The look of irritation on Paul Ryan's face this week as he was confronted over his own radical anti-abortion views was quite instructive.
Until he got tapped by the Romney campaign as a running mate, Ryan was a vocal and absolutist right-to-lifer, even in cases of incest and rape. For him there is no room for compromise on this. The only thing that has changed for Ryan this week is that it has become temporarily inopportune for him to say so.
But against all the odds, Todd Akin and his talk of 'legitimate rape' have had a cold water to the face effect on this easily distracted nation. Ryan, and behind him Romney, have found themselves on the defensive. Suddenly the nation has grasped that they're serious about banning it completely. Suddenly the country is grasping just how far to the right they are on social issues.
Asked point blank if abortion should be available to women in instances of rape, Ryan demurred on Tuesday.
'I'm proud of my pro-life record,' he replied. 'And I stand by my pro-life record in Congress.'
In Tampa, Florida a week ahead of their national convention, Republicans drawing up their party platform didn't share Ryan's uncharacteristic reluctance. They are now seeking passage of a constitutional amendment that would extend legal rights to the unborn, effectively banning abortion. The language in the GOP platform includes no exceptions for rape or incest.
They're serious about banning it completely, too.
But Ryan's own record on this issue is such a matter of public record that it was a little surprising to hear him call for Todd Akin's head, a man whose views on abortion he apparently shares. Akin himself was clearly stung by Ryan's attempt to force him out of the race, ruefully telling Sean Hannity: ''Why couldn’t he run his race and I’ll run mine?'
It's quite true to say that on abortion Akin and Ryan are ideological doppelgängers, having worked together to promote a 'personhood' bill in 2009 which would have declared a fertilized egg a human being.
On Tuesday Ryan also tried to distance himself from the bill he co-sponsored with Akin to introduce the term 'forcible rape' into legislation, in order to limit federal funding on abortions for rape victims.
Sensing political peril ahead, Ryan sidestepped a call to clarify what the term 'forcible rape' actually meant by responding: 'Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period. End of story.'
But it isn't the end of the story. Not by a long shot. And certainly not for women.
The thing to remember about Akin is that he just got hammered for saying something that is completely within his own party lines. The party simply turned on him in a Public Relations move that was as cynical as it was insincere.
But each time it seems this nation is on the verge of an adult discussion about abortion or health care or immigration reform or gay rights the GOP revert to rehearsed demagoguery to quickly shut it down. This keeps happening because the GOP have moved so far to the right that there's no longer any room for debate or give, on any issue, ever. They KNOW the right answer, you're just a speed bump on the way to it.
The Republican platform writers know that their ideal candidates have finally arrived. That's why the New York Times just called their 2012 platform 'more aggressive in its opposition to women's reproductive rights and to gay rights than any in memory.'
These people are serious about living in a word free of abortion or government mandated health care or gay rights or planned parenthood (which Romney has vowed to defund). They're only getting started. You should take them at their word.