Alabama Teaches America a Lesson All of us need to sober up, think about the long term, and be aware of the impression we’re making.

In 2018, we have to do better, all of us. We need to improve. In the area of politics this means, in part: sober up, think about the long term, be aware of the impression you’re making, of what people will infer from your statements and actions. So much hinges on the coming year—who is in Congress and what they think they were sent there to do, the results of the Mueller investigation. If the latter finds crimes and the former goes Democratic there will be moves for impeachment in 2019. There will be international crises as always, but 2018 may produce one of unprecedented historical gravity in nuked-up North Korea.

This is a dead-serious time, and we keep forgetting it because the times have been serious so long.

Senator-elect Doug Jones

Senator-elect Doug Jones

It might help if all public actors, from leaders and investigators to journalists and voters, made a simple vow to make it a little better, not a little worse. The other night a dinner partner marveled at the expensive new fitness monitor he wears on his wrist. I wish there were an Ethical Fitbit that could report at the end of each day that you’d taken 12,304 constructive steps, some uphill, or 3,297 destructive ones, and appropriate action is warranted.

There is inspiration in the Alabama outcome. To see it in terms of the parties or Steve Bannon is to see it small. The headline to me: American political standards made a comeback. Roy Moore’s loss was not a setback for the GOP; it was a setback for freakishness. It was an assertion of prudential judgment by the electorate, and came as a relief. A friend landed at JFK on an international flight on election night. As the plane taxied to the gate, the pilot came on the PA and announced that Doug Jones was in the lead. The entire plane, back to front, burst into applause. “A big broad nerve was hit in this thing,” said the friend, an American and political conservative. He meant not only here but around the world.

Thirty-three states have U.S. Senate races next year. Primary voters should absorb what happened to Alabama Republicans after they picked Mr. Moore. They took it right in the face. They misjudged their neighbors. They were full of themselves. They rejected the sure victories offered by other contestants and chose a man whom others easily detected as not well-meaning. They weren’t practical or constructive and they didn’t think about the long term. They didn’t, for instance, take into account that there were independents in the state whose support could be gained with the fielding of a more serious Republican.

And now they’ve lost it all. Voters in coming primaries should observe and absorb. There is something we have been saying in this space for almost a decade, since the Sarah Palin experience. Something happened when she ran. Suddenly to seem real and authentic some Republican candidates thought they had to be polar and extreme. They had to show umbrage, signal resentment, wave guns. But these are not indications of authenticity. They are a sign voters are being played, probably by a grifter. When a candidate is equable and experienced it is not a sign of cynicism and not evidence that he is “establishment.” It’s a sign he can maybe do a good job—and win. Conservatives who are real conservatives don’t ape the social-justice left and make politics a daily freak show. They keep their cool, argue their case, build broad appeal and become, in this way, politically deadly.

Which gets us as always to President Trump. The Alabama number that should scare him was in the exit polls. In 2016 Mr. Trump won the state with 62% of the vote, to Hillary Clinton’s 34%. Tuesday night the exits had him at 48% approve, 48% disapprove. And this within a national context of good economic news.

Mr. Trump’s political malpractice has been to fail, since his election, to increase his popularity and thus his power. He has a core but it remains a core. He could have broadened his position with a personal air of stability and moderation, and with policies that were soft-populist. He has failed to do so, primarily due to his self-indulgence—his tendency to heat things up when he should cool them down; his tendency always to make the situation a little worse, not a little better. His tweets, his immaturity, his screwball resentments and self-pity alienate and offend.

Trumpism led by a competent or talented Trump would have been powerful and pertinent to the moment. It would have reoriented the Republican Party in terms of understanding that its own base was increasingly populist, yet also ideologically moderate. That new understanding hasn’t developed.

The great and fateful question now, the one to which we may well get an answer in 2018, is: Can this man lead through a crisis? That is the question that has to be on your mind when you think about North Korea. Can he be credible, persuasive; will Americans feel they can follow him? Will the West? No one looks forward to finding the answers to these questions.

As to his foes in the other party, the biggest silence in American political life is not from the Republicans, who can’t stop arguing. It is from the Democrats when they are asked what they stand for. What economic policy do they want? What is the plan, the arrangement they hope to institute? What philosophy are they trying to put in place? What in terms of foreign policy do they want?

Domestically the only thing they’re clear on is identity politics. Who’s going to unite or find the place of common ground between the rising left and the older middle? What program can accomplish that?

Donald Trump has been a great gift to the Democrats. Opposition to him is the one thing that keeps them united. But he won’t be there forever—they’ll try to see to that!—and when he’s gone, the squirrels will really begin to fly.

Finally the FBI, the Justice Department and the special counsel look dinged right now. Those who support serious probes to answer big questions and thus support the Russia investigations, as I do, hope whatever findings come from the special counsel are and can be treated with respect. To earn it the investigators must appear every day to be clean as a hound’s tooth. Is that how it’s looking? Or are critics getting ammunition?

Snotty, partisan text messages between FBI investigators, including one in which an agent said he could “smell” the Trump supporters at Walmart, expressed anti-Trump biases. Government employees have a right to political opinions, but the FBI, Justice Department and special counsel should be running a tighter ship. During the Clinton-Lewinsky wars, the left went after Independent Counsel Ken Starr, sliming him as surrounded by Republican operatives. It did him, and America, no good.

We are a divided country. The special counsel’s findings could prove momentous. Everyone involved should sober up, think about the long term, and be aware of the impression they’re making.

Al Franken Departs Without Grace And a reminder for Alabama voters and social conservatives that character is crucial.

Al Franken has promised under pressure to step down from the U.S. Senate “in the coming weeks.” He was not accused of such grave crimes as rape or preying on underage children. He was accused instead of grabbing, fondling, lunging at and humiliating seven women. If true, and I think we see a pattern here, this would make him a pig, a bully and a hypocrite. His departure, while personally sad, is no loss to American democracy.

It was not mad Puritanism that chased him from office; it was his colleagues’ finally, belatedly announcing and establishing standards of behavior. This is not an unreasonable or unhelpful thing to do.

Senator Al Franken

Senator Al Franken

Journalists and political figures of my generation have been wryly remembering what we had to put up with in the old days—how a woman couldn’t get on an elevator with Sen. Strom Thurmond without being pinched or patted. All true. But even Thurmond would not have survived a photo of him leering over a sleeping woman and posing—deliberately, perhaps sadistically, so the moment could be memorialized—as he grabbed or simulated grabbing her breasts, which is what Mr. Franken did. The Franken case represents not a collapse of tolerance for flawed human behavior but a rise of judgment about what is acceptable.

People speak of mixed motives and say it’s all brute politics. The Democrats are positioning themselves for the high ground should Republican Roy Moore be elected. They’re aligning themselves with the passions of their base, while clearing the way for a probe into sexual-harassment accusations against the president. New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the charge that forced Mr. Franken’s departure, hopes to run for president in 2020 as a champion of women, so the move was happily on-brand. I don’t doubt all of this is true. Little in politics comes from wholly clean hands.

