The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


John McCain

After McCain Spoke of Autism, Palin Talks of Down Syndrome

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin shakes the hand of Hank Williams Jr. during a rally at Elon University in Elon, N.C., Oct. 16, 2008. (Sara D. Davis/Associated Press)

By Juliet Eilperin
ELON, N.C. -- GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks about the fact that her infant son has Down syndrome at each and every campaign stop, but today, she also gave her audience an inside glimpse of the wry humor used by families living with the condition.

In the middle of her speech before an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand here at Elon University this afternoon, Palin declared, "I love that poster over there. It says, 'Extra chromosome equals extra love.'"

The poster referred to the fact that Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder in which a child is born with all or part of an extra 21st chromosome.

Palin went onto explain that she and her husband Todd recently received a bumper sticker from a support group for families with a Down syndrome child that riffed off the traditional bumpers that boasts how a child has better grades or is better at sports than the one riding in the car behind it.

"This one said, 'My kid has more chromosomes than your kid,'" Palin recounted.

During last night's debate, however, GOP presidential candidate John McCain seemed the blur the distinction between Down syndrome and autism, a brain development problem that impedes a child's communication and social skills. At one point during the debate, when McCain was praising his running mate, he said, "She understands that autism is on the rise, that we've got to find out what's causing it, and we've got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children."

Then, a few minutes later, he added, "And I just said to you earlier, town hall meeting after town hall meeting, parents come with kids, children -- precious children who have autism. Sarah Palin knows about that better than most. And we'll find and we'll spend the money, research, to find the cause of autism. And we'll care for these young children. And all Americans will open their wallets and their hearts to do so."

McCain was not mixing up the two disorders, according to Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

"McCain speaks often of autism because he has seen families who are deeply affected and he knows that the Palin family has been affected in a similar way by having a beautiful baby with special needs," she wrote in an e-mail. "He was drawing a parallel between parents of children with special needs."

Posted at 5:55 PM ET on Oct 16, 2008  | Category:  John McCain
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If indeed McCain meant to say Autism, one would have expected him to make clear how his reference related to Palin. Any politician knows how easily the most innocuous comment will be pounced upon by the press. The only logical conclusion, unless your objective is to join the widespread and necessary defense of this ridiculous pair, is that McCain either doesn't know the difference between Autism and Down's Syndrome, or simply forgot which one he meant to say. Either option makes him entirely unfit to be president... as if we needed any more clues.

Posted by: jensopinion | October 24, 2008 1:22 PM

I don't normally post...and anyone can of course reply...but I won't read it-my disgust at people who refuse to mind their own business (regarding Palin's raising of her child) and judge others is beyond explanation. How would you like it if you were told how to raise your children? Oh wait maybe in this "do nothing for myself, have no personal responsiblity for my own poor judgement, expect the government to raise my children and pay my way through life society" that would be just fine with you. I don't see anyone slapping down celebrities who take their children on the road and have tutors...I guess Sara Palin- who actually does something for a living doesn't rate up there with uber-rich superstars...

How sad and horrible that this is the state of our country. You are all attacking someone because of what they haven't done. Of course McCain did not confuse the disorders - there was not one mention of DS prior to his mentioning autism. And what in the world is wrong with his bringing up other disablities? Maybe he was just trying to show that the campaign's message of helping the disabled extended beyond those with DS. Shame on you all! And to say that Sara Palin isn't caring for her son -how in the world would you know? Are YOU medical professionals who know beyond a doubt that he should be able to lift his head? Of course your not...but you sure feel empowered by judging others don't you. I will vote proudly for the McCain/Palin ticket...and I don't care how much experience Mrs. Palin has. Why you ask? Because they represent my values...because I truly believe that instead of looking to see where they can go in the world of political greed they feel called to public office to do something for the train wreck that is our society, and finally because of ignorant people like I have read on here - so full of themselves and riding high on the money train and "change" of the Obama camp that they are willing to debase themselves to the point of attacking people they don't have any hope of ever knowing.

Posted by: beccaeric | October 19, 2008 2:17 PM

correction: ADDS should read, ADHD

Posted by: 2Funny | October 18, 2008 9:39 AM

You know, there are way more special needs than autism and downs syndrome. I taught in a program for emotionally disabled children which is a catch all for students with several special needs, or with disorders that have not been rubber stamped, or with behaviors that are too disruptive for other special needs prgrams. My fear with a Republicn administration again is that they like everything to be black and white. Either a student can pass a test or the teacher has been a failure. Things don't work that way with kids and especially not with special needs kids. I believe that trying to define special ed as autism or downs syndrome or maybe ADDS, merely narrows the scope and in the end will serve to hurt all special needs programs.

