Saturday, August 8, 2015

GOP Candidates to America: We Are All Todd Akin Now!

Todd Akin's contribution to Republican politics: flapping-gum syndrome.

Joan Walsh of Salon noticed something Thursday night. The GOP candidates -- as well as Republican leaders in general -- have embraced the controversy initiated by a string of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood directors willing to "sell" aborted fetal tissue for profit. These highly edited videos actually do nothing of the kind.

A group of virulently anti-abortionists concocted these stings and, through careful editing, distorted their targets' intentions. Planned Parenthood does indeed assist in the donation of fetal tissue for research, but the only money that changes hands is associated with the costs of transport. Anybody who takes an honest look at the videos knows this.

Enter Republicans in search of a cause. Truth be damned. All we need to do is claim that these videos are "disturbing" and show that liberal abortionists sell human body parts of babies for profit and then laugh all the way to the bank.

When they embrace this position and are willing to defund Planned Parenthood and shut down the government to do it, they risk alienating more than fifty percent of the electorate. Todd Akin here we come.

Joan Walsh of Salon thinks it's a bad move:
But the hoax perpetrated by the Campaign for Medical Progress, to dishonestly claim Planned Parenthood “sells” fetal tissue after abortions, may have backfired on the right, judging from the anti-choice pyrotechnics that erupted on stage in Cleveland Thursday night. CMP intended to hurt Planned Parenthood and Democrats in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign. But they seem to have hurt the GOP, by tricking the 2016 candidates into believing there’s more revulsion at both abortion, and at the respected women’s healthcare provider long attacked by conservatives, than there actually is.
The anti-abortion one-upmanship at the debate showed how the candidates are misreading the political opportunities and turning themselves into Todd Akin, the Republican who challenged Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012. Akin, you’ll recall, was disputing the need for a rape exception to an abortion ban when he told an interviewer that in cases of “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body magically has a way to “shut that whole thing down.” His idiocy helped not only McCaskill but President Obama that year. (Three quarters of Americans believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape, by the way.)
Partisan that I am -- and foe of hypocrisy anywhere -- I hope the GOP field jumps the shark en masse in the abortion debate. Any politician with an ounce of honesty knows that funds given by government to Planned Parenthood cannot by law be used toward abortions, and the vast majority of Planned Parenthood services are aimed at women's health issues having nothing to do with abortion. But will that stop the candidates hoping to rally the Tea-Party-infused conservative base to their cause?

No. It's irresistible. It's a pre-packaged scandal. That it's built on misinformation is, as usual, beside the point. It's like a rattlesnake charm: You shake it at your enemy and America rallies to your side. But, oops, America doesn't agree with conservatives on this one.

It's going to be fun to watch, or would be if there weren't serious negative consequences to women's health. These negative consequences are a feature, not a bug, to the conservative proponents of controlling women's bodies against their will. Hopefully, the GOPers have overplayed their hand just in time to negatively impact their 2016 chances.

If there is one thing to worry about is that low-information voters are susceptible to this kind of ideological charade. How many buy the conservative line, however dishonest it is, remains to be seen. Here's hoping Joan Walsh is right.

Update. NYTimes weighs in on the GOP plight with women post-debate.

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