Commentary Magazine


Topic: rape

The Repeal of Due Process on Campus

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, and seven co-sponsors have introduced a truly appalling bill in the Senate. It could have been written, and perhaps basically was, by the most rabidly misandrist feminists. (Misandrist is the little-used antonym of misogynist. It deserves wider circulation.)

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Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, and seven co-sponsors have introduced a truly appalling bill in the Senate. It could have been written, and perhaps basically was, by the most rabidly misandrist feminists. (Misandrist is the little-used antonym of misogynist. It deserves wider circulation.)

It is intended to stop the supposed “epidemic” of sexual assault on American college campuses, requiring colleges to handle accusations of such assaults in certain ways. But it gives away its bias by consistently calling accusers in campus sexual assault cases “victims,” while the accused are just called the accused. That, of course, begs the question as to whether there actually was a sexual assault in the first place.

Any sexual violence of any kind is unacceptable. But when it comes to much of what falls under the purview of this bill, categorizing some conduct is not so easy. Was it a sexual assault or nothing more than a clumsy, unwelcome pass? Was it a morning-after regret? Because many campus sexual assault accusations turn out to be he said/she said cases, false accusations face little downside risk.

Throughout the bill, the accusers are supported and the accused are left to fend for themselves. The bill, for instance, requires that colleges receiving any federal funding whatever, “shall establish a campus security policy that includes the following: ‘(1) The designation of 1 or more confidential advisor roles at the institution to whom victims of crime can report anonymously or directly ….”

The accused gets no such advice or counseling. The accuser can demand and get a “forensic interview” with the accused. Can the accused do the same? Nope.

And while being convicted of sexual assault can be a life-changing—indeed life-ruining—event even if there is no criminal prosecution, a mere preponderance-of-the-evidence standard is applied. If it is considered even slightly more probable that the accuser is telling the truth, that’s all that’s needed to convict. Sexual assault is a felony in every state, but conviction in the criminal justice system requires a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard, a much tougher standard to meet in order to ensure that innocent people are not convicted.

But the consequences of being convicted of sexual assault in a college proceeding can be devastating. Expulsion is often the punishment. Any future background check would quickly turn up the fact that the person had been expelled for sexual assault, which would be the end of that job application.

In other words, this bill is a travesty of due process and even simple fairness.

But is there an actual epidemic of rape and assault on American college campuses in the first place? Much of the evidence is based on feminist propaganda and a deeply flawed study that showed that 20 percent of female undergraduates are assaulted during their college careers. That is a preposterous figure. There are 11.7 million female college students in this country, and yet, according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey there are only 237,000 cases of sexual assault, on or off campus, in the entire country every year.

Feminists claim that many cases of sexual assault go unreported. No doubt that’s true. The usual statistics for campus sexual assault are that while 20 percent of women are assaulted in their college years, only 12 percent of those assaults are reported. But as Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute points out, those two numbers cannot be both correct. In the years 2009-2012, there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State University. If that’s 12 percent of the total number of assaults, then the total number would be 817. But there are 28,000 female students at Ohio State, and 817 is 2.9 percent of 28,000, not 20 percent. (When George Will used this example, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch was so outraged at his use of entirely correct sixth-grade math to demolish a feminist argument that it dropped his column.)

I have two observations to make.

We should repeal the federal law mandating a drinking age of 21. It would greatly reduce drunkenness on college campuses with a concomitant reduction in sexual assault. It is, by orders of magnitude, the most widely flouted federal law on the books. But by forcing students to drink in private instead of in public, it greatly reduces the social pressure to behave. So they often don’t.

I understand why six liberal Democratic senators would sponsor this junk. The feminist movement is an important constituency. But why on earth would Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and Marco Rubio of Florida cosponsor it? My respect for both of them is much diminished.

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Hillary’s Rape Case Answer Doesn’t Work

After three weeks of silence, Hillary Clinton finally answered a question about her ethically questionable behavior in defending a rapist early in her career. But far from ending the controversy, Clinton’s misleading and insensitive statement raises more questions about her credibility and her political acumen.

