Rep. Todd Akin is not alone.
Last weekend, he said the following, well-publicized quote on a televised news program in St. Louis:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “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 of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
We will not take Akin to task for the phrase “legitimate rape” — that has been done by higher profile, more articulate sources than ourselves. We only note that Akin is a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, yet is uninformed at best about the female body.
Instead, we turn our attention to his apologies.
Within minutes of being made the center of a media firestorm, Akin said: “it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview.”
So let’s follow his logic here: I misspoke, so everyone should forget it ever happened.
But Todd Akin is not alone. Every major politician, Democrat or Republican, of the last 10-15 years has had to contritely say, “I misspoke.” Let’s review cases in which either the politician themself or a spokesperson claimed they misspoke:
• Earlier this year, President Obama was honoring a Polish war hero when he referred to “Polish death camps.” He meant “German death camps in Nazi-occupied Poland .” He “misspoke.”
• In 2002, then-President George W. Bush referred to “devaluation” instead of “deflation” in Japan, which caused the yen to drop in price. He misspoke.
• In 2011, ex-President Bill Clinton said that “if we defaulted on the debt once for a few days, it might not be calamitous.” He meant that it wouldn’t destroy the economy for a few days, but that it would obviously be bad for the economy in the long run. He misspoke.
• Mitt Romney said earlier this year that he was “not very concerned about the very poor” because of their “ample safety net.” He misspoke.
• When she ran for the Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton said she had to evade sniper fire when she made a trip to Bosnia. She misspoke.
• Rep. Paul Ryan said, “I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon budget, which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget,” effectively accusing military officials of being dishonest. He didn’t just misspeak, he “really misspoke.”
We could go on and on and on and on. We list these only to show how pervasive “I misspoke” has become, whether they are likely honest-to-goodness “misspeaks,” such as the Obama and George W. Bush examples appear, or whether misspeaking is used as a blanket catch-all when a politician gets caught saying something they shouldn’t.
Page 2 of 2 - Let’s not kid ourselves here: Most of the time a politician “misspeaks,” it’s the latter case rather than the former. The word has been robbed of its meaning.
We’re tired of being told someone misspoke. Either cop to being a terrible speaker or admit one was caught with one’s mouth open.
Because there’s something magical that happens when politicians “misspeak” too many times: Citizens “misvote.”
— Andrew Nash, for the Morning Sun