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McCaskill: How To Win Elections And Manipulate The Other Party

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is offering the world a truly great political lesson in how to troll the opposition.

McCaskill just published in Politico Magazine an excerpt from her upcoming book, in which she describes in exhaustive detail how she secured re-election in 2012: She engineered the victory in the Republican primary of the extreme religious-right candidate, Todd Akin, who went on to destroy any chance of a Republican win with his infamous comment falsely alleging that “legitimate rape” could not result in pregnancy. McCaskill won the election with 55 percent of the vote to Akin’s 39 percent, even as Mitt Romney carried the state with 54 percent in the presidential race.

It’s a truly remarkable political narrative — the kind that you wouldn’t expect to see from someone until after they’ve left public office. The book is called Plenty Ladylike — a reference to a comment Akin made during the general campaign, when he said that McCaskill had been “more ladylike” during her first Senate race in 2006.

McCaskill first boosted Akin in the primary with attacks on his ultra-conservatism — and when it worked, she celebrated in style:

It was August 7, 2012, and I was standing in my hotel room in Kansas City about to shotgun a beer for the first time in my life. I had just made the biggest gamble of my political career — a $1.7 million gamble — and it had paid off. Running for re-election to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Missouri, I had successfully manipulated the Republican primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat. And this is how I had promised my daughters we would celebrate.

This could be a cautionary tale for conservatives: Whenever liberals start expressing outrage about a right-wing candidate in the Republican primary — whether it’s Todd Akin or, say, Donald Trump — maybe they’re really just waving a big red cape and hoping the conservative base will charge right at it.

McCaskill ran this ad about Akin, lambasting him as “the most conservative congressman in Missouri,” “a crusader against bigger government,” having a “pro-family agenda” to outlaw contraception, and absolutely hating President Obama. “Missouri’s true conservative,” the ad said, “is just too conservative.”

“As it turned out,” she boasts, “we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.”

The ad is still viewable on the McCaskill campaign’s YouTube account.

McCaskill even got messages through to Akin’s people through intermediaries — including one direct conversation between her own pollster and the Akin campaign — about which ads he should be running. “This was the most fun I’d had in a long time.”

All of this brought her to the night of the Republican primary, when she watched the results with an intense focus. “That day — August 7, 2012 — felt like my own election, even though I had no opponent in the Democratic primary,” she writes. “Never before had I been so engaged and so committed to another’s race.”

McCaskill also includes some serious trolling of Akin’s religious, even messianic delusions about himself:

I do believe his nomination reaffirmed more than ever his conviction that a higher power had chosen him for this race. For Akin, government service is defined and guided by his religious faith. He was known to start committee meetings with prayers that included “in Jesus’ name.” He’d made religion a centerpiece of his campaign, saying his faith got him into politics and directed the things he did once in office. In my opinion his belief that he is a “holy warrior” doing battle with the forces of evil liberalism blinded him to the realities of political life and what might be best for his party. In the first lines of his election-night speech, he thanked God for hearing the prayers of his supporters and granting him victory. He probably didn’t realize that we had also been praying for his victory.

Yes, Akin’s victory in the GOP primary was brought about by a higher power — the McCaskill for Senate campaign committee.

Photo: Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) via Facebook.

Via Politico Magazine

Todd Akin’s Back Again To Talk Of Rape

So, Todd Akin is back and he’s talking rape again.

You remember what happened last time. The would-be Missouri senator torpedoed his campaign two years ago after suggesting in a TV interview that if a woman is a victim of “legitimate rape,” she is unlikely to get pregnant because her body “has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Those comments, he now wants you to know, were perfectly reasonable. In his new book, Firing Back, Akin informs us that some rapes are not “legitimate” because some women falsely accuse. And when he spoke about a woman’s body shutting “that whole thing down,” well, he was referring to the possibility rape-related “stress” would inhibit her ability to conceive.

As its title suggests, Firing Back is about settling scores. Among its targets: “evil” Democrats, “biased” media and “spineless” Republicans who joined the chorus of condemnation his quote engendered, unwilling to stand up for an “unapologetic conservative.”

For the record, the conservative in question was in fact quite apologetic when the “legitimate rape” controversy brought international opprobrium down upon him. He released a statement asking forgiveness and claiming he misspoke. I opined at the time that his real problem was not that he misspoke, but that “he spoke all too clearly.”

Looks like he agrees. Because one of the major takeaways from this book is Akin’s retraction of his apology. He shouldn’t have done it, he says now. By apologizing, he validated “the willful misinterpretation” of his words.

Akin has certainly picked an interesting time to dredge this back up. In recent months, his party has embarked on an effort to re-brand itself. Its slogan might be (but isn’t), “Try the new GOP, now with 25 percent less crazy!”

