Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mitt Romney's Latest Headache: Rep.Todd Akin’s Rape/Abortion Remarks

by Nomad
Just when you may have thought the Republican party couldn’t get any more ignorant and hypocritical, in one fell swoop, a remark by the Tea Party nominee in the Senate race for the state of Missouri has demonstrated that the party has untapped reserves of both.

On a recent St. Louis TV program Rep. Todd Akins was asked about women’s reproductive health issues, and whether his anti-abortion stand included an exemption for rape. He replied that it did not. Why? Because in those cases, he claimed, a woman’s body will somehow know to end the pregnancy itself. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

There was immediate outrage by women’s groups, which is a fairly predictable result whenever a politician- especially a male one- is foolish enough to put the words “legitimate” and “rape” together in the same sentence. (It's also an effective way to isolate yourself at a cocktail party, I might add.)  
Apologists for the Congressman- where they could be found- shrugged off the remarks as just a poor choice of words and (c'mon guys!) an artificial controversy. 


As one source explains:
Todd Akin went on Mike Huckabee’s radio show today to try to explain that when he said “legitimate rape,” he really meant “forcible rape.”

Oh... ok. 

Critics charged that to use the word “legitimate” implies that there is legitimate rape and there is (at least, in Akin’s mind) something else. In the real world, rape is rape, whether forcible or coercive. 
(There is, of course, the concept of statutory rape which refers to “sexual activities in which one person is below the age required to legally consent to the behavior,” meaning sexual with a child. However, I doubt very much whether Akins or Huckabee would really be that stupid to bring that into the conversation. But let's wait and see a couple of days.) 

This hoopla also highlights the generally poor qualifications of far too many of the Tea Party candidates. In order to avoid precisely these kinds of mistakes, a politician is expected to have mastered his native language. Anybody whose language abilities are so deficient should probably find a different line of work. (I suggest trying Fox and Friends. Fox News has low enough standards, I presume.) 

That's not discrimination. It’s practical. While a politician with a foul mouth- or afflicted with Tourette’s, for example- would certainly enliven political debates and spice up humdrum TV news appearances, it could do serious damage to their respective political party. 

A lot of Tea Party candidates appear to have intellectual Tourette’s syndrome.


Akin’s Magical Vaginas
In the now all-too-familiar routine, Akin’s apologized on Huckabee’s show- a place where he would be able to say practically anything. Actually he sort of apologized.
"What I said was ill-conceived, and it was wrong. I really just want to apologize to those that I've hurt."
That apology itself is revealing since it wasn’t about “hurting” anybody. He hadn’t directly insulted anybody or any group. Whoops, the wrong boilerplate response. The problem was not just about insulting rape victims. It did that, of course; it was more about insulting the intelligence of the nation.

And beyond that, there is something much more worrying than one clumsy phrase. The entire statement (not just the words “legitimate rape”) reveals a profound ignorance about human reproduction.
Akins, the man who would be Senator, thinks that a woman’s uterus can somehow differentiate between sperm from a rapist and sperm from her consensual sex partner. Rape victims’ bodies, according to Akins, have some supernatural ability to shut “the whole thing” (conception and pregnancy, he means) down.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists responded with this statement:

Recent remarks by a member of the US House of Representatives suggesting that “women who are victims of ‘legitimate rape’ rarely get pregnant” are medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous.

Each year in the US, 10,000–15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.
With regards to the use of the phrase “legitimate rape, it went on to state:
Any person forced to submit to sexual intercourse against his or her will is the victim of rape, a heinous crime. There are no varying degrees of rape. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and insulting and minimizes the serious physical and psychological repercussions for all victims of rape.
Even Akins’ attempts to clarify his earlier remarks (“legitimate rape,” vs. “forcible rape.”) doesn’t really wash when you think about it. According to Akin, rape victims are denied the right to abortion because they don’t need it. Their vaginas are super smart and will never carry to term a rape baby. God will sponsor that abortion.

But then..what about victims of non-forcible rape then? Would they also be denied their right to abortion? They are still victims of rape. It brings us back to that backward view that fussy women who just say “no” and who don’t fight back, who don’t, in effect, encourage their attacker to use force are really accomplices. Those incidents, according to people like Akins, are not legitimate rapes and those women are not true victims of rape.

Get it, now?

It is an ugly idea that most people thought had died out about a century ago. Not in Missouri, I reckon.

The Unwanted Baby on Romney’s Doorstep
There was one point that so many online news sources noted and so many MSM sources did not. (Even the BBC). When it comes to abortion, Akins and Romney’s running-mate, Paul Ryan, are as close as conjoined twins. As Bloomberg reports:
Not only did Akin and Ryan co-sponsor legislation redefining rape, Ryan ran for Congress as a strong pro-lifer and has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. “This includes support for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” the committee notes. Last year Ryan and Akin were co-sponsors of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, also known as “personhood” legislation, which would give a fertilized egg the same rights as a human being and would outlaw some forms of birth control.
President Obama artfully used a great deal of finesse when commenting on Akin’s “flubbery.”
“(T)he idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me.”
He also stated that this was a clear example of:
"why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women."
Nice touch since Akins is challenging a woman. And please note: The president did not even have to mention Paul Ryan’s name. Unfortunately, neither did many mainstream news networks. 
That's to be expected from propaganda machine like Fox News, of course. ThinkProgress has noted that

While CNN and MSNBC — the two other main cable news channels — led with the Akin statement, Fox steered clear of the comments completely until 9:19 AM, referencing them in a loaded segment with Karl Rove without playing video of his remarks. The network didn’t air the remarks until 12:10 PM — showing the the clip well after Republicans (including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney) harshly condemned the GOP Senate candidate from Missouri.
In the simple world of Roger Ailes, news doesn't exist if Fox News doesn't report it.
Candidate Romney played it cool- or as cool as a Mormon can be anyway- and hoped nobody would make the connection. He called the use of the term “legitimate rape” inexcusable. (And who dares call that man a wimp!) 
"The underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions, or qualifying 'forcible rape' versus 'non-forcible rape' -- those are broader issues....between me and the other party."
As usual, Romney dodged the issue by not actually talking about it. And naturally, nobody seemed all that interested in following up with a question as- dare I say?- legitimate as: 

“So, Mr. Romney, do you support Akin’s position on abortion when it comes to rape? How would you characterize the idea that a woman’s vagina can “shut down a rape pregnancy?”

