E. J. Dionne: Republicans pounced without evidence

posted at 4:44 pm on September 8, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Now that the Barack Obama speech to the nation’s schoolchildren has come and gone, the post-mortems will now attempt to tell us the great meaning of the controversy.  Barely had the last electron shifted position after the speech, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne blogged that Republicans had jumped to conclusions without any evidence of wrongdoing.  He mostly focuses his ire on Jim Greer, chair of the Florida Republican Party, but clearly intends this as a wider scolding of Obama’s critics as a whole:

We have just gone through one of the most shameful episodes of the young Obama presidency — shameful because of the behavior of the right wing, shameful because the media played into an extremist agenda, shameful because we proved that our political system has become so dysfunctional that a president gets punished for doing the right thing.

Upon Barack Obama’s election, even my most conservative friends who supported John McCain said Obama could do a world of good for poor children in the country by stressing the importance of education, hard work, staying in school and taking responsibility. Yes, those are often thought of as conservative values.

But when Obama proposed to do just that on the first day of school, the far right — without asking any questions or seeking any information — decided to pounce, on the theory that everything Obama did should be attacked relentlessly as part of some secret and dangerous ideological agenda.

That’s simply not true, and it undermines the entirety of Dionne’s argument.  The basis for the eruption of criticism came from the study guide provided to school districts a week ago, which contained a curious instruction to teachers:

“Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the President.  These would get collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”

First, there’s a question of incompetence in this study guide.  Who produces a study guide for a document or lesson that has yet to be created? Had the White House included the speech with the study guide, a lot of the criticism could have been avoided right from the beginning.  It took six days for the White House to produce the speech after releasing the study guide and creating the firestorm of criticism.  Help the President do what, exactly?  Without the speech, who knew?

That set the stage for the speculation that ran wild, especially regarding how teachers would hold their children accountable for “help[ing] the President.”  In the US, students do not help individual politicians, nor do they pledge allegiance to them.  Had the study guide suggested ways to help the school, or the community, as Obama’s speech to them did, it would have been completely uncontroversial.  Instead, the White House left the definite impression that they wanted teachers enforcing service to Obama himself, which understandably gave parents the creeps — as it should everyone.

Far from pouncing without information or evidence and going off half-cocked, as Dionne accuses, it was the White House that went off half-cocked and created its own problems.  In the absence of the speech and the appearance of the study guide advisory to enforce service to Obama, it’s difficult to see how else parents would have reacted.  Parents should question whether schools are indoctrinating children with political messages rather than educating them, and when a proposed syllabus advises teachers to make a homework assignment of working for a particular politician, no one should be surprised at the controversy that will inevitably erupt.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

My job as a parent was to help my child learn to live in society, where he’s going to be around all types of people.

He gets along with all types today, and I think that’s because I believed, strongly, that respect for others includes respecting their right to opposing opinions.

Laura Bush expressed the same thoughts today, and I was very glad to see that. Just because you don’t agree with someone is not an excuse to teach your children to disrespect the president.

It was shameful.

AnninCA on September 8, 2009 at 7:54 PM

But all your righteous anger did what, exactly? What did you accomplish with all your complaints?

Any teacher who is inclined to brainwash their students into leftist ideology (a very small number) will do so regardless. The vast majority who are not inclined to brainwash wouldnt have regardless.

This accomplished nothing for the right, either politically or substantively. That’s why this was a failure for you.

orange on September 8, 2009 at 7:57 PM

Well done, B. Hussein! Reminding the real “Real America” what a bunch of bitter, narrow-minded asshats that make up the GOP was brilliant!

Mission Accomplished!

simplesimon on September 8, 2009 at 8:12 PM

This accomplished nothing for the right, either politically or substantively. That’s why this was a failure for you.

orange on September 8, 2009 at 7:57 PM

Actually it kept him from giving the speech he really wanted. Also, they had to change the lesson plan that went with it.

Reality bites

This is coming from someone–me– who would have been fine with him going for what he originally planned because it would have backfired. I suspect many parents did not think that would work or that the cost would be worth it.

CWforFreedom on September 8, 2009 at 8:15 PM

This accomplished nothing for the right, either politically or substantively. That’s why this was a failure for you.

This might come as a surprise to you, but some of us didn’t have an ulterior motive in disagreeing on this one. We just don’t agree with it. “Failure” doesn’t apply.

TouchingTophet on September 8, 2009 at 8:18 PM

what a bunch of bitter, narrow-minded asshats that make up the GOP was brilliant!

Mission Accomplished!

simplesimon on September 8, 2009 at 8:12 PM

This accomplished nothing for the right, either politically or substantively. That’s why this was a failure for you.

orange on September 8, 2009 at 7:57 PM

Oddly, coincidentally, the trolls are spewing the same line

will Wonders never cease?

Janos Hunyadi on September 8, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Grand daughter reports that since her school is Anglo, Asian
Techie high income this was not new news to the kids.The vast majority are AP+ and are already planning college they know what interests them. In a nut shell she figured it was aimed at title 1 schools and tuned out.
She did note that the office is to be respected not necessarily the holder.

Col.John Wm. Reed on September 8, 2009 at 9:14 PM

TouchingTophet on September 8, 2009 at 8:18 PM

Touche, touching! Failure is only seen by those who watch battles. The rest of us know the war is never won.

Who cares if parents withheld their kids from school, or said they didn’t want their kids listening to diatribes? Most people I know raise their children to be tolerant of any and everyone. Most people I know recognize they, and their children, must live amongst all types.

