Rep Todd Akin

Todd Akin Doubles Down

Two days ago I linked to this story about Todd Akin saying something wrong back in 2008. Apparently I needn’t have worried that the age of the incident might impact its relevance, because Akin has decided to stand by his remarks:

In defense of his assertion, Akin’s campaign released a statement Tuesday from Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who quit in 2009 and now speaks against abortion.

“I can attest that when I served as director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, we often scared women into getting services they did not need including abortion so we could collect the fees. This included women who were not pregnant and women who were in the process of miscarrying.”

Read for details of how Johnson has been caught in the past lying about this sort of thing. One thing I think Amanda Marcotte gets wrong, though, is her assertion that conservative evangelicals don’t care about the truth:

Part of the problem here is that, within the conservative evangelical circles that are the backbone of the anti-choice movement, “truth” is not the truth, but simply “stories that dramatically illustrate the rightness of our belief system.”

From the outside this probably seems true, but it actually runs counter to the strong Enlightenment mindset of the evangelical movement. Evangelicals love the truth… but they’re also suckers for conspiracy theories, which is why contradicting them with facts rarely works—a conspiracy theorist can always rationalize your “facts” as part of the conspiracy.

It’s a subtle distinction, but the real problem isn’t that evangelicals don’t care about the truth; it’s that we care even more about being “right”.

Todd Akin Strikes [Himself] Again

I can’t help it, guys. Todd Akin’s seeming determination to say as many dumb things as possible fascinates me. Moreover, as bizarre as are many of his pronouncements, they actually bear some resemblance to actual things actual normal pro-lifers actually say in actuality.

Actual.

“Newest” off the ticker is a 2008 speech by Akin claiming that abortion providers frequently perform abortions on non-pregnant women. Technically this doesn’t quite count with regard to the above, as he may have since learned his lesson, but I still think it’s instructive to point out the truth, which this post at XX Factor manages quite handily:

There were some clinics in the ’70s in Chicago exposed for unsafe and deceptive practices, including D&Cs on non-pregnant women, but those clinics were exposed and many closed. The Chicago clinics were an anomaly, and not indicative of how abortion is generally provided.

Of course, this is a mere assertion, but fortunately, common sense comes to our rescue:

In the ’70s, when home pregnancy testing wasn’t readily available, that might have been more plausible, but nowadays most women who call an abortion clinic know for sure that they’re pregnant and have already made up their minds. To believe otherwise is to assume that women, or at least women who get abortions, are too stupid as a class to understand even the most basic things in life.

Actually.

Among Other Things, Todd Akin Thinks Claire McCaskill is Less "Ladylike"

Which, of course, means she thinks she’s going to lose.

“I think we have a very clear path to victory, and apparently Claire McCaskill thinks we do, too, because she was very aggressive at the debate, which was quite different than it was when she ran against Jim Talent,” Akin said. “She had a confidence and was much more ladylike (in 2006), but in the debate on Friday she came out swinging, and I think that’s because she feels threatened.”

It couldn’t possibly be that she views him as an antagonistic misogynist.

Stop Saying the Word!

Rep. Todd Akin’s wife recently invoked rape as an ill-advised analogy for the Republican Party’s disassociation from Akin:

“Party bosses dictating who is allowed to advance through the party and make all the decisions – it’s just like 1776 in that way.”

That was when colonists “rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my… wife. But that is where we are again.”

That analogy doesn’t even make sense, Lady. Here’s something to consider: apparently every time you or your husband mention the word “rape”, you’re going to end up regretting it.

My thanks to the Monty Python gang for suggesting the mantra I think the Akins should adopt from now on.

MD Republican Decides He Doesn't Want His Job Anymore

Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) last week responded to a question about abortion in cases of rape by forcing his Campaign to kneel facing away from him, then putting a bullet through its head:

“If you really – there are very few pregnancies as a result of rape, fortunately, and incest – compared to the usual abortion, what is the percentage of abortions for rape? It is tiny. It is a tiny, tiny percentage.”

Bartlett is reportedly running a pretty close race against two challengers. So while he was technically correct in that the percentage is small, trivializing the issue seems like a pretty stupid thing to do. Does he not remember the last guy who said something like this?

How to Engage in Constructive Debate

Brian Earp analyzes the efficacy and value of responses to Todd Akin’s incorrect remarks regarding the rate of pregnancies resulting from rape. He particularly focuses on the medical correction issued by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which labelled Akin’s words “offensive” and “insulting”:

If Akin is mistaken on his facts, then provide evidence of his confusion, so that your audience is equipped to rebut him (and others who make the same false claims) when debating difficult subjects such as rape and abortion. To declare that the man’s remarks are “offensive” and “insulting” detracts from the factual dispute, which is the arena in which ACOG is best poised to make a useful contribution.

Earp then extends this logic to argue that the way forward in this and all debates lies through understanding of the opponent’s premises, flawed though they may be:

Todd Akin is not (simply) an idiot who hates women. I don’t know Todd Akin, so I cannot say what’s in his heart. He clearly does have a motivated moral reasoning system, as each of us does, whose operation extends from certain—arguably objectionable—premises, to mistaken (even dangerous) factual conclusions, through the mechanism of something like Liu and Ditto’s “moral coherence.” My point is that we should try to understand what is going on in his mind, so that we can more effectively combat the garbage that comes out of his mouth.

I couldn’t agree more with this. Or, sadly, with this:

Unfortunately, this sort of fair-minded effort to understand how it is that an otherwise intelligent person could fall so far afield of reality is rare when it comes to political hot-topics involving moral disagreement.

Akin May Change the Conversation

Molly Ball at The Atlantic examines the implications of Todd Akin’s seemingly firm decision to stay in the Missouri Race:

The GOP’s unanimity on Akin shows that Republicans recognize the serious and far-reaching implications if he hangs around. Akin disagrees – he thinks the current storm will blow over and he can still win.

Where Ball errs, I believe, is in assuming that Akin cannot possibly win this election. I think she underestimates the electorate’s eagerness to believe good of those they support; I suspect that Akin’s hollow apology will actually ring true to the ears of many Republicans because they agree with him on the central issue in question.

To be clear, I’m not saying Akin will definitely win; Ball could be correct. I just don’t think this incident spells certain death for his campaign. And whether he wins or loses, Akin certainly is garnering attention for his pet issue:

”That’s the reason we are going to continue,” he said. “I believe there is a cause here. There’s something that’s missing. A lot of people feel left out of the parties.”

We’ll see whether Romney and the rest of the GOP can pivot quickly and effectively enough to keep the conversation where they want it: on the economy instead of on social issues.