11/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Stupid Made-for-TV Controversy

Cable news and the blogosphere heated up with a new controversy in the lead-up to a noon-time address that President Obama gave as a back-to-school message for students across the country. Jim Greer, Republican Party chairman of Florida, had this to say: "President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves." A state legislator from Oklahoma said, "This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

Let me be clear. I do not believe these statements are at all representative of the vast majority of Republicans or even conservative Republicans in our country today. The fact that what a state legislator from Oklahoma thinks makes national news shows just how far the media is stretching to find political leaders who will make such outrageous statements. News cycles thrive on controversy and the extreme, so those elements of our country are continuing to get more and more airtime.

This morning, conservative cable news host Joe Scarborough was fed up. "Republicans have so many things to talk about right now ... instead of talking about issues and ideas, we are talking about death panels and indoctrination ... come on ... grow up!" He made a call for leaders within his party to squash this type of talk as the unproductive and alienating rhetoric it is. Joe described those who attacked the president for the idea of giving a speech telling school children to work hard and take responsibility for their education as "stupid." This whole controversy is made for TV and just plain stupid.

As for the "liberal lies" and the "indoctrination" of America's youth? Read the speech and judge for yourself.

Jim Wallis is the author of The Great Awakening, Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners and blogs at

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