Candidates, campaigns, and core values

Filed under: In The News, Day Care & Education

Red Mom Blue Mom

Welcome to Red Mom Blue Mom, ParentDish's special coverage of the 2008 Presidential election. Each Tuesday through November 4, columnists Rachel Campos-Duffy (Red Mom) and Ada Calhoun (Blue Mom) will take on issues relevant to parents on both sides of the aisle. You can find past Red Mom/Blue Mom posts here.

Red Mom: Making a choice about schools

By Rachel Campos-Duffy

John McCain and Sarah PalinEven some of Barack Obama's biggest fans concede that the press has gone pretty easy on him. Consider the famous US Magazine cover of an adorable would-be first couple under the caption, "Why Barack Loves Her" contrasted with the cover and caption the Palin's received, "Babies, Lies and Scandal."

Of all the things Barack gets a free pass on, nothing gets my goat more than education, a topic of considerable importance to me as a parent and one he touts as his forte. Quite simply, when it comes to education policy, Barack and Michelle Obama are hypocrites!

While Barack and Michelle champion public schools (Michelle waxes endlessly in speeches about her own public education), they fail to mention that their own daughters attend the University of Chicago's Lab School, one of our nation's most exclusive prep schools that costs some $20,000 a year in tuition per child. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Chicago's Lab School is among the top five feeder institutions for our nation's most elite universities. To be fair, the Obama girls began attending while Michelle was a University of Chicago employee and were therefore eligible for a tuition break.

Though Michelle no longer works there, the Obama's cite the proximity of this elite institution to their home as the reason they continue to attend. I get that, but I think there's more to it. Conspicuously absent from the Obamas's hard-knocks, they're-just-like-us video biographies during the Democratic convention were Michelle and Barack's impeccably Ivy League credentials. Presumably, they expect nothing less for Malia and Sasha.

Well, don't we all!

Michelle and Barack are opposed to school choice programs, also known as tuition vouchers, which would allow middle class and poor parents to also have choice when it comes to their children's educations. It is the height of hypocrisy for the Obama's to stand in the way of other families trying, as they do, to give their kids the very best education they can.

Interestingly, despite private school options in Wasilla, the Palins chose public school for their own children. And while it's not surprising that the very wealthy McCain family sent their kids to private schools, at least John McCain, who is a proponent of school choice, wants to help other parents have the same opportunities when it comes to their children's education.

So why do Michelle and Barack stand in the way of an innovative program that would give poor minority parents the power and choice that rich and privileged people like them enjoy? A big part of the reason is teachers unions, who are threatened by the potential exodus of students (and money) to private institutions. Too bad Obama doesn't have the audacity to stand up to that powerful lobby so that all families can hope to give their child the very best education they can. Now that would be change I could believe in.


Blue Mom: What happened to family values?
By Ada Calhoun

Barack Obama and Joseph BidenFor years, the Republican party has promoted itself as two things: fiscally conservative and the sole defender of "family values."

Talk about irony. As Representative Steny Hoyer has pointed out, "George W. Bush inherited a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, which he proceeded to turn into a projected deficit of more than $4 trillion." He will leave office with the country in the direst financial straits we've been in since the Great Depression.

John McCain vows to continue many of Bush's failed policies, including the continuance of huge tax breaks for the very rich at the expense of our children's and grandchildren's future. In a broad policy study compiled by the Brookings Institution, it is clear that Obama is about 100% more concerned with the well-being America's children than Arizona's senior senator. He voted yes for reauthorization of the State Children's Health Program in 2007; McCain voted no. Obama pledges to invest millions to stimulate and help fund "zero to five programs;" McCain counters, "There is no shortage of federal programs at early child care and preschool." Maybe it seems like that when your seven children from two marriages are all enrolled in the best private schools. (McCain donated more than $500,000 to his kids' top-shelf education between 2001 and 2006, according to Harpers.org. "McCain apparently received major tax deductions for supporting elite schools attended by his children." But those of us -- most of us -- who make do with public schools know that there an appalling shortage of excellence. Free or reasonably-priced quality preschool is almost impossible to find in many parts of the country.

Sarah Palin's family bills itself as "Joe Sixpack," but it's been churning out one maverick-y scandal after another. In her attempts to punish her ex-brother-in-law, Palin engaged in what the recent report called a breach of the state's ethics law. Her eldest daughter is an unmarried pregnant high-school dropout. As suggested in a recent profile in the New York Times, Palin was perhaps pregnant when she eloped, too. And yet, she maintains a more socially conservative stance than even George W. Bush.

How can the McCain-Palin ticket still be trying to claim the moral high ground?

Meanwhile, Joe Biden takes the train home every night so he can be with his family. He raised his two sons after his wife and daughter died in a car wreck, and eventually found a woman who would be a good stepmother to his children and married her. They have been together for more than 30 years.

Last week, Barack Obama suspended his campaign not to stage a failed last-ditch bid to portray himself as a non-partisan economic savior, but to pay a humble, private visit to his dying grandmother.

Together, the Obamas have decided the best thing for their family and country is to put forward Barack's pro-family policies and also -- so refreshingly! -- their family's good example. How wonderful would it be to fill the White House with the laughter of the confident, lovely Obama girls rather than the tight couture grimace of Cindy McCain or, heaven forbid, the smug hypocrisy soap operatic-lifestyle of the Palins.

How important are family values in this election?
Very important - I am a values voter.96 (32.8%)
Somewhat important, but there are bigger things on the table.131 (44.7%)
Not important at all - the economy is the real issue.66 (22.5%)

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