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A Scary Time in America

And you thought this election was going to be all about the economy.  Silly you!  In today’s of installment of “What the hell were they thinking?” I give you Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Missouri.   Akin won a tough primary battle for the right to face one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators, Claire McCaskill.  And the polls showed him doing quite well – up by 8-10 points in most.  But then Rep. Akin went on the Jaco Report and, at the risk of underselling it, things didn’t go too well.

Click here and scroll down for the full interview.  The abortion comments begin around the 4 minute mark.

Yes, you heard that right.  According to a man who has been serving in the United States House, women’s bodies have some sort-of magical ability to determine if a rape is “legitimate” and, if it is, can prevent pregnancy.  Stupidity like that, if it wasn’t so scary, would be hilarious.   Oh yeah, Akin also sits on the House Science Committee.

It might be interesting to note that this is not a new issue that Akin just happened to bring up. The House passed a bill earlier this year with full Republican support and 16 Democrats which would have added language to the Federal Abortion Ban (which includes rape exemptions) to differentiate between “forcible” rape and other rape. The bill never made it to the Senate floor but, if it had passed, women who had been the victims of non-forcible rape (statutory rape, rapes that involve drugs, or verbal threats) would not be exempted from the ban. My guess is that Akin misspoke and meant to say forcible rape, not legitimate.  To quote President Obama on this “Rape is rape.”  Done.  Simple.  Right.

Either way, this is just another in a series of moves by factions of a Republican party that is so far out of touch with modern times, I shudder to think what they will come up with next.   Now, I will acknowledge that many prominent Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Akin but it just doesn’t ring true in most cases.  Mitt Romney, through a spokesperson, says that “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape…”  Problem is, Congressman Ryan was a co-sponsor of the “forcible rape” bill and the RNC sub-committee tasked with the creation of a party platform approved this afternoon anti-choice language with NO exemptions (not health of the mother, not rape of any kind, nothing).    Romney will be the leader of a party that believes a crucial issue this year is ensuring that Government doesn’t help women who get raped have abortions.  This isn’t just Congressman Akin – this is a a GOP strategy.

Consider other instances, just in the past 12 months:

  • Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a “slut” for testifying before Congress regarding contraception
  • Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum said, in regards to abortion in cases of rape that “women should make the best of a bad situation”
  • Kansas lawmaker, Pete DeGraaf, suggested that women should plan ahead for being raped by buying abortion-only policies in the same way that he keeps a spare tire in his car.
  • Legislatures across the country have introduced nearly 1,000 bills relating to female reproductive rights – nearly all of them designed to limit a woman’s ability to control her own medical decisions.  (SIDE NOTE: Don’t you find it remarkable that the same Congress so concerned with “Obamacare” taking healthcare decisions away from the individual is so ok with it when it comes to these issues?)

This isn’t about religious freedom.  This isn’t about one man making a gaffe.  This is about a group of people – mostly men – who have decided that the pre-1950s era limits on women’s freedoms were the way to go.  This is about a group of people who want to control a woman’s body.  It is terrifying to me that these people serve in our government and I shudder to think what the United States of America would look like if they were in charge.

I’ll close with the words of Eve Ensler, in her heartfelt and powerful letter to Congressman Akin on the Huffington Post today.

“You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP…Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.”

My takeaways from yesterday…

History was made yesterday.  The House has sent to the President’s desk the first piece of meaningful health reform in decades.  This is not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way towards taking the power away from insurance companies and giving it to people and their doctors.  This bill will finally allow more than 32 million Americans to get health insurance.  This bill will reduce the cost of getting health insurance and, through subsidies, ensure that everyone will have access to care.  This bill will create millions of jobs, pays for itself and will reduce the national deficit.  This bill forces insurance companies to stop their discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and will stop the despicable practice of coverage being rescinded when someone needs it most.   This bill will ensure that being unemployed doesn’t mean you can’t have health insurance.  This isn’t a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will improve the economy and help millions of Americans.  Thank you to all those who made its passage possible.