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After three weeks of silence, Hillary Clinton finally answered a question about her ethically questionable behavior in defending a rapist early in her career. But far from ending the controversy, Clinton’s misleading and insensitive statement raises more questions about her credibility and her political acumen.

As I wrote last month, the Washington Free Beacon’s scoop on this story undermines Clinton’s rationale for victory in 2016 as well as its main points of attack against the Republicans. Democrats have reaped big rewards from their claims that the GOP is waging a “war on women” and Clinton is poised to run not only as the potential first female president but also as a champion for the rights of women and children. But Clinton’s conduct during her defense of a child rapist in 1975 raises serious questions about her ability to maintain this pose.

Our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman unearthed this story when she found a tape of an interview with Clinton during her time as First Lady of Arkansas in the 1980s. The tape contains a passage during which she recalls the case and laughs about her success in getting the predator off with a plea bargain. She also chuckles about her client’s passing a polygraph test that she said destroyed forever her faith in lie detectors, a clear reference to her belief in his guilt.

Clinton’s defenders dismissed the controversy as not only irrelevant to today’s issues but as a misunderstanding of the role of lawyers in the criminal justice system. The former secretary of state echoes that sentiment in her interview with Mumsnet, a British website. She said that lawyers can’t always choose their clients or take up the defense of only innocent people. That’s true. Even guilty people are entitled to a zealous defense from their attorneys. Yet Clinton’s answer contradicts what she said on the tape.

Clinton told Mumsnet that:

I was appointed by the local judge. I asked to be relieved of that responsibility but I was not.

But in her account of the case in the interview with a writer from Esquire magazine that was found in the archives of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Clinton told a different story. In that version she said she took the case as a favor to the local prosecutor who told her that the rapist wanted a woman to defend him.

Moreover, her bland representation of her conduct in the case which she merely put down as fulfilling her “obligation” to defend the accused is also contradicted by the account of the victim of his crime. Speaking to the Daily Beast, the now 52-year-old victim described Clinton’s attacks on her credibility and tactics designed to show that the woman, who was 12 years old at the time of the attack, was somehow responsible for what happened to her. While Clinton claimed in her first autobiography that the case helped inspire her to dedicate her career to the cause of defending the rights of women and children, the victim’s recollection that the would-be president “took me through hell” provides a devastating riposte to that boast.

The problem for Clinton isn’t, as she claims, that she defended a person who was guilty of a heinous crime but only received a slap on the wrist because of her efforts on his behalf. The jocular tone in which she recalls her sleazy legal work may be typical behavior for lawyers swapping stories about their exploits. But it ill becomes a would-be president, let alone one whose campaign is predicated on the notion that she is a unique champion for the rights of women.

Hypocrisy is common among politicians but it goes almost without saying that if any male politician or a female Republican was ever caught on tape giggling about their ability to let a rapist walk after putting the victim through the wringer, they would be finished. The rules are different for the Clintons and especially for Hillary, whose 2016 inevitability factor rests on the prospect that she will be the first woman to win the presidency. It is hardly surprising that a liberal mainstream media that went gaga over gaffes made by conservative Republicans in which they discussed rape and abortion would do their best to ignore Clinton’s rape case. For instance, the New York Times printed not a word about it until today when it could introduce the story with her denial of wrongdoing. But this story continues to percolate and it is likely that this won’t be the last time she is asked about it.

Yet her attempt to put this to rest fails for the same reason that her book tour didn’t turn out to be the triumph her supporters (especially her cheerleaders in the media) expected it to be. Clinton may be every bit as much of a policy wonk as her husband, but she lacks his political skills. As she proved in 2008, her awkward political manner and tendency to talk herself into unforced errors, like her claim that she was “broke” when she left the White House, renders her vulnerable in ways that belie the sense of inevitability that is driving her candidacy.

This story won’t destroy her presidential hopes as it would with any male or Republican rival, but Clinton’s flawed behavior and inability to defend herself as well as she did that rapist is one more reason why those who assume that the 2016 race will be a slow-walk coronation for Clinton may be mistaken.

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Will Hillary’s Rape Victim Be Heard?

