11/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Learn Me Some Good Schooling

In 1986, Ronald Reagan addressed our nation’s schools with a speech that focused heavily on his administration’s political accomplishments.  He talked about inheriting a bad economy and declining defense budget, and then declared “And I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made a good deal of progress.”

In 1991, George H.W. Bush broadcast nationwide a speech delivered to a junior high school in the nation’s capital.  In his delivery Bush promoted is own education policies.  He even specifically asked students to consider “ways you can help us achieve our goals.” 

George W. Bush often used the setting of elementary schools to give speeches to promote his “No Child Left Behind” program.  He also called for kinds to take specific actions, a plea that has conservative knickers twisted in a knot when coming from Obama.  Specifically, GW called on every American child to donate one dollar to kids in need in Afghanistan.

The horror!  The outrage!  An abomination!  Blatant politics! The president brainwashing our vulnerable helpless kids!  Indoctrination!  Brainwashing!  Hitler Youth!  A Communist plot!

No, these are not the response from the right to those political speeches by Bush, Bush and Reagan to our school children.  No, these are the plaintive cries and crazy utterances from the right about Obama’s speech to American kids.  Obama’s crime that elicited this furor is his interest in encouraging students to stay in school.

A pundit on Fox News claimed breathlessly that “the left has always used kids in public schools as guinea pigs and as junior lobbyists for their social liberal agenda.”  Really?  I wonder what Fox would say about the right wing agenda to indoctrinate our kids with its conservative agenda.  Ronald Reagan had no qualms about inserting the federal government into our educational system.  He proposed amending the U.S. Constitution to permit public school prayer, sought to impose “values” education and recommended federal tuition tax credits for parents who opted for private schooling.  “What is good for the goose is good for the gander” is something that the GOP never learned in school.  Probably because of a liberal social plot.  

So odd that none of the right wing’s jingoistic words or fears of indoctrination were ever applied to either of the two Bushes or Reagan.  Bush, Bush and Reagan can address our nation’s youth, but Obama cannot.  No, the voice of the right roared in silence when Republican presidents spoke to our school children in a blatant attempt to promote their political agendas.  This muted reaction stands in stark gross contrast to the hysteria we witness today, yet again exposing a deep, dysfunctional conservative hypocrisy.

Where was this panicked concern for political rhetoric when Bush and Reagan spoke nationally to our schools?  When Bush was proselytizing, we heard nothing from George Will, who now feels compelled to speak up in feigned horror because President Obama will speak to our school children:  “…it is not the federal government’s job to raise our children.”  Why not voice that objection when Reagan gave his speech?  The answer is sadly obvious.

To quote the right’s revered cowboy, “there you go again.”  Conservatives are once more ignoring their own values, principles and previous declarations.  They lambaste Obama for actions they themselves took just a few short years ago and for actions they wholeheartedly supported when the president was a Republican.  These folks have spun themselves into a frenzy because the president wants to talk to the youth of America, just as his predecessors did.

Calmer voices have called the assault on Obama’s speech “silly.”  That is terribly wrong:  the attacks are not silly, they are dangerous.  The attacks further split the party of opposition from a position of reason.  The GOP continues its spiral of death by manufacturing pseudo-furors about issues that do not resonate with mainstream America, and help solve none of our pressing problems. 

Conservative objections to Obama’s talk are obviously not heartfelt given their support for similar speeches by previous Republican leaders.  The average voter can easily sense the artificial outrage.  The attack is yet another example of the worst kind of political cynicism.  Given past talks by the Bushes and Reagan, the hypocrisy of attacking Obama for doing the same is so blatant that only the shameless, or politically dead, could perpetrate the story. The GOP just keeps focusing on distractions instead of substance, and in doing so continues to bury itself.  Do Americans really care that Nancy Pelosi changed the music people hear when placed on hold when calling Capitol Hill?  Outrage!  Communism!  Are average Americans up in arms because Obama wants kids to stay in school?  Mind freak!  Health care reform?  Socialism!  The refrain is old, tired and ineffective.

For those parents who pull their children out of school to protect them from a speech from the leader of our country, ask yourself if you would do the same if Bush or Reagan were in the White House.  If you answer no, you are the one guilty of making this political.  And you should be ashamed of yourself. If a Democrat did the same to a Republican president, you would be calling him un-American.

The GOP needs to go to its room, and should only come out to play after thinking about how better to play with others.  We need to let the adults have some time to run the country without the distraction of screaming brats throwing tantrums.  We have too much at risk to allow juvenile delinquents to sit at the grown up table until they can learn to behave.

The world holds for us plenty of reason for righteous outrage.  Having a president of this country talk to school kids does not quality.  The GOP needs a time out.