The speech in which Mr. Franken announced he would leave was too clever. Rather than a quick, dignified statement in which he put the scandal on his back and bore it away, he spoke on the Senate floor for 11 minutes. He milked it. Modesty was called for, but he wasn’t modest. He spoke of hard work and sacrifice, said it often wasn’t fun, asserted he “improved people’s lives.” Of the charges: “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.” He seemed to want the female Senators who’d asked him to step down to feel guilty. As a senator, “I have used my power to be a champion of women, and . . . I’ve earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day.”

He named as a key issue fighting for “kids facing bullying.”

He took a hard shot at President Trump and Mr. Moore, finding “irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assaults sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.” The latter is not true, and a professional like Mr. Franken would know it. If Mr. Moore had the full support of his party, the polls would not be close, and Mr. Moore’s supporters would not be daily denouncing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment.

The bitter tone was odd in a speech summing up a political life, but perhaps he means to extend it. We’ll see. He spent a lot of time lauding the people of Minnesota.

Mr. Franken’s weakness as a political figure was having no sympathy for those who disagree with him, not bothering to understand how the other side thinks, while always claiming for himself the high moral ground. This now common attitude frays political bonds; once it was considered poor political comportment.

Mr. Franken is a media master who has spent his entire adult life in front of a camera. He will no doubt go on to write books, teach, go on television. “I’ll be fine,” he said. Who would doubt it? In coming years he may slyly position himself as the victim, long ago, of a mindless moral backlash. He is talented and this may come to be believed.

As for the Alabama Senate election, in a strikingly good New York Times essay this week, Commentary’s Sohrab Ahmari told Christian conservatives, especially those who’ll vote next week, some things they needed to hear. Mr. Ahmari stated forthrightly what many, including in this space, have been casting about for and not quite achieved.

Calling himself “a staunch social conservative,” Mr. Ahmari addressed evangelicals and social conservatives—“people I consider allies”—about their embrace of Mr. Moore, the subject of credible charges of sexual predation.

The question of how social conservatives “should practice politics in the age of Trump” has again presented itself, Mr. Ahmari observes. The president offers them “an appealing menu of policies and judicial nominations,” and it is understandable that they’d find them attractive “after a decade during which the left embraced a new, aggressive mode of secular progressivism and continued its war against tradition long after it had won most courtroom and ballot-box battles.”

But “vulgar populists” exact too high a price, Mr. Ahmari adds—namely, “complicity in the degradation, conspiracism, thinly veiled bigotry and leader-worship that is their stock in trade.” A public culture “informed by the Bible and traditional morality is essential to America’s constitutional order,” but the answer is not to accept “a terrible bargain” by backing men such as Moore.

Putting conservative judges on the federal bench “is not the only path to political success in America.” Mr. Trump picked Neil Gorsuch, to his credit. But any of the 2016 GOP contenders would have picked someone similar. We look to our leaders not only to enact policies but “to represent our nation on the global stage with the dignity that their offices demand.” American exceptionalism takes a hit every time the president demeans someone on Twitter; the Senate will be harmed if Mr. Moore is seated.

“Idolatry of class, nation, race and leader is a constant temptation for people of faith, and too many are succumbing to it today,” Mr. Ahmari writes. Supporters of Messrs. Trump and Moore are deeply and understandably pessimistic: “Many fear that under secularism’s relentless onslaught, Judeo-Christianity will be banished,” in time, from the public square. “I feel similar angst.”

But in our time “the Christian idea bested Soviet Communism, an ideology that was far more hostile to religious faith than America’s Enlightenment liberalism has ever been.” In America, Christians have “the First Amendment and freedom of conscience.” And there are other reasons for optimism. The sexual abuse scandals themselves suggest liberals may be rethinking “some aspects of the sexual revolution.”

Noting that “Christians are called to live in faith, hope and charity,” Mr. Ahmari urges them not let fear drive them to tie their fate to insufficient and inadequate leaders.

It is sound if hard advice: Don’t let your fears—even wholly legitimate ones—drive you. Hold on, have faith, retain standards.

In the short term this can be difficult. In the long run it’s the only way to win.

John Paul II’s Prescient 1995 Letter to Women He wrote of ‘the long and degrading history . . . of violence against women in the area of sexuality.’

Sometimes you have to take a step back, remove yourself from the moment, and try to ground yourself in what is true, elevated, even eternal. Let’s do that.

The week has lent itself to a feeling of instability. The president has deliberately added to the rancor and tension of his nation’s daily life, lurching in his tweets from mischief to malice to a kind of psychopathology—personal attacks, insinuations, videos from a group labeled racist by the British government. You always want to say he has reached peak crazy, but you know there’s a higher peak on the horizon. What will Everest look like? He has no idea how to be president.

More men of the media have fallen in the reckoning over sexual abuse, most famously a bright, humorous, ratings-busting veteran anchorman, who reportedly had a switch on his desk that locked his office door so he could molest the women he’d trapped inside. He had no idea how to be a man.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II during a meeting with young people in Turin, Italy.

Here is something to ground us in the good: Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Women, sent to the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing. As a document it has more or less fallen through history’s cracks. But it’s deeply pertinent to this moment and was written with pronounced warmth by a man who before he became a priest hoped to be a playwright. Here is what he said:

You would never be so low as to abuse women if you knew what they are and have been in the history of humanity: “Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage” in education and opportunity. Women have been “underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions.” Only a small part of their achievements have been documented, and yet humanity knows that it “owes a debt” to the “great, immense, feminine ‘tradition.’ ” But, John Paul exclaimed, “how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!”

In a highly personal tone—the italics are his—he offers his appreciation: “Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life—social, economic, cultural, artistic and political.” You “unite reason and feeling” and establish “economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.”

He thanked women who are mothers, daughters and wives: “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman.”

Women, he observed, have “in every time and place” suffered abuse, in part because of “cultural conditioning,” which has been “an obstacle” to their progress. “Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves, and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity.” Poor thinking and cold hearts have contributed to the conditioning; some blame “has belonged to not just a few members of the Church.”

Members of the Christian faith must look both back and forward. To free women “from every kind of exploitation and domination,” we must learn from “the attitude of Jesus Christ himself,” who transcended “the established norms of his own culture” and “treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness.”

There is “an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area; equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights.”

And listen to this alarm—again, from 22 years ago: John Paul hit hard on “the long and degrading history . . . of violence against women in the area of sexuality”: “The time has come to condemn . . . the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object, and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence.”

There is more, and I urge you to read it, but it is a very modern document, a feminist statement in the best sense. When a friend sent it this week and I reread it, what I thought was: If all the now-famous sexual abusers had ever pondered such thoughts (as opposed to parroting them on the air before flipping the switch and locking the door) and considered questions of true equality, they never would have done what they did. They wouldn’t have been able to think of women as things, as mere commodities to be used for imperial pleasure. They would have had to consider their dignity.

