Obama's planned address to schoolchildren next week on "the importance of persisting and succeeding in school" has been the subject of much paranoid fear-mongering from the far Right. WingNutDaily (no, I'm not linking to them) quotes one Freeper referring to Obama's "Hitler youth brigade," and another drawing parallels to "[t]otalitarian regimes around the world [that] have sought to spread their propaganda and entrench their power by brainwashing the children."
Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars understands why Obama's "encouraging kids to stay in school and study hard could be threatening to the Right, because:"
"if children actually pay attention, learn to read and write and apply critical thinking skills, they're actually a lot less likely to read fine publications like World Nut Daily - except when they're mining them for comedy gold like this."
Washington Monthly's Steve Benen observes that the victims of Obama Derangement Syndrome "are on hair-trigger alert to turn any opportunity into a hysterical temper tantrum." Obama's encouragement for students to "work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning" inspired Jim Greer, Republican Party chair in Florida, to issue a statement claiming that Obama is trying to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda," and that he "has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies."
It didn't get any better when the paranoia began spreading through the mainstream conservative media. MediaMatters has the details: Michelle Malkin wrote about "children being used as Political Guinea Pigs for Change," Hannity said that the not-yet-delivered speech "seems very close to indoctrination," Monica Crowley stated "this is what Chairman Mao did," Mark Steyn claimed "it's all part of the cult of personality," and Glenn Beck compared Obama to Mussolini. Jamison Foser wrote at AlterNet about a few other examples, including the wingnuts who--get this-- "are telling children to skip school as a protest against Obama's encouragement of students to stay in school."
And they wonder why the rest of us have stopped taking them seriously?
In a later post, Steve Benen commented that the administration has even "offered to make the text of the address available in advance, just so everyone can see how innocuous it is. It's made no difference:"
Conservatives don't want school kids to hear a message from their president. Those who claim superiority on American patriotism have decided to throw yet another tantrum over the idea that the president of the United States might encourage young people to do well in schools.
This is what American politics has come to in 2009.
In addition to giving conservatives' claim a "Pants on Fire" rating, PolitiFact noted that George HW Bush gave a similar speech in 1991. Newt Gingrich asked at the time "Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?" (Reagan also did so in 1986 and 1988.) The Rude Pundit also dipped into the archives of Bush the Elder, noting a 1989 speech--also broadcast into the nation's schools--wherein "Bush sought to scare the living fuck out of kids about drugs:"
The backdrop of the speech was that Bush was trying to get Congress to pass a tough and useless anti-drug program that included lots more prisons, prosecutors and other things that don't really work. Democrats wanted to add more drug treatment and prevention measures to the bill. Bush had already spoken to the nation on September 5 about drugs, even getting the DEA to set up a crack sting near the White House just for a visual and a story in that address.
So, in other words, in 1989, President Bush spoke to students with the blatantly political goal of getting his harsh new drug laws passed in order to demonstrate, again, how tough he was. And the outrage from the left? Well, some of the kids thought the whole thing was worthless and/or bullshit. Some liked it. Otherwise, not a damn peep from anyone...
My, how times have changed.