Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tempest in a Teacup: Plus, Robertson and Conway Agree, Everybody Else was the Problem.

President Barack Obama delivered his much debated, nationally televised/webcast speech this afternoon and one wonders in retrospect what all the fuss was about.

Hat tip to the Detroit Free Press:

Among Obama's most vocal critics was Florida Republican Party Chair Jim Greer who claimed to be appalled that taxpayer dollars were being used "to spread President Obama's socialist ideology." And he's from Florida ! where American taxpayers have spent tons of money on bailouts of Florida's decimated real estate market and on Florida banks. A large percentage of Florida's population depends on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - yet Greer denounces socialism? Any chance the rest of us can get that money back?

But it turns out Greer was only scoring political points and he wasn't so principled after all.

The Reaction
This from The Guardian:

Schools across the US went ahead with a boycott of a broadcast by President Barack Obama today in spite of many rightwing critics rowing back at the last minute from a campaign accusing him of socialist indoctrination...

Having seen the advance copy, some of the most vocal critics such as Jim Greer, the Republican party chairman in Florida, who had accused Obama of trying to spread "socialist ideology", backed off. Greer said: "It's a good speech. It encourages kids to stay in school and the importance of education."

The call for the boycott was started by rightwing television and radio commentators.

There was a slight embarrassment on the part of mainstream Republicans, who initially joined in but were today distancing themselves. Among Republicans supportive of Obama's right to make the speech were Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker, who told NBC that there were other presidents had established such a precedent. "President Reagan did it, President [George] HW Bush did it … It's a good speech, I recommend it to everybody if you have any doubts."

This from the Wall Street Journal:

Obama Address: A Tempest in a Teacup

This from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Obama Spoke. Nobody Died.

...I talked to many media colleagues about the rancor toward the Obama school address and none of us could remember anything similar when we covered members of Congress or senators speaking to school groups. National political candidates have even spoken to local high schools with none of these accusations of indoctrination or political posturing. Indeed, some rock groups have gone into schools without objection....
Meanwhile on WLAP,

Leland talks with the Chairman of the KY GOP, Steve Robertson & former Lexington Public School Principal Richard Day about Obama's Speech to school kids.
I essentially said,

By turning an innocuous little message encouraging students to do well in school - something we can all agree on - into a communist plot, the Republican’s have effectively scored political points – at the same time President Obama does something we should all admire.
I must assume political points is all you were after…because it’s hard for me to imagine you were really concerned that some mass hypnosis was about to overtake our school children.
I mean, it makes for good radio chat fodder…but...If your kid can’t listen to a 20-minute message from the president of the United States about working hard in school – without being galvanized into unbridled communism – then you’re just not doing your job as a parent.
I argued that the use of the word creepy - lowered the political discourse and was pleased to hear him segue to the word "odd."
In American democracy If we don’t show some level of personal respect for each other then we can’t debate the issues. It becomes more about personalities and less about objective facts.
In his conversation with Conway, Robertson said,

"I don't have a problem with an American president addressing students about the importance of staying in school and working hard" but I do have a problem with the Department of Education...preparing a curriculum with an Obama focus. ... focus "was to raise awareness of Obama as an individual" ...

Conway: "One blog in particular accused both you and I of taking this term creepy, and they were saying that denoted pedophilia ... That thought, personally, never crossed my mind. Creepy, to me is a statement that is universally used when you have a vague sense of distrust"...

"That's why I used the word. I don't know exactly why you did because it's just by chance that we both used the same word."

Robertson: "Well it certainly is, and I guess that shows great minds think alike. I read that blog as well, and you know, a haunted house is also creepy. And you know, I found it odd that the Herald-Leader through their editorial board... seemed to take their entire premise for that editorial piece out of that blog that you mentioned." But you know it's really discouraging, when you try and involve parents in the education of their children, and you try and have a public dialogue, that institutions like the Herald-Leader and their liberal editorial board have to run to racism; have to run to assertions of pedophilia, which I find creepy... and that anyone that disagrees politically is assassinated publicly

Conway: The message I'd like to send out to people is don't back down because if you back down, this kind of crap wins....

So let's get this straight. Robertson's original statement in the Herald-Leader went like this:
[The] Chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Obama's desire to speak directly to America's schoolchildren is "very concerning and kind of creepy." Robertson said the speech was an effort on behalf of the president "to circumvent parents" and "gain direct access to our children."
And now he would have us believe what he really meant was creepy....like a haunted house?! ...because he was only trying to get parents involved in their children's schools?!
Readers can judge that for themselves, but my BS meter went off.
Of course, there is still the problem of the Herald-Leader lying to us all the time. How can we trust the news reporting of a paper with such a biased editorial board? This became an issue recently when I picked up H-L's reporting of Conway's on-air comments and wrote, "Conway advised parents to keep their children at home." Amy Wilson originally reported,
Originally, Conway said, he advised concerned listeners to either take their children out of school and read the Constitution to them instead or attend school with them that day and watch what teachers did "because it's important for parents to know what goes on in the schools."
Conway denied saying it and asked KSN&C to correct it's reporting, so we posted everyone's comments for the reader's to judge. But on Labor Day Monday, Conway was not on the air live. Rather, WLAP replayed his original broadcast from their "best of" series and I got to hear his comments for myself.
Conway very clearly said he would "applaud any parent" who kept their children home. Go to the tape. It's there.
Turns out the Herald-Leader news reporting was accurate.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes that speech is the same one he would have delivered had there not been an outcry needs to lay off the cool aid Richard and the HL has been serving ;-)

Good on you Robertson and Conway...you and lots of other concerned citizens changed the speech and the follow-up "learning activities".

Anonymous said...

Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" which Obama uses told his followers to use the language of your enemies to get their defenses down. That speech about taking personal responsibility is 180 degrees opposite what Obama's agenda is. His policies want government to get bigger and to take care of people in all ways. He wants to become the nanny of those students he spoke to yesterday. Saul Alinsky would be pleased with the speech.

JT said...

I'm pretty sure they have developed effective medications for that severity of paranoia.

TN said...

I believe any encouragement for our nation's children to pursue and attain a meaningful education is a good thing - whether this be from parents, teachers, principals or even the President.

People may disagree on Obama's political agenda, but I feel the heart of his speech is universal and the message is an important truth in today's society. Our children need to understand that a college degree isn't just a piece of paper - it's a lifetime achievement that someday they can have and be proud of.

Anonymous said...

My high school age daughter was allowed to watch a portion of the President's speech. Apparently, her teacher is a rather vocal Republican. That, in itself, is not a problem for me. (just so happens that I am D, while my spouse is R) What I find troublesome is the fact that her teacher allowed inappropriate commentary from students during the speech, then determined it wasn't 'worth' watching. Her teacher even made comments about the President's 'sad' use of analogies. Very disappointing...even to my spouse.