Douglas Turner
Even if Isaac isn't a hurricane when it passes near Tampa, the delegates to the Republican National Convention will still need their sou'westers to deal with the storm created by Rep. Todd Akin's immersion in weird science.
Before he coined the phrase "legitimate rape," the name Todd Akin would have conjured up the image of a fella fingering a guitar, wearing a black cowboy hat and leather suit, crooning in some crumbling bar in the back woods.
Akin is now famously the Republican candidate trying to unseat Democratic Senate incumbent Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Akin has apologized again and again for his comment that "legitimate rape" is unlikely to result in pregnancy, and as of this writing says he won't quit the campaign.
All by himself, Akin gave desperately needed tailwind to the Democrats' charge that the whole Republican Party, including probable presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is waging a "war on women."
Remember, that canard was offered to counter the accusation that President Obama was waging a "war on religion" because of the administration's rule that church-oriented entities like hospitals and colleges must include contraceptive services in their employees' health insurance.
Akin's speculation that women's hormones somehow block pregnancy in the case of rape recalls the Republican science of eight years ago that kept Terri Schiavo on life support, even though she had been in a vegetative state for six years in Florida hospitals. A Harvard medical degree notwithstanding, then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., declared he had diagnosed from an old videotape that federal intervention was needed to keep Schiavo alive.
There is a more invidious angle than biology to Akin's silly views on how babies come. Consider again the phrase "legitimate rape." The term "legitimate" is a rather snide barroom aside that most women who claim to be raped, and who are therefore more entitled to have an abortion, are really lying.
Most raped women, Akin's thinking goes, were really having consensual sex and made up the story of a brutal assault to justify abortion. This crude extremist male view is what gives Akin's comments a politically damaging half-life, no matter what he says or does now. His views are not only dumb, but cruelly sexist.
All of it flows downhill on the Republican national ticket and adds unwanted and perhaps unfair negative coloration to the party's long stance on abortion.
The GOP plank in 1976 was the last that waffled on abortion, partly out of consideration to pro-choice Betty Ford, the wife of President Gerald Ford. Since then, the platforms have called for bars to federal funding of abortion and constitutional amendments to bar abortions.
The current GOP plank is said by Democrats to be the most conservative in history. Actually, it mirrors Republican positions of the past 32 years to one degree or another.
But Akin's mean statements provide damaging prominence to Romney's threat to defund Planned Parenthood, and his running mate Paul Ryan's proposals to block abortions even in the case of rape and incest.
The Romney-Ryan ticket becomes not only another Republican white guy, white bread and white shoe candidacy, but one women can legitimately see as sexist.
I hope I'm forgiven for using this space to salute the West Side Rowing Club on its 100th birthday celebrated last Saturday.
Like many men, and more recently women, who labored on its rowing machines and in its shells, most of the good things that happened to me came from my struggles on the Black Rock Channel.
Its spirit is embodied in the late President Michael Broderick, who mortgaged his house to send a crew to the 1936 Olympics.