September 11, 2008
This is the time of the election cycle when things get painful. Candidates and campaign staff, on the one hand, have to dig deep to make tough decisions about tactics and targets with limited time and resources as November 4th draws close. And they do so amidst heigtened attention even after some 20 months of non-stop campaigning with hardly any sleep.
But the most painful part of the campaign season for most ordinary Americans is how we are subjected to senseless lies and irresponsible attack ads that make it virtually impossible to make any kind of accurate judgment about what the two candidates would do for our country.
One of the most disgusting ads I’ve seen in quite some time was put out just two days ago by the McCain campaign. Understand that I would be the first to call out the Obama campaign if they had put the ad out instead–my interest here is in challenging either candidate when they misrepresent their own positions and records on the ever-important issue of public education reform, or in this case, when one misrepresents his opponent’s views. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the issue is too vital to millions of children and indeed the very future of our nation to play partisan political football with. Judge for yourself in the following 30-second clip being shown in various battleground states:
The ad basically alleges that Barack Obama thinks it is more important to teach kids about sex than it is to teach them how to read. It begins by misrepresenting a series of Education Week and Washington Post articles that actually speak approvingly of Senator Obama’s maverick and reform-minded views on school reform, and then goes on to suggest in voice-over–on top of a picture of a smirking Obama–that his only accomplishment in education is a sex education bill for kindergarteners. The not-so-subtle implication is that Senator Obama is actually a run-of-the-mill sleezeball or perhaps worse, a pedophile.
The truth? Senator Obama is actually well-regarded by reform-minded education thinkers who respect his bold uncoupling of the Democratic platform on education from the narrowly-focused goals of teachers unions which have dominated Democratic views on school reform for the last half century. And the sex education bill that he passed while in the Illinois Senate? It actually supported age-appropriate sex education that would help teach children how to protect themselves from sexual predators and pedophiles. In other words, if one watches the McCain ad while considering the truth, the ad actually implies that Senator McCain is against providing children with critical information that may help them avoid sexual abuse.
But Aaron, wait! Who are you to say that the McCain ad is mis-representing the Washington Post and Ed Week positions on Senator Obama’s education platform? Aren’t you no worse than the McCain ad if you don’t provide facts to back up your assertions? Fair enough. So don’t take it from me that the Washington Post and Ed Week support Senator Obama. Take it from them, directly, here (the Washington Post actually fires back at the McCain camp directly for twisting its words), and here for the original Ed Week piece.
Aaron Tang is the co-director of Our Education, a non-profit organization working to build a national youth movement for quality education. He also teaches 8th grade history in Saint Louis, MO.