The Akin mutation
It looks like Missouri Republicans are stuck with Todd Akin, since he passed the deadline without dropping out of the race on Tuesday. He could theoretically still resign his candidacy before September 25, but it would be considerably more difficult, and require permission from state judges who might not be inclined to give it. Also, judging by the clueless tone Akin struck in his many media appearances on Tuesday, another month probably isn’t long enough for a clue to be delivered to him.
The efforts by Democrats to use Akin on a national level are well under way, including a remorseless campaign to surgically graft him on to vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The Democrats are trying to promote Akin into a junior associate spot on the Republican presidential ticket, even though Mitt Romney publicly called upon Akin to step aside yesterday. They’re also using Akin as a hammer to smash the pro-life plank in the Republican Party platform.
These efforts depend on mutating the Akin controversy, quietly re-writing the incident to make it seem as if the hapless Senate candidate’s pro-life views were the source of public outrage. That’s every bit as clueless as Akin’s repeated claims that he’s in trouble because he “misspoke one word.”
For example, in a typically stupid and vicious New York Times column, Maureen Dowd works a Taliban reference into her attempt to link Akin and Ryan together: “Paul Ryan, who teamed up with Akin in the House to sponsor harsh anti-abortion bills, may look young and hip and new generation, with his iPod full of heavy metal jams and his cute kids. But he’s just a fresh face on a Taliban creed – the evermore antediluvian, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-gay conservative core. Amiable in khakis and polo shirts, Ryan is the perfect modern leader to rally medieval Republicans who believe that Adam and Eve cavorted with dinosaurs.”
Later, she raves about the “troglodyte tribe of men and Bachmann-esque women” who are “panting to meddle in the lives of others.” The really funny thing is that Dowd and her paper enjoy accusing other people of creating “climates of hate.”
Dowd does mention the truly offensive part of Akin’s disastrous TV interview, which she renders as “asserting that women have the superpower to repel rape sperm,” but the rest of her column is designed to mix this with Akin’s pro-life stance and smear all Republicans for “trying to cover up their true identity to get elected.” An Obama supporter accusing other candidates of lying about their true motives is almost as funny as a New York Times hatemonger accusing other people of creating “climates of hate.”
The name of the Democrat game is to link Akin’s stupid, ignorant comments about the improbability of pregnancy from “legitimate rape” with the pro-life position in general, and particularly the issue of whether to allow abortions for victims of rape. The idea they want to beam into the heads of American voters is that pro-lifers all think the way Akin does, and a belief in “superpowers to repel rape sperm” is necessary to question whether abortion should be allowed for women who become pregnant after sexual assault.
One of the things that made Akin’s comments so foolish is that they were completely unnecessary. Here, again, is the passage that got him in trouble: “Well you know, people always want to make it as one of those things where how do you slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question. It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But, let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
His weird attempt to minimize the frequency of rape pregnancies was not required to make the subsequent, much more crucial point that “the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” Plenty of people may disagree – various polls suggest that only 20 to 30 percent of Americans are in favor of outlawing abortion for victims of rape. But the point is a legitimate topic of challenging debate. It does not deserve to be conflated with widespread derision for whatever Akin claims he “understands from doctors” about the biological response to “legitimate rape.”
The Republican platform currently under post-Akin assault, but which existed long before anyone outside of Missouri ever heard of Rep. Akin, says nothing on the subject of allowing abortion for rape victims, one way or the other. Contrary to the disgusting slander pushed by people like Maureen Dowd, the legal definition of “forcible rape” is not equivalent to whatever Todd Akin meant by “legitimate rape.” The two are being deliberately confused in the effort to imply Paul Ryan thinks the same way Akin does, because Ryan voted on legislation that included language about forcible rape. Does the New York Times really need to send Dowd back to grade school, to learn the linguistic difference between “forcible” and “legitimate,” never mind the legal ramifications of the legislation she is misrepresenting?
On the day before Todd Akin’s now-legendary interview with Charles Jaco, serious people held passionate, thoughtful, conflicting convictions about the morality of abortion, in both routine and extreme circumstances. That was true the day after Akin spoke, too. There is nothing inconsistent about committed pro-lifers criticizing Akin’s foolish statements, which made him a poor champion of the ideals he wanted to promote, but did no damage whatsoever to the ideals themselves. Akin is under fire because of what he got wrong, not because he blurted out some hidden truth Republicans would prefer to discuss only at secret meetings.