Mark’s Latest Dallas Morning News Column
A Backlash to the Backlash Against Todd Akin
21 August 2012 06:45 PM
I knew it was coming.
As various Republicans fled nervously from any proximity to Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, I awaited the accompanying backlash.
I heard resentment that our own senator, John Cornyn, also head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, made clear that Akin would not see an additional dime of campaign help.
I heard anger that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus suggested Akin step aside.
I even heard frustration that Mitt Romney found it necessary to criticize Akin’s misstep.
Why would anyone be frosted by negative reaction to an error in judgment as deep as Akin’s disastrous comments on rape?
Because to many, it seemed like the Republican establishment abandoning a true conservative and caving to anticipated criticism. It smacked of a usurpation of a call Missouri voters should make, not party bigwigs.
Such concerns are not without basis. The Republican power structure has a famous comfort zone with more moderate candidates who do not require the heavy lifting of defending bold, unapologetic conservatism. This has created a fair impression that this “establishment,” whatever it is, sometimes shrinks from fights it should welcome.
But this is not one of those fights.
Even if we get past the clumsiness of Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape” and the accompanying question of “As opposed to what?” — there is the far more daunting challenge of Todd Akin, Amateur Obstetrician, floating the opinion that during a rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
“That whole thing,” meaning the likelihood of pregnancy.
Something shut down at that moment, all right: Akin’s electability.
And that is why anyone serious about winning a Republican Senate majority had to abandon wishful thinking and stop complaining about double standards and lay the field the way it is striped. And that means calling for Akin to step aside for the good of the party — I would say the good of the country — to make way for a candidate who can actually beat struggling Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill.
Akin no longer can. That may be unfair, it may require harshness to a good man, it may be another example of a double standard that allows Democrats to say and do any number of similar or even worse things and suffer no consequence.
But the facts are what they are. This was no gaffe. There was no trick question, no trap laid by a sinister media questioner. This was an unforced error of stunning proportions, revealing what no candidate for high office should ever display: the capacity for saying something profoundly stupid on purpose.
His apology was sincere but changed nothing. Thousands upon thousands of Missouri voters willing to consider an alternative to McCaskill would not be able to get past Akin’s self-inflicted wound.
There are a hundred less egregious things Akin could have said I would not have considered a deal breaker. And I will give him credit for being right on the far larger issue — that it is morally unsound to compound the stigma of rape with the tragedy of abortion.
But as President Barack Obama leapt to the microphones to make the predictably offensive point that men in particular should not be weighing in on protecting the lives of unborn babies they co-created — Missourians needed a response from a warrior without blemish.
Against an absurd “war on women” offensive from Democrats, Republicans cannot afford any nominees who hand their opponents the ammunition to justify that charge.
Todd Akin is a good father, husband, man and citizen who revealed a fatal flaw. When such flaws make a candidate unelectable, it is time for one last display of good character: withdrawal from the race.