At the heart of the current scandals is a simple disrespect and disregard for women, and an inability to love them.

A few things on my mind as the scandals progress: Friends, especially of my generation, fear that things will get carried away—innocent men will be railroaded, the workplace will be swept with some crazy new Puritanism. A female journalist wryly reflected: “This is America—what’s worth doing is worth overdoing.”

This would be bad. America takes place in the office, and anywhere America takes place there will be the drama of men and women. It is not wrong to fear it will become a dry, repressed, politically correct zone, no longer human.

But the way I see it, what’s happening is a housecleaning that’s long overdue. A big broom is sweeping away bad behaviors and bad ways of being. It’s not pleasant. If you’re taking joy in it, there’s something wrong with you.

The trick is to leave the place cleaner, not colder.

Common sense will help. Offices aren’t for 10-year-olds but for adults. Deep down you know what abuse is: You can tell when someone’s taking or demanding what isn’t his. By adulthood you should also know what friendliness, appreciation and attraction are. But it comes down to whether someone is taking or demanding what isn’t his.

As for unjust accusations, it is true—they will come. Just accusations used to be ignored; in the future unjust ones will be heard.

Here the press will be more important than ever. They have just broken a scandal through numbers and patterns—numbers of accusers and patterns of behavior. If journalists stick to this while also retaining their deep skepticism and knowledge of human agendas, things will stay pretty straight. So far, American journalists have been sober and sophisticated, and pursued justice without looking for scalps. Human-resources departments will have to operate in the same way—with seriousness and knowledge of human nature.

My concern is something else. It is that young women, girls in high school, young women in college and just starting out, are going to have too heightened a sense of danger in the workplace, too great a sense of threat.

But there are more good men and women out there than bad.

There are more good ones than bad.

Know balance. Have faith.

The Sexual-Harassment Racket Is Over For a quarter century we had been stuck in He Said/She Said. Now predators are on notice.

This Thanksgiving I find myself thankful for something that is roiling our country. I am glad at what has happened with the recent, much-discussed and continuing sexual-harassment revelations and responses. To repeat the obvious, it is a watershed event, which is something you can lose sight of when you’re in the middle of it. To repeat the obvious again, journalists broke the back of the scandal when they broke the code on how to report it. For a quarter century we had been stuck in the He Said/She Said. Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas gave their testimonies, each offered witnesses, and the fair minded did their best with the evidence at hand while sorting through all the swirling political agendas. In the end I believed Mr. Thomas. But nobody knows, or rather only two people do.

New BroomWhat happened during the past two years, and very much in the past few months, is that reporters and news organizations committed serious resources to unearthing numbers and patterns. Deep reporting found not one or two victims of an abuser but, in one case, that of Bill Cosby, at least 35. So that was the numbers. The testimony of the women who went on the record, named and unnamed, revealed patterns: the open bathrobe, the running shower, the “Let’s change our meeting from the restaurant to my room/your apartment/my guesthouse.” Once you, as a fair-minded reader, saw the numbers and patterns, and once you saw them in a lengthy, judicious, careful narrative, you knew who was telling the truth. You knew what was true. Knowing was appalling and sometimes shocking, but it also came as a kind of relief.

Once predators, who are almost always repeat offenders, understood the new way of reporting such stories, they understood something else: They weren’t going to get away with it anymore. They’d never known that. And they were going to pay a price, probably in their careers. They’d never known that, either.

Why did this happen now? It was going to happen at some point: Sexual harassment is fairly endemic. Quinnipiac University released a poll this week showing 60% of American women voters say they’ve experienced it. Maybe the difference now is that the Clintons are gone—more on that in a moment. And maybe there’s something in this: Sexual harassment, at least judging by the testimony of recent accusers, has gotten weirder, stranger, more brutish. The political director of a network news organization invites you to his office, trains his eyes on you and masturbates as you tell him about your ambitions? The Hollywood producer hires an army of foreign goons to spy on you and shut you up? It has gotten weird out there. These stories were going to blow up at some point.

Sexual harassment is not over because sin is not over. “The devil has been busy!” a journalist friend said this week as another story broke. But as a racket it will never be the same.

*   *   *

Some great journalism, some great writing and thinking, has come of this moment. Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker pieces have been credible and gutsy on all levels. Masha Gessen’s piece in the same magazine last week warned of moral panic, of a blurring of the lines between different behaviors and a confusion as to the boundaries between normal, messy human actions and heinous ones. Rebecca Traister of New York magazine has argued that it is a mistake to focus now on the question of punishments, that maybe the helpful thing is to focus on what’s going on in our society that predators think they can get away with this.

Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic wrote the most important political piece in “ Bill Clinton : A Reckoning.” What is striking about this moment, she argued, is not the number of women who’ve come forward with serious allegations. “What’s remarkable is that these women are being believed.” Most didn’t have police reports or witnesses, and many were speaking of things that had happened years ago. “We have finally come to some kind of national consensus about the workplace; it naturally fosters a level of romance and flirtation, but the line between those impulses and the sexual predation of a boss is clear.”

What had impeded the ability of victims to be believed in the past? The Bill Clinton experience. He was “very credibly” accused, as Ms. Flanagan wrote, of sex crimes at different points throughout the 1990s— Juanita Broaddrick said he violently raped her; Paula Jones said he exposed himself to her; Kathleen Willey said she went to him for advice and that he groped and assaulted her. These women “had far more credible evidence” than many recent accusers. “But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced.” He was rescued instead by “a surprising force: machine feminism.”

That movement had by the ’90s devolved into a “partisan operation.” Gloria Steinem in March 1998 wrote a famous New York Times op-ed that, in Ms. Flanagan’s words, “slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed” the victims and “urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused.” This revealed contemporary feminism as “a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.” Ms. Steinem characterized the assaults as “passes,” writing: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment.”

Ms. Steinem operated with the same logic as the skeeviest apologist for Roy Moore : Don’t credit any charges. Gotta stick with our team.

Ms. Flanagan: “The widespread liberal response to the sex-crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behavior of Harvey Weinstein : Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms.”

The article called for a Democratic Party “reckoning” on the way it protected Bill Clinton.

It was a great piece.

I close with three thoughts.

The first springs from an observation Tucker Carlson made on his show about 10 days ago. He marveled, briefly, at this oddity: Most of the accused were famous media personalities, influential journalists, entertainers. He noted that all these people one way or another make their living in front of a camera.

It stayed with me. What is it about men and modern fame that makes them think they can take whatever they want when they want it, and they’ll always get away with it, even as word, each year, spreads. Watch out for that guy.

Second, if the harassment is, as it seems to me, weirder and more over the top now than, say, 40 years ago, why might that be?

