Sometimes the unexpected happens in campaigns to change everything and it happened this week in Missouri. Republican Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, running against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, spoke out about his beliefs on rape and abortion and shocked even his own party by his outspokenness. The result threatens Republicans up and down the ticket.
As reported by CNN on Sunday, Rep Akin :
Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy in an interview with KTVI. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted “legitimate rape.”
He added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
The Republican response was seemingly to denounce Akin’s comments. As the Washington Post reported on Monday:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the entire GOP national political apparatus launched a swift and relentless crusade against one of their own Monday, seeking to drive Rep. Todd Akin out of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri after his controversial comments on rape and pregnancy threatened the party with widespread political harm.
But the reality of the situation is that Akin’scomments are mainstream Republican these days. And Romney’s running mate illustrates the hypocrisy. While asking Akin to leave the Senate race, the truth is that Ryan is a Republican ally to Akin in attempts to oppose all abortion. As noted in a New York Times editorial entitled “New Frontiers of Extremism”:
Mr. Ryan has said he doesn’t believe in a rape exception when outlawing abortion, and he worked with Mr. Akin in the House in trying to narrow the definition of rape so Medicaid would pay for fewer abortions of poor women. Mitt Romney says he supports a rape exception, but many of the politicians he has invited to speak at next week’s Republican convention disagree with him.
And the Republican Party as a whole supports this position and has for years, based on the Party platform. As noted on the Huffington Post:
Draft language for the 2012 Republican Party platform includes support for a constitutional ban on abortion without specifying exclusions in the cases of rape or incest, according to CNN.
One issue that seems left out of most of this current discussion is if the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. While Romney is saying he does not support Akin, an article in New York Times today again raises a question as to what he believes:
Mr. Romney’s views align with that of the Mormon Church, which opposes abortion except in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the woman is in danger. He has said he is personally opposed to abortion; as a Mormon bishop in the 1980s he attempted to talk a congregant out of terminating a pregnancy after doctors advised her to do so because of a potentially lethal blood clot.
Romney has changed his views repeatedly on issues like abortion. The real question is which Romney would show up as President. The above quote indicates that by trying to persuade a woman to not terminate a pregnancy he was seemingly not even consistent with his professed Mormon beliefs. What is one to believe regarding Romney and the Republicans these days. The best guide is perhaps to look at their history and as the same article notes:
… as a legislator, Mr. Akin has a record on abortion that is largely indistinguishable from those of most of his Republican House colleagues, who have viewed restricting abortion rights as one of their top priorities. …
It is an agenda that has enjoyed the support of House leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who has called anti-abortion measures “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.”
If you believe that rape, incest or circumstances that threaten the life of a woman should be grounds for terminating a pregnancy, it would be a mistake to vote for putting Republicans in power. They are hell bent to restrict and end abortion for women no matter what the circumstances.
The same New York Times article also had the following which sums it up very well:
“All you need to know is that the House Republicans were willing to shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, in an e-mail on Tuesday. “This is in keeping with their efforts — whether it’s Congressman Akin or Chairman Ryan or others — to deny investments in critical women’s health services, weaken the definition of rape, and take away access to preventive care like cervical and breast cancer screenings.”
Howard Dean is going to step down as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He is not seeking a second term and will leave in January. He could turn up as a Cabinet member under President Obama – maybe Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As Adam Nagourney on The Caucus blog at the NY Times notes:
“As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Dean pressed the party to expand its efforts and set up offices in all 50 states, arguing that the party was making a mistake in effectively ceding states to the Republican Party. That position led him into some famously pointed clashes with Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who at the time headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign, and who was angry that Mr. Dean was not sending money he had raised to help in Democratic efforts to take back Congress.
Mr. Emanuel was appointed by Mr. Obama last week as the White House chief of staff.”
Donna Brazile, a DNC member is quoted on the Huffington Post saying:
“The 50-state-strategy was successful in laying the groundwork for 2006 and 2008, …. Clearly, the strategy has reaped a harvest of new voters for Democrats and the next Chair will no doubt build upon this foundation for 2010 and beyond. Remember, we have some interesting statewide and mayoral elections next year before the all out organizing for redistricting.”
Sam Stein in his post suggests that a good replacement for Dean might be a duo combination of Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who was a co-chair of Obama’s Presidential campaign and Steve Hildebrand who was deputy campaign manager.
David Corn also on the Huffington Post in a second article suggests that Obama’s Campaign Manager David Plouffe might be a better choice noting specifically that:
Job One of the new DNC chair is to win the 2010 congressional elections as a prelude to winning reelection for Barack Obama in 2012. The party doesn’t need a visionary or public leader in the position. Obama can handle those tasks. (The party on the outs is the one that requires a posterboy or postergirl who is good on television.) The Democrats need an uber-operative who can simultaneously oversee scores of critical House and Senate races, supervise the early reelection effort, and chart out the overall mission of advancing the party’s interests across the country. The next DNC chair should also know a thing or two about fundraising and be able to transform the party into the receptacle for all the grassroots energy and passion that poured into the Obama campaign. Who better than Plouffe to do all this?
Corn notes that Plouffe has communicated that he is not interested yet it is important to note that Obama basically set up an independent campaign organization in his run for President that incorporated fundraising and get out the vote efforts. It obviously worked and from a practical sense the DNC is the logical organization to merge with Obama’s structure and focus to look toward the future.
The choice of who chairs the DNC is the prerogative of Obama as President. It is as critical a choice as any he makes regarding his future and the future of the Democratic Party. It is important that he makes the right choice.
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