Did Empty News Cycle Cause Obama Speech Controversy?

By the end of Tuesday, President Barack Obama will have spoken to the nation’s schoolchildren, and hopefully the auto-generated mess it created will be history. It was quite something to behold, the President wanting to tout education to young people, and conservatives going bonkers. So how exactly did all this happen?

Well for one, Congress was in the last week of its summer recess. For whatever reason, the healthcare debate that roiled the nation most of the summer died down just a little. Low and behold, there’s wasn’t much for media to talk about. At least as far as media was concerned. Then came manna from heaven. The letter describing the president’s back to school speech contained a seemingly simple request. It asked teachers to have students write to themselves about how they might assist the President.

To some, this was red meat. In an otherwise dead news cycle, it was even better for conservative media.

Jim Greer, Florida’s Republican Party chair, condemned the President’s “use of taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.”

Jim Greer
Jim Greer

Then the piling on began. Some right wing radio and TV hosts urged parents to keep their kids home from school so they wouldn’t hear the speech. It’s as if they thought Barack Obama would be wearing a dashiki and talking to kids about reparations.

Is making the most of your time in school a socialist agenda? Is standing as a role model to show that yes, any American can be president indoctrinating schoolchildren? But hey, there wasn’t much else to talk about, and in some quarters, anything that hurts President Obama is a goof thing. Just ask the Glenn Becks, the Sean Hannitys, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world.  And for what?

Even if you argue that the letter Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent contained some vague, unclear language, there’s no excuse for using children as a political weapon.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Education Secretary Arne Duncan

But that’s just what happened. It will continue until Americans demand that more be done during periods when there’s little breaking news (BTW, have you seen what passes for breaking news on cable news channels lately?). It will also continue, sadly, until the President realizes just what and who he’s up against, and that compromise with many of his enemies (not opponents) isn’t possible. They’ll keep coming until Barack Obama makes them fear his wrath.

And now we all know they’re not above using children. We’ve asked time and time again whether there’s been some defining event that will make this President take the gloves off.

My question to you is, are we there yet?

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