As the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll demonstrated, the key to continued Democratic electoral success is maintaining their dominance among female voters by relentlessly hyping the fake Republican “war on women.” And there is no more potent element for that crucial tactic than the use of the word rape. Yet while the media was quick to use stray stupid remarks by Republican senatorial candidates to brand the GOP as a party that was insensitive to victims of sexual violence, revelations about Hillary Clinton’s role in abusing a real victim of rape continues to be ignored by much of the mainstream media.

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As the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll demonstrated, the key to continued Democratic electoral success is maintaining their dominance among female voters by relentlessly hyping the fake Republican “war on women.” And there is no more potent element for that crucial tactic than the use of the word rape. Yet while the media was quick to use stray stupid remarks by Republican senatorial candidates to brand the GOP as a party that was insensitive to victims of sexual violence, revelations about Hillary Clinton’s role in abusing a real victim of rape continues to be ignored by much of the mainstream media.

As I wrote on Wednesday, the revelations about Clinton’s successful defense of a rapist that she later laughingly admitted on tape to be guilty uncovered by our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman in the Washington Free Beacon are the sort of thing that would destroy any Republican. But rather than the story going viral, it has drawn little interest in mainstream publications that can usually be relied upon to hype any GOP gaffe if it validates the war on women charge. But while the New York Times has ignored the story, the 12-year-old victim in the 1975 case has now stepped forward to denounce the putative 2016 Democratic presidential nominee as a hypocrite. As much as the mainstream press would like to treat this as just one more instance of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Clinton blamed for uncovering her husband’s peccadilloes in the White House, the voice of the woman who remembers how Hillary “took me through hell” may not be so easy to suppress as her supporters think.

The interview with the now 52-year-old victim in the Daily Beast provides a devastating riposte to Clinton’s claim in her first autobiography that her early legal work inspired a lifetime of dedication to defending the rights of women and children. Faced with a clearly guilty client, the young Hillary Rodham pulled out all the stops to discredit the child victim and to muddle the facts in a case which she later, as the Free Beacon discovered, humorously recalled (in a fake southern accent that she used during her time as first lady of Arkansas that was easily discarded once she moved on to greener pastures) as an early triumph. The victim would like to confront the Democratic frontrunner and talk about how Clinton’s sleazy tactics helped ruin her life but is afraid of what such a powerful person might do to her.

“I would say [to Clinton], ‘You took a case of mine in ’75, you lied on me… I realize the truth now, the heart of what you’ve done to me. And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me? And I hear you on tape laughing.”

Let’s specify again that what Clinton did was perfectly legal. Lawyers do all sorts of unsavory things in conducting a zealous defense of the accused without blinking an eye. But Clinton is not a character on the SVU version of Law & Order. She aspires to the highest office of the land, a post that requires a standard of behavior that ought to be slightly higher than the sort of thing that is par for the course in your local county courthouse. It’s not possible to be a gutter-dwelling defender of rapists while also posing as a champion of women and children on the national political stage. That is, it certainly isn’t possible for any Republican or maybe even a Democratic male. What we may be discovering is that if you’re the woman who could be the first female to be elected president, you can have just about anything in your past. But the publication of the interview in the Daily Beast and the subsequent story about it in Politico demonstrates that this kind of political dynamite isn’t so easily suppressed.

The Clinton camp has to hope that the Times and the major networks will continue to decide that this is ancient history or no big deal. If so, they think they can ride out this storm and then spend the next two and a half years until her 2016 coronation repeating the mantra that this is nothing but a smear.

In the meantime, Clinton’s old friends back in Arkansas are determined to stop the Free Beacon from discovering anything else that might be unflattering about their former first lady. As Politico’s Dylan Byers reports, the University of Arkansas has suspended the Free Beacon from access to its special collections where they have found several interesting nuggets about the Clintons—including the tape of Clinton laughing about her trashing of a child rape victim—in the archives tucked away in the school’s library. The university claims the Beacon had no right to disseminate the Clinton tapes even though the site was provided access to it with no conditions or being forced to sign any agreement about it.

