2004, is best left to the imagination.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.