The problem isn't the wisdom of this advice; the problem is that this advice is necessary.
It's way past time: House Republicans need to stop talking about rape. That's the message GOP lawmakers got here Wednesday evening from Kellyanne Conway, a top GOP pollster.Conway dispensed the stern advice as part of a polling presentation she made alongside pollster David Winsten -- an adviser to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) -- and Dave Sackett. The comment was described by several sources in the room.
Conway added that House Republicans consider rape a "four-letter word."
The advice certainly makes sense, given recent inflammatory remarks from Phil Gingrey, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock, among others. Indeed, it shouldn't have taken a professional pollster trained in measuring public attitudes to remind Republicans about this -- I've been telling the party the same thing for months, and I didn't charge them a dime.
The problem, though, is that there's a catch, which makes this painfully obvious advice difficult to follow. Republicans really do believe impregnated rape victims should not have any choices when it comes to reproductive rights and they really will continue to pursue a policy agenda that codifies that belief in law.
Unless GOP policymakers are prepared to give up on this aspect of their culture-war agenda -- that seems unlikely -- they're going to keep facing questions that will require answers.
When a reporter says, "Congressman, under your proposal, women impregnated by a rapist would be required to carry their pregnancy to term, even if they don't want to," Republicans cannot just sit there, staring blankly into the camera. "Stop talking about rape" is reasonable advice, but here's an even better tip: stop proposing legislation that says rape victims shouldn't have any choices when it comes to reproductive rights.
Rhetoric matters. Policy matters more.