One of the topics we were to discuss was the uproar over President Obama's upcoming speech to school children. Over at MediaIte, Rachel has a post up on this topic and -- since Bloggingheads is cancelled -- I thought I would use this space to respond to her.
First, Rachel calls the uproar a "ridiculous controversy" and postulates that parents may have "secret latent sublimated racism" to blame for their concern.
Injecting race here strikes me as both tired and bogus. If you don't like the coarse political rhetoric of the day, that's fine. But George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both endured equally rough treatment (was racism involved when they called him BusHitler?). Heck, this has been going on forever; Jefferson called Hamilton a "Caesar" -- which was probably close to their version of the modern-day ubiquitous Hitler comparisons.
... But more specific to our discussion today, the racism meme ignores the fact that Democrats also attacked George H.W. Bush for giving a similar speech to school kids (perhaps latent anti-wimp bias was to blame?)...
Otherwise, Rachel's premise seems to be that the president wanting to speak to children is, after all, no big deal. I would actually agree with her on that point, if there were not two additional factors putting this debate in proper context ...
1). A few days ago, about 800 children in Farmington, Utah were subjected to watching a slickly-produced pro-Obama video. The video included shots of various celebrities making pledges. In one case, the pledge was to "be of service to Barack Obama." The video also includes lines about pledging to support stem cell research and pledging to drive a hybrid. Many conservative parents viewed this as propaganda and an attempt to indoctrinate their children. And I have no doubt the video (which is easy to embed into blogs) is partly responsible for the current backlash.
As Carol noted the other day, "can you imagine a video being played in any school featuring Americans pledging to:
-- support George W. Bush
-- do what it takes to protect our national security
-- preserve our time-honored moral values
-- fight to keep taxes low, so people can use their hard-earned money to support their families, not a bloated and wasteful government
-- help to preserve the free enterprise system that has made this country great?"
2). As Rachel notes, Obama's speech was not the only thing planned. Other "educational opportunities" would accompany the speech. For example, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent letters to principals across the nation, encouraging them to have school children "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." Unlike Rachel, I do find that a bit unsettling. Why wasn't the prompt what they can do to help America??? ... Oh yeah, it's all about him.
To be sure, Obama defenders will argue that President Obama merely wanted to give a nice inspirational speech to the school children of America, and how dare anyone suggest otherwise.
But I think when you put it in context, it becomes clear that the Obama Administration is responsible for this controversy. As usual, they overreached. What is more, they are so out of touch with mainstream America that they are actually surprised by the predictable outrage ...