A few too many Republicans have an unfortunate habit when confronted with criticism: they reflexively defect the criticism by attributing the misdeed to Democrats.
When the GOP is criticized for wanting to slash Medicare, for example, they respond, “No, it’s Democrats who want to cut Medicare.” They’ve done the same thing on a wide range of other issues, leading Rachel to label this the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” tactic.
But perhaps no issue helps capture the problem with the GOP strategy better than the “war on women. Last year, Republicans began arguing in earnest that they’re not the ones waging a war on women; Democrats are. For proof, Republicans began pointing to specific, individual men embroiled in scandals: Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and Bob Filner.
Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pushed this even further.
“Well, you know, I mean, the Democrats, one of their big issues is they have concocted and said Republicans are committing a war on women. One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office.“And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior, and it should be something we shouldn’t want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office.“This isn’t having an affair. I mean, this isn’t me saying, ‘Oh, he’s had an affair, we shouldn’t talk to him.’ Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office? I mean, really. And then they have the gall to stand up and say, ‘Republicans are having a war on women’?”
Yes, for Rand Paul, Republicans shouldn’t be criticized for waging a war on women because of … the Lewinsky affair.
Note, in the same interview, Paul went on to say that Bill Clinton’s adultery would be relevant if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016 because, as the Kentucky Republican put it, ”This is with regard to the Clintons, and sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.”
I wonder if Paul would feel the same way about criticizing him for his father’s activities. One might very well argue, after all, that it’s hard to separate one from the other.
But even putting that aside, what Republicans continue to struggle to understand what the “war on women,” as a political phenomenon, is all about. As we’ve discussed before, when we talk about a “war on women,” we’re talking less about Republican misdeeds towards specific individuals and more about a systemic issue of GOP policymakers pursuing a radical agenda that affects all American women.
Whether Rand Paul understands this or not, at issue here are efforts to restrict reproductive rights, scrap Planned Parenthood, close health clinics that provide important services to women, limiting access to contraception, force medical professionals to lie to women, and force women to undergo medically unnecessary exams for political reasons. In recent years, as Republican politics has become more radicalized, the party has also used inexplicable rhetoric on rape, opposed pay equity laws, and pushed antiquated views on gender roles.
That’s a war on women.
For Rand Paul to see this and effectively respond, “Yeah, but what about that presidential sex scandal from the mid-1990s?” suggests an alarming level of confusion.