Third, a hard and deep question put quickly: An aging Catholic priest suggested to a friend that all this was inevitable. “Contraception degenerates men,” he said, as does abortion. Once you separate sex from its seriousness, once you separate it from its life-changing, life-giving potential, men will come to see it as just another want, a desire like any other. Once they think that, then they’ll see sexual violations as less serious, less charged, less full of weight. They’ll be more able to rationalize. It’s only petty theft, a pack of chewing gum on the counter, and I took it.

In time this will seem true not only to men, but to women.

This is part of the reason I’m thankful for what I’m seeing. I experience it, even if most women don’t, or don’t consciously, as a form of saying no, this is important. It is serious.

Alabama Women, Say No to Roy Moore This tribune of the common folk and their earnest ways allegedly preyed on the unprotected.

Alabama has its back up, or at least its Republicans and conservatives do, and it’s understandable. They don’t like when Northerners and liberals and people in Washington tell them who their senator should be. They don’t like when reporters from outside come down and ask questions and turn over rocks looking for what’s crawling on the underside. There’s always an underside. Man is made from crooked timber.

People from the Deep South feel culturally patronized. This is because they are. Reporters from outside don’t admire or relate to them; when a Washington Post journalist presented as fact, in a 1993 news report, that evangelical Christians are “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command,” you know he was thinking of Southern evangelicals. Hollywood has long cast Southerners as witless and brutish in films from “Inherit the Wind” to “Deliverance” and “Mississippi Burning.”

Politically, Southern conservatives have long decried a double standard. Ted Kennedy spent much of his life as a somewhat inebriated roué whose actions caused the death of a young woman, but now we’re instructed to call him the Lion of the Senate. Bill Clinton was worse than Roy Moore. Mr. Clinton was accused of rape, harassment and exposing himself, but his party backed him and he kept the presidency. Democratic Sen. Al Franken was credibly accused Thursday, by an anchor at KABC radio in Los Angeles, of groping and harassing her on a USO tour in 2006. When she resisted him, Leeann Tweeden wrote, “Franken repaid me with petty insults,” and took an obscene photo of her on the way home, as she slept. Will the liberal media dig into Mr. Franken as they have dug into Mr. Moore? Or is he too good a source and friend?

Alabama Republicans are accused of mere tribalism in sticking with Mr. Moore, who has been accused of repeated sexual predation on teenage girls. But serious policy issues are at play in the December election, including ones that have to do with our character as a nation. Here is one. Alabama is one of the most pro-life states in the nation. Alabamans take abortion seriously and are profoundly opposed to partial-birth abortion, the aborting of a child so late in gestation that it could survive outside the womb, with or without medical assistance.

Most of Europe outlaws late-term abortion. They see the very idea of it as barbaric. As it is.

Roy Moore is against partial-birth abortion. His Democratic challenger, Doug Jones, was asked his position by Chuck Todd, in an interview in September on MSNBC.

Mr. Todd: “What are the limitations that you believe should be in the law when it comes to abortion?”

Mr. Jones replied: “I am a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body.”

Mr. Todd: “You wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?”

Mr. Jones: “I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose.”

If you care about late-term abortion, that is enough reason to oppose Mr. Jones. It is not surprising that Mr. Moore’s supporters would stick with him when seen through that light.

But still: It won’t do. All the above having been said, Alabamans who continue to back Mr. Moore are making a terrible mistake.

Just because something is understandable doesn’t mean it’s right. The charges against Mr. Moore are not only serious; they are completely credible.

If you read the original Washington Post story, you know it was rigorously reported, with great care and professionalism. Four women who did not seek out the press, who did not know each other, and who surely guessed going public would bring them nothing but grief, came forward and provided first-person details that established a pattern. Thirty people corroborated details. This is not attack journalism. It is great journalism.

If Roy Moore had a long and demonstrated history of randomly attacking children with a baseball bat, or if the FBI announced it had found in his possession a stash of child porn, Moore supporters would never back him. But that, in a way, figuratively, is what he stands accused of doing. His “porn,” his addiction, was cruising malls for young women, often teenagers. His “attacking children” was moving sexually on those young women and leaving them damaged.

Women around the world are moving against predators, harassers, bullies, rapists. It is inspiring. The legalities of the Alabama race may be at an impasse, but it would be good to see Republican women in the state lead a charge and insist on someone else. Find another conservative. There are plenty in Alabama.

I put it on the women because Republican men there right now are lost. They are busy playing to every stereotype every bigot ever held about them. They are busy comparing Roy Moore and his victims to St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. They are busy leaving phone messages falsely claiming to be Washington Post reporter “Bernie Bernstein,” offering big cash for dirt on Mr. Moore. They are busy saying they’d vote for any Republican over a Democrat. Gotta be loyal to your own.

They have been busy making themselves look like fools.

There is another reason Republican and conservative women should rise up. It has to do with the victims Moore chose.

Who were the girls he targeted? Interestingly, this tribune of the common folk and their earnest, believing ways allegedly preyed mostly on the unprotected. He chose young women he could push around. Some came to him at his law office, bringing with them all the problems of broken America—child-custody fights, violent divorces, bounced checks. They worked at Red Lobster, at a mill, on the night shift at Sears.

A thing about predators, from the men of the Catholic Church sex scandals to the man cruising the mall, is that they never prey on the protected. They don’t prey on the daughter of the biggest family in town, the child of the man who owns the factory or the local newspaper. They tend to prey on kids with no father in the home.

Tina Johnson “was 28 years old, in a difficult marriage headed toward divorce, and unemployed,” AL.com reported of the latest accuser, Wednesday. “She was at the office to sign over custody of her 12-year-old son to her mother.”

As they left the office, she said, Mr. Moore molested her. She told no one, not even her mother.

That is a tell, that she didn’t tell her mother. They almost never tell the mother. She’s got enough going on. Maybe she can’t handle more. Maybe she’s not interested in handling more.

Often the victims had had brushes with the law. Predators can smell that: It means no one will believe them if they talk.

Roy Moore targeted the deplorables. They were people with no sway, no pull. Some of them, in the presidential election, voted for Donald Trump.

There are better conservatives in Alabama than Roy Moore. Republican women, rise up and raise hell. That would be real loyalty, and to those who are really your own.

Will Virginia Teach Trump Fans a Lesson? A plurality of college-educated whites supported him in 2016. This week a majority went Democratic.

Look, it wasn’t just Virginia. It was Westchester and Nassau counties in New York. And in Virginia it wasn’t only the governorship the Republicans lost. When all the votes are counted, their 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates may turn into a minority.

The Democrats had a big night Tuesday, and the president of the United States took it right in the kisser. And it was all about him.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday talking to Virginia Republicans, from centrists to hard rightists. Not one expressed surprise at the outcome. All acknowledged the cause was Donald Trump.

Polling StationAbout future prospects, the state Republican Party was blunt. Yes, out-of-state money and groups had an impact, as did Republican congressional inaction. But 68% of voters under 45 voted Democratic, and Republicans lost nonwhite voters 80% to 20%. “If we do not find a way to appeal to these two groups,” the party chairman said in a statement, “the results will be grim.”

