Enough Belly Akin
I live in Missouri, so straight off, a few things:
I didn’t vote for Todd Akin in the primaries. After his woefully thoughtless comments about “legitimate rape” and “a woman’s body taking care of that kind of thing”, I ardently hoped he would remove himself from the race. I agree with all of those who still believe he should.
But really. Hasn’t this all gotten just a bit completely bat-guano insane?
This– the thoughtless, off-the-cuff comments of a senatorial candidate from middle-America– has become international news. The President himself made a rare appearance at a White House press briefing just to obloviate on Akin’s comments and turn them into a male-bashing pro-Obamacare rallying cry. Everywhere I look, both conservative- and liberal-minded people are hyperventilating about the dreadful ramifications of a Republican party that embraces– and apparently agrees with— such a person as Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin.
I want him gone. So it annoys me to have to say this:
And it wasn’t one of those typical politician non-apology-apologies (“I’m sorry if what I said managed to offend someone somewhere somehow”). He acknowledged that what he said was factually incorrect, foolishly unchecked, and ridiculously poorly spoken (sort of like a nineties NBC news expose. RIMSHOT!). He has apologized repeatedly and ardently. And you know what? I think he is sincere.
Does this make him a good candidate for the senate? I still think not. Communication is one of the most important jobs of a politician, and Akin has a lot to prove after this debacle. But does it make him a monster/villain/Hitler rapemaster? Let’s not be idiots. And let’s not be naive.
In every corner of the political world, politicians say stupid, off-the-cuff things, many of which deserve to be just as publicly lambasted as Akin’s.
A few tasty examples:
Remember when Harry Reid called Barack Obama a “light skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”? Try, if you will, to imagine what would have happened if Todd Akin had said such a thing? I have it on good authority that the Internet would have exploded.
Or what about when Joe Biden, no stranger to the gaf, called the then-future-president “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Seriously, the first “clean” and “bright” mainstream African American? If that had come out of the mouth of Sarah Palin, every issue of the New York Times would have spontaneously combusted with the incandescent jubilation of its editorial staff.
More Biden: “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.” Is that racist? Because if that had been said by anyone with an R in front of their name, it would have been proof that every individual Republican on earth is more racist than the whole of the KKK combined.
But what about just plain stupid gafs? Surely only brainless anti-science conservatives make those. Never anybody as hyper-intelligent as Al Gore:
“the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees.” Which would, of course, make the earth a star, not a planet. People can’t live on the surface of stars. I am pretty sure even my kids know that.
Or what about when Representative Sheila Jackson Lee asked if the Mars Pathfinder would take a picture of the flag that Neil Armstrong planted, er, on the moon.
And this from Representative Hank Johnson, during discussions about thousands of marines stationed on the island of Guam: “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”
But Todd Akin’s comments were about “legitimate rape”, right? That’s, like, totally beyond the pale. Except that a few years ago, Whoopi Goldberg claimed that film director Roman Polanski didn’t commit “rape rape” when he drugged and sodomized a thirteen year old girl. That somehow didn’t make for an international incident, despite the fact that, until this week, about a million times more people had heard of Whoopi Goldberg than Todd Akin.
There are more. Enough to fill a hundred books, both from Republicans and Democrats.
Shall I tell you what I think? I think people are prone to make stupid, off-the-cuff comments. I don’t mock any of the above people (much) for occasionally vomiting a little lunacy. After all, most of them live their lives in front of cameras. If any of us had to endure that kind of scrutiny, we would all occasionally (or not so occasionally) stick a few extra feet in our mouths. We all have a few unchallenged, silly opinions. We all have a few cobwebby mental corners.
The trick isn’t to never have a stupid opinion. The trick is to be willing to acknowledge it was stupid and to change it.
Akin did that. He totally did. Most of the above people have not. And virtually nobody demanded that they should.
But let’s look at one more example. Did President Obama apologize and retract hisstatements when he said:
“If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
“Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket…”
Or even, despite all of his assurances that Obamacare is not a step toward a universal single payer health care system, this from 2003:
“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program… A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see.But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.”
These are not misspeaks. These are intentional, bedrock opinions. Unlike Akin, who acknowledged his incorrect opinion and changed it, the President has not so much as acknowledged that he ever even said the above. And the press does not challenge that.
Also unlike Akin, these quotes from the President represent actual legislation— governmental actions that influence all of our lives. You may like these legislations– national health care, Cap and Trade, etc– and agree with them entirely. It is one thing, however, to want a single-payer health care system and the dismantling of the coal industry; it is another to state these end goals to the minority thatagree with them, and then lie to everyone else about them in order to make them more palatable.
But back to Akin. Even now, the most shrill among us are pounding away at how his statements represent the Republican party and conservatives as a whole. This, despite the fact that virtually every Republican and conservative leader, from the presidential candidate on down (and including such conservative talking heads as Rush Limbaugh and Shaun Hannity), has rebuked Akin, pointed out the foolishness of his statements, and called for him to step out of the race.
Clearly, obviously, he does not represent his party as a whole.
How many publicly liberal-minded people have distanced themselves from the statements made by their own leaders when they are ridiculous, silly, or outright deceptive?
Some. I know some such people. But I know plenty who won’t. Ever. No matter what their leaders say.
But that won’t change, anymore than the fact that there are conservative-minded people who won’t ever hear a bad word spoken about (or from) their own leaders. Extremism and willful blindness exists on both sides.
But for now, really. Unlike most of the above people, Todd Akin has apologized. He admitted he was totally wrong. He was sincere. Are we really this opportunistic and petty? Are we really this unable to take a deep breath and let a guy admit that he, like the rest of us, can occasionally be a total putz?
Can we try to quit belly-Akin?