Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In Final Debate, McCain Says No More Funding Needed for Autism

Despite a lot of negative talk about negative campaigning, tonight's presidential debate was by far the most substantive of all four debates this election season. Both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain addressed their plans for the economy, education, health care, and more. There was even some substance on disabilities, though McCain still seems to think that Down Syndrome and autism are the same thing.

In response to moderator Bob Schieffer's question about the qualifications of the candidates' running mates, McCain said Gov. Palin "understands special-needs families. She understands that autism is on the rise, that we've got to find out what's causing it, and we've got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children. She understands that better than almost any American that I know. I'm proud of her."

Obama countered: "I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs, will require some additional funding, if we're going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talks about. And if we have an across-the-board spending freeze, we're not going to be able to do it. That's an example of, I think, the kind of use of the scalpel that we want to make sure that we're funding some of those programs."

Then McCain: "I want to come back to, notice every time Sen. Obama says, 'We need to spend more, we need to spend more, that's the answer' -- why do we always have to spend more? Why can't we have transparency, accountability, reform of these agencies of government?"

This exchange clearly points out the difference between offering a plan and vision (which Obama and Biden are) and making empty promises for political gain (which McCain and Palin are). Read their policy positions and listen to every interview, debate, and speech. McCain and Palin say they will support children with special needs, but refuse to back up their words with the needed plans or funding to provide any level of support.

Last week, McCain called Palin "uniquely qualified" to cure autism. You can't make this stuff up. Tonight, he said she understands the needs of parents raising kids with special needs "better than almost any American that I know." Really? From everything I've heard, I think I know a lot more, and I'm just an average parent of a child with autism. I know plenty of parents who know far more than me.

In all of her speeches since she was nominated, Palin has shown absolutely no insight about the challenges families face -- battling insurance companies, fighting for a decent education, scheduling therapists, and juggling medical appointments, to name a few. I'm sure she's learning a lot about special needs on the job, as my wife and I did, and I hope it serves her well as she raises her son. But it doesn't make her any type of expert I would trust to make decisions on my behalf.
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