***We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. The most recent edition is below. Sign up here to receive The Slatest PM in your inbox daily before it is published online.***
THE NEW TODD AKIN? GOP Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock set off the latest political firestorm of the season Tuesday night after saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are "something that God intended to happen." Democrats wasted little time seizing on the remarks, suggesting the Indiana Republican had implied that God wants rape to happen. Mourdock's allies, meanwhile, called such a reading an absurd attempt to score political points.
THE FULL QUOTE: Delivered during last night's debate: “You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I have to certainly stand for life. I know that there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have on abortion is in that case—of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
THE REACTION: Those remarks set off a cascade of statements and responses both in the Indiana race and nationally last night, followed today by an online ad from Democrats drawing attention to Romney's support of the Indiana Republican and a Mourdock news conference during which the candidate apologized if he offended anyone but stood by his position that abortion should be illegal in all cases except those where the mother's life is in danger. "I think that God can see beauty in every life," he said. "Certainly, I did not intend to suggest that God wants rape, that God pushes people to rape, that God wants to support or condone evil in any way."
A FEW QUESTIONS: From Slate's Amanda Marcotte: "What's interesting about this clarification is it doesn't clarify squat. God preordains the conception but doesn't preordain the rape, or what Paul Ryan gently calls the 'method of conception'? At what point does God start ordaining stuff, exactly? Does he wait until you're actually in midrape to jump in ... or did God ordain the conception before the rape started? Does God give the go-ahead for rape only if it leads to pregnancy or he's cool with all rape? And one question from the pro-choice peanut gallery: If God can ordain the rape and the pregnancy that follows, why can't he also ordain abortion? These questions may seem unserious, but if candidates really do imagine themselves as conduits for God's decisions, we need a little bit more insight into God's decision-making process."
THE DIFFERENCE: It's unclear whether Mourdock's comments will do the type of damage that Missouri GOP Senate hopeful Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks did—but perhaps they shouldn't, as Slate's Dave Weigel explained last night: "Akin's comment posited that the female body had hormonal powers that 'shut down' the conception process during stressful sex. That's junk science. Mourdock's comment is a perfectly coherent pro-life statement. If you think life starts at conception, well, then, it starts at conception."
BUT SHOULD AND COULD ARE DIFFERENT THINGS: The Washington Post's Aaron Blake: "At this point, the debate is over whether Mourdock believes that God intends for rape to occur. But more broadly, it’s about whether the comments turn off independents and moderates who have already been slow to warm to Mourdock after his primary upset of longtime Sen. Richard Lugar. And a lot of it depends on how his fellow Republicans treat the matter. So far, it’s a mixed bag. Mitt Romney disavowed Mourdock’s comments Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning, Rep. Mike Pence (R), the favorite to become Indiana’s next governor, called on Mourdock to apologize. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which disowned Akin after his comments, is standing by its man in this case."
WORTH MENTIONING: Mourdock's main opponent is Joe Donnelly, a Democratic congressman who is strongly anti-abortion himself, was a co-sponsor of the 2011 bill that, in initial drafts, created a distinction between "rape" and "forcible rape."
AWKWARD TIMING: The controversy comes the same week that Romney cut an ad for the Indiana Republican. "We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him," the campaign said in a statement Wednesday.
CRAZY LIKE A FOX: Salon: "A Google News search returns about 13,900 results for 'Richard Mourdock' in the past 24 hours alone, including stories from every big major news outlet imaginable. Every one, that is, except for Fox News, which has mentioned the story zero times as of 3 p.m., according to a TVEyes search. Fox News did not mention Mourdock’s name on air once today or last night, when the news broke, nor did it refer to 'rape' except in the context of Rep. Todd Akin’s earlier comments .... By contrast, CNN has mentioned the story seven or eight times and aired his press conference this morning live. MSNBC has mentioned the comments about a dozen times, according to a search of the media monitoring service."
THE 'SURPRISE' THAT WASN'T: Donald Trump's big "October Surprise" didn't turn out to be much of one, something that isn't exactly a shocker for anyone familiar with the reality TV star's publicity-seeking brand. Trump's self-hyped announcement this afternoon was that he's offering to donate $5 million to a charity of President Obama's choice—if the president releases his college application records and transcripts, along with his passport application by the end of the month. The Donald's quest for the president's college records is far from new.
VOTERS DO WHAT THEY'RE TOLD: During a heated exchange over Romney's position on the auto bailout during Monday's foreign policy debate, the GOP hopeful and President Obama agreed on one thing: Viewers at home should do a little digging themselves to find out which candidate was telling the truth. "People can look it up, you're right," Romney told Obama. "People will look it up," the president responded. "Good," said Romney. Well, lo and behold, it looks like people did indeed follow through on the candidates' request.
MAKING FRIENDS: Wall Street Journal: "Facebook Inc.'s shares surged on Wednesday toward their biggest daily gain since the company's initial public offering in May, one day after the social network reported strong revenue and progress on making money from mobile ads. ... The results came amid intense investor scrutiny of Facebook's growth, and suggested the company is making headway on the selling of ads on mobile devices, an area seen as a driver of its future success."
B IS FOR 'BRAZEN': Associated Press: "The latest federal lawsuit over alleged mortgage fraud paints an unflattering picture of a doomed lender: Executives at Countrywide Financial urged workers to churn out loans, accepted fudged applications and tried to hide ballooning defaults. The suit, filed Wednesday by the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, also underscored how Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide in July 2008, just before the financial crisis, backfired severely. The prosecutor, Preet Bharara, said he was seeking more than $1 billion, but the suit could ultimately recover much more in damages. 'This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated,' Bharara said in a statement. He described Countrywide’s practices as 'spectacularly brazen in scope.' "
A (QUICK) TRIP ABROAD—
Syria: AP: "The current international peace plan seeking to stop Syria's civil war suffered a major setback Wednesday when an al-Qaida-inspired militant group rejected a cease-fire proposed by the international envoy. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, said the government in Damascus and some rebel leaders had agreed to a four-day truce during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts Friday."
Sudan: Reuters: "Sudan said on Wednesday that an Israeli air strike had caused the huge explosion and fire at an arms factory in Khartoum that killed two people, while Israel's defense minister declined to comment. Sudan, which analysts say is used as an arms-smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via neighboring Egypt, has blamed Israel for such strikes in the past but Israel either has refused to comment or said it neither admitted or denied involvement."
Mali: NYT: "A military strike to recapture Mali’s Islamist-held north is growing more likely, according to Western powers, regional bodies and the United Nations—a pronounced shift after months of hesitation and hopes that negotiations might end what is now seen as a far-reaching jihadist threat."
SLATE QUICK HITS—
Jurisprudence: Are Police Dogs Invading Our Privacy?
Browbeat: Tom Hanks Is Not an “Everyman”
We'll see you back here tomorrow. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe here, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.