THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
According to Politico, the Right is up in arms about President Obama's plans to deliver a back-to-school address to students next Tuesday at noon (EST). It seems many are convinced that this is a not-so-secret plot by POTUS to, as the head of the Florida GOP put it, "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda." Radio gasbagger Tammy Bruce has gone so far as to encourage parents to keep their kids home that day. "Make September 8 Parentally Approved Skip Day. You are your child's moral tutor, not that shady lawyer from Chicago," she tweeted.
This is disgraceful. For starters, Obama's message, as described in a press release from Ed Sec Arne Duncan, will stick to anodyne topics like the need to work hard and take responsibility for one's own success (which once upon a time were values Republicans could cheer.) Admittedly, I don't have an advance text, but I'll bet a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey that Obama will not be lecturing America's youth about the joys of bank bailouts, universal health care, or cash-for-clunkers--just as I am confident George W. Bush would never have used school children to hawk the Iraq war, the Medicare drug program, or "enhanced interrogation" techniques. Dick Cheney, maybe. But not Bush.
More broadly, Obama is the leader of this entire nation. It doesn't matter if you voted for him--or even if your head threatens to explode every time you think about him. He is the president, and, as such, it's a big deal that he's speaking directly to students about the importance of education. (Not teachers unions, you hysterics.) And, whatever one's party registration, the idea that any child should be kept home from class purely so their parents can make a political statement about an apolitical speech is appalling. Is the idea that we should shelter children from any contact with or knowledge of any president we personally dislike? Maybe, during the years our preferred party is out of power, we should just pretend that the president doesn't exist. That's a healthy way to run a democracy.
Admittedly, Obama is smooth. But he ain't smooth enough to wipe away an entire childhood of conservative teachings with one quickie speech about (all together now!) working hard in school. Buck up, all you deep-red wingers: Make the kids watch Glenn Beck afterward if it eases your anxiety. Have them genuflect before a poster of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. But don't be so paranoid about what might happen if they're briefly exposed to the sinister charms of a liberal president that you drag them down into your foxhole of craziness.
Or, at the very least, save the dragging for after school.