I never had much reason to dislike John McCain; on the contrary, his character seemed admirable in many respects (especially in comparison to the current president).
But the Obama sex-ed ad that he approved is pure slime. Through its lies and innuendoes, the McCain campaign has done something I didn't think possible; it has sunk lower than Karl Rove.
I don't really want to talk about the ad itself. What is more interesting to me is that the conservatives who are defending the ad – such as the National Review's Jim Garaghty -- do so in violation of their own conservative principles. Garaghty picks up the bill and interprets it in such a way as to make the McCain campaign's reading plausible. In other words, he interprets the text to suit his purpose.
What's wrong with that? Well, conservatives tell us that we are not supposed to do that when we look interpret a law. What we are supposed to do is try to determine the original intent of the legislators by appealing to the circumstances of the legislation, and what the framers intended. And when you do that, it is simply outrageous to suggest that any of the legislators intended to teach about sexually transmitted diseases to kindergarten, where there is not a scrap of evidence to suggest that this was their intent, and the law itself speaks about "age and developmental appropriateness".
A bill can be worded poorly, and those who support the bill on the floor of a legislature (but not those who support it in committee) bear responsibility for that. But given the circumstances of the bill, it is most reasonable to interpret it as saying that wherever there is a comprehensive sex ed program, attention must be paid to the question of sexually-transmitted diseases. It does not mandate teaching sex ed to anybody grade, much less kindergarten. "K-12" is mentioned as a synonym of "any grade" or "without exception".
But conservatives like Garaghty apparently like to play fast and loose with principle.
Bill Buckley would have wept.