Thursday, June 13, 2013

How stupid is Trent Franks?

Maybe not as stupid as you think.

Yesterday, Rep. Franks (AZ) drew a lot of criticism for a speech he made in support of a bill he is sponsoring to shorten the latest date at which a woman could get an abortion. In his comments on the bill, he said something stupid about rape which drew a lot of moans about how Republicans just can't resist going there. However, in this case, the tempest might work to his advantage. It creates a distraction so no one notices that he's lying about what the bill says.

Franks defended not allowing a rape exception into his bill by saying:
"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject- because you know the, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low, but when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case, that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation, and that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment." 
Most people who commented on it focused on the phrase "the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." With this, they said, he crossed the Akin line and showed himself to be a medically illiterate boob. Today, he issued the the standard "I phrased my very important point badly" defense and the controversy is all the fault of baby-killing Democrats. He says the very important part of his statement was what came after that phrase.

What he said next is pretty confusing, so let's take a second to unpack it. His arguement goes like this: A) rape exception clauses usually require women to report their rape within 48 hours, B) all women who have been raped do report their rapes within 48 hours, C) all women who have been raped make the decision to terminate their pregnancy before the end of their second trimester, D) it is "impossible" for any raped women to still be pregnant after six months, E) therefore there is no reason to have a rape exception. There are a lot of things wrong with this logic.

First, it's not logical. Jump straight from A to E. Rape exclusions require "this" and, if "this" happens, there is no reason for a rape exclusion. But, if there is no requirement, how do we know "this" will happen. Simple, it's required by the rape exclusion, therefore we don't need the rape exclusion. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Next, look at B-C-D and the ridiculous impossibility of it. It is "impossible" that there would be a woman who wouldn't report her rape. Is he kidding? I've never seen a study that didn't say the majority of rapes go unreported. Okay, maybe that's not what he meant. Maybe he only meant C-D. It's "impossible" that there would be a woman who was confused and hadn't made up her mind before she was faced with the point of no return, the end of the third trimester.

Maybe, we should cut him some slack on the "impossible" logic. Clearly, he was exaggerating in an attempt to manipulate his audience, the American people. At some point or another, everyone uses exaggeration to win an argument. We can see what he really meant at the beginning part of his statement, the controversial part. The number of raped women who are still pregnant at the end of the first trimester is "very low." He made that clear in another part of his statement, "To say that we wait until then, to say that there's a rape or incest involved, is waiting too long."

Then again, maybe we should not cut him any slack. His real argument is that women who can't make up their mind by then have "wait[ed] too long" and don't deserve compassion. His real argument is not that the exception is unnecessary. If that was the case, what harm would do to put it in? He claims Democrats are raising the rape issue to distract from the real issue. If adding the exception would deprive the Democrats of their argument, wouldn't the politically canny thing to do be to have put that exception in in the first place? Of course not. He does not want an exception under any condition. The real issue for him is to make it impossible for women to get an abortion. Period. In a away, he needs the Democrats to make a lot of noise about compromise to cover the fact that he's a no compromise extremist.

If that sounds like it's giving him too much credit for cleverness, consider this: all this noise about rape is distracting from his big, bald-faced lie. Let's go back to his original statement"
"And in this case, that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation..." 
And his clarification:
"The rape thing was something the Democrats injected. I never would have dealt with that issue. Our bill doesn't deal with that because it's the beginning of the six month."
His bill isn't about a ban after six months. His bill is about pushing the ban from twenty-four weeks--which is actually five and a half months--to twenty weeks which is just over four and a half months. He lied in his original statement and in his clarification, he repeated his lie.

Trent Franks might not be the Machiavelli of the Southwest, but he is clever enough to use a controversy to cover his deception. We should give him credit for being a clever liar.

Note: I rewrote the beginning because the lede was buried to far down the page.

No comments: