"What do you read, my lord?" asks Polonius of Hamlet who accurately but mockingly replies
Words, words, words.
The thing is, Hamlet is mocking both himself and Polonius.
The prince has been charged by the ghost of his father, old King Hamlet, to kill his uncle Claudius, brother of the old king, successor king himself, and stepfather to the prince having married the old king's wife. (A too long and cluttered sentence, but I assume you know the plot, so it doesn't really matter.) Polonius, pompous busybody and courtier (and father of Hamlet's girlfriend), isn't exactly ignored, but is put in place for his nosiness. And Hamlet himself, why, all for him is words. He hems back and forth. He cannot decide.
To be or not to be.
It's all words.
But, of course, they're powerful things words. I've observed that before about them. They matter.
As lawyers, they're the tools we use.
But with great power comes great opportunities for fuck ups. Consider Fukushima or Chernobyl.
Take Todd Akin. Please.
Unless you've spent the last 72 hours or so in a cave, you know the basic plot. Asked on TV about abortions in cases of rape, Todd explained that he's talked to lots of doctors and learned that there are two kinds of rape (at least) and that women's bodies have a magic contraceptive agent that can tell the different sorts and work whenever the rape is the "legitimate" sort.
If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Now, Todd Akin is a deeply religious man as well as being an idiot.
And it came to pass that upon his spewing of offensive shit and stupid shit both, there arose a great cackling among his opponents and a great consternation among his fellow believers who are a shade too smart to get caught actually saying anything as dumb as he did.
"Quit the campaign" came the voices from those supporters of science and evidence except when it involves actual science and evidence. John Cornyn, Karl Rove, John Ashcroft, Mitt Romney (one waits in vain to hear from Sarah Palin) all said Akin must quit. The party will no longer fund his campaign. Rove's super PAC will no longer fund his campaign.
They did not know the sort of man with whom they were dealing.
Yes, he said those things. But he has deep empathy for rape victims (at least the legitimate ones), rape being a horrible crime and all.
I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize.
Those wrong words, he said, were
"A bit like a rapist's child, perhaps," as my friend Hilary said. (Really. He said that. You can't make this shit up. Though you can set it off and print it in boldface.)
Of course, it's not just that the words were wrong.
That's what happens when you say dessert instead of desert or when autocomplete changes enemy to enema.
Todd's problem wasn't poor word choice. I mean what would the right words have been?
OK, I know. He didn't mean "legitimate" rape. He meant "forcible" rape. (He's tried that tack before - as has Paul Ryan, by the way, who's on the Romney express now insisting he's never said any such thing, just as he also insists he was for the stimulus before he was against it But I digress.)
But see, "forcible" really isn't much better. It just tries to define those rapes that are "legitimate." Because, one assumes, statutory rape is OK. And date rape is OK. Rape only counts, is only really really wrong if the victim also gets the shit beaten out of her.
Which is, apparently, what releases the magic contraceptive.
Timex Todd has taken a lickin' but keeps on tickin'. He says he's in for long haul. Has a new ad out called "Forgiveness" that apologizes for using those "wrong words." And that says he really does care deeply and that illegitimate rape isn't a mitzvah. But the baby is and mom should be honored to have the chance to carry the legitimate rapist's child to term if she should be fortunate enough not to have the spermicidal gene.
Todd's is the great American moment. He won't be swayed by party elders or wiser heads.
(Nearly all heads are wiser, but I'm digressing again.) He told Mike Huckabee,
I believe the defense of the unborn and a deep respect for life, which underlie all of America, those are important parts of who we are. And they’re not things to run away from.
Now you may not have known that "the defense of the unborn" is what "underlie[s] all of America." But then you, unlike Todd, aren't channeling God. John Eligon in the Times.
It was “appropriate to recognize a creator, God, whose blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the very source of American freedom,” Mr. Akin, 65, said in a radio interview. “And that part of the message I feel is missing” from the campaign, he said, adding, “That’s the reason why we’re going to continue. Because I believe there is a cause here.”
And you didn't get the Republican nomination for Senate in Missouri.