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Prediction: If the GOP establishment doesn't follow Republican Rep. Todd Akin's example with a big, fat apology -- to Akin -- the whole party goes down in flames come November.

I don't mean every Republican will lose, but there is great political peril in not sealing the hole in Republican armor that has opened in Missouri and instead permitting it to remain a Democratic pressure point. Further, "for the good of the country" (the mantra accompanying the partywide chorus of pleas to Akin to drop out of his U.S. Senate race), Republicans must resume funding Akin's viable campaign ASAP, after cutting it off in a mad fit of political pique. Finally, every one of them -- the party standard-bearer, party bosses, congressional delegations, allied pundits -- should come together for a group-smack on the head, as in, "What were we thinking?"

I can't recall anything in public life more widely craven and uncalled for than the open panic and bullying set off across the Republican Party by the first replay of Akin's perplexingly ignorant interview comments on rape and pregnancy. The veteran conservative lawmaker, former engineer, former businessman and grandfather of eight recanted these remarks. He apologized for them.

But as the left began to bay for blood over a Republican and, by preposterous extension, Republican Party it hopes to smear as "anti-woman," Republicans across the board, incredibly, joined in. Rather than jouncing Democrats back into some semblance of decent behavior with a firm, partywide reality check -- comparing a dumb comment about rape from one among their ranks with, say, accusations of actual rape against Democrats' two-term hero Bill Clinton -- Republicans obligingly cut off their own noses and handed them to their political opponents.

The headline in The New York Times this week said it all: "GOP Is Pressing Candidate to Quit Over Rape Remark." Funny how we never, ever saw anything similar in the 1990s, when bombshells about Bill Clinton's serial sexual harassment and assault of women were a common occurrence. Something like: "Dems Pressing President to Quit Over Rape."

Didn't happen. In fact, far from "pressuring" the former president into a quiet post-presidency retirement, the Democrats are spotlighting the overexposed sexual reprobate with a center-stage role at their upcoming convention. There, Clinton will officially renominate Barack Obama for president.

What else can we expect from the party that still lionizes Ted Kennedy, the late Massachusetts politician who notoriously left a young female campaign worker to drown in a sinking car rather than get help? Just as serial sexual improprieties perpetrated by Bill Clinton don't count in Democrat-land as "anti-woman," neither does Kennedy's unconscionable behavior at Chappaquiddick. Both men not only remained in office, they remain the Democrats' ideal.

A muddled, recanted remark about reproductive biology, however, puts a Republican one or two steps away from Hitler. He must be shunned by "decent" society, his whole career destroyed, the primary votes he won nullified, to expiate his "sin."

Worst of all is the Republican Party's unified acquiescence to this illogical, unjust and amoral equivalence. In fact, without the GOP's lockstep, take-me-to-your-leader obedience to the Democrats' rigged rules, the pitch of this controversy would have died down already. Without the Republicans' vigorous enforcement of the left's double standards, Akin would probably still be facing favorable odds of winning the Missouri Senate seat.

But no. Which is what deeply concerns me. Indulging ginned-up, hack hysterics is not the behavior of a leader or a winner. Worse, accommodating unjust attacks on a solid citizen in the name of practicality or the "greater good" is a very dangerous precedent, as totalitarian history tells us. That's why the GOP needs to rethink Missouri and make amends with Akin before "moving on." Otherwise, I fear that in its vital quest to prevent Barack Obama from winning a second term, it won't be moving anywhere.

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