At the top of today’s political news are two stories that are potentially damaging to Republicans. But the thing you might miss from the glaring headlines and breathless commentary (especially that coming from the left) is that one of the stories is a real problem and the other isn’t. The one that is the real problem is, as John and Alana have already written, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s bone-headed comment that rape victims can’t get pregnant. Akin, who recently won a tough Republican primary for the right to face embattled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was the foe the incumbent wanted and he has delivered for her turning a seat that was a sure GOP pick-up into a toss-up and perhaps allow ObamaCare to survive even in the event of a Romney victory in November.
The story that isn’t much of a real scandal is the one leading Politico’s morning playbook about the fact that members of a Republican Congressional delegation that visited Israel last summer went for a swim in the Sea of Galilee. One congressman, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, did so without a swimsuit while others in the group dove in fully clothed. Alcohol may have been consumed. We are supposed to be scandalized about this, but I’m not buying it.
There are those who will be outraged about the fact that those members of Congress who go on foreign junkets attend parties and sometimes have a drink or two or three at said festivities. Don’t take this as an endorsement of Congressional misbehavior or abuse of travel privileges but so long as this was an after-hours affair and no laws were broken, what exactly are we complaining about? If the members of the delegation had a party after their official schedule was completed, this is nothing to get too upset about.
According to Politico, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor read the legislators the riot act. That’s his job since Congress’s reputation is bad enough without stories about members of the GOP caucus being branded as acting like frat boys while abroad. But the real juice to the story is the setting that makes it appear as if it wasn’t just high spirits, lubricated by alcohol but a sacrilege.
However, those ready to make Yoder and the rest of the partiers walk the plank need to remember something. The Galilee may be the setting for Bible stories but it is a lake, not a church chalice. There are places on its shores where people pray but most of it is a vacation spot for Israelis and tourists. People boat there, fish its waters and swim in it everyday and I daresay the Kansan isn’t the first in the last 2,000 years to do so without a Speedo. This is not a big deal. That is especially true when compared to Akin’s latest blunder.
Akin is threatening to be this year’s Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle. Both were Tea Partiers who upset establishment Republicans in Senate primaries in 2010. But unlike other Tea Party stalwarts such as Marco Rubio or Ron Johnson, who waltzed to victory in November, both were disasters who turned certain GOP pickups into Democratic victory. In particular Republicans have reason to rue Angle’s primary win since it prolonged the political life of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Akin’s statement is the sort of thing that many voters, even those who are Republicans, will say disqualifies him for high office. It’s not just that it’s highly offensive, it’s that it’s incredibly stupid. It’s hard to believe he actually thought it was true but to say it aloud shows a complete lack of judgment. Nobody wants an idiot representing them in the Senate even if they like their politics. Moreover, this isn’t the first time Akin has said something dumb or inflammatory, nor, as Democrats are telling themselves this morning, will it be the last. That is why McCaskill ran ads during the GOP primary seeking to help him.
While Akin’s backers may be arguing that since this happened in August before most people pay attention to elections, this also gives Missouri Republicans time to pressure him to drop out of the race and replace him with someone who isn’t an embarrassment. National party leaders ought to step in here too and insist on his quick exit. The alternative is to simply sit back and watch while McCaskill pulls victory from the jaws of defeat with Akin’s assistance.
Any Republicans inclined to sympathy for Akin need to remember that there is more riding on the outcome in November than his ego. If Republicans don’t capture the Senate this fall, ObamaCare will survive even if the GOP holds the House and Mitt Romney is elected president. Giving up a certain pickup will dramatically increase Reid’s chances of remaining Majority Leader next January. For the sake of ObamaCare and common sense, Akin has to go.