Posted by: 2Funny | October 18, 2008 9:36 AM

I wonder if McCains realizes that with many of his proposals for education, special ed. programs could be the biggest losers?

Posted by: 2Funny | October 18, 2008 9:25 AM

moms can work and rear their children if they care about both and set their priorities.

Palin doesn't seem to do either.

If Trig were receiving the intervention a Down's Syndrome infant requires, he could hold his own head at 6 months. Instead he is so floppy and limp. Trig's parents should be ashamed. This baby's being neglected in his physical and mental development.

Sarah, could you care as much about your child (and maybe care a little about getting your facts straight and understanding how things work) as you care about your wardrobe, hair and makeup?

Posted by: votingmom | October 17, 2008 6:13 PM

Why aren't Sarah Palin's kids in school? Levi Johnston has dropped out of high school, has Bristol dropped out, too? Piper and Willow are often seen with Palin on the campaign trail. Are they following Alaska home-school procedures and requirements? Have they dropped out of school? And where is Trig? He is being hauled around on all these campaign stops with Palin? Great environment for an infant, special needs or not.

Posted by: annieb346 | October 17, 2008 2:31 PM

NFL gods please fire Hank Williams Jr now. The Monday Night songs are more horrible than Tony Kornheiser's commentating and thats saying a lot. No politics in football!

Posted by: ozpunk | October 17, 2008 12:33 PM

about time it was noticed that mccain spoke of autism when palin's child is down. just another example of mccain not doing his homework and his lack of preparation and many mistakes must this man make before america realizes the disaster it will be here at home and abroad if this man should win...and waiting in the wings...lets not go to judgement and country first...and do love the spin by the spokesperson...john got confused...john is confused...he needs more index cards...color code them...and, hopefully, in the end...he gets a few votes...his and the smiling woman who is always standing behind him...guess it would not look good if she cried...

Posted by: joegiuffre20 | October 17, 2008 11:47 AM

I'm the proud mother of a wonderful young lady, age 21, with mental retardation and autism (not Down Syndrome, however). I firmly second what JedG, kathyoman, and several others have noted: at 6 months of age, Trig Palin's needs are not much different than those of any other infant. Gov. Palin has NO idea of what it takes to be the parent of a child with special needs. I absolutely resent the fact that she claims to represent all of those families who do have a member with retardation or other issues.

My daughter is now in a special school program that WE pay for (she's 21 and out of the special-ed system) and holds TWO part-time jobs, partly due to the fact that my family worked our tails off to be sure that she got all the education, therapy, and support that she needed. MY primary job at the moment is driving her to school, whatever job she has in the afternoon, and all her other activities. (Tonight, her therapeutic horse-riding lesson. Sundays, special-ed religious instruction. She belongs to a social group that has craft classes, cooking classes, get-togethers, etc.)

She will live at home for the indeterminate future. Since the idiotic tax cuts from the federal government meant that money would be cut back to EVERY state, Maryland is making budget cuts. That means that the Developmental Disabilities Administration will have even LESS money to help people like my daughter be independent enough to live in a group home or apartment. The waiting list is already 8 to 10 years long, unless the person is in a crisis situation.

And Gov. Palin thinks she knows what it's like to be the parent of a child with disabilities??? PLEASE.

And for the record, every one of MY friends in the disability community is firmly pro-choice. WE know what it's like to have a kid who will always be teased and know that he or she is different, because he can't do the things other kids do routinely.

Posted by: dcgrasso1 | October 17, 2008 11:06 AM

Growing up in the 50's and 60's mmy parents had friends with a Downs child. He was an early Downs poster child and his parents worked hard to give him and his siblings a "normal' life. What i remember is that he was capably of most normal functions, but was limited in upper level tasks. What I do remember is that his parents were well educated and reasonably well off. The child's problem was both a financial and emotional drain, however, they had the talent and energy to what had to be done.

We now have some very close friends with a 12 year old Down's child. They knew he had Downs before he was born and decided to go through with the pregnancy. He has several additional problems (not unusual with Downs children)is clearly very small for his age. He can't speak but can clearly communicate. Again his parents are reasonably well off but I know that they take advantage of federal programs. They have two other children in or near college. Their biggest concern is what will happen to him latter on. As he gets older the costs go up exponentially. Also their ability to provide for him is predicated on their ability to work at the level they currently do.

