You know how rightwingers really, really want to be viewed as victims? It seems to be a twisted variant on the old adage that the best offense is a defence. The claim is usually brought up to justify offensive behavior like asserting that the ACA mandate that compels employers to offer a full healthcare package to their employees constitutes religious persecution since women might collude with their doctors to get contraception that not only encourages what these folks think of as immoral behavior, but might kill a zygote. We all know the drill by now.
Todd Akin, the former congressman from Missouri’s second district, used to excel at this game; his last legislative effort in the House was a classic example of the “if you don’t let me misbehave, you’re persecuting me” gambit. He offered an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that would have permitted abusive and discriminatory behavior on the part of servicemen and women toward their LGBT colleagues. He claimed that since hostility toward LGBT individuals is often based on religious beliefs, prohibiting its expression amounts to religious persecution. I guess that nobody ever explained to Akin that professional standards of civility make today’s diverse military workplace better for everyone – even the religious fanatics whose fanaticism is never, ever under assault just because they are encouraged to act like part of the team at work.
News from TPM is that Akin has given an interview in which he continues to try to vindicate himself after his laughable “legitimate rape” gaffe. What better way than to go the victim route, particularly if he can claim an equivalence to someone really important like Hillary Clinton. Seems that Akin thinks that Clinton deserves the same hold-your-nose treatment that he got because, in the course of her career as a lawyer, she defended a child sex-offender and, as she was legally bound to do, did her best to get him off. Nor did she come to the defence of the women the righwing hauled out to accuse her husband during his sex scandal, for which Akin accuses her of being anti-woman. I don’t remember that Clinton was accused of rape or any real sexual crimes – just fibbing about consensual sex and propositioning staff. Tacky stuff, but not the kind of thing that would inspire the wronged wife to come to the defence of the “other” women. But still, the fact that she isn’t being pilloried from the left must, in Akin’s world view, mean that he is the victim of bias and he really wants to whine about the injustice of it all.
Akin is not the only conservative who is confused about how our law system works. Another recent example has been the outrage sparked in the Fox News world by Obama’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Debo Adegbile, who like Clinton, had the gall to do what a defence lawyer does: uphold that pillar of our law that entitles all individuals accused of a crime to as good a defence as possible. Conservatives, in general, seem to have real problems with the nature of judicial process as opposed to moral judgement, and rarely seem to grasp the moral nature of the obligation that demands that lawyers carefully separate personal emotions and beliefs from the process of fulfilling their vital role in that process.
So is there parity between Clinton and Akin that we need to acknowledge? Clinton did a job of work and, as an ethical professional, she did her duty towards her client – just as the prosecutors tried to do the best job that they could do to represent the interests of the victim. That’s the way it works in the U.S. Akin, on the other hand, simply made a few dunderheaded public statements that revealed his real beliefs about women and sexuality. Lots of women heard Akin expressing these beliefs and, along with most educated, civilized folks, were so appalled that they put him out of office.
What’s worse, Akin gives every sign that, despite the opportunity to learn from his errors, he still holds fast to the beliefs that got him into trouble:
“My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down, was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization,” Akin writes, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and fertilization,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”
“The research is not conclusive, but there is considerable evidence that stress makes conception more difficult,” he continues. “And what could be more stressful than a rape?”
Reassuring to know that a lawmaker in the federal government looks so uncritically to Google for information. And that he then can’t even manage to understand the better articles. I performed the search he prescribes and learned that, overall, researchers do say that ongoing, systematic stress affects fertility over time – but not necessarily fertilization. And the key seems to be the systematic nature of the stress as opposed to a single traumatic event like rape. And even these possible relationships are not well understood.
So not only is Akin consistently wrongheaded, in his quest to deny the right to rape victims – and, ultimately, other women – to control their own bodies, he was and presumably is still willing to use political power to write laws that would widely promulgate such wrongheadedness. In contrast Hillary Clinton only conformed to her legal and moral obligation to do her job and represent a client to the best of her abilities. And if you’re still obsessing about Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes, she may have helped defend his presidency from individuals willing – or coerced – to kiss and tell.
Maybe it’s time for Akin to accept the inevitable and stop bleating about how he’s been wronged. Somewhere down the line he’s going to have accept the fact that “Akin” has become the byword for the backward Republican approach to women and reproductive issues. No matter how many books he writes this won’t change. Apparently, given the tone of this latest interview, there’s also no chance of humility or intellectual growth on the part of the out-of-work politician.
Edited slightly for clarity, 6-17-14.