I try not to write about about the exact same topic on this blog, certainly not two posts in a row. Although I wrote about the Todd Akin controversy on Monday, I am still so fired up about it that I find myself unable to write about anything else today.
On one hand, I apologize for the heavy political turn the blog is thereby taking this week. The good news is that I've already written Friday's post, and I can assure you that it is the opposite of political.
On the other hand, whatever. This is where the national conversation is. If you're tired of the chatter and want to push away from the table, I get it. Hopefully, you'll be hungry again Friday, and I'll see you then.
With that, here we go.
If my brain had a mouth, it would be agape. The fall-out from Akin's statement is as confounding to me as the statement itself. There are two principal reasons.
The first is the utter tone-deafness of Akin and his remaining supporters. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the blindly political tack they are taking frustrates me almost to tears.
Akin has been derided for his comment by nearly every segment of our society -- from scientists to comedians to radio hosts to babysitters. Yes, he has received a tongue-lashing from the media and from his fellow politicians, too. But here we have that rarest of occasions when The Media and The Politicians of all colors and stripes are saying the same thing: Mr. Akin, your comments are counter-factual. They are counter-intuitive. And you have become counter-productive.
Heavy-hitters within the Republican establishment called on Mr. Akin to step aside before yesterday's deadline to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race. They include ranking Republicans in the House and Senate, Karl "Money Bags" Rove, and Mitt Romney himself.
Mr. Akin refused. In fact, he fought back. Right after he told candidate Romney to go mind his own business, he blamed the "liberal media" for making a mountain out of a molehill. Uhh....please refer to the forty-thousand foot sampling provided above. Unless Mr. Akin's definition of "liberal media" is as crack pot as his definition of "legitimate rape," he seems to be the long-lost fourth monkey of the heretofore "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" trio. Maybe his name is "Rape No Evil."
What's more, Akin is trying to boil the entire controversy down to his "missp[eaking] one word in one sentence on one day." He accordingly blames all of us for our "overreaction." As if we are all simply fuming because he put "legitimate" in front of "rape."
Even if that were the sum total of his boneheadedness, I feel pretty good about the legitimacy of the griping over his illegitimate use of a modifier before a word that already encapsulates the legitimately horrific crime that is rape. As we all know, though, Akin's statement included his proposition that a female body has a big burly bouncer at the velvet rope in front of her Fallopian tubes. A bouncer that throws rape sperm out on their tails. And voila! No pregnant rape victims!
This is not an issue of word choice, of course. This is an issue of respect, dignity, empathy, and basic intelligence. The problem with Mr. Akin's statement is not that he chose the wrong words to make it, but that he made it at all. That he made it is evidence that he thought it. That he thought it worth repeating is evidence that he believes it. That he believes it is evidence that he understands neither rape nor women nor biology. That he wants to proceed apace to national leadership is horrifying.
Amazingly, he's not alone in trying to spin his way out of this. A major endorser of his, the Family Research Council, reiterated its strong support of Akin on Monday afternoon. In a statement, they moaned that this whole brouhaha was simply a case of "gotcha politics." More specifically, the President of the FRC's Action PAC (ie. political fundraising arm) said:
“I know nothing about the science or the legal implications of his statement . . . .I do know politics, and I know gotcha politics when I see it.”
Oh my sweet bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Just to really make your eyes bleed, I'd like to inform you that the speaker of that little gem is....a....WOMAN.
Hey there, missy. You're going to try to duck and weave a statement that is both highly offensive and biologically wackadoodle to go with the "woe is us, shame on them" counter-offensive? You're willing to profess a lack of comprehension about the basics of your own reproductive system, but you're going to play "I Spy" with political shenanigans? This isn't gotcha politics. Gotcha politics is a campaign ad that plays a sound bite from a speech 12 years ago and then a sound bite from a speech 12 days ago to point out the contradictions. If this is gotcha anything, it's gotcha humanity. As in, hey, humanity, you gotcha a real jerk in your midst and he wants to be one of your elected leaders. Just thought you should know.
The second aspect of this fall-out that has my mind in a twist is the reaction of the Republican party. Yes, it is good and I suppose slightly reassuring that so many of them have so uniformly come out to publicly condemn Mr. Akin's statement and his senatorial bid. But. But as Maureen Dowd put it, this may just be a case of the Republican leaders trying to lock the crazy uncle in the attic before he ruins the family picnic.
I remain optimistic enough to cling to the belief that most Republicans do not ascribe to the Akin Model of Female Sperm Mongering. I do trust that most of them understand that a woman can't control whether she has a period or not with her mind.
What I do not trust are the rest of their insinuations surounding the abortion issue. Methinks their plans on that point line up pretty squarely with the rest of Akin's position on it.
The same day -- THE SAME DAY -- that all those Mitts and Pauls and Johns were trying to get Akin to shut up and get out, the Republican platform committee held a meeting. The platform committee goes by that name because it, um, sets the platform for the Republican party. So it's a good name. Yesterday, in preparation for the Republican National Convention where Mitt Romney will get all the balloons dropped on him, the platform committee approved language calling for an amendment to the federal Constitution that bans abortions. Period. There is no "except" clause in the approved language. As in, there's not even an exception allowing for an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or the best interests of the mother.
And Paul Ryan himself, the man who could be our Vice President, not only went halvsies with Akin in co-sponsoring the House bill outlawing taxpayer funding of abortions except in cases of "forcible" rape, he also co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act. That's known as a "personhood" amendment -- very similar to the one endorsed by Republican party leaders on Tuesday -- that would give a fertilized egg "all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood." In other words, whatever is guaranteed to you and me under the federal Constitution would also be guaranteed to a zygote that hasn't even made its trip to the uterus. That means that, under the equal protection clause, we'd have to apply our laws against murder to the zygote, so abortion's out. So, too, some forms of contraception and maybe even in vitro fertilization.
The loudest Republican voices are decrying Akin. Romney campaigners are insisting that the Republican party's platform is one thing and Mitt's is another. Paul Ryan is saying that he was kidding with the whole "forcible rape" thing and that if Mitt wants to allow for abortions in the case of rape, well, then, that's his call as President and his explaining to do at the pearly gates.
Who are we to believe? What are we to believe?
WHAT IN THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?
I'm afraid I have a guess.