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Cornyn betrays party with embrace of Moore

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Dallas Morning News Editorial

Sen. John Cornyn's endorsement this week of Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate from Alabama is a new low not just for the former jurist and ex-Texas attorney general, but for the party he claims to love.

We had hoped, as many have, that Cornyn would stand against the tide of populist, nativist and exclusionary politics that have come to dominate the Republican Party in Texas and elsewhere. That hope has now been all but extinguished.

Moore has twice served as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and has disgraced himself each time. Both times, he defied the Supreme Court and the Constitution, and both times a panel of Alabama officials removed, or in the most recent case suspended, him from office.

This is why Cornyn backed Moore's opponent in last month's GOP primary runoff. "Getting thrown off the Supreme Court of your state twice, I don't think, is a credential that commends you for membership in the United States Senate," he said.

That's the plain truth, and it is as true today as it was then. But Cornyn on Wednesday joined a handful of other Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in endorsing Moore anyway. Cornyn said Moore as senator would be "a tireless advocate led by principle rather than politics."

And Cruz? Astoundingly, he hailed Moore -- who has now twice been removed from office for defying the Constitution -- for his "lifelong passion for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

Cruz's decision and his say-anything rationale do not surprise. The junior senator has built his career on putting himself at the front of a movement that seeks to destroy what used to be the mainstream wing of the Republican Party.

Cornyn, however, has been the embodiment of that wing of the party, and has prided himself on bipartisan efforts to pass ambitious legislation and, albeit quietly, has stood up for trade, immigration and other traditional GOP priorities.

Cornyn is certainly under pressure. Steve Bannon has declared war against Republicans insufficiently loyal to Trumpism. This week, Sean Hannity called out Cornyn as an enemy of the Trump movement, despite a voting record almost perfectly aligned with the president.

And as majority whip, of course Cornyn wants to keep the seat from Alabama in the Republican column.

But if taking the right course wasn't hard, it wouldn't require courage. Besides, Cornyn's embrace of Moore doesn't just put party over principle. It puts power over party.

What will remain of a Republican Party whose leaders are so desperate to preserve its power that they cozy up to a Senate candidate like Moore?

Cornyn may find that soon enough the party he seeks to preserve will no longer be one he recognizes.