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'Sensitivity training' won't help

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) generated a new round of trouble for himself and his party last week, arguing that Todd Akin's infamous "legitimate rape" remarks were "partly right." Gingrey, a physician-turned-politician, proceeded to make an argument about adrenaline and ovulation, prompting the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to issue a statement explaining, "[T]here is no scientific evidence that adrenaline, experienced in an acute stress situation, has an impact on ovulation."

But there's the larger question of how and why this keeps happening to the Republican Party, which is burdened by so many candidates and officials who say awful things about rape.

Rep. Phil Gingrey's attempts to explain Todd Akin's rape remarks are leaving many Republicans beyond frustrated that a few in their party can't help but insert rape into the already contentious abortion debate.

"This is actually pretty simple. If you're about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who was a senior adviser in Mitt Romney's campaign.

That's sensible advice, though it's worth noting that Republicans have a policy problem: much of the party supports a culture-war agenda that really would require, by government mandate, that women impregnated by rapists carry their pregnancy to term. Madden's suggestion is persuasive, but incomplete.

Marina Ein, whose public relations firm does crisis communications, said the party needs some kind of "sensitivity training" for its candidates if it wants to do better in the next elections.

"It all boils down to whether or not the Republican Party thinks this is a problem," she said. "If they want to make inroads with women, then they need to subject every one of their candidates to sensitivity training -- not to mention reality training."

It's that last part that matters most.

A few days after the 2012 election, conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer said calls for GOP moderation are "nonsense." On social issues, he said, "The problem here for Republicans is not policy but delicacy -- speaking about culturally sensitive and philosophically complex issues with reflection and prudence."

Presumably, with "sensitivity training," GOP candidates could learn "delicacy." But the fact remains that this is a party with a "reality problem."

It can't be spun, rebranded, repackaged, or explained better. Republicans believe impregnated rape victims should not have any choices when it comes to reproductive rights, and the American mainstream strongly disagrees.

The Phil Gingreys of the world will keep offending sensible people everywhere until he and his party change course on a substantive level, not a rhetorical one.