© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government, Politics & Issues

Commentary: Shutdown time for Akin's Senate campaign

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2012 - U.S. Rep. Todd Akin has managed to conclusively refute the showbiz adage that any publicity is good publicity. Mr. Akin — as of this writing, the Republican senatorial nominee from Missouri — is now a nationally recognized figure. Unfortunately for his electoral prospects, his name is widely considered to be a synonym for “buffoon.”

After launching an ill-advised foray into theoretical gynecology during an interview with Fox-2’s Charles Jaco, Akin’s candidacy appears to be deader than disco. Though the congressman later issued a press release explaining that had “misspoke” in “off-the-cuff comments,” his jaw-dropping observations concerning the consequences of rape generated shock and awe that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. As the saying has it, you can’t un-ring the bell. He might as well have claimed that he was cleaning his mouth and it accidentally went off.

To recap, Akin tried to justify his opposition to abortion in rape cases by alleging that in “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The “whole thing” here being the female reproductive process. At least, he didn’t try to snow his audience with overly technical terms.

In the unlikely event that the Akin shut-off valve malfunctions and a pregnancy does result, the congressman believes there should be “ … some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child (sic)”. So there you have it, girls: if you don’t have the common sense to suspend ovulation while being battered and violated, you can just bear the progeny of your attacker and raise it as your own. But take heart, the offender could receive some punishment if we manage to catch him.

In the interest of fairness, I will defend Akin’s use of the term “legitimate rape.” Giving him benefit of doubt, I assume he refers to a genuine report of a rape as opposed to one filed by, for instance, a prostitute who was cheated out of payment or a spurned lover hoping to create malicious mischief for her ex. In police parlance, an incident in which a woman was truly forced to have sex against her will is referred to as a “good rape” — meaning that it is prosecutable. And most cops have enough sense not to use the expression when speaking for publication.

The morning after his attempted political suicide, the forlorn congressman was scheduled to appear on KMOX Radio’s Charlie Brennan Show. I normally tune in to Brennan on my office radio but the prospect of the dead man talking transformed this broadcast into a can’t-miss event. Alas, Akin belatedly decided to adopt a low profile and stiffed Brennan.

His absence, however, did nothing to deter two hours of phone calls from listeners about the controversy. The most amusing of these were from Akin supporters who sought to prove that it is, in fact, more difficult to conceive during rape than it is during normal intercourse.

While I’m reasonably certain that no reliable experimental research has been conducted on the matter, his die-hard defenders missed the point: the original question wasn’t the likelihood of conception but what to do once it occurs.

The tortured efforts of Akin’s defenders reminded me of last year’s American heritage tour by Sarah Palin — better understood as “The History of the American Revolution According to the ex-governor of Alaska.” At one point in her travels, Palin explained to puzzled onlookers that Paul Revere made his fabled midnight ride to warn the British that the Americans were coming.

Rather than dismiss the gaffe as a simple slip of the tongue, right-wing commentators contended that she was actually referring to a previous encounter Revere had with a British patrol. That explanation didn’t gain much traction with people who’d completed the fourth grade, however, and eventually efforts to prove her correct were abandoned.

Though he cancelled an appearance on the biggest radio station in the state, the Missouri candidate did appear on the national program of his political ally, Mike Huckabee. After Akin offered the predictable apologies, explained that he’d misquoted himself and assured listeners that he generally opposes sex crimes, Huckabee declared him to be a “courageous conservative.” Indeed, he is because he skewered himself upon the sword of ideological certitude to take one for the cause.

Now, anybody who is anybody in the Republican Party is calling for Akin to step down. Aside from Huckabee, the only nationally prominent political figure to encourage him to stay in the race is his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill.

For his part, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has denounced Akin’s comments. True believers may feel that he threw the troubled ideologue under the bus but, in truth, Akin did that to himself. Mr. Romney just wisely declined to join him there. It would appear to be time for Todd to shut this whole thing down.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.