Political Hay

Age-Appropriate Radicalism

McCain dislikes cultural issues, but he might win the debates with them.

By 9.25.08

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A measure of the effectiveness of the McCain campaign's ad targeting Barack Obama's vote for K-12 sex education is that Joe Biden and company continue to whine about it. The grumbling reveals their anxiety over the public's lingering unease with Obama's cultural radicalism.

John McCain should try and tap into that unease in the upcoming debates. He obviously finds cultural issues boring and off-putting, yet they have proven far more potent in this campaign than the issues he prefers to discuss. Ironically, it took a Rick Warren forum for John McCain to shine and Obama to stumble; it took McCain's addition of a strong pro-lifer to the ticket to galvanize the base and disorient the opposition.

Drawing Obama into "that's above my pay grade"-style gaffes is more likely to win the debates for McCain than any parsing over the economy or back-and-forth on complicated foreign-policy questions.

Why not force Obama to explain again his record on infanticide? That's still a dark cloud hanging over him. Or ask him to unpackage the meaning of his God-and-guns analysis of Main Street while campaigning in San Francisco. And why not ask him to explain his letters to gay-rights groups congratulating their members on their recent marriages even as he claims to oppose gay marriage? His opposition to gay marriage is no more convincing than John Kerry's.

Obama's temporizing explanations on these matters aren't likely to reassure middle America, especially since he is given to pointless quibbling that ends up cementing the radicalism of his positions.

For example, Obama was upset that McCain didn't alert viewers of the ad mentioned above that he supported "age-appropriate" sex education for tots. Is that qualifier really a relief to parents? Presumably, most parents still aren't keen on any sex ed for kindergartners, "age-appropriate" or not. "Oh, it is age-appropriate, then by all means go ahead with it," is probably not the reaction of most parents to the prospect of sex-education for five-year-olds.

And to get a notion of what constitutes "age-appropriate" sex ed for children according to Obama, keep in mind that Planned Parenthood lobbyists helped shape that legislation. The video footage of Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood about this issue -- praising it for doing the "right thing" in the area of sex education -- confirms that his idea of "age-appropriate" education is to dump into classrooms the propaganda of a group that profits off the corruption of children.

One of the reasons Obama is discombobulated by Sarah Palin is that her middle America background makes his close association with groups like Planned Parenthood and Jeremiah Wright's church, as well as with radicals like William Ayers, look uncomfortably avant-garde. Next to her, his populism looks pretty strained. He senses -- as illustrated by his overly sensitive reactions to the New Yorker parody of him or the McCain's campaign ads casting him as a hollow celebrity and radical -- that the cultural divide she represents in the country could undo him.

The highest hurdle before him is not race but culture. He represents the consummation of 1960s liberalism, while McCain, for all of his reluctance to engage the culture war, appears safely conservative, embedded, by virtue of his heroic military service, in the best traditions of the country.

During one of the primary debates, McCain won applause for a witticism about Woodstock. He said, "Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there...I was tied up at the time." That's the sort of line that could a win a debate for him with Obama.

The philosophy percolating at Woodstock has become the platform of the Democratic Party and Obama's success would mark its final victory. McCain should ask the country during the debates if that's the "America" it wants.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.