Has God forsaken the Republican Party?
Well, sit in judgment of what's happened in the past few days:
- A report comes out that a couple dozen House Republicans engaged in an alcohol-induced frolic, in one case nude, in the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is believed to have walked on water, calmed the storm and, nearby, turned water into wine and performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
- Rep. Todd Akin, Missouri's Republican nominee for Senate, suggests there is such a thing as "legitimate rape" and purports that women's bodies have mysterious ways to repel the seed of rapists. He spends the next 48 hours rejecting GOP leaders' demands that he quit the race.
- Weather forecasts show that a storm, likely to grow into Hurricane Isaac, may be chugging toward ... Tampa, where Republicans will open their quadrennial nominating convention on Monday.
Coincidence? Or part of some Intelligent Design?
By their own logic, Republicans and their conservative allies should be concerned that Isaac is a form of divine retribution. Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann, then a Republican presidential candidate, said that the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene were attempts by God "to get the attention of the politicians." In remarks later termed a "joke," she said: "It's time for an act of God, and we're getting it."
The conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck said last year that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were God's "message being sent" to that country. A year earlier, Christian broadcaster and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson tied the Haitian earthquake to that country's "pact to the devil."
Previously, Robertson had argued that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for abortion, while the Rev. John Hagee said the storm was God's way of punishing homosexuality.
Even if you don't believe God uses meteorological phenomena to express his will, it's difficult for mere mortals to explain what is happening to the GOP just now.
By most earthly measures, President Barack Obama has no business being re-elected. No president since World War II has won re-election with the unemployment rate north of 7.4 percent. Of the presidents during that time who were returned to office, GDP growth averaged 4.7 percent during the first nine months of the election year — more than double the current rate.
But instead of being swept into office by the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, Republicans are in danger of losing an election that is theirs to lose. Mitt Romney, often tone-deaf, has allowed Obama to change the subject to Romney's tax havens and tax returns. And congressional Republicans are providing all kinds of reasons for Americans to doubt their readiness to assume power.
The Politico report Sunday about drunken skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee gave House Republicans an unwanted image of debauchery — a faint echo of the Capitol page scandal that, breaking in September 2006, cemented Republicans' fate in that November's elections. The 30 Republican lawmakers on the "fact-finding" mission to Israel last summer earned a rebuke from Majority Leader Eric Cantor and attracted the attention of the FBI. The naked congressman, Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., admitted in a statement: "Regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit."
A boozy frolic at a Christian holy site might have been a considerable embarrassment for the party, but it was eclipsed by a bigger one: Akin's preposterous claim on a St. Louis TV program that pregnancy is rare after a "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Republican leaders spent the next two days trying to shut Akin's whole thing down, but after a period of panic (a no-show on Piers Morgan's show led the CNN host to show his empty chair and call him a "gutless little twerp"), Akin told radio host Mike Huckabee on Tuesday that he would fight the "big party people" and stay in the race.
The big party people had a further complication: In Tampa on Tuesday, those drafting the GOP platform agreed to retain a plank calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion without specifying exceptions for cases of rape. In other words, the Akin position.
For a party that should be sailing toward victory, there were all the makings of a perfect storm. And, sure enough: Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast that "Tropical Depression Nine" would strengthen into a hurricane, taking a northwesterly track over Cuba on Sunday morning — just as Republicans are arriving in Florida.
What happens next? God only knows.
Dana Milbank is a Washington Post columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.