If Romney is firm about anything, it is this: Hard questions are off-limits. 

First it was “let’s not talk about Bain Capital or outsourcing or vulture capitalism.” Then he was firm about not talking about those missing tax returns and offshore bank accounts. Then, as a diversion, Romney made his ill-fated jaunt to Europe which resulted in a bucketful of non-discussable topics. The following week, after choosing Paul Ryan for the VP slot, the Romney campaign resisted any in-depth discussion of Ryan’s budget. The new message was “let’s not talk about Ryan’s plans to privatize Medicare. I can say whatever I want and you can't ask me any details."

And this week seems to have started out with “let’s not talk about Ryan’s radical position on abortion.” 

By the time, November rolls around who knows how many topics Romney will not want to talk about. The only topics remaining will be how nice it is to be rich and how jealous poor people are of the super-wealthy and what an awful president Obama is. 

Paying the Price of Appeasing the Tea Party
Akins is running against Senator Claire Sen. Claire McCaskill who remains an underdog in her reelection. McCaskill’s campaign has left a lot to be desired. (Her political ads against Akins proclaim him to be a 'true conservative' and “too conservative” which, in a state like Missouri, sounds more like an glowing endorsement.) 

Clearly the Akins campaign has gone from meltdown to disarray in the last 48 hours. When their candidate failed to show up for what would surely have been a career-ending interview with Piers Morgan, the talk show host was left interviewing an empty chair. Never one to miss a chance to be waspish and to demonstrate British wit, Morgan castigated the no-show Akins with this:
“Congressman, you have an open invitation to join me in that chair whenever you feel up to it because if you don’t keep your promise to be on the show, then you are what we would call in Britain a gutless little twerp.”
Everybody has been expecting Akins to drop out. The Republican party would be grateful if he did. 

After all, abortion- a social issue that Republicans have used since Reagan to divide and conquer the undecided voters- is threatening to blow up in their faces. With Ryan’s extreme views on abortion, the full extent of Romney’s catastrophically bad selection of running-mate is slowly but surely becoming apparent. 

In appeasing the Tea Party and their far right wing agenda, Romney- whose own view on abortion is clouded by his flip-flopping- made the classic mistake of over-correction. Now he is stuck with a running mate with views on this most toxic of topics will never ever be mainstream. On top of that, it is doubtful that Ryan would ever renounce his stand on abortion. 

Congressman Akins, despite those calls from his own party to step out of the race to make room for another (one hopes) more suitable candidate, has decided that nationwide public embarrassment was something he could live with.
But as of Monday evening, Akin appeared determined to remain in the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). His intransigence came despite clear signals — from the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, its Senate leader, its party chairman, one of its most powerful independent fundraising engines and even a leading tea party umbrella group — that he needed to get out as soon as possible. 
Satisfying his own ambition is obviously more important than desires of the Republican party. And now perhaps the Republican party will finally see the foolish mistake they have made by inviting the Tea Party into their tent. 

The Tea Party leaders certainly do not care what the Republican elites in Washington think. And even if they cost the Republicans the election, they will proudly say that they have proved their point and stuck to their principles. Such as they are. 

Of course, after taking one look at Sarah Palin back in 2008, we on the left warned those smug GOP leaders about the Tea Party. It is now happy harvest time.

UPDATE:

Hat-tip to Little Green Footballs for highlighting this bizarre Fox News interview with Sarah Palin:

Greta Van Susteren, gal-pal to Palin, turns to Sarah to get her take on the whole Akin stinkeroo. I tend to avoid the woman, (and the network, for that matter,) like limburger cheese, but I made an exception in this particular case. Only because I had been forewarned that Palin would be.. well, Palin at her best. 
I was not disappointed. 
Even Greta's poor head was spinning about half way through the interview when Sarah piles on the word salad, reminiscent of her Couric "Gotcha" interview. Palin did not support Akin and instead of answering the questions uses most of the interview to pointlessly promote her mini-Sarah. 
At one point, she appears to suggest the creation of a third party called "The Status Quo Has Got to Go Party". Great idea! That ought to improve the GOP chances in November.
As usual she manages to turn Akin's problem into  a Sarah-fest, in this case a justification for her own decision to quit the governor's position. Never mind that the situations are very different. Sarah was already elected and voters had committed their trust in her when she deserted them. It was not some Kenny Roger's lyric ripoff about "knowing when to fold 'em" at all. It was about Sarha getting bored and dumping the responsibility in somebody else's lap.
Finally one more interesting point in the interview. Sarah is clearly miffed about not being asked to the Republican Convention in Tampa and near the end of the interview, her bitterness tend to ooze out. 
"Maybe Todd Akins needs to learn a lesson from me. Sometimes you need to step back and wait to be invited and not invite yourself to the party.What he is doing, (bless his heart) Greta, is inviting himself back into this general election that's coming up and he's gonna' get defeated."  
Again it was not Sarah Palin that decided to step back. The Republican Party must have watched one of the many hysterical Palin rants and decided it was time for the Party to step back from Sarah.  Or maybe it was just a case of Sarah not looking "cute" enough for the male elite of the Republican party.
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