A smart, experienced Republican elected official: “It was a total repudiation of Trump—no other way around it. Voters, more women than men, were literally walking in and saying ‘I’m here to vote against Trump.’ The name of the victim on the ballot didn’t matter.” Accomplished mainstream legislators lost along with bomb throwers.

Mr. Trump lost Virginia last year by 5%, worse than Mitt Romney’s 3% defeat, and distributed differently. “Trump in 2016 lost in the growing areas—suburban, diverse—and won big in the shrinking areas—rural, white,” the official observed. “The suburban educated women problem will grow in states that are getting bigger and more diverse. We have hitched our wagon to the shrinking team.”

And although “it was a suburban bloodbath,” it went “well beyond the suburbs. Losing so many seats in our House of Delegates was historic—half of the losses in Northern Virginia, but losses too in Virginia Beach, where we have military population, and the Richmond suburbs.” Gov.-elect Ralph Northam is from the Virginia Beach area.

The official explains: “The female backlash about Trump is in part a response to the resurgence of male chest-thumping following Hillary’s demise and Trump’s victory. Trump has unleashed men to be more oblivious to real sexism at a time when women are feeling liberated by the demise of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, etc. They can’t vote against Harvey or Bill, but they can vote against Trump and anyone remotely near him.”

A GOP political operative who worked on one of the Virginia races said “there is a Catch-22: We can’t win with Trump, and we can’t win without him.” Republican Ed Gillespie worked hard, but “authenticity matters.” He made a fortune as a lobbyist and political strategist—a swamp creature. Trump supporters didn’t embrace him as a friend.

Mr. Trump’s first year has left almost everyone embittered: “Democrats are furious at Trump, and rational Republicans are deeply depressed. Regular Republicans feel nothing is getting done—I heard this everywhere I went.”

The bottom line is that the election was about Mr. Trump: “How do you win when your leader has an approval rating of 35%?”

From a 45-year Virginia resident, a conservative with libertarian impulses: “A lot of Virginians are more or less moderate-to-liberal.” Mr. Northam was “nonthreatening—a doctor, former military,” and “as long as Democrats sound moderate, they’ll do OK.” This Virginian thought the weather significant: “It rained all Election Day. People had to be highly motivated to come out. The people who are anti-Trump are highly motivated!”

From a 30-year Northern Virginia resident and conservative intellectual: “Midterm elections almost always go against the party in the White House, and Trump hasn’t changed that. But look, Trump is very unpopular—I won’t dispute ‘friggin’ hated’ for much of the country, maybe most. and Republican attempts to repeal ObamaCare are particularly unpopular.” Health care was the top issue to Virginia voters; exit polls showed those for whom it was most important went Democratic 77% to 23%.

Finally, from a New York-based political veteran: “It was a referendum on Trump, and he lost. Fifty-seven percent of Virginia voters disapproved of him, half of them strongly. It was the higher end of Blue America unloading on him. Whites with college degrees gave 51% of their vote to the Democrat. Last year Trump won that demographic [in Virginia] 49% to 45%. They turned up at the polls as 41% of electorate. Last year it was 38%. They went out of their way to unload on him, and succeeded.”

He thought Tuesday was also a verdict on Trump’s equivocations after Charlottesville: “Trump and Steve Bannon treated Charlottesville as a nonevent. Virginia voters thought otherwise.” The administration’s “marriage to the alt-right comes with a cost.”

The larger picture? We’re in the early scenes of big change. We’re seeing the gradual cratering of both parties. Tuesday night obscured this for the Democrats and highlighted it for the Republicans. Democrats are split between moderates and a rising progressive left, which has all the energy, enthusiasm and intellectual action. Mr. Trump united the Democrats in Virginia. That won’t last forever.

The Republican Party is divided by serious questions about its essential purpose, and by Mr. Trump. As the Virginia officeholder observed: “Trump’s divisiveness makes it more challenging to have a center-right Reaganesque approach, because it’s all about Trump—you’re either not praising him enough or not attacking him enough. . . . All the oxygen is Trump or anti-Trump.”

The threat for Democrats is that they’ll overplay their hand—that heady with their first big win since Barack Obama’s re-election, they’ll go crazy-left.

If they are clever they will see their strong space as anti-Trump, socially moderate and economically liberal. Will they be clever? Hunger encourages discipline, and they are hungry. But emboldened progressives will want to seize the day.

Tuesday night’s losses could have a helpful effect on Trump enthusiasts. They imagine the number and strength of his supporters as bigger than it is. They imagine his opponents as unappreciative sellouts: Trump has won and will continue to win, you just don’t get it. After Virginia, they must surely see trouble. Donald Trump has not built support in the middle, he’s alienated it. The press’s antipathy to Mr. Trump is real and unchangeable, but you cannot blame all his problems on it. Pros get around the press, use it as a foil and straight man, and speak every day to independents, centrists and the softly aligned.

Mr. Trump has not been able to do this. It is the big story of the year since his election—that he has not a growing base but a smaller, so-far indissoluble core.

The parties are each in an existential crisis. The Democrats, split between the Sanders/Warren progressive vision and the old Clinton vision, will fight more passionately among themselves as 2020 approaches. The Republicans are left knowing that day by day, Mr. Trump is crashing. The wiser of them suspect that when he’s gone, what replaces him is nothing. Because the Republican Party is riven and no one knows what it stands for anymore.

In both parties there is too much distance between the top and the bottom. In both, ambivalent leaders are chasing after voters they no longer understand. That is the second big fact since Trump’s election.

Finding Relief on the Streets and at the Office Terrorists are much weaker than we feared in 2001. And sexual harassers are suddenly more vulnerable.

New York

In 2001 I thought it would be a suitcase bomb, a homemade nuclear device, not airplanes going into buildings. I’d felt something coming, had written of it, but that day, amid all the grief and carnage, I felt a lurking relief. I’d feared worse—tens of thousands gone, parts of the city rendered uninhabitable.

I feel a version of that relief now, after Tuesday’s truck attack downtown, within the shadow of the Freedom Tower. Barely three hours later, on Lexington Avenue from the 90s through the 70s, the streets were crowded with kids and parents out for Halloween. The mood was not a sag-shouldered “This is the new normal,” but a collected sense of “We can handle this.” There was an air of gallant enjoyment. It made the emotionalism of the mayor’s remarks—“We will not be cowed”; “This action was intended to break our spirit”—seem both hyped up and rote, and appropriate to another time.

Halloween

Near the scene of the terror attack in New York City, Oct. 31.

Yes, ISIS is here; yes, this will happen again, and security is appropriately high for this weekend’s marathon. But it’s obvious, and has been for some time, that we’re in a different moment, a different part of the battle. For months and then years after 9/11, we feared al Qaeda would hit us again, harder. Sixteen years later what we see is a series of single, random-seeming acts by weak, stupid, highly emotional men who read propaganda sites and become excited in the way of the weak, stupid and highly emotional. Their attacks are low-tech, limited.

