9/11? Really?

    It has been a great week for wild and crazy quotes – from Mitt Romney’s clueless sliming of Palestinian culture, to Harry Reid’s baseless sliming of Romney, to Romney’s tone-deaf flak telling reporters “Kiss my ass, this is a holy site” – but, hands down, bar none, the gold medal winner in the shoe-in-mouth competition is Pennsylvania Republican congressman Mike Kelly.Kelly mounted the platform on Wednesday. He was really really unhappy. It was Aug. 1, day one of the new health reform law provision that requires most private employers to cover their female workers’ birth control without an insurance co-pay. Most of Kelly’s Republican brethren were silent on Wednesday – nobody in the GOP leadership uttered so much as a peep – because they’ve finally gotten the message that warring against women’s health on the eve of an election is a surefire way to widen the gender chasm to the Democrats’ advantage. But a handful of House firebrands did hold a press conference, and that’s when Kelly won the gold. Here’s what he said:”I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that’s Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that’s the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”Ponder that one for a moment. Kelly compared female sexual health to Pearl Harbor. Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, a veteran of that war, was kind to Kelly when he responded with this statement: “It is complete nonsense to suggest that a matter discussed, debated, and approved by the Congress and the president is akin to a surprise attack that killed nearly 2,500 people and launched our nation into the second World War.”As for Kelly’s invocation of 9/11…well, the mind reels. I’ll leave it to the social historians to explain why conservatives are so threatened by female sexuality, by the idea of women having sex for non-procreative purposes – witness Rush Limbaugh, calling the unmarried Sandra Fluke “a slut” – or even by the prospect of strapped-for-cash women getting birth control coverage so that they can control their ovarian cysts. I’ll simply say that it takes a special rhetorical talent to liken women to the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center.Rest assured, if a Democrat ever dared to compare a government program to 9/11, the GOP would be accusing that speaker of soiling the memories of the slaughtered innocents, of defacing the sacred American flag.On the other hand, why should the Democrats play that game? Better to shrug off Kelly’s absurdism – hey, if women get better health coverage, the terrorists have won! – and just revel in the GOP leadership’s silence. Back in February, House Speaker Boehner said of the contraception rule, “It must not stand, and it will not stand.” Well, guess what. It stands. The Republican leaders dare not touch it, lest they cede even more turf on the gender front. And given Mitt Romney’s tepid presidential prospects, especially among women (a 20-point deficit in Ohio and Pennsylvania), he can ill afford to be tainted anew by speaking of it. Mike Kelly and the other GOP outliers are on their own. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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