These are wonderful thoughtful people. The bottom line for them is simply:

1. They are both Pro-Choice. They feel that their experience is theirs alone.

2. They fully understand that they have a financial advantage and good health. They are quite aware of the poor track record of government programs to help those in a lower income situation and/or 1 parent family.

3. Regarding Sara Palin, their feeling is that it's easy to have a Downs child and provide for their very early needs. The rubber really meets the road as the child grows.

They don't see her as a poster mom for special needs children. Oh they voted for Bush in 2000 and won't vote Republican this time around.

Posted by: JedG | October 17, 2008 9:47 AM

This is just absurd. Gov Palin has no record (that I'm aware of) of supporting and funding programs to help families of special needs children.

Vaguely aware of the cause of her son's condition, Trisomy 21, she is able to make light of it. Yet everything about her indicates both a deep ignorance of, and a broad disregard for, science. It is only through science, not wishful thinking, that we will ever have a better understanding of these conditions.

Like so many others, I watched the debate and wondered, "What in the world does Palin know about autism?" What does she know about Down syndrome, for that matter. For now, she has an infant. Give it five, ten, maybe fifteen years of daily time and effort; then she should come back and share her insights with the rest of us.

Posted by: jyhume | October 17, 2008 9:46 AM

Her special needs card is Palins equivalent of McCains pow card. Overplayed. They're using that baby as a prop and I think it's disgusting.

Posted by: notfooledbydistractions | October 17, 2008 9:35 AM

Palin's sister has an autistic child.

What's about gonna' do for special needs children? NOTHING!

Posted by: lorddunsmore | October 17, 2008 9:28 AM

What a disgrace the Alaska Governor is to all those with Special Needs Children. That a presidential nominee could point to Ms. Palin as experienced with Special Needs children is mind boggling. Wait until her child is 5 years old and she has spent 5 years as an advocate and then come to people as someone who is knowledgealble and has demonstrated an interest. What was the level of her advocacy before she had her child. How infuriating was it for mothers and fathers of Special Needs children seeing her use her baby, who should have been home sleeping in a crib, as a prop after her debate. Her lack of knowledge is paralled by her lack of common sense.

Posted by: phorowitz | October 17, 2008 9:15 AM

I know a little about DS. Just spent the last 30 years working in special education. Given that, I think it is sad to make light of a child when it has DS, with a bumper-sticker. Raising this child will be a life-long commitment to make, not something taken lightly. Sarah Palin's life is gonna change. And if she thinks she can continue to give equal attention to things in her life now, that theory will be long gone with raising this newest child. He deserves her very best. But it appears he won't get much. Sorry, kiddo.

Posted by: realteacher | October 17, 2008 7:42 AM

Must watch this video, McCain has some issues during the debate. What we didnt know. Watch complete 2 min video.

Did Mike Huckabee SAY its Over for McCain?

Posted by: pastor123 | October 17, 2008 6:10 AM

Support for special needs is laudable.

That being said, Gov. Palin's ignorance of the underlying nature of these diseases, along with her spotty record of support for medical research into curing them and support for affected families, does not give confidence that Gov. Palin will be an effective advocate in Washington.

Posted by: ScottinNC | October 17, 2008 12:39 AM

"McCain speaks often of autism because he has seen families who are deeply affected and he knows that the Palin family has been affected in a similar way by having a beautiful baby with special needs," she (Palin) wrote in an e-mail."

The problem, as every parent knows, is that we are all to a degree "beautiful" babies to our own parents.

However, when a baby with Down syndrome ages, we have a baby no more & with puberty come the usual items of complexity - not only hair to shave every day.

Kathyoman is entirely right.

Children with Down syndrome (autism, a different case, but similar in this respect) need almost constant care & vigilance. How much do they actually get?

In a Republican country, like the US of the last 50 years, with 50 million citizens who are denied universal health care, who the heck is going to care for children with Down syndrome or autism?

If the "country first" nation doesn't have the dignity or will to fully care for 50 million of its most vulnerable people, just why and how is it going to do the right thing for special cases, like Down children? No money, no medical care - that's the American way!

We know that Palin is twisting the truth about care in the US. The truth is that these children, with Down syndrome or autism, experience constant under-care, not over-care. The best example is Gov. Palin herself.

