- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008


The answer is yes. And I am sorry to say, the question pertains to Sen. John McCain. I just wrote last week about my disappointment that Mr. McCain had allowed his campaign to lie when it accused Sen. Barack Obama of referring to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin when he made his “lipstick on a pig” remark.

Then in the last week came a campaign TV ad asserting that Mr. Obama’s “one accomplishment in the area of education was legislation to teach ‘comprehensive sex education’ to kindergartners.” The punch line, with a deliberately contorted photo of Mr. Obama, reads:

“Learning about sex before learning to read? Wrong for your family.”

Omitted from this ad, no doubt intentionally, were the following facts:

cIn March 2003, Mr. Obama, then in the Illinois Senate, voted for an amendment to someone else’s bill that was in large part aimed at warning children in kindergarten to sixth grade to recognize and avoid sexual predators. (As someone who is a great admirer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the father of a 10-year-old and 3-year-old, I can state with certainty that this is a subject that all parents should want their children to be taught as early as possible.)

cThe bill was supported by the Illinois Public Health Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Cook County Department of Public Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health, among many other state and local health and educational organizations.

cA parental “opt out” provision was included in the legislation.

cIt never passed.

Byron York of National Review Online recently wrote that the bill included provisions for children to be taught about other issues such as contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. I respect Mr. York greatly. But that does not mitigate the vicious lie of accusing Mr. Obama of favoring kindergarten-age children “learning about sex before learning to read.”

It is ironic that the sliminess of this ad resembles what was done to Mr. McCain in his 2000 presidential campaign before the South Carolina primary by supporters of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The first incident involved Bush supporters linked to the South Carolina campaign doing “push polling” (phone surveys that ask leading questions to plant negative impressions) asking voters if they would be more or less likely to vote for Mr. McCain if they knew that he had fathered an illegitimate black child. In fact, Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, had adopted a girl from an orphanage in Bangladesh. The child happens to have skin darker than a Caucasian’s.

Bob Jones University professor Richard Hand then reportedly sent out an e-mail to “fellow South Carolinians” stating that Mr. McCain had “chosen to sire children without marriage.” The mainstream media picked up the charge and publicized it. CNN interviewed Mr. Hand, confronting him with the fact that Mr. McCain did not have children out of wedlock. Mr. Hand’s answer: “Wait a minute, that’s a universal negative. Can you prove that there aren’t any?”

Subsequently Mr. Bush reportedly repudiated these tactics, claiming that he knew nothing about them at the time and that they were the unauthorized actions of supporters he could not control.

So far Mr. McCain has been silent about the sex education ad.

In fact, the ad is eerily similar to a 1996 political direct-mail piece that, according to a recent article in the New Republic Online, was the work of Steve Schmidt, then a 25-year-old manager of an Indiana Republican congressional candidate and today is Mr. McCain’s director of operations.

According to the New Republic article, in the last week of the 1996 campaign, Mr. Schmidt was responsible for sending out a 60,000-piece mailing attacking then-U.S. Rep. Timothy Roemer, an Indiana Democrat who later became a distinguished member of the Sept. 11 commission.

The mailer by Mr. Schmidt, on behalf of his Republican candidate, accused Mr. Roemer of supporting a July 1991 House amendment that would have authorized mailing “sex surveys” that would pry into the sexual lives of Indiana adolescents.

Labeled “Tim Roemer’s Sex Survey,” the mailer included a picture of the current Playboy magazine cover, another picture of a gay couple embracing and, between those photos, a picture of the Bible.

Omitted from the mailer was the fact that what was actually authorized was a health, not sex, survey; the amendment was passed by the Republican-controlled lower house of the legislature, and the survey had to be approved by the Indiana ethics review board and a peer review board before it could be mailed.

Did Mr. Schmidt have anything to do with the dishonorable sex education anti-Obama ad? I have no idea.

But I believe that the John McCain who ran for president in 2000 already would have taken down the ad, apologized to Mr. Obama and fired whoever was responsible.

Where is that John McCain today?

Lanny Davis is a prominent Washington lawyer and a political analyst for Fox News. From 1996 to 1998, he served as special counsel to President Clinton. From 2005 to 2006, he served on President Bush’s five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

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