Bill Maher makes a throwaway comment during the opening sequences of his “CrazyStupidPolitics” show that suddenly seems very apt.
Maher is describing watching from the sidelines as the Republicans go through the process of searching for new leaders over the last few years. He describes the process as illuminating, resulting in the revelation: “There is no bottom, I thought Dan Quayle was the bottom 20 years ago.” I’m sure Maher will do a far greater job than I of tearing into the man trying to make himself the “new bottom” of the Republican Party. Forget W. Forget Palin. Forget Bachmann. Step forward, Rep. Todd Akin, a man whose views of birth control, abortion, and rape would be comically inept were they not so utterly, incomprehensibly offensive.
Akin, only recently selected as a GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, said in an interview on Sunday morning that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy. The presenter was pushing Akin to explain his no-exceptions policy on abortion, specifically with regard to cases of rape:
First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is 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.
This was immediately, and rightfully, lept on by national news as well as drawing heavy criticism online. Akin rushed to release a hasty apology:
In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.
Akin seems to share an all too common problem with the likes of Palin and Bachmann. He simply doesn’t think politically. If the other offensive remarks he has made just this week are anything to go by, he has absolutely no notion of the political consequences of the statements that come tumbling out of his mouth.
Late last week he gave interviews pushing for voter reform, opposing free school lunches for some of the state’s poorest children, and comparing student loans to stage three cancer. Let me say that again — all of those attacks on reason and decency were made in the last seven days.
Akin’s latest (and far and away most offensive) comment will no doubt be picked apart by others in the blogosphere. I don’t have much to add on the specifics of Akin’s views of rape and abortion, other than that I obviously condemn them.
What concerns me is that he is still in a position to say such things. As I’ve already mentioned, Akin has already made three other sackable offenses this week — how has he not been removed? How has he not been pressured to stepped down? It used to be that politicians were very careful about what they said in public — no doubt some may have shared Akin’s views, but no would dare be so candid. Even the staunchest of Republicans would still carry out the political process with an air of respect for their opponent, their voters, and at the very least themselves.
It seems that the last ten years has seen that system thrown out and replaced by a system which sees people who shouldn’t be running a street corner lemonade stand running for high office.
Efforts to foster a more respectful environment within politics have failed, at least as best as I can tell. The extremes have become so polarized; there is no political left, there is no moderate right — apart from the Democrats. The system needs radical and systematic change. I would be reluctant to put in checks or tests for office for obvious ethical reasons, but it should be far easier to remove or at least punish people. When someone runs for election to any position, they are essentially trying to get a job. They are trying to convince voters that they can do it better than the other guy. Why, then, does it seem that the least suitable people, with the lowest qualifications and the least practical experience, continually get elected.
Voters have to vote for someone, but it is the senior members of the GOP who chose to back Akin with not just logistical and ideological support but hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. Was there really no one else?
Why is there no chain of command? Who is Akin’s GOP “boss”? Why can he not be thrown out of the Republican party? Some of the answers to these questions are the result of years worth of apathy and mistrust in the political system that seems to have resulted in the Tea Party. Why is no one in the corridors of power within the Republican party leaning on Akin to resign? Hell, why has he not resigned himself out of the utter shame he has brought on himself, his political party, and his state. Politicians in other countries have lost their position for far far less than Akin, usually pressured to resign to senior party leaders. The US political system and especially the Republican party need to get their houses in order.
Starting with Todd Akin, shame of Missouri.