It’s easy to be perturbed by Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments on rape, abortion, and God’s will. But a little context here is important.
One, it’s important to understand what Murdock actually meant. He wasn’t saying that the criminal, immoral act of rape carries the approval of God. Rather, Murdock said that life — that is, the unborn child — produced by the horrible act of rape is still precious to God. The two are quite distinct. Of course, I have no delusion that media outlets will get this right. If they do, it will be buried deep in the story.
Here is Murdock’s statement after the debate:
God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.
Two, many Republican candidates have inarticulately expressed their views on economic and foreign policy concerns. The most damaging part of this presidential campaign for Mitt Romney was his “47 percent” remark. Admittedly, it was said in private and not during a televised debate, but it was both unwise and damaging. Conservatives hoping to see a change in the Oval Office should be just as willing to forgive Murdock as they were willing to forgive Romney.
Three, the pro-life issue isn’t a liability for Republicans. Democrats’ pro-abortion extremism — defined as abortion on demand, without restrictions, up to the point of birth (and after) — appeals to their base, and their base only. Republicans’ pro-life instincts appeal to their base and a growing number of moderates who truly want abortion to be rare. Far more Americans today identify as pro-life than pro-choice. Republicans are winning on this issue, and must take a principled stand.
Fourth, I agree that Republicans need to be more careful of “inartfully” (to borrow a phrase) articulating their views on the sanctity of unborn life. Don’t give the media or your opponent anything to run with. But the same holds true for their economic views. It’s easy for a wrongly phrased answer to come across as plutocratic and dismissive of the legitimate needs of the poor and the welfare of the middle class— and, in our current economic situation, that type of gaffe is far more damaging to one’s electoral hopes than misspeaking on a social issue that most voters are ignoring right now.