Paul Krugman had some interesting things to say about the Republican Trump phenomenon a couple of days ago:
For while it’s true that Mr. Trump is, fundamentally, an absurd figure, so are his rivals. If you pay attention to what any one of them is actually saying, as opposed to how he says it, you discover incoherence and extremism every bit as bad as anything Mr. Trump has to offer. And that’s not an accident: Talking nonsense is what you have to do to get anywhere in today’s Republican Party.
Of course, as Krugman goes on to elaborate, the heart of the matter is how one says ridiculous things. Establishment GOP political operatives are sure the nonsense has to be hidden in smooth-sounding rhetoric or in the by-now almost proverbial “dog-whistles.” Trump’s sin is that he has said outright what other folks either present in coded form or in sympathetic, “conventional-sounding” boiler-plate. GOP politicians concerned with maintaining their viability think they can talk mush-mouth to hide the irrational and/or mean-side of the positions preferred by the rabid base they can’t afford to abandon but which is too small to be relied upon exclusively.
Know what that column put me in mind of? Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2) who succeeded certifiably nuts Todd Akin, he of “legitimate rape” fame. We’re told that Missouri’s GOP insiders believe she’s an antidote to Akin’s craziness, a respectable GOP establishment politician and a woman to boot. But is there really that much difference between the two?
Take the topic of women’s reproductive rights. Akin was not only opposed to abortion in all cases, but attempted to define contraception as abortion. As Amanda Marcotte observed in The Guardian, Akin and his Christian right cohorts:
… believe that women controlling their own fertility is the equivalent of murder, and will distort the facts any way they can to rationalise that view. Indeed, prior to Akin’s rape comments, he was on record claiming that emergency contraception, which works by suppressing ovulation, is abortion. Presumably the same made-up doctors who told him that rape is contraception were the ones telling him that actual contraception is abortion.
In short, Akin was an anti-abortion fanatic who disregarded science and other inconvenient facts and who did not scruple to use spurious claims to further his aims.
Now take a look at Wagner. She’s on the record not only demanding that Planned Parenthood be investigated but denied federal funding based on videos that have been widely acknowledged to have been heavily edited by the radical anti-abortion group that filmed them in order to mislead. There can be no doubt that Wagner also knows the videos are BS – she’s really not an idiot – but she’s still willing to characterize the falsified view of Planned Parenthood that they present as a depiction of “the most evil thing I have ever seen.”
If, as a result of cheerleaders like Wagner, Congress actually does cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, it will not affect abortions offered by the organization – it is already forbidden by law to use federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. Instead it will affect the organization’s ability to offer reproductive health care, including contraception – as a Washington Post article observed, “Planned Parenthood practically invented contraception,” thus earning the persistent animus of the radical right. By going after Planned Parenthood, Wagner is allying herself with the same radical extremists who wish to roll back the clock on women’s right to control their bodies. Doing it by referring to doctored videos is just the cherry on top of the sundae.
If you look at the evidence, it seems that Wagner, like Akin, is also an anti-abortion fanatic who will disregard science and other inconvenient facts and who will not scruple to use spurious claims to further her aims. Remember that when you hear her spouting mumbo-jumbo about how she just wants to “protect” women and their “unborn children” from late term abortions – without mentioning that such abortions are exceedingly rare (1% of all abortions) and almost always undertaken for serious medical reasons. Same ole, same ole.
Make no mistake, Wagner wants Roe v. Wade to go away and take easy access to contraception with it. Like Akin, she’ll lie and obfuscate to achieve that end. Unlike Akin, she’ll smile and coo while she does it.