Gosh, it sure was a busy Sunday for Republicans.
First, Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri twisted himself into knots explaining why abortion should be prohibited, even for rape victims. Then Politico broke the story of U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoders late night dip into the Sea of Galilee without his knickers.
Well get to Yoder in a moment. First lets focus on Akin.
His word-choice was abhorrent and appalling is rape ever legitimate? but the Republicans position on abortion is logically consistent. If you believe abortion is murder, then there cant really be a rape exception, or any exception at all. Abortion has to be a crime.
At the same time, if abortion isnt killing, then its hard to justify government involvement in such a personal decision.
Either way, compromise on abortion is beyond difficult. Its nearly impossible.
The Stars political writer Steve Kraske and I spent a large part of the summer trying to understand why our politics are so gridlocked and polarized. One of the reasons, we found, is that the framework of the abortion argument has been imported into virtually all parts of the public arena, mainly by lawmakers who have fought abortion for decades. Now both parties do it routinely.
That is: Issues once considered relative, and subject to discussion and debate, are now considered absolute, such as abortion, and not subject to compromise. In this approach, Medicare isnt insurance for the elderly, its socialism. Critics of President Barack Obama arent misguided, theyre racists. Taxes arent a way to raise money, theyre theft.
Finding compromise with socialists, racists, and thieves is pretty much as hard as compromising on abortion.
I once exchanged emails with a brilliant anti-abortion activist who worked at the time at a well-known research center that studies embryonic stem cells. When we discussed the apparent contradiction, the activist said it was, well, complicated.
Which brings us back to Yoder. During our summer conversation with the freshman Kansas congressman, he made an important point: Theres give and take, he said, and theres right and wrong.
Surely hes correct. But just as surely some things are more complicated than his simple formula suggests. What seems right after a bottle of wine, for example, can look pretty wrong in the light of the next day.
Perhaps Yoder and his colleagues will reflect on that truth the next time the two parties are locked in a Washington death grip, unable to reach agreement on issues the rest of us could solve in an afternoon.
Its possible, maybe likely, that on most issues no one is absolutely right or absolutely wrong.
Once we accept that, we can all take next Sunday off.