Barack Obama's campaign is reminding voters today that John McCain, during the heady days of the "Republican Revolution," once declared that he favored abolishing the Department of Education.
"I would certainly favor doing away with the Department of Energy and I think that given the origins of the Department of Education," the Senator said on CNN's Late Edition in December 1994. "I would favor doing away with it as well."
Linking McCain to "ideologues," Obama declared in his speech Tuesday, "you certainly don't reform our education system by calling to close the Department of Education. That would just make it harder for us to give out financial aid, harder for us to keep track of how our schools are doing, and lead to widening inequality in who gets a college degree."
Republican officials and McCain staffers, meanwhile, are in full-out counter-attack mode, criticizing Obama for his education policies and claiming that the Senator is misrepresenting McCain's proposals on the matter.
"Senator Barack Obama's new campaign attack ad on education," wrote spokesman Tucker Bounds this morning, "claims that John McCain's economic plan will divert money from public education without any factual citation or basis." The campaign provided a list of resolutions increasing funding for federal education efforts that McCain supported.
But Bounds' statement made no mention of McCain's previous support for doing away with the Department of Education. Neither did two counter-attack emails blasted out by the Republican National Committee.
The matter clearly complicates McCain's criticism of Obama's plan and raises questions as to what, exactly, the Republican nominee's education policy would be if he ascends to the White House. Bounds, in his statement, said that "nothing that John McCain has proposed would reduce funding for public schools." But McCain also has not been the steadfast champion of funding No Child Left Behind, as his campaign purports.
While the idea of eliminating the Department of Education certainly is not the Senator's policy as it stands in this campaign -- despite support for the idea among many conservatives -- it remains far-fetched for the McCain campaign to argue that there is no "factual basis" to the Obama camp's attacks over education policy.