Maryland’s Senator Ben Cardin. The misleading commercial from “My friend, Ben.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Senator Ben Cardin is running for re-election to his second term in the Senate, after 20 years in the House. Back in March, prior to the primary that he won, Senator Cardin ran his first commercial in the series called “My friend, Ben.” This first one in the series features a cute little boy talking, in his own voice apparently, about what Senator Cardin has done to assure dental care for financially disadvantaged children.

The ad is available on the Senator’s campaign website, www.BenCardin.comand on YouTube.  (Given that this is an older post, some website material may no longer be available.)

It’s a cute ad that portrays Senator Cardin as a kind person sincerely concerned about the welfare of his constituents, and I don’t doubt that for a minute. What I doubt is his honesty with respect to the details of the core statement the commercial makes.

As you heard in the commercial, the narrator (the little boy) says, “He wrote a law so every kid can see a dentist.” The problem is, that’s not technically true.

Of the 151 bills and resolutions Senator Cardin has introduced during his first term in the Senate, only two have had anything to do with dental care. One of them is only a resolution, Senate Resolution 434, introduced March 4, 2010 in the 111th Congress: “A resolution expressing support for Children’s Dental Health Month and honoring the memory of Deamonte Driver.” (Young Mr. Driver is the child to whom reference is made in the commercial.) The resolution passed, but is only a resolution, not a law.

The other one was Senate Bill 3064, introduced May 22, 2008 during the 110th Congress: The “Oral Health Initiative Act of 2008.” Its purpose was to accomplish what the ad talks about and, in other ways, assure dental care for the children of financially disadvantaged families that could not otherwise afford those services.

Unfortunately, despite what the commercial implies, Senate 3064 was never enacted into law. Senator Cardin did not write a law “so every kid can see a dentist.” He introduced legislation to that effect, but it never became law.

At best, the Senator can take some credit, along with many of his counterparts in the Senate and House, for supporting related provisions in the “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (aka, “Obamacare”) that was signed into law on March 23, 2010, almost two years later.

Am I just quibbling over technicalities of legislative process? No. What I’m pointing out is that Senator Cardin, whose heart may very well be in the right place, is a career politician who can’t help but to spin and exaggerate the truth, even when that truth might still be interesting – if not outright impressive or grounds for re-election.

What I’m also attempting to do is argue that Senator Cardin’s tenure in office has been characterized by a decided lack of understanding of, and focus upon, the most critical issues of our time. After six years in the Senate, not to mention 20 years in the House before that, and in light of the major economic, fiscal and social crises we’re facing, how is it that this is one the most significant legislative initiatives he can publicize, via expensive television commercials no less, to justify his re-election?

Wouldn’t it have been better, Senator Cardin, if, in addition to working to provide health care to financially needy children, you had designed and introduced – and not given up until it was signed into law – legislation to make the families of those children financially viable? So that they didn’t need continuing government assistance?

-Next Contestant

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