Shutting up critics has always been the Clinton’s standard tactic when confronted by critics. But in this case, the effort by their allies to shut down research about her reprehensible behavior came a little too late.

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Hillary’s Rapist and the War on Women

The second week of Hillary Clinton’s book tour is going a lot better than the first. The former first lady and secretary of state’s gaffes about the “brutality” of American politics and her fib about being broke when she and her husband left the White House made her look foolish rather than the confident president-in-waiting that she wants us to think she is. But now that the dust has settled on the first round of interviews, Hillary is back on message. The news that 100,000 copies of a memoir that is almost devoid of new information or revelations have been sold during the first days since Hard Choices hit the stores is certainly proof of her popularity. Her “town hall” appearance on CNN yesterday seemed more like a pep rally or an episode of Oprah—with the charmless Christiane Amanpour playing the role of host—and did nothing to undermine the narrative of her inevitability. Even better for Clinton, her risky decision to go on Fox News and face far tougher interrogators in Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren paid off not only because she stood up well to their questions and put some space between her positions and those of President Obama, but also because it came hours after the news broke that one of the Benghazi terrorists had been arrested. That’s the kind of incredible stroke of luck that generally only happens to people who are on their way to winning presidential elections.

Needless to say, in none of the interviews about Hillary’s book was she asked about the fact that she once boasted and laughed about helping a child rapist evade justice. Our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman wrote on Friday in the Washington Free Beacon about how Clinton was caught on tape discussing the case during an interview with Esquire magazine in the 1980s for an article that was never published. In the tapes, which were archived at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Clinton concedes that her client was guilty and that he beat the rap due to prosecutorial incompetence as well as her own attempt to smear the character of the 12-year-old victim in the case. The then-27-year-old Hillary Rodham managed to get the state to agree to a plea bargain in which the rapist, 41-year-old Thomas Alfred Taylor, served less than a year in prison.

While even rapists are entitled to a zealous defense, the jocular way Clinton discusses the case on tape provides a stark contrast to the 66-year-old veteran politician who is readying a run for president largely on the strength of her gender. While this is not the first time the story of the rape case has surfaced0—Newsday ran a story about it in 2008 that had little traction—the resurfacing of this unpleasant episode in Clinton’s biography illustrates two key points about her potential candidacy. One is that despite the fact that the Democratic presidential nomination is hers for the asking, she remains a flawed candidate and a mediocre politician who lacks the smoothness and skills that helped her husband win the White House. The other is that even though this is exactly the sort of story that would doom virtually any other politician, especially a Republican, Hillary can rely on a fawning press corps to ensure that this is an issue that will be largely buried in the mainstream media.

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The second week of Hillary Clinton’s book tour is going a lot better than the first. The former first lady and secretary of state’s gaffes about the “brutality” of American politics and her fib about being broke when she and her husband left the White House made her look foolish rather than the confident president-in-waiting that she wants us to think she is. But now that the dust has settled on the first round of interviews, Hillary is back on message. The news that 100,000 copies of a memoir that is almost devoid of new information or revelations have been sold during the first days since Hard Choices hit the stores is certainly proof of her popularity. Her “town hall” appearance on CNN yesterday seemed more like a pep rally or an episode of Oprah—with the charmless Christiane Amanpour playing the role of host—and did nothing to undermine the narrative of her inevitability. Even better for Clinton, her risky decision to go on Fox News and face far tougher interrogators in Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren paid off not only because she stood up well to their questions and put some space between her positions and those of President Obama, but also because it came hours after the news broke that one of the Benghazi terrorists had been arrested. That’s the kind of incredible stroke of luck that generally only happens to people who are on their way to winning presidential elections.

Needless to say, in none of the interviews about Hillary’s book was she asked about the fact that she once boasted and laughed about helping a child rapist evade justice. Our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman wrote on Friday in the Washington Free Beacon about how Clinton was caught on tape discussing the case during an interview with Esquire magazine in the 1980s for an article that was never published. In the tapes, which were archived at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Clinton concedes that her client was guilty and that he beat the rap due to prosecutorial incompetence as well as her own attempt to smear the character of the 12-year-old victim in the case. The then-27-year-old Hillary Rodham managed to get the state to agree to a plea bargain in which the rapist, 41-year-old Thomas Alfred Taylor, served less than a year in prison.

