The latest to join the honours roll for political gaffes two weeks ago was Republican congressman Todd Akin.
(I’ve commented on the whole saga here, but let’s revisit his fantastically inane remarks)
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down, but let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Even if politicians do “misspeak”, as Mr Akin claims he does, is it fair for us to insist that they mind their words carefully? Or even act the part of a national leader?
More importantly, shouldn’t we be holding officials to a higher standard?
I wrote a few weeks ago about the affluent portions of our society rendered silly by the prospect of the poor made empowered by any kind of affirmative action.
In the same way, those who seek to cull fundamental rights from women, like Mr Akin, are clearly terrified of what might happen should women be allowed to have control over their own bodies and reproductive systems.
Let’s not forget that this is not a small issue, nor an isolated one.
A school in Louisiana has been ordered to reverse a policy whereby students who refuse to take a pregnancy test will be treated as if they are actually pregnant. Furthermore, the school policy requires that if the pregnancy test comes back positive, then the student would then be banned from class.
A Virginia law states that a woman who wished to receive an abortion in the state would have to undergo an involuntary ‘vaginal ultrasound’ which constitutes rape under the law.
(In a jibe at the incredulity of the bill, Senator Janet Howell attached an amendment that would require men to have “a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.”)
There is precious little accountability being voiced for actions like these, both here in NZ, and around the world.
Too often the wide berth given by many reporters to those in power allows for some enormous gaffes and pitfalls: in our country, witness John Key watching baseball rather than lead the nation, witness Paula Bennett being whipped in to line over her privacy statements, witness John Banks pandering to his electorate with fairytale myths, and so on.
There must be some moderate, intelligent politicians on the sidelines of the playing field, quietly going about their business, not so prone to tirades and gaffes, but why aren’t we ever allowed to see them?
The constant rotation of half-witted, bigoted, bumbling, and out-of-touch US Republicans does little good for their reputation, or the reputation of fellow lawmakers elsewhere. So many people I know throw up their hands and wail “how can they be so stupid?”
Gawker released more than 950 pages of Mitt Romney’s financial information, finally detailing what his pathetic tax disclosures early in the presidential race didn’t identify.
Romney is a chronic tax-avoider, with more than US$30m invested in the tithe-free haven of the Cayman Islands alone - but this is just a small portion of his larger US$250m fortune.
Sadly, none of the tax-dodging schemes are illegal, but if flies in the face of personal responsibility and accountability – two qualities that are absolutely vital to a strong presidency. But not only does Romney shame himself with such conniving actions, he shames the grave of his father, who released 12 years-worth of tax information during his presidential campaign of 1967, setting a precedent for all other nominees to follow – save for his own son, apparently.
If tax-avoidance is ‘morally wrong’ as David Cameron claimed earlier this year, how is it possible that we allow our representatives in government off scot-free with such deep waivers of integrity?
I know that I’m focusing overwhelmingly on the negative here, but it’s a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy that we hold our elected officials to account for the actions we disagree with.
I’m doing my part by writing these columns.What are you doing about it?
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