In his latest ad, John McCain claims that Barack Obama’s “one accomplishment” in education was “Legislation to teach ‘comprehensive sex education’ to kindergartners.” The voiceover then adds the taunt: “Learning about sex before learning to read?”
It would be difficult to overstate how vile this advertisement is. In fact, Obama supported a bill that proposed to add information about HIV and other medical issues to existing sex-education programs. According to an article by Erik Krol in the Daily Herald of 6 October 2004,
The legislation in question was a state Senate measure last year [that is, 2003] that aimed to update Illinois’ sex education standards with “medically accurate” information. At one point, the legislation included a provision to allow students from kindergarten through fifth grade to be added to the middle and high school students receiving sex education.
Obama was chairman of the Senate committee that voted along party lines to move along the measure, which ultimately went nowhere.
McCain is recycling a scurrilous charge first made by Alan Keyes, when he and Obama were competing for the U.S. Senate. “Nobody’s suggesting that kindergartners are going to be getting information about sex in the way that we think about it,” Obama told an audience at Benedictine University in 2004, according to Krol’s report. It should also perhaps be pointed out that since the legislation never passed, the McCain campaign is lying on that point, too.
For the McCain campaign to make a false claim so inflammatory is beneath contempt. “I’m John McCain, and I approve this message,” the ad concludes. I read all of Michael Lewis’s coverage of McCain in The New Republic back in the 2000 election. I did once think McCain was an honorable man. But McCain’s “Obama as Antichrist” ad and his “Celebrity” ad raised serious doubts in my mind, and this ad clinches it. He has become a man without honor.
As it happens, the New York Times ran a responsible story this morning about Obama’s record of involvement in education, which dates back to the 1980s and whose chief principle is that “student achievement is highly dependent on teacher quality.” Compared to Obama’s plan for education, the Times reports in a sidebar, McCain’s is “downright terse.” Evidently McCain feels that slime is the best way to remedy this failure.
UPDATE (Sept. 11): The New York Times this morning has an article by Larry Rohter explaining that almost every word in McCain’s ad is a lie. I’m beginning to feel heartened by the willingness of journalists to call the McCain campaign’s many bluffs. On NPR last night, for example, All Things Considered interviewed Keith Ashdown, who coined the phrase “Bridge to Nowhere,” and he confirmed that Palin is lying whenever says she told Congress “thanks but no thanks” for the bridge.