Congressman Todd Akin really stepped in it this time. Politicians make utterly ridiculous (and often blatantly, demonstrably false) statements all the time, but Akin's assertions regarding legitimate rape might even top President Clinton's bluster about how he did not have sexual relations with that woman.
(Politicians can make nearly anything sound authoritative and believable, but both sides of the aisle struggle where it comes to truth-stretching in the sexual arena.)
As stupid as Akin's statement may have been, both from a political perspective and that of actual science, the fact that the rest of the Republican party has basically put the guy on notice that he's being blackballed leads me to believe that this debacle won't have much of an effect on undecided voters. Folks in Romney's camp, even women, will be satisfied that he has roundly criticized Akin. Folks in Obama's camp will continue to draw parallels between Akin and the persistent state and federal legislative efforts to criminalize abortion.
I suspect that Republicans are chastising Akin not so much out of horror regarding his assertions, but because they want to pick up that Senate seat. Akin crossed a line that may very well keep him from beating incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. For one, McCaskill's Facebook page has seen explosive growth in popularity, particularly among the 55-64 age group. McCaskill is also leading Akin in multiple polls, causing a near panic among Senate Republicans.
I do think Republicans are being a bit disingenuous by distancing themselves from Akin, given how I and other women of both parties keep checking the calendar to be sure that we haven't somehow boarded a DeLorean and landed in the 1960s (or possibly even earlier in the 20th century). The current prolonged discussion of women's health and personal freedoms (remember those, Republicans?) is mind-boggling to those of us who thought these battles had already been won. Perhaps by the turn of the 22nd century, we'll be discussing whether or not women and blacks ought to have the right to vote.
Congressman Akin's stupidity is merely a particularly extreme and visible symptom of what's been taking place in our country for the past several years anyway.
Image courtesy House of Representatives