WASHINGTON, D.C., August 21, 2012 — The huge issue worrying voters this year is the economy. President Obama inspires little confidence in his ability to handle it, and neither do Congressional Democrats. As important as winning the White House for Republicans is winning the Senate, and among the most vulnerable Democrats is Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.
So what did her challenger, Rep. Todd Akin, decide to talk about? Rape.
In 1990, Texas Republican Clayton Williams snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a stupid joke about rape. For pure ghastly stupidity, that was one for the books. Democrat Ann Richards defeated him, 49-47 percent.
Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” rise nearly to the level of Williams’ willful destruction of his own campaign. When the big issue is the economy — and other big issues are Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program, and Obamacare — only an idiot wants to talk about rape, and worse, to talk about it as if some rape weren’t really bad rape.
Perhaps the heat wave has addled brains. Vice President Joe Biden has placed himself in the wrong state and the wrong century, and has dived for the racial gutter, all in just one week. But this is on top of a history of stupid comments. Here are some favorites:
* Barack Obama is “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” (Who are the inarticulate, dim, dirty and ugly African-Americans he was comparing Obama to?)
* “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”
* Explaining why he would hold his own against Democratic primary competitors from the South, “You don’t know my state. My state was a slave state … My state is the eighth largest black population in the country.”
* “If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30 percent chance we’re going to get it wrong.”
Biden affected a fake black accent in his comment about Mitt Romney wanting to “put y’all back in chains,” and an Indian accent when asked, “How many times you get the call, ‘I like to talk about your credit card.’”
He didn’t say all of this during the heat wave, so it may just be that Biden’s brain is permanently addled.
Until Akin opened his mouth on Mike Huckabee’s show, Biden was the clear favorite for title of “Most Stupid Man in Politics” and a free bottle of Dos Equis. Each man raises serious questions for his party: “Do we really want this man to represent us to the voters?” “Is he really qualified for the job?”
Both men have records of public service, and it seems unfair to label them “stupid” for comments taken out of the context of that service. Politicians have always said stupid things, and so have we all, though most of us have never been in a position to have microphones pick up our every utterance. A stupid comment does not make a stupid man.
Unless it does. In both cases, the comments alone should raise flags. Akin, like others on the religious right, doesn’t yet understand that this year’s elections really aren’t about contraception, abortion, and culture wars, yet they’d rather return to those topics than focus on the issues that immediately threaten the health and survival of the United States.
Akin has apologized for his comments and attributed them to a poor choice of words, but the comments seem to reflect his feelings just fine. He meant to say “violent” rather than “legitimate,” but the real issue he was discussing was abortion, not the nature of rape. His idiocy wasn’t his position on abortion, but his willingness to make it the point of his campaign.
Republicans recognize Akin for the liability he is and are moving quickly to push him out the door and under the bus. And what of Biden?
Biden has a record of gaffes and stupid comments. From Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin these would be seen as signs of a deranged and stupid mind. From Biden, “it’s just Joe.” Indeed it is, if “just Joe” is a deranged and stupid man. The man has a history, and it’s a history that calls into serious question his ability to function as president.
In October, 2010, President Obama said of his choice of Biden as his running mate: “The single best decision that I have made was selecting Joe Biden as my running mate. The single best decision I have made. I man that. It’s true.”
If Obama thinks that Biden is the best man to be president in the event that Obama is killed or incapacitated, he suffers from remarkably bad judgment. He should never have chosen Biden as his running mate, and the fact that he did suggests that the choice was based entirely on political calculations, not for the good of the country.
People vote for the top of the ticket, but one of the best reasons not to vote for Obama is Biden. He’s always shown a predilection for crude, racially charged language. He’s never demonstrated through his language the ability to think clearly or originally. Obama should treat him as the Republicans are treating Akin. Biden and Akin are both bad for the body politic, and they should go.
They are the two most stupid men in the world. And Obama embraces one of them.
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics at the Louisiana Scholars’ College in Natchitoches, La., where he went to take a break from working in Moscow and Washington. But he fell in love with the town and with the professor of Romance languages, so there he stayed. Now he teaches, annoys his children, and makes jalapeno lemonade. He doesn’t drink beer, but if he did, it would be a microbrew. He tweets, hangs out on Facebook, and has a blog he totally neglects at pichtblog.blogspot.com.
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