Are McCain's Attacks Really On Target?

Presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain
(Left) Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. at a town hall meeting in Terre Haute, Ind., Sept. 6, 2008. (Right) Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks at a rally, Sept. 5, 2008, in Cedarburg, Wis.
AP/Michael Conroy, Morry Gash

The McCain campaign took aim Wednesday at Sen. Barack Obama's supposed insult of Gov. Sarah Palin and his record on sex education. So are these attacks on target? CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante has a Reality Check.

The McCain campaign jumped hard on Obama's use of the phrase "lipstick on a pig."

In addition to an Internet-only video, their "truth squad" quickly set up a conference call. The claim: "Obama was talking about Sarah Palin."

Former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift, a member of the Palin Truth Squad, said: "Sen. Obama in Lebanon, Va., this evening said [what] I can only deem to be disgraceful comments, comparing Governor Palin to a pig."

What connected Palin to the comment? They say it's a line from her convention speech: "What's the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom? Lipstick."

The Facts: Obama had not mentioned Palin. He was focused on the central argument of his campaign: that McCain's promise of change is hollow because his policies would be no different than President Bush's.

"That's not change. That's just calling something, the same thing, something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

The colorfully descriptive phrase is often used by politicians, including Sen. John McCain. Once he used it talking about the health-care plan of another female politician, Hillary Clinton.

"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said.

Even Vice President Cheney used it during the 2004 campaign.

"We call it putting lipstick on a pig," Cheney said.

McCain's campaign also released an ad criticizing Obama's education record, which makes this claim: "Obama's one accomplishment? Legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners."

The Facts: The bill, introduced in the Illinois legislature, never became law. It called for non-mandatory sex education for grades K-12 that was "age and developmentally appropriate." For kindergarteners, that included, among other things, "how to say no to unwanted sexual advances."

Obama voted for the bill in committee and says he supports similar laws in other states. He said the point was to help parents teach their children how to deal with sexual predators.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent