Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why Does John McCain Hate Our Children?

(Cross-posted at MyDD)

I think some of the PUMA people in particular are making the mistake of giving John McCain the benefit of the doubt. By now, everyone has borne witness to his frantic appeals to the fundies of the far Right; I've rarely seen such outrageous and blatant pandering. I get the impression that McCain doesn't necessarily agree with everything he's saying, and that's the problem. McCain makes it easy for some of us to think, "He's just pandering during the election - he doesn't believe that stuff." Maybe some assume he won't hold to all the hard-line GOP positions once he's in office. Fortunately, there's one thing which can dispel this notion, and no one can it excuse as harmless pandering: his voting record.

If children's issues are any voter's top priority, McCain is the worst choice possible. I'm not talking about the choice between Obama and McCain - I'm talking about a hypothetical choice between McCain and any other US Senator. In 2007, the Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst Senator for children's issues. Obama and Clinton both have a history of child advocacy and scored well. This is a pattern which has held for three years. In 2005, the CDF rated Clinton 100%, Obama 100%, and McCain 22% based on their votes on bills addressing children's issues; in 2006, McCain's score deteriorated further, falling to 10%, while Clinton and Obama scored 90% and 100% respectively. Assessed by his votes on ten bills pertaining to children's issues, the CDF found that McCain's score held steady at 10% in 2007. Last year, voting on bills affecting children was not something he considered sufficiently important to show up to work for; he missed eight out of ten bills pertaining to children's issues, including but not limited to, ignoring or voting against a bill to increase funding for education for children with disabilities (absent), a bill designed to protect children from unsafe medications (absent), a bill which would extend health coverage to 3.2 million more uninsured children (nay), and a bill which supported education for children of immigrants (absent). McCain has also gone out of his way to agree with Bush's decision to veto children's health insurance expansion.

The bill, which would cost $35 billion over five years, is meant to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to provide coverage to an additional 10 million children. . . .Bush said he vetoed the bill because he considered it a step towards "federalizing" medicine and an inappropriately expanding the program's goal beyond its original focus on helping poor children.

During an interview onboard the CNN Election Express in South Carolina, McCain said he agreed with the president's decision.

Not only are children's issues unimportant to Senator McCain, but on the occasions when he deigns to discuss them, he reveals unsettling positions, including supporting school vouchers and an intention to reinforce Bush's failed No Child Left Behind Act. Senator Obama recognizes that NCLB is ineffective and has vowed to reform it:

In 2008, researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas-Austin found that,

. . . Texas' public school accountability system, the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), directly contributes to lower graduation rates. Each year Texas public high schools lose at least 135,000 youth prior to graduation -- a disproportionate number of whom are African-American, Latino and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students.

[. . .]

"High-stakes, test-based accountability doesn't lead to school improvement or equitable educational possibilities," said Linda McSpadden McNeil, director of the Center for Education at Rice University. "It leads to avoidable losses of students. Inherently the system creates a dilemma for principals: comply or educate. Unfortunately we found that compliance means losing students."

While McCain insists on continuing the failed policies of the past, Obama has made education reform a key part of his platform. He has called education "the currency of the Information Age," and promised to support initiatives to provide critical support to young children and their parents ("Zero to Five" plan); expand Early Head Start and Head Start; provide affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families; reform NCLB; make math and science education a national priority; address the dropout crisis; expand high-quality afterschool opportunities; expand summer learning opportunities; support college outreach programs; support english language learners; recruit, prepare, retain, and reward America's teachers; make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit; and simplify the application process for financial aid. Senator Obama's has a strong and consistent record on improving education opportunities for America's youth:

Record of Advocacy: Obama has been a leader on educational issues throughout his career. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama was a leader on early childhood education, helping create the state's Early Learning Council. In the U.S. Senate, Obama has been a leader in working to make college more affordable. His very first bill sought to increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,100. As a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, Obama helped pass legislation to achieve that goal in the recent improvements to the Higher Education Act. Obama has also introduced legislation to create Teacher Residency Programs and to increase federal support for summer learning opportunities.

And there's one more education issue upon which McCain is out to lunch: Sex education. Asked by a reporter whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, McCain stumbled over the issue:

Q: "What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush's policy, which is just abstinence?"

McCain: (Long pause) "Ahhh. I think I support the president's policy."

Q: "So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"

McCain: (Long pause) "You've stumped me."

Q: "I mean, I think you'd probably agree it probably does help stop it?"

McCain: (Laughs) "Are we on the Straight Talk express? I'm not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I'm sure I've taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception - I'm sure I'm opposed to government spending on it, I'm sure I support the president's policies on it."

Something about this exchange doesn't inspire much confidence in a potential President McCain. He either has no idea what his position is, or he can't remember what the GOP wants him to say. Planned Parenthood has harshly criticized his opposition to spending $100 million to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies, legislation requiring that abstinence-only programs be medically accurate and scientifically based, and comprehensive sex education. I've always found it ironic that Republicans generally oppose any form of government funded sex education in public schools, which might prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transfer of sexual diseases, yet they condemn abortion. The inconsistency involved in this sort of thinking is alarmingly short-sighted.

Obama has taken a far more progressive stance on sex education, advocating age-appropriate sex ed. Controversy flared when Obama proposed sex education for kindergarteners, provided the children were prepared. The GOP slammed him on this position, despite the potential benefits it could provide. Even David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network has supported Obama's stance:

"Barack Obama supports sensible, community-driven education for children because, among other things, he believes it could help protect them from pedophiles. A child's knowledge of the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching is crucial to keeping them safe from predators. . . . Obama doesn't want to hand out condoms to five year olds. He doesn't want cucumber demonstrations as part of show and tell. The legitimate reasonable discussion here is whether the federal government and/or local school boards should get involved in providing these five year olds information about inappropriate touching or should it be left up to families only."

Predictably, such considerations haven't occurred - or just don't matter - to McCain, who has clearly made children's issues one of his lowest priorities. For any involved, concerned parent, Senator Obama is the obvious choice.

If any of you managed to make it all the way through this dry, boring diary, thank you and congratulations. As a reward, I now present to you several adorable pictures of our candidates with cute little babies. Please, I know it's tough, but try not to faint from an overload of cuteness. I will not be responsible for any injuries you may incur from falling out of your computer chair.

Oh, dear. Is it just me, or do McCain and the baby look a little frightened?


Anonymous said...

Sricki, you always have the BEST pictures ever. Love it!

sricki said...

Thanks! I have fun picking out my pictures!

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