McCain courts the autism vote

16 Oct

If you watched the U.S. presidential debates tonight, you heard the “A” word a few times. Yep, Autism.

Senator McCain, who tripped up early in the campaign by giving credence to the thimerosal debate (and, yes, tripped up is accurate since he backed away fast from that stance), is courting the Autism community’s vote.

In discussing his running mate’s credentials to be president (should Mr. McCain for some reason stop being president), Mr. McCain stated:

She’ll be my partner. She understands reform. And, by the way, she also 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.

I wish Mr. McCain had more contact over time with the disability community. “She understands that better than almost any American I know”…I guess since she has a child with special needs and a young relative with autism, she has some experience, but wouldn’t it be nice if Senator McCain knew someone in the autism research community? (a guy can dream, can’t he?)

Actually, I really liked the way Senator Obama brought this back to one of his themes in his reply:

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 talk 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.

For those who didn’t watch, there was discusssion earlier in the debate about a Senator McCain’s proposal for a spending freeze. Senator Obama made the point clear: cut smart, not blindly.

That said, I also liked how Senator Obama brought in the entire disability community. Yes, it was still child focused, but he did talk about “other special needs”.

I like how he sees research as a priority.

Senator McCain later stated:

And I just said to you earlier, town hall meeting after town hall meeting, parents come with kids, children — precious children who have autism. Sarah Palin knows about that better than most. And we’ll find and we’ll spend the money, research, to find the cause of autism. And we’ll care for these young children. And all Americans will open their wallets and their hearts to do so.

I wonder how many autistic adults were in his audiences? I wonder how many people with other disabilities (or family members with other disabilities) were in the audience.

Senator McCain may have thought that he was winning my vote, but he just lost it. Yes, disability issues, especially autism, play a role in my choice. But, this looks too much like pandering to the vaccine-autism crowd while doing the politician’s two-step around the sticky details.

I.e. it was “let’s use code words about the epidemic and vaccines to gather votes”.

I really hope I am wrong, but that was my read.

Senator Obama’s response really did speak to me, though. Focusing on funding research–and research for other conditions besides autism–spoke to goals that match mine, rather than an attempt to buy my vote.

The Los Angeles Times has a full transcript of the debate already.

Also, AutismStreet gathers his thoughts and types faster than I. There is a good treatment of this subject there.

here’s a taste:

She understands that autism is on the rise? Really? Can she clearly convey the distinction between more diagnoses, and an actual increase in prevalence? Does she understand diagnostic substitution? What about the broadening criteria and the changes in the very definition of autism? Does she really understand this? Or, is McCain pandering and simply parroting anti-vaccination and anti-autism advocate fundraisers’ “autism epidemic” rhetoric?

[added material]

I want to repeat: I really hope I am wrong about Senator McCain. Even if he loses the presidential bid, he is a Senator and someone we need to help in the probable lean years ahead–and beyond.

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19 Responses to “McCain courts the autism vote”

  1. Diane October 16, 2008 at 12:43 #

    Sarah Palin knows nothing more about Autism than the average American or Brit or whatever. Period. She has no experience in living with this disorder. She has 6 MONTHS of living with Down Sydrome, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms. McCain/Palin has been playing this card since the RNC and I, for one, hope it seriously backfires on them. I find it disgusting that he puts her out there to court the vote of parents with special needs kids.

  2. Bunny October 16, 2008 at 12:55 #

    This whole exchange during the debate really shocked me–not that McCain would bring it up, but that Obama would salute Palin’s work for “special needs” children. Last I heard, Palin took an axe to the special ed budget in her state, cutting funds by 60%.

  3. Joe October 16, 2008 at 13:09 #

    >Last I heard, Palin took an axe to the special ed budget in her state, cutting funds by 60%.

    Um, no.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2008/09/newest_palin_smear_she_cut_spe.asp

  4. Another Voice October 16, 2008 at 14:16 #

    The comment by Senator Obama that if we are going to get serious about children with special needs we need to the fund programs, rang true to me.

  5. CS October 16, 2008 at 17:21 #

    “but wouldn’t it be nice if Senator McCain knew someone in the autism research community? (a guy can dream, can’t he?)”

    I’d rather he knew someone that was autistic, a lot of people that were autistic, rather than a researcher who is sure to bring their own prejudices about autistics into any discussion.

