I have not, you’ll notice, written anything here yet about Missouri Senate candidate and giant Daniel Tosh fan (I can only assume) Todd Akin — mostly because I find myself so viscerally repulsed by this story. I don’t want to reproduce the vileness that rocketed his campaign against Claire McCaskill from obscure-national-joke status to object of massive outrage — even in the interest of picking it apart. And including a link, and letting some other web site explain it, feels almost as bad.
But I do want to make a couple of quick points about this story. And to do that, you’ll require some context. So I’ll just say this by way of a recap:
Todd Akin proved himself to be legitimate loser, on national television. He was asked by Republican bigwigs across the country to shut that whole thing — by which I mean his campaign — down. But he has persevered. I think there should be some punishment, he said by way of an apology. But not for himself. Instead, he’s added a section to his website that, even as it nods to contrition, reproduces exactly the sort of hateful rubbish that got him into trouble in the first place. Which, I suppose, is punishment indeed: only for the rest of us.
At any rate, I’d like to point out to you that though it seems like all his vile friends (save Iowa Rep. Steve King) have abandoned Todd Akin, they actually haven’t. Not really. Not at all. They’d like to see him fold up his tent and hike home — yes. But on the substance of what he said, they’re right there in his corner. From CNN, yesterday:
The Republican Party is once again set to enshrine into its official platform support for “a human life amendment” to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for rape or incest, according to draft language of the platform obtained exclusively by CNN late Monday.
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
Paul Ryan — yes, the same one who recently signed on to play for team Romney — was Akin’s very good friend until all this went down, co-sponsoring legislation in the House with Akin to narrow the definition of what counts as rape for the purposes of applying Federal funds to abortion care.
Though Mitt Romney popped up a couple of days ago to say that Akin’s eruption was offensive, and that he would support exceptions to anti-abortion legislation for rape victims, that’s just this week. His previous position, as he told Mike Huckabee in the heat of the primaries, was that personhood begins at conception. Which would make any kind of abortion — or hormonal birth control, for that matter — homicide.
And speaking of Citizen Mitt: this guy, Doctor Jack Wilke of the National Right to Life Committee, who pioneered Akin’s nonsense position that trauma caused by violent rape causes a woman’s reproductive system to shut down, turns out to have been an “important surrogate” for Romney’s 2008 presidential bid. Which puts his particular brand of quackery pretty much at the center of the GOP universe.
What Republicans actually object to when they call for Todd Akin to stand aside isn’t what he said, but the frankness with which he said it. Which is why Akin’s apology, which is clearly meant for a Republican audience, is what it is. This weekend I made a mistake, he says. I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong and for that I apologize.
Akin’s apology is, essentially, for having misspoken. As though he fumbled with his grammar, or accidentally called his wife mom. But from the perspective of the Right, given the overwhelming tide of ideology on this issue, that is exactly his offense. Todd Akin gave the game away on national television. And now the rest of the Republican field has to pick up his mess. They have to convince a majority-female electorate (women make up 50.8% of the population of the United States) that though they believe the same things he does, they are not, like Todd Akin, giant jerks.
And given who they are, that’s an awful lot to expect.