Over the last week, the McCain and Obama campaigns have been waging a fierce ad battle. Ever since McCain’s Celebrity ads the Obama campaign has been saying that McCain doesn’t want to talk about “issues.”
This week McCain obliged him, bringing up a host of issues regarding Obama’s record. This has led to a series of Obama responses that basically call McCain a “liar” and “clearly exaggerating.” McCain’s first ad was on Obama’s education record. I had previously noted that even though Obama is campaigning on education his legislative record demonstrates that he’s never accomplished anything on that issue.
McCain disagrees with my assessment a little bit. Here’s his ad.
Obama responded by questioning McCain’s honor and truthfulness.
The press jumped in to rescue their guy.
Newspaper, magazine, and television commentators quickly piled on. “The kindergarten ad flat-out lies,” wrote the New York Times, arguing that “at most, kindergarteners were to be taught the dangers of sexual predators.” The Washington Post wrote that “McCain’s ‘Education’ Spot is Dishonest, Deceptive.” And in a column in The Hill, the influential blogger Josh Marshall called the sex-education spot “a rancid, race-baiting ad based on [a] lie. Willie Horton looks mild by comparison.”
The official McCain response detailed Obama’s record.
In recent days, questions have arisen concerning Barack Obama’s support for sex education for Kindergarteners. This is a true statement that the Obama campaign has never disputed. Not only did Barack Obama vote for a sex education bill in the Illinois State Legislature, but four years later, he said again that he supported sex education for Kindergarteners. This is a record that establishes his clear support for expanding sex education to Kindergarteners.
Please find the facts below:
* In the Illinois State Legislature, Barack Obama voted for legislation to alter Illinois’ Sex Education standards to include instruction in any grade from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The legislation passed Barack Obama’s Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee that he chaired. As the Chicago Daily Herald stated, “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.”
* Despite the Obama campaign’s claims, this bill was intended to provide children as young as Kindergarten with sex education. According to the legislation itself, “Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread of HIV.” This legislation stated expressly that children in grade 12 were to be education about sexually transmitted diseases.
* In 2007, Barack Obama told Planned Parenthood that he supported sex education for Kindergarteners as long as it was “age-appropriate.” Thus on two separate occasions we have Barack Obama supporting the expansion of sex education to Kindergarteners.
* Defending Barack Obama’s statement, the Obama campaign cited far-reaching SIECUS curriculum as the model. The SIECUS curriculum goes far beyond appropriate touching. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) supports a comprehensive approach to sex education, beginning as early as ages 5-8. For Level 1 sex education (ages 5 through 8), the guidelines include much more than appropriate touching. The curriculum includes lines that are not appropriate for us to state here but please see the link to the guidelines here: http://www.siecus.org/_data/global/images/guidelines.pdf. This is the model provided by the Obama campaign and no one else.
Here is a longer article examining the Illinois bill.
The bill in question was Senate Bill 99, introduced in the Senate in February 2003. Its broad purpose was to change and update portions of Illinois’s existing laws concerning sex education. (The text of the bill is here, and everyone interested in the issue should take a look at it.)
When the bill was introduced, a coalition of groups including the Illinois Public Health Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Cook County Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council and others issued a press release headlined “Coalition of Legislators, Physicians and Organizations Bring Illinois Into the 21st Century with Omnibus Healthcare Package.” It was a three-part campaign; Senate Bill 99, covering “medically accurate sex education,” was the first part, with two other bills addressing “funding for family planning services for women in need” and “contraceptive equity in health insurance.”
According to the press release, Senate Bill 99 required that “if a public school teaches sex education, family life education, and comprehensive health education courses, all materials and instruction must be medically and factually accurate.” The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Carol Ronen, was quoted saying, “It teaches students about the advantages of abstinence, while also giving them the realistic information they need about the prevention of an unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.” The release contained no mention of sexual predators or inappropriate touching.