Palin prefers rallies & one-liners to impersonal crowds 7 the "glory"(?)of running for the Republican VP position, instead of caring for her own (5) children.

I guess it is true what Palin touts with a lipstick twang up and down the hinterland, for her it is "country first" and not her own children or her family.

A choice, not everyone would embrace, not me anyway.

Posted by: hchiba | October 16, 2008 10:57 PM

Im a feminist, a single mom of a sonwith a disability, and a teacher of special needs children. Sarah Palins run for VP is, sorry to say selfish. Our special needs children need us more - not less than other children - what woman would want to choose between the needs of their child or the needs of their job if they didn't have to - Thats the trouble with the extreme right its all talk no walk

Posted by: kathyoman | October 16, 2008 10:31 PM

McCain and Palin will be total disasters if they win. And if McCain does not make it for four years we would be in even more trouble with Prez Palin. She is really pathetic.

Posted by: dougm2 | October 16, 2008 10:24 PM

I really was offended by the "pro-abortion" term McCain used in the debate.

Just because one is "PRO-CHOICE" doesn't mean one is "pro-abortion".

Pro-life supporters don't like to make that distinction because it splits the abortion issue into people have the choice and when human life begins

Posted by: thenotoriousflavio | October 16, 2008 10:18 PM


Posted by: thenotoriousflavio | October 16, 2008 10:15 PM

Posted by: absolutkt1 | October 16, 2008 10:05 PM

It would be a lot more believable that he didn't mix them up if he had mentioned both disorders at some point. It's not like they're even close to the same kind of disorder. But it probably doesn't matter because according to conservative jackoff Michael Savage, who said that cases of autism are just kids acting up with parents who won't smack them around to straighten them out.

Posted by: cao091402 | October 16, 2008 9:43 PM

Julie Eilperin, why not just say it outright: McCain gets confused? Or the onset of Alzheimer's. There, I said it: McCain gets confused & gets very angry, especially in proximity with Obama, 30 yrs his junior, the latter who speaks in complete sentences - sans difficulté

"McCain was not mixing up the two disorders, according to Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt."

Palin's moral standard of truth? Or would Gov. Palin say perfectly anything under the sun on this side of the galaxy to make the Republican lack of vision promising to voters?

W the Republican president, Cheney, Republican VP, Condi Rice, Republican Foreign Minister, Rove, Rumsfeld, Wolfwowitz, Rimbaugh & the entire Republican cotorie ... have master-minded the devastation of Afghanistan, Irak & the 50 States of the US. Have destroyed the economic basis of investors around the globe. They blame it on the banks.

Republicans have doubled the US deficit from 5 to 10$ trillion within 8 short years & pushed the annual budget into deficit (who knows really how much?)of some 500$ billion. Only Republican Joe (Joseph) Wurzelbacher, the non-plumber, has excess money he wants to keep to himself. The rest have lost their savings to the tune of 30-40% in W's fund meltdown.

Is there anything anywhere left Republicans can ruin? Well, yes... the reputation of all Americans, who under Republican governance have institutionalized human & animal torture (in Palin's state, shooting wolves from helicopters) or in Guantanamo, Cuba (human water-boarding) & certainly worse torture (if there is such a thing as worse torture) in international hidden torture cells, especially in second-class countries, eager to please for W's money.

Now comes (Republican maverick) Gov. Palin to the rescue, ex-Mayor of Wasilla, twanging half-memorized one-liners, winking left & right (but what for?), soliciting voters with a cornucopia of incomprehensible hog-town expressions, "daya gettit?" or "country first".

America, under her sublime presidency, will do itself proud.

Posted by: hchiba | October 16, 2008 9:34 PM

I watched the debate TWICE and McCain did not confuse Down's Syndrome with Autism. Maybe some of you should listen carefully to what is actually said-- you know-- the words. And also remember that as VP, Palin will be focusing on "special need" children. That is what McCain was talking about.

