There's something trying about an unforgiving man suddenly in need of forgiveness.
Yet Todd Akin is right. He shouldn't have to get out of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri simply for saying what he believes. He reflects a severe stance on abortion that many in his party embrace, including the new vice presidential candidate.
"I talk about one word, one sentence, one day out of place and, all of a sudden, the entire establishment turns on you," Rep. Akin complained to the conservative radio talk-show host Dana Loesch on Tuesday as he spurned pleas from Mitt Romney and other GOP big shots to abort his bid. He continued: "They just ran for cover at the first sign of any gunfire, and I think we need to rush to the gunfire."
He's right again. Other Republicans are trying to cover up their true identity to get elected. Even as party leaders attempted to lock the crazy uncle in the attic in Missouri, they were doing their own crazy thing down in Tampa, Fla., by reiterating language in their platform calling for a no-exceptions constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.
Paul Ryan, who teamed up with Mr. Akin in the House to sponsor harsh anti-abortion bills, may look young and hip and new generation, with his iPod full of heavy metal jams and his cute kids. But he's just a fresh face on a Taliban creed -- the evermore antediluvian, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-gay conservative core. Amiable in khakis and polo shirts, Mr. Ryan is the perfect modern leader to rally medieval Republicans who believe that Adam and Eve cavorted with dinosaurs.
In asserting that women have the superpower to repel rape sperm, Mr. Akin ratcheted up the old chauvinist argument that gals who wear miniskirts and high-heels are "asking" for rape; now women who don't have the presence of mind to conjure up a tubal spasm, a drone hormone, a magic spermicidal secretion or mere willpower to block conception during rape are "asking" for a baby.
"The biological facts are perhaps inconvenient, but whether the egg meets the sperm is a matter of luck or prevention," says Dr. Paul Blumenthal, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology who directs the Stanford Program for International Reproductive Education and Services. "If wishing that 'I won't get pregnant right now' made it so, we wouldn't need contraceptives."
When you wish upon a rape.
Dr. Blumenthal is alarmed that Mr. Akin is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
"What is very disturbing to me is that people like Mr. Akin who have postulated this secret mechanism for avoiding pregnancy have developed their own make-believe world of science based on entirely self-serving beliefs of convenience or just ignorance," he said. "I don't think we want these people to be responsible for the lives of others."
But, for all the Republican cant about how they want to keep government out of the lives of others, the ultraconservatives are panting to meddle in the lives of others. Contrary to President Barack Obama's refreshing assertion Monday that a bunch of male politicians shouldn't be making health care decisions for women, this troglodyte tribe of men and Bachmann-esque women craves that responsibility.
"Next we'll be trying to take away the vote from women," lamented Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who advised Romney in the 2008 race. "How can we be the party of cool and make the generational leap forward when we have these recidivist ideas at the very core of our base?"
Mr. Akin defended the incendiary comment he made on a Missouri TV show -- "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" -- by saying he wasn't talking about rapists being legitimate, but rather "false claims" of rape, "like those made in Roe versus Wade." He said he meant to say "forcible rape." Oh, that's ever so much better.
Mr. Akin, Mr. Ryan et al. have made it their business to designate which rapes are legitimate, joining up to push Orwellian legislation last year to narrow the definition of rape to "forcible rape."
And Mitt, who was for abortion rights (except for Mormons he counseled) before he was against them, in his last presidential bid went after the endorsement of Dr. John Willke, a former president of the National Right to Life Committee and father of the inanity about rape victims being able to turn back sperm if they put their mind and muscles to it.
The nutty doctor hypothesized: "This is a traumatic thing. She's, shall we say, she's uptight." Adding, "She is frightened, tight and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic."
Mr. Akin is right in saying this race should be about "who we are as a people."
It should also be about who they are. They are people who want to be in your life, deep in your life, even when they say they don't.
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist for The New York Times.