While even rapists are entitled to a zealous defense, the jocular way Clinton discusses the case on tape provides a stark contrast to the 66-year-old veteran politician who is readying a run for president largely on the strength of her gender. While this is not the first time the story of the rape case has surfaced0—Newsday ran a story about it in 2008 that had little traction—the resurfacing of this unpleasant episode in Clinton’s biography illustrates two key points about her potential candidacy. One is that despite the fact that the Democratic presidential nomination is hers for the asking, she remains a flawed candidate and a mediocre politician who lacks the smoothness and skills that helped her husband win the White House. The other is that even though this is exactly the sort of story that would doom virtually any other politician, especially a Republican, Hillary can rely on a fawning press corps to ensure that this is an issue that will be largely buried in the mainstream media.

Clinton did talk about her foray into defending sexual predators in her 2003 autobiography Living History, but represented it as a triumph of jurisprudence because of her work discrediting the prosecution’s handling of the evidence. She also said it inspired her to help organize a rape crisis hotline in Fayetteville, a tidbit that is consistent with her representation of her early career as one that was based on defense of the rights of women and children.

While legal expert Ronald Rotunda told Goodman that Clinton’s discussion of her client’s polygraph test results and guilt was unethical, there’s nothing wrong with a lawyer successfully defending a guilty client. But there is a difference between a run-of-the-mill attorney taking on such a case and even boasting about it and a woman who is seeking the presidency doing so. Suffice it to say that, as Melinda Henneberger wrote in the Washington Post, were a conservative to be caught with such a damning admission in their past, it would become part of the Democrat narrative about the Republican “war on women.” But when a liberal who stands a good chance of being the first female president and who has built an image as a champion for women is caught laughing about destroying the life of a child rape victim, it is the sort of thing that most of the media will quickly shove down the proverbial memory hole.

You don’t have to be a Clinton-hater to be cognizant of the ironies involved in Hillary being associated with the worst sort of legal abuse of rape victims. That her husband also successfully evaded sexual harassment charges as well as the accusation of rape by Juanita Broaddrick only makes the story seem even sleazier.

But Hillary needn’t worry about getting the Todd Akin treatment from a media that, as Chris Cuomo noted last week on CNN, “We couldn’t help her any more than we have. She’s just got a free ride from the media.”

Learning about Clinton’s callous legal record doesn’t necessarily disqualify her for the presidency or undermine her attempt to represent herself as uniquely ready for the presidency. But it does call into question not only her claims as a champion for women but also the entire war on women meme used by her party and the fairness of a media culture that is ready to bury this story.

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The GOP’s Moron Factor

Republicans have spent the last several months arguing about the lessons of the 2012 election with both establishment types and grass roots activists mixing it up on a variety of issues. But if there was one conclusion that surely everyone in the party agreed upon it was that GOP candidates and officials needed to avoid mentioning rape, especially when discussing their opposition to abortion. The spectacular idiocy of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin—who publicly doubted that women could become pregnant as a result of rape—didn’t just transform his opponent Claire McCaskill from a certain loser to an easy winner and sink Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, when the latter said something not quite as foolish. It also allowed Democrats to trash all Republicans as Neanderthal nitwits seeking to abuse women.

But apparently Arizonan Republican Representative Trent Franks didn’t get the memo. Franks demonstrated that yesterday when he claimed during a Judiciary Committee debate that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is “very low.” But Franks had to repeat the assertion even in a later clarification before he realized what he had done. With a single phrase, Franks had handed Democrats on the committee and elsewhere a chance to revive their fake “War on Women” theme that helped mobilize the Democratic base in 2012. Though it can be asserted that they didn’t need any new excuses to try the same tactic in 2014, Franks has made it a lot easier. Just as was the case in 2012, Republicans are learning the hard way that foolish statements—even if they are ripped out of their context or unfairly characterized—allow Democrats to change the subject from serious moral issues to a topic they’d rather talk about: why some Republicans are morons.

