Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Hysteria

I’m trying to puzzle out just what it is about this campaign that would justify, even as a raw political matter, Obama spokesman Bill Burton’s statement that McCain “is cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history. His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office he is seeking.”

As far as I can tell, the only McCain ad that might even begin to approach an approximate 500-mile distance to Burton’s rhetoric is one concerning a vote by Obama in the Illinois State Senate for a sex-education bill:

Obama’s one accomplishment?
Legislation to teach “comprehensive sex education” to kindergartners.
Learning about sex before learning to read?
Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.

This is unquestionably a tough ad. But is it beyond the bounds? The language in the bill Obama voted for would have provided for sex education for children as young as 5, as its text demonstrates:

Each  class  or  course  in  comprehensive  sex education offered in any of  grades  K through  12  shall include…

The term “comprehensive sex education” is the governing phrase in the statute, and governs “grade K,” i.e., kindergarten.

After he cast the vote, Obama quickly clarified that he supported giving children enough information to protect themselves from predators and that the education should be “age-appropriate.” This is the reason people like E.J. Dionne have declared the McCain ad “disgusting.” But even here the language of the statute raises questions about the nature of the information on these matters and the problem of sharing it with a five year-old:

Course  material  and  instruction  shall  teach  pupils  to  not  make unwanted physical and verbal  sexual advances and how to  say  no  to  unwanted  sexual advances  and  shall  include  information  about verbal,  physical, and visual sexual harassment, including without  limitation nonconsensual sexual  advances,  nonconsensual physical sexual contact, and rape by an acquaintance.

My guess is that Obama voted for the statute in ignorance, based entirely on his supposition that sex education is an unalloyedly good thing, and when objections were raised to it, he sought to limit the damage at the time — and thought he had succeeded for all time, because when Alan Keyes raised the matter in Keyes’s preposterous Senate campaign against Obama, it just seemed like more of Keyes’s craziness.

But the fact remains. There was a piece of legislation. Obama voted for it (or, rather, voted for it in its first form; it was never made into law and so he didn’t vote for final passage). The legislation said such-and-such. The fact that the legislation dealt with an issue regarding sexuality is Obama’s responsibility, not McCain’s. Running an ad about what it said, without taking note of Obama’s post-hoc clarifications, is entirely within bounds.

The only real problem with the ad is that it suggests it was Obama’s “one accomplishment,” thus suggesting it was Obama’s legislation. That is misleading. Nothing else is.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.