Yesterday Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill went after Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who, on Sunday’s Meet the Press, voiced his opinion that Bill Clinton’s philandering with Monica Lewinsky, if not the equivalent to the GOP legislative “war” on women’s rights – which he states has been “concocted by Democrats” – is still just the way to silence Democrats who’ve noticed the Republican battle maneuvres in said war. McCaskill, to her lasting credit, took Paul down in short order:
“I think I can speak for most women to say what I found what he said infuriating,” McCaskill said “I think most women understand that they should not be held accountable for the behaviors of their husbands. And you know, frankly, it was a long time ago, and our country did very well under the leadership of Bill Clinton.”
“I think Rand Paul is grasping, trying to show he can be tough and win the presidential nomination,” McCaskill said. “It was a political posturing and, frankly, what Rand Paul doesn’t get is that women want birth control. What Rand Paul doesn’t get is that women don’t want to be marginalized in the workplace. … The more the Republicans keep talking about how somehow they’ve got it all figured out about women, the more trouble they get in.”
Indeed. For good measure, as TPM reports, McCaskill also got in a salvo at Mike Huckabee’s recent, über-creepy “Uncle Sugar” gaffe, in which he seemed to conflate mandatory contraception insurance coverage with imaginary government subsidies for uncontrollable female libido:
McCaskill also responded to Mike Huckabee’s recent comment on the female libido by reiterating that most women view access to birth control as a basic right. “I don’t understand why these guys don’t get that,” McCaskill told Mitchell.
I can tell McCaskill why most Republians don’t get it – they’re essentially confused about the terms of combat, to return to the war metaphor that functions so well to describe GOP anti-women fervor. They think it’s all about free sex and free-loading. Their world view just doesn’t accommodate the idea that the “war on women” doesn’t involve those concepts per se, any more than it involves the private, sexual behavior of Bill Clinton – or Louisiana GOP Senator David Vitter’s penchant for prostitutes, if it comes to that. That’s why they think they can mitigate the perception of their policies by putting a saccharine female face on them, the strategy adopted last night when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) gave a carefully scripted response to the SOTU that was heavy on sentimental cliches and light on policy specifics, a speech that, incidentally, often implicitly belied her own legislative actions and priorities, a fact that GOP leaders seem to think women are too dumb to figure out.
McCaskill did a good job with just the right sound bites, but it’s too bad that when Paul accused Democrats of concocting a war on women, the media constraints meant that no one would ask him specifically which party fillibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act and consistently fought against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In which party do the members preclude any discussion of female and family friendly policies such as paid parental leave, and paid personal and family sick leave? Which party has enacted or attempted to enact cuts to child-care subsidies for working women, head-start funding and numerous other programs that act as a safety net for women and their families? Which party seeks to shut-off unemployment benefits, or chop food stamps, thereby hurting the families of so many poor working or unemployed mothers? The list of Republican policy positions that negatively impact the lives of women directly or indirectly is almost endless.
And yes, Senator McCaskill’s right, the Republican war on women involves restricting abortion rights and access to contraception. According to the Guttemacher Institute, various states enacted 205 provisions restricting abortion and access to contraceptives over the past three years (2011-2013). The first order of business for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 was to pass HR7, the “rape-audit” bill that would use the IRS to discriminate against women who have had an abortion. It was Missouri Republican Senator Blunt who, based on a contrived “religious liberty” argument, sponsored a bill that attempted to deny women right to have health care insurance that covered essential aspects of reproductive health. Just about every Republican in GOP-land has tried to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood – which would undercut support for routine medical procedures such as mammograms as well as the more obviously targeted abortion and contraceptive services. All of which suggests a Republican party that is obsessed with controlling female sexuality.
Nor does the Republican obsession with sexual behavior end with denying women the right to control their fertility. GOPers continue to try to redefine rape more narrowly and to make the victims of rape pay the price for what was done to them. A Republican even suggested that rape kits, used in emergency rooms to collect evidence, are used to give abortions!
Does any of this suggest a party that respects women? Or even a party that respects basic human rights and freedoms, much less even understands what those terms mean? We can at least be grateful that Senator McCaskill, Republican-lite on so many issues, well and truly “gets” the issues involved in the GOP war on women and is willing to stand up along with most of her Democratic colleagues and fight.