Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the US Senate, is standing behind Tea Party Senate candidate from Indian, Richard Mourdock, who in a debate the other night said that when a rape victim gets pregnant, God intended the pregnancy and it’s a “gift.”
GOP Sen. John McCain initially criticizing Mourdock, but now has changed his mind. And GOP wonderboy Marco Rubio of Florida is also standing behind Wannabe Senator Rape-Baby.
(If you haven’t yet seen Stephen Colbert’s coverage of the topic, please do – it’s some of his best work.)
Interestingly, as Huff Post notes, GOP party chair Reince Priebus, who’s usually as big a neaderthal as the rest of his party, is still equivocating about Mourdock’s comments:
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, hedged a bit on Mourdock, but ultimately backed him. “He’s obviously trying to clarify it as best as he can. … It was pretty clumsy stuff. I mean, rape is rape and there’s nothing OK about it,” Priebus said in Arlington, Va. “Anything you say that gives credence, or you’re vague or fuzzy, or you’re compounding sentences — I mean, it was a problem for him so now he’s fixing it, and hopefully he’s clarifying what he meant to say.”
The problem for Republicans is that Mourdock didn’t misspeak, this is what Republicans believe. If you’re pro-choice, and a conservative politically and theologically, then you believe that every life is a life, even if conceived from rape, and you believe that everything in life is “God’s will,” including rape and rape-babies.
What has been odd, however, is the unusual number of comments from Republicans about rape in the past year. It appears to many that the Republicans may be entering an even nuttier, more conservative, phase in which now the the party-line will be no abortion, ever, even in the case of rape and incest (though many Republicans always share this extreme position).
William Saletan writes in Slate that the “no exceptions” rape position is becoming pretty mainstream in the GOP already. I’ll get to Saletan’s piece in a minute. But first, the fact that anti-abortion extremism is becoming mainstream in the GOP might explain why Mitt Romney is still remaining mum on the entire affair. From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:
Democrats have succeeded into turning Mourdock’s comments into a second day national media story. This morning, Obama subtly tied Romney to Mourdock, saying: “As we saw again this week, I don’t think any politician in Washington, most of whom are male, should be making health care decisions for women.” Reporters hit Romney with another round of questions about Mourdock today, but according to CNN, Romney refused to answer them. As Jed Lewison puts it, Romney has “entered a virtual cocoon of silence.”
Meanwhile, even Republican Jon Huntsman (admittedly a Romney rival) implicitly criticized Romney’s handling of the mess, claiming: “I would have simply said, `I’m withdrawing my support.’”
Why the Romney reticence? What’s the downside for Romney in cutting Mourdock loose, particularly given how intense the battle for the female vote has become?
Michael Cooper suggests an answer: Romney is worried that pulling support for Mourdock risks alienating evangelicals, whose turnout in the key battlegrounds may prove crucial to his hopes.
And here’s Saletan on the GOP mainstreaming of abortion extremism (in his post, Saletan walks through a number of lead Republicans who now embrace the “no exceptions” stand):
Akin and Mourdock are hardly alone. Their view – that abortion should be prohibited even in cases of sexual assault – isn’t just the party’s official position. It’s the most commonly held position among new Republican nominees for the U.S. Senate….
Judging by polls, most Republican voters don’t share this view. And I haven’t tried to nail down where the party’s hundreds of House nominees stand. But the Senate numbers are striking. Of the 28 nonincumbent nominees, 12 to 15 share the view of Akin, Mourdock and the party platform. They believe a rape victim should be forbidden to terminate her pregnancy. This is no longer a fringe position.
It isn’t a couple of gaffes by renegade crackpots. It’s the predominant view among Republican nominees for the nation’s highest legislative body. It’s what the Republican Party is.
Greg Sargent points out a Steve Benen story that shows that nearly 90% of the public supports an abortion exception for life of the mother, and 80+% support it when the woman is the victim of rape. That shows just how captive the GOP is to such a small, but vocal, and powerful minority of voters. And that also explains why the Democrats are so willing to make hay with Mourdock’s comments and Romney’s silence – it’s not just the party’s position, it’s also good politics.