THERE ARE NO good guys in the Todd Akin affair, just opportunists. The Missouri congressman, who set off a firestorm by stupidly trying to distinguish "legitimate" from "illegitimate" rape, has managed to do the unthinkable: bring together liberal, pro-choice Democrats and conservative, family-values Republicans in a bipartisan Kumbaya of condemnation. The united front is vaguely heartwarming.
There are so many villains in this scenario, it's hard to know exactly where to start. I suppose we should go with the fellow who set the whole darn thing in motion, the one who was going to recapture the "Show Me" seat for the GOP. Until, that is, he opened his mouth.
Akin is primarily at fault for failing to realize that rape is the third rail in political discussions, and when you link it to abortion you have to tread as carefully as a soldier in a minefield, not stomp around like a Neanderthal in a rock quarry. Akin slammed his foot on an IED of his own creation by implying that rape victims are biologically protected from becoming pregnant. This evidences either (a) ignorance of monumental proportions or (b) political naivete, neither of which commend him for public office. Heck, it doesn't even make him qualified to be vice president, and we've seen how low that bar can be set.
Of course, playing devil's advocate, I can see what the poor fellow was trying to say despite his awkward choice of words. Although he should have known better than to discount the fact that more than 30,000 pregnancies are attributable to rape every year, he made a good point about the innocence of the unborn child. Whenever pro-choicers argue that abortion is "necessary" in cases of "rape" and "incest," they are trying to put people like me on the defensive. It's as if they want to point out how heartless we are in refusing to allow a victimized woman to terminate the pregnancy. If you dare mention that the unborn child is blameless in the scenario, you're consigned to the category of wackos and women-haters.
I don't think Akin is either of those things. At most, he's a person woefully out of his depth who understands nothing about the hard-knocks game of politics and the lengths to which abortion-rights supporters will take any opportunity to make the pro-life movement look archaic and anti-woman. He deserves to lose not only his Senate bid, but also his congressional seat. But so far, he has refused to resign, selfishly putting his own welfare above that of the party and, yes, the country.
Which brings me to that party. The GOP comes off in this sad story as desperate panderers, horrified that something they've always espoused - the rights of the unborn - may actually be used to sink their chances in November. Although I know that many in the Republican tent are pro-choice, there is absolutely no doubt that if you respect unborn life, you need to stamp your ticket at the GOP booth. In fact, I was thrilled to learn that the GOP platform will include strong anti-abortion language that includes no exceptions for rape or incest. This will anger many moderate Republicans. But at least it gives voters a clear choice.
Unfortunately, the actions of GOP bigwigs and the commentariat over the past few days have made me embarrassed to call myself a conservative. Instead of simply countering the opposition's onslaught of negativity with a simple "he misspoke, he's wrong, but McCaskill is far worse," they've caved to the "I'm So Pro-Woman" wing of the country that somehow thinks you need to bend over for a whipping every time a feminist whimpers. The fear that the GOP seems to have about negative repercussions from Akin's idiocy is extremely unattractive, and makes me glad I'm actually not a registered Republican.
AND NOW THAT I've alienated half of my audience, let me anger the other half. The people who are the most despicably opportunistic in this mess are the progressives. They saw in this the chance to not only keep Clare McCaskill in office but to demonize the pro-life movement as well. They've done it in the past, like when they blamed us for the 2009 slaying of abortion doctor George Tiller. They've made sure to call the Catholic Church sexist because it opposes both birth control and the destruction of innocent human life. And they've chosen to paint the GOP as the party that will put my gender back in chains, to paraphrase Joe Biden.
They've done it so many times, I'm not offended anymore. The poor, uncreative dears really have nothing more than this fear-mongering to offer the electorate, given the great failure that is their ticket.
But still. I'd hoped for more from everyone. A plague on all their houses.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: philly.com/flowers.