John McCain: Facts or Fiction?

In recent months, the McCain campaign has been undergoing a transformation. The honest, straight talking John McCain of the past has become little more than a slick, well oiled PR machine determined to get your vote at any cost. Let’s go over several statements by Mr. McCain in recent weeks. His “Straight Talk Express” has derailed as to create a moral quagmire of epic proportions.

Kindergarten is a time when one learns basic communication, math, reading skills … and sex ed? According to John McCain, that is what Barack Obama is hell bent on doing: teaching our kids the birds and the bees. This shrill criticism, while at first glance appears well warranted given the perceived nature of the policy, is little more than a gross over-exaggeration of the truth.

What McCain was referring to in his inference that Obama supports teaching sex education for kindergarteners was a proposal he supported in the Illinois State Senate that would have taken the existing grades 6-12 program, and applied it for K-12. Obama’s intention is that kindergarteners would be taught about how to recognize “inappropriate touching,” and nothing more. It’s a smart policy proposal that will teach our nation’s children how to avoid predators.

Going on the attack over a plan to keep our nation’s children safer is reprehensible. In responding to McCain’s allegations, Obama spokesman Bill Burton stated, “for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls — a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn’t define what honor was. Now we know why.”

When asked about his position on the issue in a 2002 Planned Parenthood survey, Romney responded that he supported “responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools.” It must also be noted that Massachusetts had K-12 sex education goals that were in place during the Romney administration, which were never challenged.

Politicians all have occasional tendencies to eschew facts in favor of statements that will have a greater appeal to voters they are trying to reach. Senator McCain’s recent assertions of Obama’s sex education views are but one in a string of headline grabbing attacks. In another high profile incident, McCain tried to distort the meaning of Barack Obama’s statement “you can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig,” which was in reference to McCain’s new claim as a change agent, to a criticism of his choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Senator McCain later disavowed that Obama was comparing Palin to a pig, but only after records surfaced showing him using the same analogy to describe Hillary Clinton’s proposed healthcare plan last year.

John McCain has chosen to engage in a campaign of avoiding the issues. We’ve seen the focus of the race shift from foreign policy to lipstick. Unfortunately for Mr. McCain, the voters are more intelligent and informed than he thinks. In such a pivotal election year, we need John McCain to stop engaging in false pageantry of attack and retail politics, and start debating the issues.

Dan Yelin is a junior in the Department of Political Science.