Wednesday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow talked about the problems that politicians run into when they try to run from their record rather than running on their record. Oftentimes this results in situations where candidates are left blinking and staring like stunned bunnies in the headlights of an onrushing car when an interviewer asks them a question regarding something they don’t want to talk about.
Maddow began the segment, entitled “A Child’s Treasury of Politicians Refusing to Answer Very Simple Questions,” with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), a conservative congressman who flirted with “birtherism” at a fund-raiser in his home district. Coffman issued an official apology, but when a local NBC reporter tried to get him to discuss the remarks on camera, Coffman would only repeat the same phrase over and over robotically, “I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.”
Former Republican congressional candidate Jesse Kelley (R-AZ) adopted the same tactic with an ABC reporter around the same time, eliciting guffaws of amazement from bystanders. And just this week, Ohio Republican congressional candidate Josh Mandel took the same approach with a Dayton, Ohio ABC reporter when answering questions about his race against Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
This brings us to the current firestorm of controversy blazing around Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO)’s remarks from a weekend interview in which he postulated that a woman’s body can somehow stop pregnancies resulting from rape.
“That has turned into a political nightmare for a whole bunch of conservatives politicians who have co-sponsored legislation with Todd Akin about rape and pregnancy,” Maddow said, “or who at least share his political belief that if a woman does get pregnant when she is raped, the government should force her to give birth against her will.”
Like, for example, Washington state senator Michael Baumgartner, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Baumgartner agrees with Akin, that women who are impregnated by rape should be forced to carry the child to term, but he sure doesn’t want to talk about it.
When Baumgartner was pressed on the topic by a reporter, the candidate told him, “go fuck yourself.” He later apologized, then recanted his apology.
The “new star of our Child’s Treasury,” said Maddow, is vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored HR 3, the third bill ratified by the newly sworn-in House of Representatives in 2011. That bill criminalized all forms of abortion and some forms of birth control, and contained no exemptions for victims of rape and incest. Now, Ryan, the campaign to elect former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) to the presidency and the bulk of the Republican establishment are trying to recast Ryan as a middle-of-the-road budget wonk, and not the far-right extremist that he actually is.
In an interview with New York’s KDKA, Ryan tried to put as much distance as he could between himself and Akin, calling Akin’s remarks “outrageous” and “over the pale” (sic), but when the reporter pointed out that Ryan had stood by Akin’s views in Congress, the vice presidential nominee stumbled, then fell back on to repeating his talking points like an automaton.
This is going to be a problem, said Maddow. Ryan is on record as supporting these very policies. He even wrote some of them. How he handles these questions will be the measure of his performance between now and November. So far, he’s not exactly off to a brilliant start.
Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below: