They wash over us, these images and charges in ads on the screen.
Political opponents are trying to ‘compare and contrast’ themselves
with each other, in campaign language. They’re attacks, and some sound
mean. Is anybody asking of they’re true?

Yes.

Sen. Obama’s campaign is ridiculing Sen. McCain for not being internet savvy. Jonah Goldberg looked into it.

The tax-cuts and economy barbs are familiar boilerplate.
What’s new is the charge of computer illiteracy and the blatant attempt
to attack McCain as too old for the job — and that speaks volumes.

First, the ad is dishonest. McCain has been one of the Senate’s leading authorities on telecom and the Internet.

In 2000, Forbes magazine called him the “Senate’s savviest
technologist.” That same year, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg gushed that
McCain was the most “cybersavvy” of all the presidential candidates, a
crop that included none other than Al Gore. Being chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee, Weisberg explained, “forced him to learn
about the Internet early on, and young Web entrepreneurs such as Jerry
Yang and Jeff Bezos fascinate him.”

Weisberg, an Obama booster, now disingenuously mocks McCain as “flummoxed by that newfangled doodad, the personal computer.”

One reason McCain is not versed in the mechanical details of sending
e-mail and typing on a keyboard is that the North Vietnamese broke his
fingers and shattered both of his arms. As Forbes, Slate, and the
Boston Globe reported in 2000, McCain’s injuries make using a keyboard
painfully laborious. He mostly relies on his wife and staff to show him
e-mails and Web sites, though he says he’s getting up to speed…

And if the Obama campaign didn’t intend to mock a disabled veteran,
what does it say about his supposedly “cybersavvy” staffers that they
don’t know how to conduct a five-minute Google search?

Good question.

Then there’s the McCain ad criticizing Obama for his vote to extend
sex education to kindergartners, a charge first raised by Alan Keyes in
the 2004 race. Byron York looked into that one. Thoroughly.

In recent days, a consensus has developed among the
Obama campaign and commentators in the press that John McCain has
decided to lie his way to the White House. Exhibit A in this new
consensus is McCain’s ad, released last week, claiming that Barack
Obama’s “one accomplishment” in the field of education was “legislation
to teach ‘comprehensive sex education’ to kindergartners.”

Within moments of the ad’s appearance, the Obama campaign called it
“shameful and downright perverse.” The legislation in question, a bill
in the Illinois State Senate that was supported but not sponsored by
Obama, was, according to Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton, “written
to protect young children from sexual predators” and had nothing to do
with comprehensive sex education for kindergartners. In a stinging
final shot, Burton added, “Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he
couldn’t define what honor was. Now we know why.”

Low blow.

Then most of the big media piled on, as York says, citing one after another attacks on McCain from the big guys.

The condemnation has been so widespread that the Obama
campaign has begun to sense success in placing the “McCain-is-a-liar”
storyline in the press. But before accepting the story at face value,
it might first be a good idea to examine the bill in question, look at
the statements made by its supporters at the time it was introduced,
talk to its sponsors today (at least the ones who will consent to
speak), and find answers to a few basic questions. What were the bill’s
provisions? Why was it written? Was it really just, or even mostly,
about inappropriate advances? And the bottom-line question: Is McCain’s
characterization of it unfair?

This is fair and professional journalism we’re not seeing much of
these days. Actually doing research and going to original sources is
time-consuming, laborious and….rarer than ever.

Read the whole piece, it’s an extensive look into the facts of that
bill in question, as complete as possible without original sources
willing to talk with him about their intent in that legislation. Well,
one person did. Which really made a difference.

The bill is linked on York’s piece, and he’s completely fair down to
the last line of the article in rendering an account of what Obama
claimed the intention was, what the bill actually did toward carrying
that out, and even leaving the benefit of the doubt that the intention
overlooked how much sex education in public schools would be changed,
starting with taking that program down to the kindergarten level.

Bottom line, you can decide for yourself what it says about the bill
sponsors and writers. But the information in the McCain ad about this
bill is correct, and what some of the major media are saying about the
McCain ad is not.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....