I now officially loathe John McCain. When asked simple questions about whether condoms protect users from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, McCain simply “didn’t know.” In other words, he’s so afraid of offending his “moral conservative” base that he professes to be agnostic about the most basic of scientific facts, and ends up supporting policies that kill.
A transcript borrowed from The Caucus blog:
Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”
McCain: “…Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”
Reporter: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”
McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”
Reporter: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”
McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”
Reporter: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”
McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”
Reporter: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”
McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”
Mr. Senator, this is absurd. I’m nauseous. Actually, this reminds me of the President of Gambia. He had a vision from his ancestors telling him about a magical cure for HIV. And because of his ignorance, people are going to die.
And it reminds me of Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa. In 2000, while under pressure from activists to begin providing life-sustaining antiretroviral treatment for HIV using public funds, Mbeki found the easy way out. He publicly questioned whether HIV causes AIDS, and suggested people should opt for good nutrition alone, with no other treatment. Mbeki’s dithering was eventually overcome, but the delay in providing public treatment for HIV in South Africa cost lots of lives, and those lives aren’t just statistics. In 2004 I watched several kids die of HIV in Johannesburg–kids who might have been on treatment by then if Mbeki hadn’t publicly encouraged ignorance and backpedaling.
And with McCain, it’s worse. Really, who do you expect to be more scientifically informed, and more likely to use financial resources to promote condoms, a former revolutionary and current president of a country in Africa? Or a United States Senator, who is a leading politician in a country with massive resources?
And how did McCain respond? He laughed. He hedged. He refused to acknowledge that condoms in any way prevent the spread of HIV or STDs. He probably would deny they prevent pregnancy as well!
This is no laughing matter. McCain will get some negative publicity, but his conservative base will say “look, he’s really anti-condom, so we like him,” imagining that not sending condoms to Africa is actually going to make people celibate and turn them to God.
May McCain be cursed with a stingy bout of gonorrhea and ongoing neural degradation (if he can afford it, since he’s obviously already lacking) from syphilis.