  6. Bunny October 16, 2008 at 18:29 #

    Sorry, Joe, I don’t read that rag. But you’re right, my information was incorrect.

  7. mayfly October 16, 2008 at 19:06 #

    Pandering is in the eyes of the beholder. Is there any evidence than MCCain is not being honest is his statements? I too have the feeling that the outreach is to the antivaxers, but perhaps that;s the spin that I’m putting on it. One tends to use “pander” when the outreach is to some group with which one is in disagreement. I’m not convinced how much distance McCain has placed between himself and the antivaxers.

    Down’s an autism are certainly different. But parents also face many of the same problems. A seven year-old girl I know of just died from a congenital heart defect related to her Downs. Another friend has a 16 year old son who will need heart surgery soon. The friend’s son needed surgery when born as well. We don’t face that in autism.

  8. Sullivan October 16, 2008 at 19:27 #

    I’d rather he knew someone that was autistic, a lot of people that were autistic, rather than a researcher who is sure to bring their own prejudices about autistics into any discussion.

    Good point. In the back of my mind, I figured that given the vast number of people he has been in contact with, he must have some contact with people with autism. Now, people diagnosed with autism and discussing autism related issues is a different thing.

  9. James October 16, 2008 at 19:45 #

    Did you see how McCain was happy to discuss about special needs children but when Obama brought up the issue of funding this types of projects, McCain quickly backed away from it and said a lot can be achived without funding…. or words to that effect. McCain just wants some mileage out of this issue for votes. He will likely followup with his promise to give $0 dollars to such projects.

  10. Patrick October 16, 2008 at 20:33 #

    “And all Americans will open their wallets and their hearts to do so.” Doesn’t sound like a pledge for any kind of central funding to me, and in fact is an untrue sweeping generalization, in my opinion made in desperate ignorance of reality. How can he guarantee this? He cannot.

  11. Sullivan October 16, 2008 at 21:40 #

    “And all Americans will open their wallets and their hearts to do so.” Doesn’t sound like a pledge for any kind of central funding to me, and in fact is an untrue sweeping generalization, in my opinion made in desperate ignorance of reality. How can he guarantee this? He cannot.

    Sounds to me like someone who will let the public open their wallets to fund IDEA rather than let the Federal government live up to their commitment.

  12. Ringside Seat October 16, 2008 at 22:36 #

    Well, we only have another three and a half weeks of these dopes, and then they are history.

  13. Another Voice October 16, 2008 at 22:39 #

    Yes, the special ed budget in Alaska did increase. When Alaska imposed an oil tax on oil passing thru their state, the revenue to the state increased, along with the price of gas for the lower 48. Thank you very much.

    One thing to note that Sarah may have forgot to mention, in Alaska “special education” includes the boot camp for high school drop outs. Reportedly, the boot camp consumes two thirds of the special ed budget.

  14. Joseph October 16, 2008 at 23:03 #

    Reportedly, the boot camp consumes two thirds of the special ed budget.

    You mean it’s not the tsunami of autistic kids? Who would’ve thought that? (Well, besides us.)

  15. Ms. Clark October 16, 2008 at 23:32 #

    I wonder how many who end up in the boot camp were too busy being “social” and didn’t want to waste time reading books an’ stuff.
    (still bitter from being bullied by the “in crowd” in junior-high and high-school I guess…)

  16. Bunny October 24, 2008 at 12:50 #

    Joe,

    Here’s more info for you on Sarah Palin, Alaska, and special needs funding:
    Special Needs Truth ’08

  17. Acoustic Bob October 24, 2008 at 20:35 #

    I couldn’t find it now, but I know I read or saw in a video that although Palin has a “special needs” child, and McCain gives lip service to Autism, he voted against some key bills that were supported by and would’ve helped the Autistic community, citing their cost as the main reason. Yet he wants to make permanent the staggeringly unfair tax cuts for the wealthy.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Autism Blog - More presidential autism politics | Left Brain/Right Brain - October 23, 2008

    [...] Palin addressed issues brought up by Mr. Obama in the recent debate: how to fund autism research and have an across the board spending freeze. Ms. Palin [...]

  2. Easter Seals and Autism » Blog Archive » Courting the “special needs vote” - August 7, 2009

    [...] the final presidential debate, where both candidates mentioned autism and other disabilities. A post on the Left Brain/Right Brain – Autism News and Opinion blog asks whether McCain is “courting the autism vote.” A story in the American Chronicle [...]

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