Posted by: nickyle | October 16, 2008 9:06 PM


"Miami, Florida – February 20, 2006 ― Leaders from a diverse array of sectors will hold a rally in Miami on Thursday, February 23, 2006, in support of comprehensive immigration reform in an effort to keep immigration reform at the forefront of the public debate. Leaders from both political parties, immigrant communities, labor, business, and religious organizations will gather to call on Washington to enact workable reform."
"The rally will feature Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as the headline speaker along with elected officials, immigrants and key local and national leaders. Sen. McCain is one of the chief sponsors of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act; bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform legislation introduced last Congress and scheduled for consideration by the Senate in the coming weeks. A similar rally with Sen. McCain is planned for New York City on February 27."
"The rally in Miami is being sponsored by the New American Opportunity campaign (NAOC) in partnership with ACORN, Catholic Legal Services - Archdiocese of Miami, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami Dade College, People for the American Way/Mi Familia Vota en Acción, Service Employees International Union, and UNITE HERE."

That was a great event that McCain headlined. But it does make it a bit more difficult for his campaign to press this line of attack, doesn't it? They even have a picture of McCain attending:

And a video of McCain attending:

The McCain campaign is one of a kind. Every time they settle on a line of attack, they always undermine it days later.

It's almost like McCain hired the Three Stooges to run his campaign strategy.

Posted by: DrainYou | October 16, 2008 8:31 PM

Sarah Palin should be baking cookies at the PTA not running for Vice President. She should be at home taking care of her 5 kids. The audacity of some women. She is so clueless and should stick to watching Sex in the City with her girlfriends and not try to pretend she has a clue about politics. My main man Barack on the other hand is FAR more intelligent than John McCain or Sarah Palin and he has a very good Temperament. Joe Biden went right from LAW SCHOOL to the United States Senate at age 29 and is FAR more smarter and has 36 years experience in the Senate. Joe the Plumber is an idiot who isn't even a real plumber. Also, Joe the Plumber has an $1,100 Lien on his house. People like Joe the Plumber are Racists just like Rep. Murtha said. McCain tried to brinke up Bill Ayres, Tony Rezko, Father Pfleger, Rev. Wright but what McCain doesn't get is - WHO CARES - WE ARE WINNING - may Sarah Palin can bake you some cookies and make you feel better because you are about to LOSE! Bill Ayres killed the cop in San Francisco when Obama was 8 years old - that's ANCIENT HISTORY but McCain doesn't get it. Bill Ayres bombed the police station in New York City and the Pentagon when Obama was 8 years old and still McCain doesn't get it. We all have friends who have done some wild stuff but we still hang out with them. McCain still hangs out with his buddies that bombed Vietnam with him and we don't hold that against McCain. McCain is clueless. Palin should be minding her kids and not involving herself in Politics.....Obama/Biden/Ayres in 2008!

Posted by: Tom22 | October 16, 2008 7:45 PM

The team needs to get on the same page. Subbing the names brings questions from voters about authenticity.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | October 16, 2008 7:38 PM



Joe the Plumber now has a voice, speaking for the middle and upper middle class, trying to get ahead. The REAL Rich has been represented by Penny Pritzker's Candidate. Joe said, sure today it's people making over 250K that will get killed by Obama's taxes, but soon, as Obama's agenda gets more expensive, it will be people making 150K, and so's like that old saying about not speaking out when someone comes for your neighbors....soon there will noone left to speak out when someone comes for you!

Posted by: thecannula | October 16, 2008 7:33 PM



Joe the Plumber now has a voice, speaking for the middle and upper middle class, trying to get ahead. The REAL Rich has been represented by Penny Pritker's Candidate. Joe said, sure today it's people making over 250K that will get killed by Obama's taxes, but soon, as Obama's agenda gets more expensive, it will be people making 150K, and so's like that old saying about not speaking out when someone comes for your neighbors....soon there will noone left to speak out when someone comes for you!

Posted by: thecannula | October 16, 2008 7:32 PM

What makes Palin an expert on developmental disabilities?
As the parent of a Down's syndrome INFANT, her experience is limited and "you betcha" she never went to medical school!

Posted by: dianne_orangecountyca | October 16, 2008 7:14 PM

Oh please. He obviously flubbed it.

And why were they heaping praise on Palin for her work on behalf of special needs families? Yes, it is very nice that she identified that as a goal if she gets into office, but she hasn't done anything yet. Indeed, as governor, she CUT spending for special needs families. (I guess she didn't need it yet.)

Posted by: fmjk | October 16, 2008 6:57 PM

"McCain was not mixing up the two disorders, according to Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt."

Palin's a good running mate after all. She's quick to try to explain away McCain's mistakes.

Of course he was mixing up the two disorders. We all heard it. We have it on videotape.

Just another senior moment.

Posted by: multiplepov | October 16, 2008 6:56 PM

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