Flying home from London, where the subject of formal debate on the 70th anniversary of World War II had been whether Winston Churchill was a liability or asset to the Free World, one arrives in the middle of a far more acrimonious national debate right here in the United States.
At issue: Should Barack Obama be allowed to address tens of millions of American children, inside their classrooms, during school hours?
Conservative talk-show hosts saw a White House scheme to turn public schools into indoctrination centers where the socialist ideology of Obama would be spoon-fed to captive audiences of children forced to listen to Big Brother -- and then do assignments on his sermon.
The liberal commentariat raged about right-wing paranoia.
Yet Byron York of The Washington Examiner dug back to 1991 to discover that, when George H.W. Bush went to Alice Deal Junior High to speak to America's school kids, the left lost it.
"The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props," railed The Washington Post. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander was called before a House committee. The National Education Association denounced Bush. And Congress ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate.
Obama's actual speech proved about as controversial as a Nancy Reagan appeal to eighth-graders to "Just say no!" to drugs.
Yet, the episode reveals the poisoned character of our politics.
We saw it earlier on display in August, when the crowds that came out for town hall meetings to oppose Obama's health care plans were called "thugs," "fascists," "racists" and "evil-mongers" by national Democrats.
We see it as Rep. Joe Wilson shouts, "You lie!" at the president during his address to a joint session of Congress.
We seem not only to disagree with each other more than ever, but to have come almost to detest one another. Politically, culturally, racially, we seem ever ready to go for each others' throats.
One half of America sees abortion as the annual slaughter of a million unborn. The other half regards the right-to-life movement as tyrannical and sexist.
Proponents of gay marriage see its adversaries as homophobic bigots. Opponents see its champions as seeking to elevate unnatural and immoral relationships to the sacred state of traditional marriage.
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