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Editorial: A new master of the art of spin

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Here’s how a smear campaign goes down. Last month, when addressing a Planned Parenthood group, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama noted that “age-appropriate sex education” is “the right thing to do.” It went largely unnoticed until last week – right around the same time the sexy “Obama Girl” YouTube campaign started gaining traction – when GOP hopeful Mitt Romney misappropriated it for a speech in Colorado Springs. “It puzzled me,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “He said that we should have sex education in kindergarten. I’m not, yeah, I’m not kidding you.” Within a couple days the “issue” was dutifully brought up on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News Channel during a segment with former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and a woman identified as a “columnist,” Christine O’Donnell. Ms. O’Donnell’s career trajectory has been an interesting one. The 38-year-old graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University ran for the US Senate in her home state of Delaware in 2006 and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MTV, MSNBC and “Politically Incorrect” as well as the cover of Delaware Today. There’s more. Upon matriculating at Fairleigh Dickinson, Ms. O’Donnell, who looks like Maureen Dowd if she worked the pageant circuit with a couple belts of Ann Coulter in her, founded the non-profit Savior’s Alliance For Lifting the Truth, a youth group based on the notion of “sexual purity.” She then created the Catholic Advocacy Network. “a national grassroots organization that supports faithful Catholics whose civil liberties are threatened.” After she received a graduate fellowship from the Claremont Institute, whose mission is to “restore” the role of the “Creator” to his “rightful, preeminent authority in our national life,” she served a stint as communications director for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which she has sued for sex discrimination. She is smart, tough and marketable. She has called Halloween “Satan’s holiest day.” And last week on Fox News she showed herself a master of the spin so essential to those who espouse her positions. O’Donnell audibly scoffed when Elders aligned herself with Obama’s position, then launched into a fusillade of propaganda. “This breaks down the natural modesty that exists within children,” she said, to the amazement of any parent who has ever tried to subdue a naked, running child, and drew a spurious parallel between talking about “very personal things” with a kindergarten teacher – which is not, per se, part of Obama’s platform – and “talking with that stranger with candy on the playground.” Elders answered with hard statistics – the 55 percent of parents who don’t teach their kids anything about sex and the 81 percent who want sex ed in schools. This did not slow O’Donnell down. “You don’t let someone drive around on a flat tire,” she said. “You fix it…. If the parents aren’t as involved in the children’s life as they should be the schools should be offering parenting classes.” Elders’ relationship to the issue is that she was fired as surgeon general almost 13 years ago for admitting in front of the United Nations that masturbation is “a part of human sexuality.” But the real rising star here is O’Donnell, whose portfolio of published columns pales when compared to her television appearances as a hired gun for God and who, it seems, is gunning to be the next big lipstick neocon. And the loser here is Obama, who finds himself at the center of an argument that he never advanced in the first place.

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