Missouri Congressman Todd Akin has been concerned that incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill hasn’t “acted as ladylike” as she had in her previous senate race. Yet Akin recently compared his rival to a dog, saying she “goes to Washington, D.C., and it’s a little bit like one of those dogs, you know ‘fetch’…She goes to Washington, D.C., and get all of these taxes and red tape and bureaucracy and executive orders and agencies and she brings all of this stuff and dumps it on us in Missouri,” then reiterated the message through a staffer who called her a “bullshitsu.”
One pundit is calling his recent sexist statements performance art, rather than political campaign. Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post calls him, “The oblivious man who keeps on saying rude, ill-advised things, even in the heat of a balance-changing race — surely this was some kind of strange joke!”
Joke or not, it definitely has become a distraction that is overtaking the media narrative. But maybe that’s exactly what the Akin campaign wants in the final weeks of the election. Otherwise, people may be more inclined to notice the news about his radical anti-abortion past.
Earlier in the campaign, news came out that Akin had once been arrested demonstrating outside of an abortion provider, and that he still kept in contact with his old anti-choice jail buddies. When asked for more details, Akin was vague, and the campaign promised to release information down the road. That never happened.
Now, Right Wing Watch had looked into the records and has pinned Akin as being at a “Mother’s Day” protest in 1987, organized by “Pro-Life Direct Action League,” a group that then reorganized into “Whole Life Ministries.”
[Whole Life Ministries leader Tim] Dreste shared a jail cell with [Operation Rescue’s Randall] Terry in September 1988 and returned to St. Louis under orders to break with the Catholic-dominated Pro-Life Direct Action League. Just one month later, Akin appeared at an event for Dreste’s new group, Whole Life Ministries.The Post-Dispatch reported on October 29, 1988 that Akin, who was elected days later to public office, “spoke to about 35 anti-abortion activists” planning to block clinic doors the next day. He said, “As far as I am concerned, you are the freedom fighters of America.” “My hat is off to you,” he continued.The article identified Dreste as director of Whole Life Ministries, “a new anti-abortion group in St. Louis.” “We’re going to tell her we’re not going to allow her to kill her baby,” he said. Dreste made clear that protesters would block the clinic doors and refuse police orders to move. “We will tell (police) we will obey God’s law before we obey man’s law.” Sound familiar?
Right Wing Watch promises even more information about Akin’s radical anti-choice group ties, but it’s Salon that gives the rest of the story, including Akin’s involvement with a local militia group as well as an ongoing relationship with Dreste, who eventually was convicted for threatening providers.
Here’s the coda on Dreste: In 1988 he was convicted in federal court for inciting violence against abortion doctors throughout the 1980s and 1990s, which were deemed “true threats” not protected by First Amendment. “It was a federal trial watched around the country,” the Riverfront Times noted in a lengthy profile of the activist from 1999. Dreste and his compatriots were not charged in any of the 40 clinic bombings or seven murders that took place in the U.S. between 1983 and 1999, some of which they were suspected of being involved in, but rather of invoking violence via their websites and other publications under a novel use of federal racketeering laws. “I find that each defendant acted with specific intent and malice in a blatant and illegal communication of true threats to kill, assault or do bodily harm to each of the plaintiffs and with the specific intent to interfere with or intimidate the plaintiffs from engaging in legal medical practices and procedures,” U.S. District Judge court judge Robert E. Jones wrote in his ruling.
With so many ties to violent radical rightwing groups coming to the surface (some of which appear to not even be fully severed) is it any wonder that Akin is instead embracing a literal “dog and pony” show as a distraction technique?