Promoting sex education for kindergarten students--kind of a sexy topic -- was injected into the 2008 presidential race. It conjures up visions of condoms and cupcakes passed around before the afternoon naptime. Except that it is not true.
GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a bid to highlight his support of abstinence education and appeal to his base vote, is going after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Romney is twisting benign comments Obama made about sex education to a Planned Parenthood Action Fund conference to bolster his credentials among, apparently, the GOP voters who see themselves as sole proprietors of "faith and values."
On Tuesday morning, Obama told the reproductive health-care group that sex education is the "right thing to do" -- hardly a revolutionary statement. Sex education should be "age appropriate," he told them at least twice.
Where Obama wandered into Romney's scope was when he recalled to the friendly Planned Parenthood audience how Alan Keyes, the ultra right-wing Republican nominee from Maryland Obama trounced in the 2004 Illinois Senate race, claimed during their campaign that Obama backed sex education for kindergartners. Keyes based his assertion on his extremist interpretation of sex ed legislation Obama backed in the state Senate.
Obama told the Planned Parenthood group providing "age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools" was "the right thing to do." Obama never was selling all the birds and bees.
ABC News' Teddy Davis and Lindsey Ellerson posted an on-line "Political Radar" report headlined "Sex Ed for Kindergartners 'Right Thing to Do,' Says Obama."
But the only thing provocative about the story was the headline. The ABC piece provided plenty of context: quotes from Obama's Planned Parenthood speech (and a video link) and some background on Obama's position while a state senator in Illinois.
Nonetheless, the ABC story fueled Romney's assault on Obama by Wednesday, where he decided to oppose, in a big way, science-based sex education for kids. Romney issued a statement, talked about it in Colorado Springs and posted the clip on YouTube.
Romney told his crowd as governor, no parent ever came to him concerned there was not enough sex education. ''I was shocked to hear that he [Obama] thinks that we need to have sex education in kindergarten. I don't think that's a problem. I don't think that is a need,'' Romney said.
He added that Obama called for ''age appropriate'' schooling, but ''how much sex education is age appropriate for a 5-year-old? In my view, zero.''
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Obama backs teaching youngsters about inappropriate touching by strangers. And Obama would let parents opt out of a sex education course.
The meaty debate in the 2008 White House contest is the federal role in promoting abstinence education in the United States and abroad. It's also interesting politically that Romney wants to go after Obama. But the way Romney is doing it is misleading.