I realize I am among the very last people on the planet to comment on the Todd Akin kerfuffle, but there’s a very good reason I’ve remained silent, watching all of this unfold with nary a word. I’ve watched as the endless Republican pile-on brigades have pummeled this man relentlessly, and from this, I’ve drawn more conclusions about the critics than I have about Congressman Akin. To say that I have been disappointed in a vast array of Republicans and conservatives is to understate severely my initial estimation, because while the man in question has apologized for his words, and while he’s run around bowing and capitulating in all ways but one, the vast body of the Republican party has been willing to flog him endlessly. Obama and his team are eating this up, and if they could keep the Akin story going from now until Election Day, they surely would, but there are people who have added their own fuel to this fire, and whatever else I detest about politics, hypocrisy is chief among those things I find most foul. To see Republicans behaving little different from Democrats makes me ill, and it’s about time, finally, as some of the din begins to die down, that we assess the real damage, and the performances of so many.
Akin himself should be ashamed, not so much for the controversial remark, but for his intractable responses in its wake. His unwillingness to listen in the face of crippling attacks should give every person pause about his motives for seeking the Senate seat. The irony in such a situation is that a man worthy of the seat would have stepped aside, while a candidate of questionable worthiness would almost certainly persist. The only thing mitigating in his favor is that his opponent is Claire McCaskill, whose record is infinitely worse. Despite his gaffe, he remains the better candidate of the two competing for the seat. Still, Akin has been less awful than a number of his Republican critics, never mind the Democrats, and I think we owe ourselves a bit of honest discussion about that while we’re roasting Akin over an open fire.
Mitt Romney urged Akin to quit the race. Here is a candidate who has over time accumulated his share of gaffes and verbal missteps, and yet he has the unmitigated gall to call on Akin to quit? I call on Mitt Romney to quit, not that he will, again referencing my postulate above once more. Mitt Romney should have quit when he said “I like being able to fire people,” or when he described himself as a “severe conservative,” or when he said he wanted to “maintain the progressivity of the tax code,” or any of a dozen things he ought not to have said, or ought to have said differently. To me, the question of “legitimate rape” is no more preposterous than “severe conservatism,” and it should have offended no more of us.
Rush Limbaugh has called on Akin to quit. I have two words for Limbaugh, and for those who agree with Limbaugh in this case, and yes, they are blunt: “Sandra Fluke.” Rush didn’t misspeak, and he didn’t state anything he hadn’t been trying to state, and yet while what he said in many ways was far worse, and far more damaging to conservatism, it seems we’ve all forgotten that episode. Well, most of us have. On this basis, I suppose I ought to join the legion of leftists who have been agitating for Limbaugh’s banishment from the airwaves, but unlike Rush, whose apology I saw as sincere and heartfelt, I suppose he only sees one side of that coin. Given how his audience supported him, and given also the way in which the fan base abandoned those sponsors who dumped him in the aftermath, one would think he could understand why it’s not a good idea to pull the rug from under an ally’s feet after one ill-considered sentence. In the same way that his fans forgave him despite the media uproar created and rallied against him, most Republicans and conservatives in Missouri(and elsewhere) are willing to forgive Akin and carry him to victory against McCaskill if he’s their only choice. Unless he quits, he is their only alternative to six more years of McCaskill.
Speaking of an “only choice,” let me get on to the Republican establishment, particularly the party apparatchiks who proclaim in bellicose words their intention to deny Akin any party funding in this cycle. These are the same people who tell us now, and have told us for months, that Mitt Romney is our only choice, and we simply must defeat Barack Obama. True enough, we must defeat Obama, and many conservatives have given grudging support to Romney over the last few months as they have seen Romney as the only remaining vehicle by which to remove Barack Obama from the Oval Office. While it’s a view I haven’t warmed to, I nevertheless understand it, and I fully sympathize with the implied threat of not voting for Romney. What I don’t understand, and frankly cannot accept is how this same party now tells Akin he must exit for the sake of the party, and for the sake of the country. Shouldn’t they have exercised this same speech to Mitt Romney after the “I like to be able to fire people” remark? No, instead they’ve told us how we must support Mitt, come what may, but that view doesn’t extend to Mr.Akin’s situation? One could argue that Akin’s remarks were less severe in their damaging potential than some of Romney’s, and yet I hear no cries from RNC headquarters that it is time to “get over with this primary business” and “move on to the general election without further debate.” Odd, isn’t it? If it is so important to support Romney for the sake of ridding ourselves of Obama, isn’t it almost equally important to remove McCaskill who has been a water-carrier for Obama since day one?
As to the media at large, their response was predictable. The famed coven of journ-o-listers and all their friends couldn’t wait to flog conservatives with Akin’s poorly chosen sentence. What makes these things successful is when Republicans join in the game, adding fuel to the fire, and helping in all ways to further make a mountain of a mole-hill. If Akin had simply said “I misspoke,” and thereafter refused to answer further questions about it, and had Republicans at large joined in so doing, this entire thing would have been quashed simply by disinterest. It’s what the GOP establishment did over Boehner’s “knuckle-dragger” remarks, and that’s the tip-off. It’s not that Republicans don’t know how to play this game, but that the GOP establishment is every bit as opportunist as the left. Within hours of the comment, I was listening to a list of possible replacement candidates the GOP in Missouri might field in place of Akin if he would quit, and most of them hadn’t even been on the ballot in this year’s primary. The establishment scrambled to try to seize the opportunity to get one of their own in, and when Akin refused to quit, they went ballistic.
This entire episode has been an eye-opener for me in many respects. I’ve seen the media at its worst, and I’ve seen some in conservative media rush to imitate the left’s tactics. From my point of view, while I supported another candidate in the Missouri Republican Senate primary and run-off, I was willing to fight for whomever the Republicans in Missouri nominated because all of them would be preferable to Claire McCaskill. That’s still true. What I’ve learned most from this Akin kerfuffle is that the GOP establishment can be far more scathing against fellow Republicans than even against Obama, and if that’s so, I must question their motives anew. Whatever you think of Akin’s remarks, am I now to believe that the GOP establishment is interested in party unity for the sake of saving the country? Beginning the day after this November’s elections, the Republican establishment will become my sole focus because I simply cannot tolerate their duplicity and hypocrisy any longer. Akin’s sentence may have been ill-constructed, ill-considered, and malformed, but the GOP establishment is worse. Take it from a “knuckle-dragger.”