John McCain's attack ad released Tuesday evening is perhaps the most outlandish yet this election cycle -- not simply because the spot claims that Obama lacks any substantive record on education policy (he actually can claim several achievements on that front), and not because McCain charges that Obama's lone feat is "comprehensive sex education" for kindergartners (a hysterical description of efforts aimed at protecting children from predators).
What sets this ad apart is that every article save one that the McCain camp cites as being critical of Obama's education policies either has far more derogatory things to say about McCain himself or goes on to praise the Illinois Democrat.
In the spot, the McCain campaign references a June 2008 Washington Post editorial that called Obama "elusive" on school accountability. That same editorial, however, stated that McCain "has not been forthcoming with any detailed plan." Moreover, when the Post editorial board revisited the subject of education last month, it found that "Obama has given the issue more attention" than McCain, whose plan was "both late in coming and still a work in progress."
Moreover, the specific "elusive" claim is in reference to a David Brooks op-ed in the New York Times that was noted by the Post. But in that piece, Brooks was far more critical of McCain. "Obama endorses many good ideas and is more specific than the McCain campaign, which hasn't even reported for duty on education," the Times columnist wrote.
In its press release accompanying the ad, the McCain campaign also cites an Education Week article which states that, as a legislator, Obama "hasn't made a significant mark on education." The same story, however, goes on to add: "Sen. Obama may have a unique perspective among the candidates seeking the presidency in 2008. As a private citizen, he led Chicago's portion of the Annenberg Challenge school reform initiative financed by the late philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg--an experience that shaped Mr. Obama's perspective on the critical importance of principals and teachers."
Additionally, during the heat of the Republican primary, Education Week ran a withering story on the lack of McCain accomplishments in the field, titled "John McCain on Education: Where Art Thou?"
"With Republican presidential contender John McCain poised to make a strong showing--or even win--tomorrow's primary in New Hampshire, it seems appropriate to re-examine his views on education," read the story. "That's not such an easy task. Education doesn't make the Arizona senator's list of issues on his campaign website. ... McCain is a campaign-finance, foreign-relations, anti-abortion, tax-cut candidate. Education is not his thing."
Indeed, only one article referenced by the McCain campaign doesn't, in turn, rip the Republican nominee even harder than Obama. That article (which is misleadingly attributed in the ad to the Chicago Tribune) is a July 2008 op-ed by libertarian columnist Steve Chapman, who has also argued for abolishing the Department of Education.