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Republicans have spent the last several months arguing about the lessons of the 2012 election with both establishment types and grass roots activists mixing it up on a variety of issues. But if there was one conclusion that surely everyone in the party agreed upon it was that GOP candidates and officials needed to avoid mentioning rape, especially when discussing their opposition to abortion. The spectacular idiocy of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin—who publicly doubted that women could become pregnant as a result of rape—didn’t just transform his opponent Claire McCaskill from a certain loser to an easy winner and sink Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, when the latter said something not quite as foolish. It also allowed Democrats to trash all Republicans as Neanderthal nitwits seeking to abuse women.

But apparently Arizonan Republican Representative Trent Franks didn’t get the memo. Franks demonstrated that yesterday when he claimed during a Judiciary Committee debate that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is “very low.” But Franks had to repeat the assertion even in a later clarification before he realized what he had done. With a single phrase, Franks had handed Democrats on the committee and elsewhere a chance to revive their fake “War on Women” theme that helped mobilize the Democratic base in 2012. Though it can be asserted that they didn’t need any new excuses to try the same tactic in 2014, Franks has made it a lot easier. Just as was the case in 2012, Republicans are learning the hard way that foolish statements—even if they are ripped out of their context or unfairly characterized—allow Democrats to change the subject from serious moral issues to a topic they’d rather talk about: why some Republicans are morons.

Can it be that conservatives have already forgotten how one ill-considered vulgar insult uttered by Rush Limbaugh diverted the public’s attention from the Obama administration’s attack on the religious freedom of Catholics and others who opposed its Health and Human Services mandate? In the space of a couple of days, instead of a national debate about the way ObamaCare was violating religious liberty and imposing a burden on Catholic institutions to pay for services that violated their consciences we got a full-scale argument about the way Republicans were oppressing women. Liberal activist Sandra Fluke was transformed into a feminist hero instead of being mocked, as she should have been, for her upper-middle-class plea for free birth control.

It is true that this was largely the work of a mainstream liberal media that preferred to demonize conservatives rather than to focus on a threat to religious freedom, but surely Rush and others on the right were already aware that the world isn’t fair and that they must always remember that the media playing field is tilted against them. Anyone who doesn’t already know this isn’t smart enough to be in Congress. It was in the context of that gaffe that Akin’s comments and those of Mourdock became a rallying cry from Democrats last fall.

Franks has done something just as stupid. His remarks came in the middle of a debate about a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks including those as a result of rape or incest. Abortion rights advocates view any attempt to restrict the procedure in much the same manner as the National Rifle Association sees even the most reasonable regulations of guns, and it is to be expected that this measure will be fought tooth and nail. The wisdom of the 20-week bill can be debated, but it is part of a necessary discussion about the morality of late-term abortions in an era when medical advances have changed the way we look at such pregnancies. Yet rather than discuss the fact that babies aborted after 20 weeks are likely to be viable human beings—a fact that was highlighted during the Kermit Gosnell trial—the national discussion has turned again to Republicans and rape.

In his defense, Franks is right to assert that the instances of a rape victim waiting until 20 weeks to have an abortion are probably quite rare. But that wasn’t what he said at first. What he did utter was close enough to Akin’s infamous crack that it ensured that he would be the latest Republican turned into a piñata for liberals. Franks and other Republicans not only need to learn how to discuss social issues without sounding cavalier about rape. They need to remember that if they don’t stick to their moral talking points Democrats looking for another Akin will sucker them into rape comments.

Some would argue the GOP is better off forgetting about social issues altogether but so long as the national discussion is focused on conservative principles, such as the value of life or religious liberty, the Republicans have the high ground. But the moment they start using the words rape and pregnancy in the same sentence they are doomed. The outcome of future elections may well hinge on whether Republicans can remember this very simple rule.

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Did Mourdock Just Lose the Senate?