Graeme Wood had a smart piece for the Atlantic hours after the attack. “The details strongly suggest that the man was a complete idiot,” Mr. Wood wrote of the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov. “I harp on Saipov’s apparent stupidity for one reason: As long as Islamic State’s attackers are idiots like Saipov, our societies can probably handle them. . . . The Idiots’ Crusade is a manageable problem. Much less tolerable would be a campaign of competent terror—the kind of mayhem enabled by training, like the 2015 Bataclan killers in Paris had, or by patient planning, as Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas did.”

Continued vigilance is in order: “As Islamic State loses territory, the greatest danger remains the prospect that some of the battle-hardened fighters will return home, raising the average IQ of attackers, and making possible attacks that would be many times more deadly than this one.”

The bad guys now seem incompetent. But the bad guys will never go away, and it is to the deep and everlasting credit of U.S. law enforcement, especially the New York City Police Department, that they have been so contained. Some day they’ll hit us hard again, so no relaxation of efforts is possible. But right now it feels more like Britain’s long struggle with the Irish Republican Army than an existential threat, and we must be thankful when feelings improve. This was my small epiphany Tuesday night as I moved among people dressed as bumblebees, Pharaohs, Godzilla and an angel with black wings. I liked the gallant enjoyment. I shared it.

*   *   *

Here we shift to another thing that has changed, this one permanently. Before it goes away as a regular front-page story—and it will, because as Thoreau said, once you’re familiar with a principle you become less interested in hearing of its numerous applications—it must be noted that what has happened the past month regarding sexual harassment in the workplace is epochal, a true watershed and long overdue.

The revelations will have a huge impact, not because men now understand that sexual abuse and bullying are wrong—they always knew, and for many the wrongness would have been part of the enjoyment—but because they now know, really for the first time, that they will pay a terrible price if their misbehavior is revealed. And from here on in, there’s a greater chance it will be revealed, and believed.

The price to be paid was the real lesson of the past few weeks of resignations and firings. Celebrity abusers understand the first paragraph of their obit will now include something like, “. . . but fell from his position of power in the sexual-abuse scandals of the 2010s.”

That there is a price to be paid will have a deterrent effect. Human sin won’t stop; harassment will continue—but something important happened here.

In July 2015 New York magazine put 35 women on the cover who alleged that Bill Cosby had sexually violated them. Until then it had been a cloudy, amorphous story. Suddenly it was no longer he-said/she-said: You saw the faces, read the testimony, and knew what Mr. Cosby really was. A year later Gretchen Carlson, and later others, went up against Fox News’s Roger Ailes ; her lawsuit was settled for $20 million. Then came the revelation of the Bill O’Reilly settlements.

But Black October for sexual harassers began with the New York Times stories by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuses and payoffs, followed by Ronan Farrow’s lengthy investigation in the New Yorker, and then on to other men in show business and the news media.

Something happened. Media outfits made a commitment—expensive in terms of resources, personnel and legal costs—to get the story. What they found was numbers—the sheer number of abusers and the number of accusers who’d testify. They discovered details that established patterns.

This is all good. And one of the things that fell is the phrase “everybody knew.” That is now a self-indicting phrase.

I close with a point that may grate on those who, like me, are glad at what has happened and wish to see just revelations continue.

The challenge is to pursue justice while keeping a sense of humanity. Human-resources departments terrified of costly lawsuits will impose more and stranger rules that won’t necessarily thwart bad guys but will harass good men. This is the way of things. Two recent anecdotes: At a yearly checkup, a male doctor went through his short list of how to stay healthy in New York. It included: don’t stray onto the curb, stay on the sidewalk, keep back from careening trucks that take a corner too tight and knock people down. I got it, I said—I take the arms of cellphone zombies and guide them a step back to keep them safe. I’d done it recently with a young woman. He got a poignant look. “I can’t do that now,” he said. If he put his hand on a strange woman’s arm, it might be misunderstood.

I was told the other day of a news executive who complimented his co-worker on her boots. He was later taken aside by a colleague: You can’t talk like that now! He hurriedly called the woman and apologized: He meant no offense, didn’t mean to sound leering. She said: Are you kidding? I knew it was a compliment, no offense at all.

That was human. Common sense is better than antihuman edicts.

It’s good the pendulum has swung. You want it to hit the bad guys hard, and leave the good ones untouched.

Trump May Be Following Palin’s Trajectory Support for her cooled due to antic statements, intellectual thinness and general strangeness.

The president has been understandably confident in his supporters. They appreciate his efforts, admire his accomplishments (Justice Neil Gorsuch, ISIS’ setbacks), claim bragging rights for possibly related occurrences (the stock market’s rise), and feel sympathy for him as an outsider up against the swamp. They see his roughness as evidence of his authenticity, so he doesn’t freak them out every day. In this they are like Sarah Palin’s supporters, who saw her lack of intellectual polish as proof of sincerity. At her height, in 2008, she had almost the entire Republican Party behind her, and was pushed forward most forcefully by those who went on to lead Never Trump. But in time she lost her place through antic statements, intellectual thinness and general strangeness.

The same may well happen—or be happening—with Donald Trump.

One reason is that there is no hard constituency in America for political incompetence, and that is what he continues to demonstrate.

Palin & TrumpThe first sign of political competence is knowing where you stand with the people. Gallup this week had him at 36% approval, 59% disapproval. Rasmussen has him at 41%, with 57% disapproving. There have been mild ups and downs, but the general picture has been more or less static. Stuart Rothenberg notes that at this point in his presidency Barack Obama had the approval of 48% of independents. Mr. Trump has 33%.

He proceeds each day with the confidence of one who thinks his foundation firm when it’s not—it’s shaky. His job is to build support, win people over through persuasion, and score some legislative victories that will encourage a public sense that he is competent, even talented.

The story of this presidency so far is his inability to do this. He thwarts himself daily with his dramas. In the thwarting he does something unusual: He gives his own supporters no cover. They back him at some personal cost, in workplace conversations and at family gatherings. They are in a hard position. He leaves them exposed by indulging whatever desire seizes him—to lash out, to insult, to say bizarre things. If he acted in a peaceful and constructive way, he would give his people cover.

He acts as if he takes them for granted. He does not dance with the ones that brung him.

Asked by reporters why he hadn’t issued a statement on the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger, he either misunderstood or deflected the question by talking about how he writes to and calls the families of the fallen. Other presidents, he said, did not do as much—“some presidents didn’t do anything”—including Mr. Obama. When former Obama staffers pushed back he evoked the death of Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son Robert, a Marine first lieutenant, in Afghanistan: “You could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Mr. Kelly, a private and dignified man, was said to be surprised at the mention of his son.