A few take-aways from the debate and vote last night:

  1. The Democratic party showed it can be politically savvy as well – Republicans had proposed a roll-call vote on the bill so that they could use that footage in campaign ads, but were rejected.  In addition, the House leadership knew that the Republicans might try to send the bill back to committee (effectively killing it) by calling for a vote on re-inserting the Stupak anti-abortion language back into the bill.  Well, they were right and boy were the Democrats ready for it.  After Steny Hoyer made a brief statement in response to Republican speeches on the matter, he yielded his time to Bart Stupak who made a passionate argument against killing the bill causing his fellow Democrats to rise as one to cheer him.  It was a brilliant speech and helped ensure the Republican plan would fail.  Very effective and very well executed!
  2. The Republican Party, once again, has to deal with an embarrassing incident – 6 months ago it was Joe Wilson shouting “You lie” at the President.  Over the summer it was those awful town hall protests around the country.  Two days ago it was anti-healthcare protesters shouting racist and homophobic things towards members of Congress.  And yesterday, it was a Republican Congressman shouting “Baby Killer” at Rep. Stupak as he delivered his remarks on the House Floor.  This stunning lack of decorum and respect might energize the base, but it turns off the moderate voters who so often decide elections.  Yesterday’s outburst was especially unfortunate because the Republicans had done a very good job throughout the day highlighting a number of their members and make significant progress in ensuring that the voice of their party would not be Ruth Limbaugh.  But that will be overshadowed by a stupid and inappropriate outburst.
  3. No one kills time like Wolf Blitzer – For anyone who has spent any time watching CNN over the past few years, this statement will come as no surprise.  Waiting as the vote totals climbed to the magic 216 number, Blitzer bantered, questioned and cut off as appropriate to keep things entertaining while making sure viewers did not miss the key moments.  Well done Wolf.

So now the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate (that should be fun) and the main healthcare bill goes to the President.  Stay tuned…

Candidate Tuesday #7 – Jack E. Robinson

We have a new player.  Apparently there is more than one Republican in this state and now Scott Brown has some opposition in his path to being his party’s nominee.  But, before we meet Mr. Robinson, the past few days have been quite interesting in Democratic primary world.  The front-runner, Attorney General Martha Coakley, announced the she could not support a health care bill that included any language restricting access to abortions.  (For those who haven’t heard, the house bill includes a provision that essentially extends a previously passed stipulation that government money can not be used to pay for abortions.  What this means now is that, if you have the ‘public option’ as your provider or any government subsidized insurance, abortions will not be covered…except under extraordinary circumstances).  I agree with Coakley that the amendment is unfair and unreasonable but I have hard time with denying any coverage to millions of Americans because the coverage they will get isn’t perfect. 

All three of her opponents quickly pounced on this policy disagreement (finally, we have one!) with Capuano saying “I find it interesting and amazing, and she would have stood alone among all the pro-choice members of Congress, all the members of the Massachusetts delegation…She claims she wants to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy on health care. It’s pretty clear that a major portion of this was his bill…If she’s not going to vote for any bill that’s not perfect, she wouldn’t vote for any bill in history. She would have voted against Medicare, the Civil Rights bill. . . . Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington.’’

Alan Khazei added that ““If the House Democrats listened to Martha Coakley instead of [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, health care would be dead right now…She’s going to be the person that prevents universal health care for every person in this country. This is a big deal. This was the cause of Senator Kennedy’s life.’’  Pagliuca said that ““casting a no vote would be to side with [Senator] Joe Lieberman and the insurance companies that want to kill health care reform.”

So now we have a substantial difference, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the waning days of the campaign.

Ok, with that out-of-the-way, let’s learn about Jack Robinson.  This election marks the third time Robinson has run for state-wide office and, so far, he is 0 for 2.  He lost to Senator Kennedy in 2000 and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin in 2002.  In that race he did garner about 25% of the vote (which is much better than his showing against Kennedy).  In addition he ran against Congressman Lynch for his US Congress seat in 2006 and lost. 

Robinson is a lawyer and business man who is a former executive at Eastern Airlines (and was the youngest airline president in modern US aviation history), before leaving to start his own cell phone company.  Robinson calls himself a progressive Republican (and, unlike many others, seems to actually be one) who supports same-sex marriage and full rights for the LGBT community.  In addition, he professes to be an expert on job creation and business management from his many years in the private sector.  He supports expanding charter schools and merit pay for teachers and wants to provide full scholarships to all college students who commit to serving America for four years.  Finally, he has come out with a 12-point plan to solve the healthcare crisis in this country and is opposed to the bill that just passed the house.

Robinson is perhaps best known for a dossier he released during his 2000 Senate run where he owned up to anything and everything in his background that might provide fodder for negative campaigning.  The release of this information (including restraining orders, drunken driving and other citations and the like) caused the Republican establishment in the state (including then-Governor Paul Cellucci) to disown him as their candidate.  A spokesperson for his campaign said, about the “Robinson Report” that this is “an issue that has been addressed years ago and we’re looking forward to moving forward with a positive campaign and addressing today’s issues like bringing jobs to Massachusetts.”

 You can visit his campaign website here (NOTE: I have received word from the Robinson campaign that the original site I posted is not the correct site.  So, for those of you who have already clicked the link, please visit this new (and much better) site)