Leonard Pitts: GOP finds ‘crazy’ wing hard to shed

07/19/2014 7:00 PM

09/12/2014 5:57 PM

So, Todd Akin is back and he’s talking rape again.

You remember what happened last time. The would-be Missouri senator torpedoed his campaign two years ago after suggesting in a TV interview that if a woman is a victim of “legitimate rape,” she is unlikely to get pregnant because her body “has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Those comments, he now wants you to know, were perfectly reasonable. In his new book, Firing Back, Akin informs us that some rapes are not “legitimate” because some women falsely accuse. And when he spoke about a woman’s body shutting “that whole thing down,” well, he was referring to the possibility rape-related “stress” would inhibit her ability to conceive.

As its title suggests, Firing Back is about settling scores. Among its targets: “evil” Democrats, “biased” media and “spineless” Republicans who joined the chorus of condemnation his quote engendered, unwilling to stand up for an “unapologetic conservative.”

For the record, the conservative in question was, in fact, quite apologetic when the “legitimate rape” controversy brought international opprobrium down upon him. He released a statement asking forgiveness and claiming he misspoke. I opined at the time that his real problem was not that he misspoke, but that “he spoke all too clearly.”

Looks like he agrees. Because one of the major takeaways from this book is Akin’s retraction of his apology. He shouldn’t have done it, he says now. By apologizing, he validated “the willful misinterpretation” of his words.

Akin has certainly picked an interesting time to dredge this back up. In recent months, his party has embarked on an effort to re-brand itself. Its slogan might be (but isn’t), “Try the new GOP, now with 25 percent less crazy!”

Of course, “crazy” (read: tea party) has been the GOP’s sine qua non — indeed, its energy source — for years now. Call it the politics of pitchforks or just the politics of anger, an ideology defined less by ideas than by overweening resentment, simplistic solutions, rhetorical arson, and unrelenting opposition to any and every thing Barack Obama does, down to and including breathing. It made political stars out of the unlikely likes of Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Christine O’Donnell, Herman Cain and Akin himself.

But that’s so 2012. Having seen the hated president sail to re-election and sensing opportunity in the coming midterms, the grownups in the party are busily trying to disentangle themselves from the lover’s embrace they not so long ago cherished. “I don’t care what they do,” snapped House Speaker John Boehner about the tea party back in December. A recent Huffington Post analysis found the GOP’s establishment wing pouring money like Kool-Aid into primary races against tea party challengers.

“Can The GOP Be A Party Of Ideas?” asks a recent New York Times magazine story. Let us hope it can. That would be a welcome thing.

But crazy will not be denied.

Like a stalkerish ex who can’t take “Get the hell away from me!” for an answer, crazy keeps popping up at the most inopportune places and times. Here’s the party trying to recast itself in a more serious vein, trying to prove it is not divorced from reality. And there’s Sarah Palin talking impeachment. There’s Chris McDaniel talking election fraud. There’s Dick Cheney, talking.

And there’s Todd Akin retracting an insincere apology for one of the more profoundly stupid and offensive comments in recent political memory.

The GOP can’t seem to get out of its own way. It’s enough to make you feel empathy for the grownups — all four of them — in the party as they try without success to end this toxic relationship. Apparently, Neil Sedaka was right.

Breaking up is hard to do.

About Leonard Pitts Jr

Leonard Pitts Jr

@LeonardPittsJr1

Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. He is the author of the novel, Before I Forget. His column runs every Sunday and Wednesday. Forward From This Moment, a collection of his columns, was released in 2009.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he wrote a column on the terrorist attacks that received a huge response from readers who deluged him with more than 26,000 e-mails. It was posted on the Internet, chain-letter style. Read the column and others on the topic of September 11.

You can also read Pitts' series, What Works?, a series of columns about programs anywhere in the country that show results in improving the lives of black children.

Leonard also wrote the 2008 series I Am A Man, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.

Email Leonard at lpitts@MiamiHerald.com or visit his website at www.leonardpittsjr.com

Join the Discussion

Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service