Republican hopes for taking back the Senate this year have absorbed a variety of blows in the past several months. Olympia Snowe’s retirement and Todd Akin’s comments about pregnancy and rape dramatically reduced the chances of a GOP takeover. But Richard Mourdock’s saying that a pregnancy caused by rape is something that God intended to happen may have been the coup de grace. Here’s the quote from an answer to a question about his opposition to even the rape exception on abortion:

I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Mourdock, who toppled longtime moderate GOP incumbent Richard Lugar in a Republican primary, was locked in an unexpectedly tight race with Democrat Joe Donnelly even before last night. Donnelly has benefited from Lugar’s petulant refusal to endorse Mourdock, something that fed the perception that the Republican was a Tea Party extremist. But saying something that could be interpreted as meaning that he believed God intended rape to happen could tip the balance in the election. The loss of the Indiana seat would make it almost impossible for the Republicans to get to 50 or 51 even if they were able to pull off upsets in Ohio and Connecticut and hold onto Scott Brown’s endangered Massachusetts seat.

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Republican hopes for taking back the Senate this year have absorbed a variety of blows in the past several months. Olympia Snowe’s retirement and Todd Akin’s comments about pregnancy and rape dramatically reduced the chances of a GOP takeover. But Richard Mourdock’s saying that a pregnancy caused by rape is something that God intended to happen may have been the coup de grace. Here’s the quote from an answer to a question about his opposition to even the rape exception on abortion:

I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Mourdock, who toppled longtime moderate GOP incumbent Richard Lugar in a Republican primary, was locked in an unexpectedly tight race with Democrat Joe Donnelly even before last night. Donnelly has benefited from Lugar’s petulant refusal to endorse Mourdock, something that fed the perception that the Republican was a Tea Party extremist. But saying something that could be interpreted as meaning that he believed God intended rape to happen could tip the balance in the election. The loss of the Indiana seat would make it almost impossible for the Republicans to get to 50 or 51 even if they were able to pull off upsets in Ohio and Connecticut and hold onto Scott Brown’s endangered Massachusetts seat.

At the debate, Mourdock immediately understood that he had blundered and tried to explain that he didn’t mean that God wanted women to be raped:

God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does.

But that may have been too late. While his comment is really not in the same category as Todd Akin’s mind-boggling stupidity about women’s bodies shutting down during “legitimate rape,” it will be easily compared to it. No amount of explanation will prevent the Democrats from coupling him with Akin as a pair of Neanderthal Republicans who hate women and want them to suffer pregnancy as a result of rape.

In his defense, Mourdock’s position is based in a moral imperative that sees the life of a child conceived by rape as being no less important than that of one conceived by consensual sex. If you believe life begins at conception, then life is life–regardless of the circumstances. That is not a position even most of those who are morally opposed to abortion can stomach, but it is one that is based in logic. Nor is it the product of misogynist superstition such as Akin’s foolishness.

But by bringing God’s will into the equation, Mourdock opened himself up to an entirely different line of attack that could be just as damaging. If he had held a large lead over Donnelly, such as the one Akin had over unpopular incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri, he might have survived this kerfuffle, let the Democrats make what they could of it. But since the race was already a tossup, it’s hard to see how Donnelly can avoid pulling ahead in the coming days.

That creates a situation where even Mitt Romney’s coattails — assuming he has any — won’t be enough to win the Republicans the four seats they need to become a majority in the Senate. This means that even if Romney is elected and the Republicans hold the House of Representatives, the repeal of ObamaCare is going to need some Democratic support in the Senate. If the repeal effort fails, the two seats the GOP appears to be losing as a result of the issue of rape and pregnancy will loom large in the history of this chapter of political history.

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The Todd Akin Fiasco

On Sunday, a six-term Congressman from Missouri running as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate went on a newsmaker program and, in defense of his pro-life views, reported that doctors say the body of a woman who has suffered a “legitimate rape” will somehow contrive to prevent a pregnancy: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The moral, intellectual, and spiritual ignoramus who spoke those words is Todd Akin. He won the Missouri primary two weeks ago in a three-way race against two other conservatives, taking 36 percent of the vote—his two major rivals together won about 60 percent. He was supported in his bid by, among others, the Democrats who believed he would be the weakest candidate to face incumbent Claire McCaskill, widely viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent running for Senate this year. They ran ads attacking his rivals and helped him prevail.

