Monday morning found me awake just before dawn. When I stepped outside to make my daily pilgrimage to the coffee shop, the sun was still behind the houses and the trees...and I felt it for the first time. Just a hint in the air, but it was there all the same: the first faint kiss of Fall, my favorite season. It's coming, I thought to myself. It's coming.
Not the season. The election. It is twelve weeks away, waiting for us on the far side of Halloween, which is all too appropriate given what we have seen so far. President Obama and the Democrats, for their part, have donned a Rocky Balboa costume and come out swinging, confounding every historical precedent of what normal Democratic behavior should be. Mr. Obama calls the GOP plan for Medicare "snake oil," Mr. Biden correctly tells a crowd that the banksters want to put them in chains and then refuses to back off when accused of race-baiting, and Mr. Reid can easily pass himself off as a world-class knitter for all the knots he's tied in the Republican campaign with his ceaseless attacks on Mitt Romney's tax status.
What planet am I on? This doesn't happen. Democrats are supposed to tuck tail and run at the first whiff of smoke, not charge forward in a dervish-wind of daggers and fire. Given the howls of dismay and outrage from the realms of the right wing, I am not the only one gobsmacked by this new turn of events. It is not supposed to be this way, and the GOP is not enjoying the use of its own tactics against them.
Mitt Romney has donned and discarded a number of costumes over the course of this campaign. He tried to dress up as the guy who created Romneycare in Massachusetts yet despises Mr. Obama's national version of it, but wasn't able to pull off the broad straddle required to make the outfit fit. He tried to dress up as a world-class businessman whose management acumen gives him all the proper qualities for national leadership, but wound up staggering and stumbling through attacks on his history at Bain Capital and his own shady relationship with the tax code. Mr. Romney jettisoned that particular mask in highly amusing style by practically begging the Obama campaign to stop discussing "business or family or taxes or things of that nature " during the campaign. Yeah, right, any minute now.
Can't dress up as a guy who came up with a workable health care plan. Can't dress up as a guy whose business record makes him a solid choice. What's left?
Ah, yes, a Tea Party mask, in the person of one Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. An amiable sociopath if ever there was one, Mr. Ryan brings to the campaign fourteen years of far-right baggage, which is just what a Republican candidate desperate to secure his leery base needs right now. "Nail down the 'Baggers and figure out the rest later" appears to be the newest GOP campaign battle plan...
...but that "figure out the rest later" bit got more difficult by orders of magnitude on Monday, thanks to a true and complete idiot named Todd Akin. Akin, who has represented Missouri's 2nd District in the House of Representatives since 2001, is running against Claire McCaskill for US Senate. Akin, a Tea Party darling and standard-bearer, is no stranger to the stupid comment, but broke new ground in the annals of idiocy in an interview aired on Sunday. "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," said Akin during an interview with KTVI, a Fox network out of St. Louis. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Who the what the where the when the why the how the what the hell?
Yeah, that happened. In the odd, demented, windy spaces that pass for the mind of Mr. Akin, if you are raped and become pregnant, you weren't really raped, because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." That sound you hear is the heads of a million OBGYN's exploding simultaneously. Before the sun came up on Monday, Akin's campaign had rushed out a he-misspoke-we-hate-rape retraction, but the horse was already out of the barn. Akin's words were not a mistake, but a closely-held belief within the Anti-Choice-at-all-costs crowd, and now the Romney/Ryan campaign has a whole new problem to contend with.
Their immediate response to Akin's statement should be a first-ballot entrant into the Vapid Dishwater Statement Hall Of Fame: "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement. A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." Perhaps realizing how spectacularly inadequate that response was, the Romney campaign followed up by calling Akin's words "insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong."
Not nearly good enough. Mr. Romney has spent his entire political career being for choice before he was against choice before he was for it before he was against it before he was for it before he was against it, and if the American people are going to cast a vote for him, they deserve to hear a better response from him to Mr. Akin's gibberish than what has thus far been provided. "Nah, that's not me" does not nearly make the nut, especially since he has anointed himself as the standard-bearer for a GOP base that, in large part, wants to outlaw abortion in all instances, including in cases of rape and incest.
The real problem here for the Republican campaign, however, is Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan joined forces with Mr. Akin in 2011, co-sponsoring a bill with him to redefine the definition of rape through legislation aimed at changing the working term to "forcible rape," as a means of annihilating the rape and incest exemptions that currently exist in abortion law. The attempt died a swift death in Congress, but the intention could not be more clear...and the driving force behind it was the Dynamic Duo of Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin and Paul "Forcible Rape" Ryan.
Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate to shore up his standing with the GOP base. Fine and good, but now that he has donned the Tea Party mask, he owns everything Ryan brings with him, including Ryan's appalling partnership with Todd Akin, and their despicable attempt to legislate a new definition of rape as something other than rape.
No mask can cover that up, and Halloween is coming. So is the Fall. So is the election.