Foreign press gives Akin, GOP & Congress a verbal beating

Week-in-Review: Everyone has an opinion on how the U.S. should govern itself

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

A contrite U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) apologizes through his official Congressional website, August 21, 2012. (Reuters/akin.house.gov)

Each Friday, Latitude News looks back at the American stories that made a distinct impression on the foreign press. This week, overseas media outlets had few kind words for the Republican Party. As verbal beatings go, the GOP might be limping all the way to the convention in Tampa; that is, if Tropical Storm Isaac doesn’t dampen the festivities.

  • “Rape is having a moment,” says now-resigned British MP Louise Mensch in The Telegraph. In a systematic condemnation of a handful of male politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, Mensch spots a trend: too many male public figures have too many ignorant things to say about rape. Mensch blasts supporters of Julian Assange for assuming the fugitive is innocent of raping a woman. And she compares Congressman Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to British left-winger George Galloway, who defended Assange with the following words: “Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.” “Why do male politicians get this so wrong?” Mensch asks. “Unfortunately, the answer is simple: because they believe what they are saying. [They] represent the tip of an iceberg of resentment and base sexism.”
  • Meanwhile, from South Africa’s Daily Maverick comes the view that the Republican Party is having a hard time keeping in step with its “socially conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian base.” This article scrolls through a parade of sexual indiscretions perpetrated by upstanding, influential Republicans – the most recent of which was a drunken debacle in Israel by some GOP freshmen lawmakers. According to eyewitnesses, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) went for a late-night swim—sans clothes—in the Sea of Galilee. The Maverick uses Akin’s rape comments and the skinny dipping incident to highlight Americans’ general disappointment with Congress. In the last 50 years, “the only people or institutions that have been more unpopular than the current Congress are Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Mark Fuhrman, a detective in the OJ Simpson murder trial.”
  • In an article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that’s more analysis than reproach, Keith Boag says Mitt Romney won’t win one key swing state. Boag points out that, historically, Nevada is as unattached as a swing state gets–“The Silver State” helped elect all but one president over the last century. But despite the state’s big Mormon population and higher-than-average unemployment rate, Boag says Nevada has become a somewhat permanently blue state. Three reasons: urbanization, a unionized gaming industry and an influx of Latinos and African Americans. “Perhaps,” Boag says, “it’s time to stop thinking of Nevada’s as an ‘up for grabs’ swing state.”
  • In this fun and kind of terrifying story, Germany’s Der Spiegel wagers America’s entire political system, from Left to Right, is imploding. “What Potatoes Say about the State of US Democracy” takes President Obama, Senator Mark Udall (D-Col.) and the entire law-making system to task for allowing the potato lobby to endanger public health. The story tracks a lobbying effort—from potato patch to DC—that derails Obama’s efforts to rid school lunches of unhealthful foods. “At issue, says Udall, is the equal treatment of vegetables, and the fact that even a potato has vitamins, as does pizza — because of the tomato sauce.” Udall is too cozy with the lobbyists, says Der Spiegel, and Obama fails to reject a bill that does little to keep kids healthy. “Nowadays,” Der Spiegel concludes, “Congress exemplifies the crisis in American democracy, the failure of checks and balances, an out-of-control culture of debate, reform gridlock, the increasing polarization of the parties and the loss of credibility of political institutions.”

And for another take entirely on why and how the U.S. government is failing its people, check out Beijing’s Caixin. To summarize: the U.S. debt is ballooning because we spend too much money, mainly on healthcare. That’s not likely to change because American waistbands are growing with our debt—meaning more health care costs in the future—and we’re not likely to get healthier because we keep exporting physical manufacturing jobs. To China.