My 2003 interview with Alabama's future U.S. Senator Roy Moore made me wonder: Were his sights set on the US Senate AND the Presidency?

September 27, 2017

Moore by his personally commissioned monument about the time that I interviewed him in May of 2003 

 

 

When I interviewed a brazenly smooth Roy Moore in 2003, his lawyer prophesied that Moore might one day become a US senator and possibly - even our president. 

 

After winning last night's GOP special primary, Moore seems a shoo-in to become the next Alabama US Senator. Last night he offered his victory party a personal solo of "How Great Thou Art."

 

In May of 2003. he wasn't singing when I met the then-Alabama Chief Justice Moore. My assignment with World Magazine was to find out what made this Vietnam veteran and freshly controversial guy tick. 

 

He'd just garnered national news by personally paying to commission a statue of the Ten Commandments, then sticking it in the middle of Montgomery's State Courthouse as if to say, "Deal with it."

 

Back then I wrote about the resultant scene I encountered in Montgomery. "Atheists marched and Christians knelt. A lanky teenage boy blew his shofar over the Alabama Judicial Courthouse steps as a lone man on horseback circled the judicial house seven times, praying. Sixteen network broadcast trucks ringed the judicial courthouse, aiming massive satellite dishes skyward while reporters swarmed the complex."

 

Moore had risen from being a circuit court judge. When he stuck the monument in the rotunda, hordes of Alabamans (and Americans) loved it. When told to remove it, Moore said he answered to God alone. 

 

His moral certitude shone like a sheriff's polished tin star. It was only natural that I was eager to meet him.

 

Walking into his judge’s chambers, I was struck by two things: he was smarter than the mainstream press made him out to be; and two, he enjoyed the hype.

 

He seemed to revel in feeling he was right. He seemed to like the hullabaloo. 

 

The day of his ethics hearing, I wrote that the watching crowd in the courtroom was filled with “about 200 onlookers, whose seats in first- and second-floor chambers were harder to secure than Alabama or Auburn football tickets, plus two overflow rooms, and there was high drama.” 

 

And they weren't disappointed.

 

A highly respected state Attorney General Billy Pryor, a man of deep conservative Christian faith, argued that Judge Moore couldn’t willy nilly set up the massive monument. Pryor later was appointed by President George W. Bush as circuit judge in the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He was mentioned to fill Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's seat. 

 

Then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor prosecuted fellow conservative Roy Moore. 

 

With Moore sitting nearby, Pryor said, "No judge is above the law. … The stakes here are high because this case raises a fundamental question: What does it mean to have a government of laws and not of men?"

 

Pryor also said that as much as Moore’s personal sentiments might be admired, the state couldn’t let him or anyone simply do whatever he or she wanted or it could “lead to anarchy.” 

 

An ethics panel of nine appointees of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary ruled that Moore had overstepped his powers and they removed him from office.

 

Moore smiled through it all, eyes glinting, and I had a sense that he knew he’d “lost” his judicial seat but gained a political future. 

 

I interviewed one of Moore's attorneys, who felt no disappointment. He actually seemed elated that they had lost. He told me Moore’s future was bright.

 

I asked that May day in 2003, "So what now? Despite the ruling, Mr. Moore left the courtroom a popular figure with 'no regrets'; with members of his family, he exited to a standing ovation from admirers. One of his attorneys, Terry Butts, told The Birmingham News Mr. Moore will 'be back as a U.S. Senator.... He may be back as governor.' Another member of the Moore legal team, Jim Wilson, told the paper: 'This is the kind of guy you want to elect as president.' "

 

Last night, a state seeking to reclaim a sense of certainty and security about its cultural future chose Roy Moore as its likely US Senator. They turned to him over another seemingly solid conservative - more experienced- candidate for the same reason they liked him more than a respected conservative Bill Pryor when Pryor forced Moore to leave office and to take down the Ten Commandments. 

 

They like this man's public certainty that God is behind him.

 

Last night Moore told his victory party celebrants that he "never prayed to win this campaign" and that he simply had left his political fate "in the hands of the Almighty."

 

His early followers didn't seem so patient about his future.

 

Now the question must be asked—Does Moore have yet another office set in stone in the back of head and in his heart? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MississippiMatters is a news blog of cooperative writers, videographers and podcasters published by  The Well Writers Guild, a 501c3 devoted to mentoring Mississippi writers and to addressing uncovered or under-covered topics.  MississippiMatters focuses on offering creative "takes" on our state's culture, ideas, events and more.