UPDATE: Here’s the prepared text of the speech the president will deliver.
Tim Rutten has an excellent OpEd in the LATimes today regarding the hysteria over the president’s planned Back to School address; Calls to boycott Obama’s speech to kids offer a disturbing lesson in paranoia.
While it long ago crossed the borders of reason and civility, the hysteria over healthcare reform is — at some level — understandable, because wellness and infirmity are really just stand-ins for those most terrifying of issues, life and death.
But there is no similar way to rationalize the bizarre controversy now raging over President Obama’s plan to deliver a brief televised address on Tuesday to the nation’s grammar school children.
According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Obama will “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”
Sounds innocuous. Who, after all, could be against good study habits, personal responsibility and productive lives? As it turns out, quite a number of people who seem to believe that Obama intends to induct their children into — well, it’s not quite clear what they’re afraid of. The Web and talk radio are abuzz with various attempts to organize a boycott of Tuesday’s speech. One group is urging parents to demand that their children be excused from watching the president and be sent instead to the school library to read the Founding Fathers. (The theory, one supposes, is that a good dose of the Federalist Papers will inoculate the young against Obama’s attempts to subvert the republic through good grades.)
Unfortunately, several school boards in Orange County have decided to either censor the President’s address or not allow the students to view it in its entirety.
The Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) sent out a press release stating that they “will not be showing the President’s address.”
Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard appreciates the attention the President of the United States is giving our schoolchildren and the attention that he is giving to the most important policy matter of our day. At the same time, the Superintendent has always been a strong advocate for protecting the rights of conscience of both children and parents, and believes that the Districtâ€™s approach in this matter is appropriately sensitive to the wide variety of political sensitivities and viewpoints in this diverse District.
School boards should not be in the business of censoring the President of the United States. Students in Orange County deserve the opportunity to hear from their President.
Rutten continues in his piece:
Republican officials such as the Florida state chairman are playing a dangerous game with an unhinged segment of public opinion that regards Obama not as an elected official with whom they disagree, but as an illegitimate usurper of the presidency.
That paranoid fantasy is what’s really behind the “birther” movement and the allegations that the president is — take your pick — a secret Marxist or a secret Muslim.
These are the people who are stockpiling ammunition and keeping their children at home next Tuesday.
When former Presidents Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush made similar speeches while in office, and there was no problem for these wingnuts in letting the children hear what the President had to say, unsensored.
Apparently this is just one more example of I.O.K.W.A.R.D.I. (It’s OK When A Republican Does It.)