George Will's Conservative Take on McCain Ad Baffles ABC's Claire Shipman

Claire Shipman, ABC's This Week | NewsBusters.orgDuring the panel discussion on the September 14 edition of ABC's "This Week," an interesting exchange occurred between conservative columnist George Will and ABC senior national correspondent Claire Shipman. On the topic of Senator John McCain's recent ad about a sex education bill Senator Barack Obama voted for while in the Illinois state legislature, Shipman could not seem to understand Will's point of view.

Host George Stephanopoulos described the ad as "looking at a vote that Barack Obama had in a committee when he was a state senator that advocated comprehensive sex education from grades K through 12.... The debate is whether -- what comprehensive sex education means and whether it means that kindergartners should be taught how to ward off a sexual predator or something more extensive than that."

In response, Will argued:

It is very common across the centuries for parents, not schools, parents to tell their children to be aware of strangers. What's new here and reflects a conservative-liberal difference is the idea, a, it has to be tarted up as sex education to be wary of strangers, and b, parents can't but the schools must in the kindergarten. Now that's a cultural divide and let's vote.

Shipman, concurrent with the media theme that McCain's ads feature outrageous lies and distortions about Obama, couldn't seem to grasp Will's point, fervently saying to him, "But you have to agree the way that ad was phrased is completely misleading…" After Will adamantly stated that he did not agree, Shipman shook her head in astonishment.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala also took part in the panel discussion and argued that the bill referenced in the ad sought to teach kindergarteners to protect themselves against predators. However, the bill also says "each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread of HIV." Clearly, this includes more than simply teaching a child how to protect him or herself from sexual predators.

A transcript of the exchange follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, host: Basically the McCain campaign has put out an ad looking at a vote that Barack Obama had in a committee when he was a state senator that advocated comprehensive sex education from grades K through 12. The debate is whether -- that's true. It didn't pass, that was it. The debate is whether -- what comprehensive sex education means and whether it means that kindergartners should be taught how to ward off a sexual predator or something more extensive than that. I think that's a fair summary of what the ad said. Now go.

PAUL BEGALA, Democratic strategist: This is a factual response which ought to matter at some level in politics which is this was simply to defend children from sexual predators at that age. What I would do is go right at McCain's strength which is a word Jay Carney used in an interview with him, and I think it set him off, and that is honor. This is a dishonorable thing to do. When McCain was a naval officer he embodied the word honor. Now as a politician he embodies the word politician. It is as dishonorable an attack as I can imagine. There's plenty of good, perfectly wonderful issues to attack Barack Obama on, but I think this shows that McCain has become what he has always pretended not to be which is a typical politician.

CLAIRE SHIPMAN, ABC senior national correspondent: You can see that he bristles even on "The View." You know, I don't know if he expected this wasn't going to come up in a sort of warm, fuzzy atmosphere but when he got grilled on "The View," you know, told things he was saying were untrue, he was quite uncomfortable. As he said, that's not accurate.

BEGALA: He didn't defend them. Just said Barack Obama-

JAY CARNEY, Time magazine: Giving the "who cares" look.

GEORGE WILL, conservative columnist: I'm saying refresh me as to what he said that was untrue.

CARNEY: On "The View," he said that Sarah Palin had never asked for-

WILL: No, this ad.

BEGALA: That Barack Obama wants to teach children about sex before they can read. That is not true. The PTA was behind this legislation or supporting it, okay, and I have a wife who is vice president of our local PTA, this kind of matters to me. It is common sense and very common across our country to teach young children how to protect themselves. So why not an ad that says John McCain wants to leave our children vulnerable to sexual predators?

WILL: It is very common across the centuries for parents, not schools, parents to tell their children to be aware of strangers. What's new here and reflects a conservative-liberal difference is the idea, a, it has to be tarted up as sex education to be wary of strangers, and b, parents can't but the schools must in the kindergarten. Now that's a cultural divide and let's vote.

SHIPMAN: But you have to agree the way that ad was phrased is completely misleading in terms of-

WILL: I do not agree with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well when he calls it an accomplishment. This was a bill that he voted on in the senate that he didn't sponsor that didn't get out of the committee.

WILL: Shouldn't have used the word accomplishment.

BEGALA: Nor did the bill say teach children about sex before they can read. It said teach children how to protect themselves against predators. My kids are lucky, they have essentially two stay at home parents, 'cause I don't have a real job, but not every kid is that lucky. Maybe a kid is like Barack Obama with a working mom and a dad who abandoned them who's trying to make his way in the world. You know, life is more complicated.