Soon after, Mr. Trump called Myeshia Johnson, widow of Army sergeant La David T. Johnson, and reached her in the car on the way to receive her husband’s casket. Someone put the call on speakerphone. A Democratic congresswoman in the car later charged that Trump had been disrespectful. In fairness, if the congresswoman quoted him accurately, it is quite possible that “He knew what he was signing up for” meant, in the president’s mind, “He heroically signed up to put his life on the line for his country,” and “But still it must hurt,” meant “I can’t imagine the grief you feel even with your knowledge that every day he put himself in harm’s way.”

And indeed Mr. Kelly, in a remarkable White House briefing Thursday, recounted what Gen. Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had told then-Gen. Kelly in 2010, when Robert died: “He was doing exactly what he wanted to do. . . . He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were, because we were at war.”

Mr. Kelly was moving, fully credible, and as he spoke you had the feeling you were listening to a great man. It was unfortunate that when the controversy erupted, the president defaulted to anger, and tweets. News stories were illustrated everywhere by the picture of the beautiful young widow sobbing as she leaned on her husband’s flag-draped casket. Those are the real stakes and that is the real story, not some jerky sideshow about which presidents called which grieving families more often.

This week Sen. John McCain famously gave a speech in Philadelphia slamming the administration’s foreign-policy philosophy as a “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” Fair enough—the famous internationalist opposes Trumpian foreign-policy notions. There are many ways presidents can respond to such criticism—thoughtfully, with wit or an incisive rejoinder.

Mr. Trump went on Chris Plante’s radio show to tell Sen. McCain he’d better watch it. “People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” he said. “I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won’t be pretty.”

FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were pretty tough hombres, but they always managed to sound like presidents and not, say, John Gotti. Mr. McCain, suffering from cancer, evoked in his reply his experience as a prisoner of war: “I’ve faced far greater challenges than this.”

That, actually, is how presidents talk.

I must note I get a lot of mail saying this is all about style—people pick on Mr. Trump because he isn’t smooth, doesn’t say the right words. “But we understand him.” “Get over these antiquated ideas of public dignity, we’re long past that.” But the problem is not style. A gruff, awkward, inelegant style wedded to maturity and seriousness of purpose would be powerful in America. Mr. Trump’s problem has to do with something deeper—showing forbearance, patience, sympathy; revealing the human qualities people appreciate seeing in a political leader because they suggest a reliable inner stature.

Meanwhile Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, goes forward with at least partial support from the president and vows to bring down the Republican establishment. But Mr. Trump needs to build, not level. He needs a Republican House and Senate if for no other reason than one day Robert Mueller will file his report, and it will be leaked, and something will be in there because special counsels always get something. It is Republican majorities—the Republican establishment—that the president will need to help him. He will need the people he’d let Mr. Bannon purge.

Meanwhile polls say the Republican nominee for Republican Alabama’s open Senate seat is neck and neck with his Democratic opponent.

Meanwhile the president absolutely has to win on tax reform after his embarrassing loss on ObamaCare. He shouldn’t be in this position, with his back to the wall.

None of this speaks of competence. And again, in America there is no hard constituency for political incompetence. Mr. Trump should keep his eye on Sarah Palin’s social media profile. She has 1.4 million Twitter followers, and her Facebook page has a “Shop Now” button.

What Bob Corker Sees in Trump His concerns are widely shared. The senator deserves credit for going on the record with them.

In early March I met with a dozen Republican U.S. senators for coffee as part of a series in which they invite writers, columnists and historians to share what’s on their mind. The consuming topic was the new president. I wrote some notes on the train down, seized by what I felt was the central challenge Republicans on Capitol Hill were facing. The meeting was off the record, but I think I can share what I said. I said the terrible irony of the 2016 campaign was that Donald Trump was the only one of the 17 GOP primary candidates who could have gone on to win the presidency. Only he had the uniqueness, the outside-the-box-ness to win. At the same time Mr. Trump was probably the only one of the 17 who would not be able to govern, for reasons of temperament, political inexperience and essential nature. It just wouldn’t work. The challenge for Republicans was to make legislative progress within that context.

It was my impression the senators were not fully receptive to my thought. Everyone was polite but things were subdued, and I wondered later if I’d gone too far, been too blunt, or was simply wrong. Maybe they knew things I didn’t. Since then I have spoken to a few who made it clear they saw things as I did, or had come to see them that way.

Senator Bob Corker

Senator Bob Corker

I jump now to the recent story involving Sen. Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. In August he said publicly that Mr. Trump had not yet demonstrated the “stability” and “competence” to be successful as president. Last weekend Mr. Trump, in a series of tweets, mocked the senator, calling him gutless and “Liddle Bob Corker.” Mr. Corker tweeted in response: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

After that he turned serious, in an interview with Jonathan Martin of the New York Times .

Mr. Martin asked if Mr. Corker was trying to “sound some kind of alarm” about the president. Mr. Corker said “the president concerns me.” He likes him, it isn’t personal, but “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House it’s a situation of trying to contain him.” He said there are “some very good people” around the president, “and they have been able to push back against his worst instincts. . . . But the volatility is, to anyone who has been around, is to a degree alarming.” In particular, he observed: “The tweets, especially as it relates to foreign policy issues, I know have been very damaging to us.”

Mr. Martin asked if Mr. Corker has Senate colleagues who feel the same way. “Oh yeah. Are you kidding me? Oh yeah.”

Mr. Martin asked why they did not speak out. Mr. Corker didn’t know: “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. There will be some—if you write that, I’m sure there will be some that say, ‘No, no, no I don’t believe that,’ but of course they understand the volatility that we are dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes from people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Among them are Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chief of Staff John Kelly : “As long as there’s people like that around him who are able to talk him down, you know, when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision is made. I think we’ll be fine.” He said of the president: “Sometimes I feel like he’s on a reality show of some kind, you know, when he’s talking about these big foreign policy issues. And, you know, he doesn’t realize that, you know, that we could be heading towards World War III with the kinds of comments that he’s making.”

This is all pretty striking from a sitting senator, even one not running for re-election.

At roughly the same time, some sharply critical pieces on the president were coming from the nation’s newspapers. The Los Angeles Times had a story on Mr. Trump’s reaction to Mr. Kelly’s efforts at imposing order on the White House: “The president by many accounts has bristled at the restrictions.” The article quotes allies of the president describing him as “increasingly unwilling to be managed, even just a little.” A person close to the White House claimed Messrs. Kelly and Trump had recently engaged in “shouting matches.” In the Washington Post, Anne Gearan described the president as “livid” this summer when discussing options for the Iran nuclear deal with advisers. He was “incensed” by the arguments of Mr. Tillerson and others.

Also in the Post, Michael Kranish interviewed Thomas Barrack Jr. , a billionaire real-estate developer and one of the president’s most loyal longtime friends. Mr. Barrack delicately praised the president as “shrewd” but said he was “shocked” and “stunned” by things the president has said in public and tweeted. “In my opinion, he’s better than this.”

