Todd Akin rape claim is the tip of the GOP wacko iceberg

House Republicans make constant display of their tenuous grasp on reality

August 21, 2012|Thomas F. Schaller

Well, Todd Akin really stepped in it, didn't he? The Missouri Representative's wacko claim that women have some sort of natural defense mechanism that prevents pregnancies from occurring in circumstances of "legitimate rape" is a real doozy.

But statements like his are nothing unusual for House Republicans, who as a group are responsible for what seems like a bottomless cup of absurd, illogical and borderline lunatic comments across a range of topics.

Indeed, Rep. Akin's comment is but one example of how bonkers House Republicans get when discussing sex, contraception, abortion or feminism. Georgia's Tom Price has claimed that not a single American woman lacks access to birth control. (A 2010 study reported that at least one-third of female voters, and more than half of women under 25, have difficulty accessing or paying for birth control.) Arizona's Trent Franks believes African-Americans were better off during slavery because abortion today "devastates" their community more than enslavement did. Florida's Allen West warned that liberal women are "neutering" American men and — I'm not making this up — that this trend will inevitably lead to higher deficits.

Other GOP House members specialize not so much in making crazy statements as offering windows into their crazed notions about government's proper regulatory functions.

Alabama's Spencer Bacchus has stated rather plainly that the role of financial regulators was not to serve and protect the taxpayers who provide their salaries but to "serve the banks." (He should be pleased with the government's performance.) Like almost every other member of the House GOP caucus, Mac Thornberry of Texas is a climate change denier who dismisses the idea that government should do anything about his state's economy-crippling droughts; he instead asked for "prayers for rain." And fellow Texan Joe Barton was sweet enough to apologize to a British Petroleum executive when dastardly American regulators made BP's life so difficult after one of its drilling rigs leaked all that oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

And then there are the Obamas: Their blackness and President Obama's policies — especially health care reform — drive certain Republicans around the bend.

In a fit of pique about First Lady Michelle Obama'shealthy diet initiatives, Wisconsin's James Sensenbrenner mocked Mrs. Obama's "large posterior." Iowa's Steve King warned that our mixed-race president "has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race — on the side that favors the black person."

Indiana's Mike Pence equated this summer's Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act with the September 11 attacks. Georgia's Paul Broun proclaimed that the law will "tell us what kind of car to drive, whether we can own guns or not ... whether we can teach our children the way that we as parents believe our children ought to be taught." In response to the president's deportation policies, Illinois freshman Joe Walsh called Mr. Obama a tyrant, pausing to clarify that the president "really isn't smart enough to know what that means."

Colorado's Doug Lamborn managed to deftly mix both race and policy critiques into a single quip when he compared attempts to find common ground on the budget with President Obama to "touching a tar baby." Well played, Congressman Lamborn.

And who can forget South Carolina's Joe Wilson, who rose in the well of the House of Representatives during the president's nationally-televised 2009 health care address, pointed his finger at Mr. Obama and yelled,"You lie!"

For the record: Readers have been spared a digest of the nutty statements made by a certain Minnesota congresswoman who, I dare remind, at this point last year led the Republican presidential field. (Alas, I have but 700 words per column.)

Rep. Akin is running for U.S. Senate, but he'd rather not have to: That's right, he is one of several House Republicans, including fellow Senate candidate Jeff Flake of Arizona, who think it might be wise to repeal the 17th Amendment's provision for direct election of U.S. Senators.

If we followed their reckless advice, imagine what cohort of crazy House Republicans might be appointed by their state legislatures to the Senate — the chamber our founders designed to serve as the saucer to cool the hot passions of the House.

Or don't. Just thinking about it may drive you crazy.

Thomas F. Schaller teaches political science at UMBC. His column appears every other Wednesday. His email is schaller67@gmail.com. Twitter: @schaller67.

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