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Kristina Chew on John McCain's Autism Policy

Posted Nov 10 2008 5:54pm
…or, as the case may be, on his lack thereof.

As many of us noticed, McCain went out of his way to kiss up to the antivax crowd during the third presidential debate, in addition to his usual assortment of wingnuts and conspiracy theorists. Although McCain gave the distinct impression that he doesn't even know the difference between autism and Down syndrome, his ignorance didn't stop him from declaring that federal spending was needed to find the cause of autism—that is, when he wasn't promising an across-the-board spending freeze. (Obama was quick to point out that very obvious contradiction. You go, Barack! And here's a teensy hint, John—just about everyone whose fashion choices don't include a tinfoil beanie has figured out by now that autism is caused by genes, not vaccines.)

McCain's clumsy attempt at pandering failed to appeal to many parents of autistic children, as reporter Claudia Kalb mentioned in a Newsweek web exclusive interview with Kristina Chew of Autism Vox, who noted that McCain's comments "seem to betray a lack of knowledge or understanding about the kinds of things that autistic children need… He's sentimentalizing the children, but not looking at how we can help them, how we can teach them, how we can make things better." Another topic discussed in the interview was the tendency of politicians and others to overlook the needs and concerns of adults with disabilities.

That observation was certainly accurate. John McCain has overlooked people with disabilities so thoroughly in the course of his presidential bid that—with only two weeks to go before the general election—his own campaign admits that he hasn't even bothered to prepare a disability policy statement. That says far more about his attitude toward American citizens with disabilities than any platitudes spoken in a debate ever could.
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