Of course, “crazy” (read: Tea Party) has been the GOP’s sine qua non — indeed, its energy source — for years now. Call it the politics of pitchforks or just the politics of anger, an ideology defined less by ideas than by overweening resentment, simplistic solutions, rhetorical arson, and unrelenting opposition to any and every thing Barack Obama does, down to and including breathing. It made political stars out of the unlikely likes of Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Christine O’Donnell, Herman Cain and Akin himself.

But that’s so 2012. Having seen the hated president sail to re-election and sensing opportunity in the coming midterms, the grown-ups in the party are busily trying to disentangle themselves from the lover’s embrace they not so long ago cherished. “I don’t care what they do,” snapped House Speaker John Boehner about the Tea Party back in December. A recent Huffington Post analysis found the GOP’s establishment wing pouring money like Kool-Aid into primary races against Tea Party challengers.

“Can the GOP Be a Party of Ideas?” asks a recent New York Times magazine story. Let us hope it can. That would be a welcome thing.

But crazy will not be denied. Like a stalkerish ex who can’t take “Get the hell away from me!” for an answer, crazy keeps popping up at the most inopportune places and times. Here’s the party trying to recast itself in a more serious vein, trying to prove it is not divorced from reality. And there’s Sarah Palin talking impeachment. There’s Chris McDaniel talking election fraud. There’s Dick Cheney, talking.

And there’s Todd Akin retracting an insincere apology for one of the more profoundly stupid and offensive comments in recent political memory.

The GOP can’t seem to get out of its own way. It’s enough to make you feel empathy for the grown-ups — all four of them — in the party as they try without success to end this toxic relationship. Apparently, Neil Sedaka was right.

Breaking up is hard to do.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Screenshot: YouTube

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WATCH: Todd Akin’s Comeback Tour Is Still A Disaster

Todd Akin’s disastrous comeback tour continued on Thursday, when the disgraced former congressman attempted to explain his infamous “legitimate rape” comments on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown.

It did not go well.

During the interview, Akin once again walked back his 2012 apology for claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant, because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

“Well, here, let me just try to give you an explanation. Legitimate rape is a law-enforcement term and it’s abbreviation for legitimate case of rape,” Akin told host Chuck Todd. “If I had been choosing my words better, I should have said legitimate case of rape. And I have acknowledged that it is a poor choice of words.”

“The thing that strikes me as odd is this is something that was intentionally misunderstood and twisted for political purposes,” Akin continued, “because it doesn’t make any sense to say a conservative is saying that rape is legitimate.”

Akin then attempted to pivot towards attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton, before Todd pushed back.

“This is still about you. This is still about you classifying rape in this odd way,” Todd insisted. “Should abortion be legal for somebody who has been raped?”

“Here’s the question,” Akin countered. “Should the child conceived in rape have the same right to life as a child conceived in love?”

“I had a number of people on my campaign that were children, that had grown up, that had been conceived in rape,” he added.

When Todd pointed out that this undermines the argument that a woman’s body can “shut down” a rape-induced pregnancy, Akin insisted that “I’m not presenting myself as a doctor,” but pointed to “six recent studies” that back up his bogus science.

There was a thin silver lining for Republicans; although Akin did try to revive his cringeworthy “Bill Clinton is a legitimate rapist” talking point, at least he did not compare himself to Joe McCarthy on national television.

The full interview can be seen in all of its uncomfortable glory below, via MSNBC:

Screenshot: MSNBC

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Todd Akin: I’m A Victim Of The Liberal Media, Just Like Joe McCarthy

Todd Akin’s comeback tour got even weirder on Monday, when the disgraced former congressman compared himself to disgraced former senator Joe McCarthy.

In Akin’s mind, that’s apparently a good thing.

Akin made the surprising parallel during an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I use McCarthy as an example of someone who was assassinated by the media, so he had no credibility,” Akin told the paper. He went on to add that he was also politically assassinated, by “intentional and dishonest” distortions of the remarks that ended his political career in 2012.

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Those comments led the Republican Party to largely condemn Akin and abandon his campaign to unseat incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Akin went on to lose by 16 percent in what’s usually a reliable red state.

McCarthy, by contrast, used his position in the Senate to lead a baseless witch hunt against supposed communists and homosexuals, leading hundreds to be wrongly imprisoned and thousands to lose their jobs. McCarthy was ultimately censured by the Senate for abusing his power.

Ironically, if Akin had actually been a bit more like McCarthy, his career would likely be in much better shape. After all, making totally unsubstantiated claims that America’s enemies have infiltrated the federal government has been working out just fine for many of Akin’s former colleagues in the House.

But at this point, even those congressmen — like most other Republicans — would probably like Akin to just stop talking.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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