New York, Sept.11 : The McCain campaign has escalated its efforts to portray Democratic presidential rival Senator Barack Obama as a candidate whose values fall outside the mainstream.
It unveiled a new television advertisement claiming that Obama favors "comprehensive sex education" for kindergarten students.
"Learning about sex before learning to read?" the narrator asks in the 30-second advertisement, which the campaign says will be shown in battleground states and on national cable.
According to the New York Times, the commercial also asserts that a sex-education bill introduced in Illinois, which Obama did not sponsor and which never became law, is his "one accomplishment" in the field of education.
However, the paper says both accusations seriously distort the record.
The original controversy dates to 2003, when a bill to modify the teaching of sex education in Illinois was introduced in the Legislature. The proposal was supported by a coalition of education and public health organizations, including the Illinois Parent Teacher Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Illinois Public Health Association and the Illinois Education Association.
Obama voted for the bill in committee, where it passed, but it never came to a full and final vote.
The proposal called for "age and developmentally appropriate" sex education and also allowed parents the option of withdrawing their children from such classroom instruction if they felt that it clashed with their beliefs or values.
In referring to the sex-education bill, the McCain campaign is largely recycling old and discredited accusations made against Obama by Alan Keyes in their 2004 Senate race.
At that time, Obama stated that he understood the main objective of the legislation, as it pertained to kindergarteners, to be to teach them how to defend themselves against sexual predators.
"I have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old daughter, and one of the things my wife and I talked to our daughter about is the possibility of somebody touching them inappropriately, and what that might mean," Obama said in 2004.
It is a misstatement of the bill's purpose, therefore, to maintain, as the McCain campaign advertisement does, that Obama favored conventional sex education as a policy for 5-year-olds.
The Obama campaign expressed outrage over the commercial, with Bill Burton, a spokesman, describing it as "shameful and downright perverse."