Just as we got used to John McCain confusing the Sunnis and the Shiites, we find that, unlike his octogenarian sidekick Bob Dole — TV poster boy for treating erectile dysfunction — the 71-year-old GOP presi-dential candidate has a curious stance regarding the mechanics of sex.
But being uninformed has never stopped members of the House and Senate from voting on legislation their friends or colleagues want passed, so McCain backed legislation allowing Medicaid to cover Viagra for men, while forbidding the federal health-insurance program for the poor from covering birth control pills for women.
Such an illogical (to say nothing of sexist) arrangement can outrage even conservatives close to McCain, as was obvious recently when Republican uber-frau Carly Fiorina (a McCain adviser and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard) raged about such health-care inequities while onstage with the candidate.
Later, when asked by a female journalist about his position on the Viagra/oral contraceptive gap, McCain initially said he couldn’t recall his vote. As the journalist pressed him, he went from memory loss to ignorance on the issue — the sort of performance that diminishes McCain’s credibility and insults voter intelligence.
Some might argue that McCain’s inability to speak intelligently about this topic, although it involves helping young women to avoid unintended pregnancies, and the ensuing possible loss of education and lifetimes on welfare, pales beside his confusing Iraq’s major religious divisions during a trip there.
Others might say that a man who can’t manage the most domestic of issues probably isn’t up to the top job. Either way, McCain can not ignore the health-care issue.
Fiorina deserves some blame as well. It’s usually wise to run your remarks about your candidate by a staffer paid to recognize anything that might create a press nightmare or embarrass the candidate (espe-cially a candidate as memory-challenged as McCain.) But who would think that a former naval officer, the twice-married father of three daughters, would bury his head the sand about the dynamics of sex and the risk of pregnancy?
Conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly later opined that Viagra is about a “medical condition,” while birth control pills are about “choice.”
O’Reilly doesn’t want us to pay for young women’s contraceptive “choices,” but he doesn’t want to pay for their child-care or pregnancy terminations, either. (The pundit does, however, want women to pay for the erections of older men. Such a “medical condition” is called “delusional thinking,” I believe.)
The McCain campaign needs to decide how situations like this will be handled. Every candidate in every campaign faces questions about an unfamiliar topic. In those situations, neither amnesia nor ignorance is the best strategy.
In fairness, McCain did offer to get back to the reporter who asked about the Viagra/birth control question. Yet it remains unknown how much time he might need to develop a more consistent policy regard-ing this double-standard.