The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

September 10, 2012

Kevin Wilson, guest columnist: One comment shouldn't indict entire GOP

NEOSHO, Mo. — I’ll probably get myself in trouble for stepping into this mess, but what the heck, it won’t be the first time. And it definitely won’t be the last.

I’m talking about the issue of Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin and his comments that have set off a political firestorm — one that rivals the real storm that just hit the U.S. coastline.

I don’t need to recap what he said. If you are reading this column, then you most likely follow politics. Even if you don’t, you probably couldn’t have avoided hearing his comments.

I can’t imagine there is a single one of us who hasn’t misspoken at some point in our lives. For most people, the mistake is usually easily resolved and quickly forgotten. But for those of us who have participated in the public arena, that’s often not the case — especially for those who serve in high-profile positions.

Over the course of my political career, I have said things that came out wrong. Explaining what I really meant to say was not always adequate. But I never had a situation reach the level of scrutiny as Rep. Akin’s comment, and I’m sure glad of that.

I can’t speak to the intent of what he really meant by his comments because only he can do that — no one else. I know he has apologized and tried to clarify his stance on rape and abortion, but sometimes saying you’re sorry is not enough — the gaffe is just too large to overcome.

In my last column, I detailed all the statewide offices that voters will decide when the polls open in November. Todd Akin’s comments will affect each one of those races in some manner. It will probably have an effect on the complexion of the national election scene, too. Whether a candidate agrees or disagrees with Akin’s views, many opposing candidates will try to paint all Republicans with the same brush.

Now we all know this is beyond responsible and isn’t reflective of the facts. To say that all Republicans think alike is to say that all Democrats think alike. While we each have certain core values that make us identify with certain political parties, or with none at all, I think most people can agree that all Republicans and all Democrats don’t each believe in everything the same way. “Always” and “never” are two words that are usually inconsistent with politics. But that won’t stop people from trying to make the leap, and many voters will buy into that trick.

I mentioned the national political implications. We have already seen media outlet after media outlet report Akin’s comments and talk about how it will affect other races. This is not a small bump on the head that can be alleviated by a parent’s kiss to make it all better.

So what should happen? I can’t answer for the congressman any more than I can explain what he really meant. Whether or not he gets out of this race is for him to decide. I do know that each of us should be held accountable for our actions and that each of us make mistakes in life. Sometimes they can be corrected, sometimes they can’t.

That may not be fair, but no one ever promised that life would be fair. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our good for the greater good of what we believe in. What that greater good is can only be determined by each individual. I just hope that Mr. Akin takes into consideration what is at stake. This election cycle is too critical to be held hostage by the statements of one individual.

Kevin Wilson lives in Neosho. He is a former Missouri state representative.

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