NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- All eyes were glued yesterday on Missouri, where Todd Akin faced a five o'clock deadline that would determine if he had even a shred of integrity.My feeling is this: If a man running for office believes that women who are "legitimately raped" can somehow avoid getting pregnant, he should stick by his guns. The people of Missouri have a right to know that he feels that way. He certainly should not drop out of the race for U.S. Senate, even if (or, perhaps I should say, "especially if") Democratic control of the Senate may be at stake. That just makes it all the more imperative for Todd Akin to stand up and not be moved from his bone-headed belief systems. Akin decided to stay in the race, bless his heart. But given a choice of being a complete fool or a flip-flopping charlatan on the "legitimate rape" remark, he chose to be both. Rather than stay true to his beliefs, thereby giving the people of the Missouri the ability to make an informed decision on his candidacy, he provided a patently insincere apology. He clearly still believes all that "legitimate rape" guff but hasn't got the guts to admit it, hence his "wrong words in the wrong way" televised apology. I ask you, folks, whatever became of integrity? Don't our politicians have a right to be racists, charlatans, political extremists or, as is the case with Akin, just plain morons? Ask yourself this question: If our elected representatives are blithering idiots, do we really want them to hide that from us? Where is this generation's John E. Rankin, the Mississippi Democratic congressman who called columnist Walter Winchell a "little kike"? Rankin didn't apologize for that 1944 remark, no sir. He was a bigot and proud of it. The racist, no-blacks-allowed electorate of the state of Mississippi elected a racist to Congress knowing that he was a racist. And, mind you, he made this remark at a time when Jews were burning in the Nazi gas chambers, in opposition to a bill aimed at promoting the right to vote for our men in uniform, regardless of race, color or creed.
You can say a lot of things about John Rankin, but you can't deny that the man had the courage of his convictions, despicable as they were. We may very well have John Rankins in Congress today -- I suspect we have plenty -- but none of them have the guts to admit it. The Akin spectacle capped a week in which Paul Ryan decided that his heartfelt devotion to Ayn Rand was too much of a political liability to admit, so he just lied about it. That enabled him to join the ticket headed by an individual named Mitt Romney who genuinely believes in absolutely nothing. Barack Obama may be weak and ineffective, but at least he remains ideologically consistent as he stumbles along. His failings, such as his refusal to adequately prosecute Wall Street misdeeds, are more a question of political expediency and lack of leadership than inconsistency, though I admit that this is more of a distinction than a difference. What I think we'd all agree on is that Ron Paul has never looked so good. The Texas congressman and perennial presidential candidate is certainly no Rankin, but he holds positions that a great many people find unpalatable. And he's not afraid to stick by them, no matter what. He's a strident libertarian and believes that government functions should be stripped to the bone. He is a strident opponent of government regulation of everything and anything, from banks to clean water. He is also against the war on drugs, and he grates against neocons by opposing U.S. military intervention overseas. Even if you disagree with his positions, you have to admit that the man has a virtue that has never been scarcer in this year's crop of politicians: integrity and consistency. You know where he stands on the issues. Ayn Rand, the far-right philosopher of capitalism, is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. Paul Ryan's oft-expressed admiration to Randian principles has become an issue in this campaign, less because of his devotion to Rand than due to his dishonest effort to "walk them back" (which is political-ese for "lying about it."
The pinnacle of his disingenuousness took place last week, in an interview with Britt Hume on Fox. Ryan was asked if he was a Rand disciple and he responded: "No. I really enjoyed her novels, Atlas Shrugged in particular. It triggered my interest in economics. That's where I got into studying economics. That's why I wanted to study the whole field of economics. I later in life learned about what her philosophy was, it's called Objectivism. It's something that I completely disagree with. It's an atheistic philosophy. . . . Those novels, I thought were interesting. But her philosophy, which is different, is something I just don't agree with." Hume, unfortunately, didn't follow up by asking "When you say 'later in life,' what do you mean? Do you mean after 2005, when you gave a 20-minute speech to a Randian organization displaying your fealty to Rand's philosophy and saying that you made Rand's books required reading for your staffers?" The media, inexplicably, has been giving him a pass on his blatant dishonesty. Compare Ryan's mealy-mouthed efforts to distance himself from Rand with Ron Paul. When it comes to Rand, you know where you stand with Paul. Paul has said he "read all her novels and received her Objectivist newsletter essentially the whole time it was published." But in his book End the Fed, he says that "she never convinced me of her definition and application of altruism." (Rand describes altruism in extreme terms, as a form of evil.) Because he has been forthright and honest about it, Rand's influence on Paul has never been much of an issue. If you ask him about it, he tells you, honestly. He has nothing to hide. Ryan clearly feels that he does. Instead of saying "I agree with her on x and disagree with her on y," he just brands the whole thing an "urban legend." If it is, it is one that he has spread, personally. But I guess you can't blame Ryan too much for being such a dishonest wuss, because he has joined a ticket headed by the dishonest wuss to end all dishonest wusses. Mitt Romney's flip-flopping on issues such as health care -- his program was the model for Obamacare, as we all know -- has been the most outstanding characteristic of his campaign. To give you an idea of the man's total lack of integrity, he recently threw a bone to Paul supporters by endorsing Paul's longtime call for an audit of the Federal Reserve. Romney had previously shown a degree of integrity by sticking to his guns on the subject, refusing to endorse a good-sounding but essentially meaningless political gesture, but has now succumbed. I'd like to see Ron Paul on the podium at the Republican convention. Rather than going on and on about "freedom," he ought to show us the kind of man's man that he is. Denounce aid to Israel! Talk about the Fed funding the Watergate burglars and the arming of Iraq! Show your integrity. Don't worry about the political repercussions. If it benefits the Democrats, well, so be it. Meanwhile, here's hoping that Todd Akin stays in the race. Hang in there, chum. Don't let the Republican establishment bully you. Gary Weiss's most recent book is AYN RAND NATION: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul, published by St. Martin's Press.