Thursday, Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman said he’d spoken to a half-dozen prominent Republicans and Trump associates, who all describe “a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.” Mr. Sherman reported two senior Republican officials said Mr. Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty, “to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.” An adviser said of Trump, “He’s lost a step.” Two sources told Mr. Sherman that several months ago, former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned the president the great risk to his presidency isn’t impeachment but the 25th Amendment, under which the cabinet can vote to remove a president temporarily for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

There are a few things to say about all this. First, when a theme like this keeps coming up, something’s going on. A lot of people appear to be questioning in a new way, or at least talking about, the president’s judgment, maturity and emotional solidity. We’ll be hearing more about this subject, not less, as time goes by.

Mr. Corker deserves credit for going public with his reservations and warnings. The U.S. is in a challenging international environment; it’s not unfair or unjust to ask if the president is up to it and able to lead through it.

But we are a nation divided on the subject of Donald Trump, as on many others, and so this is a time to be extremely careful. Unnamed sources can—and will—say anything. If you work in the White House or the administration and see what Mr. Corker sees, and what unnamed sources say they see, this is the time to speak on the record, and take the credit or the blows.

What a delicate time this is. Half the country does not see what the journalists, establishment figures and elites of Washington see. But they do see it, and they believe they’re seeing clearly. It’s a little scary. More light is needed.

The Culture of Death—and of Disdain Why do Americans own so many guns? Because they don’t trust the protected elites to protect them.

When news broke at Christmastime five years ago of what had happened at Newtown a friend, a news anchor, called and said with a broken voice: “What is the word for what we feel?” I thought for a moment. “Shattered,” I said. “We are shattered, all of us.” When people in ensuing days spoke of what had been done to the little children in the classrooms, I’d put up my hands and say no, we can’t keep putting those words in the air, we can’t afford it. When terrible images enter our heads and settle in, they become too real, and what is real is soon, by the unstable, imitated, repeated.

When Columbine happened in the spring of 1999, it hit me like a wave of sickness. I wrote a piece about the culture of death that produced the teenage shooters: “Think of it this way. Your child is an intelligent little fish. He swims in deep water. Waves of sound and sight, of thought and fact, come invisibly through that water, like radar. . . . The sound from the television is a wave, and the sound from the radio; the headlines on the newsstand, on the magazines, on the ad on the bus as it whizzes by—all are waves. The fish—your child—is bombarded and barely knows it. But the waves contain words like this, which I’ll limit to only one source, the news:

Gun Rack“. . . was found strangled and is believed to have been sexually molested . . . had her breast implants removed . . . took the stand to say the killer was smiling the day the show aired . . . said the procedure is, in fact, legal infanticide . . . is thought to be connected to earlier sexual activity among teens . . . court battle over who owns the frozen sperm . . . contains songs that call for dominating and even imprisoning women . . . died of lethal injection . . . had threatened to kill her children . . . had asked Kevorkian for help in killing himself . . . protested the game, which they said has gone beyond violence to sadism . . . showed no remorse . . . which is about a wager over whether he could sleep with another student . . .

“This is the ocean in which our children swim. This is the sound of our culture. It comes from all parts of our culture and reaches all parts of our culture, and all the people in it, which is everybody.”

We were bringing up our children in an unwell atmosphere. It would enter and distort them. Could we turn this around?

And here is the horror for me of Las Vegas: I was not shattered. That shatters me.

It was just another terrible story. It is not the new normal it is the new abnormal and deep down we know it’s not going to stop. There is too much instability in our country, too much rage and lovelessness, too many weapons.

On television, the terrible sameness. We all know the postmassacre drill now. The shocked witness knows exactly what the anchor needs and speaks in rounded, 20-second bursts. Activists have their bullet-point arguments ready because they used them last time and then saved them in a file called “Aurora,” “Virginia Tech” or “Giffords, Gabby.”

We are stuck, the debate frozen. The right honestly doesn’t understand why the left keeps insisting on reforms that won’t help. The left honestly doesn’t understand how much yearning there is among so many conservatives to do something, try something, make it better. They don’t want their kids growing up in a world where madmen have guns that shoot nine rounds a second. Many this week at least agreed bump stocks can be banned. It probably won’t help much. But if it helps just a little, for God’s sake, do it.

But: Why do so many Americans have guns? I don’t mean those who like to hunt and shoot or live far out and need protection. I don’t mean those who’ve been handed down the guns of their grandfather or father. Why do a significant number of Americans have so many guns?

Wouldn’t it help if we thought about that?

I think a lot of Americans have guns because they’re fearful—and for damn good reason. They fear a coming chaos, and know that when it happens it will be coming to a nation that no longer coheres. They think it’s all collapsing—our society, our culture, the baseline competence of our leadership class. They see the cultural infrastructure giving way—illegitimacy, abused children, neglect, racial tensions, kids on opioids staring at screens—and, unlike their cultural superiors, they understand the implications.

Nuts with nukes, terrorists bent on a mission. The grid will go down. One of our foes will hit us, suddenly and hard. In the end it could be hand to hand, door to door. I said some of this six years ago to a famously liberal journalist, who blinked in surprise. If that’s true, he said, they won’t have a chance! But they are Americans, I said. They won’t go down without a fight.

Americans have so many guns because drug gangs roam the streets, because they have less trust in their neighbors, because they read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” Because all of their personal and financial information got hacked in the latest breach, because our country’s real overlords are in Silicon Valley and appear to be moral Martians who operate on some weird new postmodern ethical wavelength. And they’ll be the ones programming the robots that’ll soon take all the jobs! Maybe the robots will all look like Mark Zuckerberg, like those eyeless busts of Roman Emperors. Our leaders don’t even think about this technological revolution. They’re too busy with transgender rights.

Americans have so many guns because they know the water their children swim in hasn’t gotten cleaner since Columbine, but more polluted and lethal.

The establishments and elites that create our political and entertainment culture have no idea how fragile it all is—how fragile it seems to people living normal, less privileged lives. That is because nothing is fragile for them. They’re barricaded behind the things the influential have, from good neighborhoods to security alarms, doormen and gates. They’re not dark in their imagining of the future because history has never been dark for them; it’s been sunshine, which they expect to continue. They sail on, oblivious to the legitimate anxieties of their countrymen who live near the edge.

Those who create our culture feel free to lecture normal Americans—on news shows, on late night comedy shows. Why do they have such a propensity for violence? What is their love for guns? Why do they join the National Rifle Association? The influential grind away with their disdain for their fellow Americans, whom they seem less to want to help than to dominate: Give up your gun, bake my cake, free speech isn’t free if what you’re saying triggers us.

Would it help if we tried less censure and more cultural affiliation? Might it help if we started working on problems that are real? Sure. But why lower the temperature when there’s such easy pleasure to be had in ridiculing your mindless and benighted countrymen?