Smart move. Akin is likely to join a list of Republican primary winners who have seized defeat from the jaws of victory—like Clayton Williams, who was running a sensational outsider candidacy for Texas governor in 1990 until he remarked that bad weather was like rape. “As long as it’s inevitable,” Williams said, “you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” Those are the words that got Ann Richards elected. Had he kept his mouth shut, he might have won the race. Had he won the race, George W. Bush would not have run to oust Richards in 1994. Had he not run in 1994, George W. Bush would not have become president in 2000.

George Allen of Virginia probably lost an unbelievably close election in 2006 because his candidacy was thrown off course by his weird offhand reference to a South Asian Democratic kid taking video of him at campaign stops as “Macaca.” Rivals suggested he was using a French word for monkey, which then opened up a can of worms about Allen’s mother—who, it turned out, was a North African Jew intent on hiding her own Jewishness. The race went haywire, and even so the Democratic candidate, James Webb, only won by 4/10s of a percent.

Apparently, if Akin withdraws by 5 pm tomorrow, the Missouri Republican party can put up a new candidate to face McCaskill. After that, he’s on the ballot for good. Call this the Bob Torricelli strategy—when the former senator from New Jersey found himself awash in an ethics scandal in 2002, he vamoosed from the race in favor of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg even though there was no legal way for this to be done. No matter. The New Jersey Supreme Court declared it legal, and Democrats retained the seat.

Akin won’t quit, though. He issued a statement yesterday saying he “misspoke,” which means he doesn’t actually think he did anything wrong. Perhaps he will be comforted by that insane knowledge when he is sitting home, unemployed and disgraced, in 2013, with control of the Senate in Democratic hands because of him.

 

On Sunday, a six-term Congressman from Missouri running as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate went on a newsmaker program and, in defense of his pro-life views, reported that doctors say the body of a woman who has suffered a “legitimate rape” will somehow contrive to prevent a pregnancy: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The moral, intellectual, and spiritual ignoramus who spoke those words is Todd Akin. He won the Missouri primary two weeks ago in a three-way race against two other conservatives, taking 36 percent of the vote—his two major rivals together won about 60 percent. He was supported in his bid by, among others, the Democrats who believed he would be the weakest candidate to face incumbent Claire McCaskill, widely viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent running for Senate this year. They ran ads attacking his rivals and helped him prevail.

Smart move. Akin is likely to join a list of Republican primary winners who have seized defeat from the jaws of victory—like Clayton Williams, who was running a sensational outsider candidacy for Texas governor in 1990 until he remarked that bad weather was like rape. “As long as it’s inevitable,” Williams said, “you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” Those are the words that got Ann Richards elected. Had he kept his mouth shut, he might have won the race. Had he won the race, George W. Bush would not have run to oust Richards in 1994. Had he not run in 1994, George W. Bush would not have become president in 2000.

George Allen of Virginia probably lost an unbelievably close election in 2006 because his candidacy was thrown off course by his weird offhand reference to a South Asian Democratic kid taking video of him at campaign stops as “Macaca.” Rivals suggested he was using a French word for monkey, which then opened up a can of worms about Allen’s mother—who, it turned out, was a North African Jew intent on hiding her own Jewishness. The race went haywire, and even so the Democratic candidate, James Webb, only won by 4/10s of a percent.

Apparently, if Akin withdraws by 5 pm tomorrow, the Missouri Republican party can put up a new candidate to face McCaskill. After that, he’s on the ballot for good. Call this the Bob Torricelli strategy—when the former senator from New Jersey found himself awash in an ethics scandal in 2002, he vamoosed from the race in favor of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg even though there was no legal way for this to be done. No matter. The New Jersey Supreme Court declared it legal, and Democrats retained the seat.

Akin won’t quit, though. He issued a statement yesterday saying he “misspoke,” which means he doesn’t actually think he did anything wrong. Perhaps he will be comforted by that insane knowledge when he is sitting home, unemployed and disgraced, in 2013, with control of the Senate in Democratic hands because of him.

 

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