That’s what makes America as great as it is – or was, once we become automatons with every need met by the Great. Bottom line is, we disagree and will agree on VERY little. So what? And why do people care?

Yellowdog12 on September 8, 2009 at 9:23 PM

Just because you don’t agree with someone is not an excuse to teach your children to disrespect the president.

It was shameful.

AnninCA on September 8, 2009 at 7:54 PM

I don’t have to teach my grandchildren–they see it in his speeches and his actions. I must say that the opportunity to laugh at Obama together is priceless.

lovingmyUSA on September 8, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Janos Hunyadi on September 8, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Good observation–hmmmm?

The moonbats are going nuts over at the Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne thread! They have been reduced to calling “racist” and telling mommy that we are mean to Obama!

lovingmyUSA on September 8, 2009 at 9:35 PM

I truly luv to listen to Rush…

Fer instances; today he was agreeing with everything President Obama spoke of, in his message to school children… but called him a contemptible, and disreputable liar for speaking the words.

Rush the professional “truth teller”…?

I have not professionally dealt in truth. Many when they come to die have spent all the truth that was in them, and enter the next world as paupers. I have saved up enough to make astonishment there. – Mark Twain’s Notebook

Geezer on September 8, 2009 at 9:37 PM

I have grown numb to my congressional leadership calling me a member of a Nazi mob. To my president turning my concerns into 20 foot tall strawmen. And to the condemnation of writers like EJ Dionne.

I just don’t care and their tactics are no longer effective.

myrenovations on September 8, 2009 at 5:02 PM

Ditto.

GrannyDee on September 8, 2009 at 10:44 PM

Well Ed, someone FINALLY got it right. Why didn’t we make the call to see the speech BEFORE he turned into the good guy? I personally did so the moment it was announced. Sometimes I really despair of the intelligence/foresight of the movement leadership.

voxpopuli on September 8, 2009 at 11:23 PM

It took six days for the White House to produce the speech after releasing the study guide and creating the firestorm of criticism. Help the President do what, exactly? Without the speech, who knew?

Are you kidding me? You’re off the deep end, Ed.

Tom_Shipley on September 9, 2009 at 1:15 AM

PROUD DADDY!

My oldest girl – 8th grade – saw this in class yesterday. The speech made no impression, but the teacher did. Here is what transpired(I’ll use pseudonyms to protect both the inocent and the guilty.)

The science teacher, Miss Hissy (can’t help myself), spent the beginning of the period telling the class what a great day it was because they would be addressed by the president. Then, Miss Hissy told the class that, when Obama is shown walking up to the podium, the class had to stand up and put their hands over their hearts to show respect.

Then the show began. Miss Hissy says, “Everyone, stand up and hands over hearts.” Less than half of the class complied.

Miss Hissy said, more urgently now, “Stand up!” A couple more kids stood up, but almost a dozen remained in their seats.

My daughter says that one of the girls raised her hand and said something like, “Miss Hissy, I don’t think I should stand up for something I don’t believe.”

Miss Hissy got angry and said, “you must stand up and put your hands over your hearts to show proper respect to the president.” No one else stood up.

My daughter said that Miss Hissy was now visibly angry and ordered them all to stand up. But still, none of the remaining children would stand. The president began his speech and the other kids began to sit down, ending the confrontation.

After it was over, Miss Hissy had regained her composure and told the students to write down three things that were good about the presidents speech and that these papers would count 20 points towards their social science grade. Miss Hissy began to walk around the room to observe their work.

My daugther was at a loss. She was still stunned by the earlier confrontation with the teacher and she didn’t like anything the president had said.

She turned to her partner in the class and asked, “what are you going to write?” Her partner said, “I don’t know. I didn’t like it.”

Unbeknownst to either of them, Miss Hissy had walked up behind them.

My daughter said, “I didn’t like it either.”

Her partner, “I guess I’ll just say, ‘stay in school, work hard and stuff.”

My daughter, “Me, too. But instead of writing, I’ll just make three bullets.”

Behind them, Miss Hissy barked, “Fine. Do bullets. Just get it done!” The two girls almost jumped out of their chairs and the entire class stopped to look.

Miss Hissy then went up and replayed the speech for the rest of the period.

Michelle was right – it was never the speech, it was the opportuntiy for the teachers to go all Animal Farm with it.

But not in my daughter’s class.

TRUTH to POWER – that’s my girl!

Cricket624 on September 9, 2009 at 8:13 AM

Dionne: “…that our political system has become so dysfunctional that a president gets punished for doing the right thing.”

Like liberating Iraq, hammering Al Qaeda, pushing Health Savings Accounts, school choice, tax cuts and faith based initiatives and trying to fix Social Security?

Where was Dionne when W needed him? Bloody hypocrite.

el gordo on September 9, 2009 at 9:25 AM

I watched it and it came closer to indoctrination than inspiration vice education.

MSGTAS on September 9, 2009 at 10:30 AM

Cricket624 on September 9, 2009 at 8:13 AM

Great story. Ya “done good” raising that daughter of yours.

UltimateBob on September 9, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Advance apology to all you hard working folks but if mandatory BarryCare passes I’ll be making appointments, on an individual basis, for every mole, every sneeze, every spicy burrito, and every time I’m exposed to the sun for longer than three minutes.

Limerick on September 8, 2009 at 5:37 PM

Limerick’s version of Cloward-Piven. ;-)

I like it.

UltimateBob on September 9, 2009 at 10:50 AM

The tell was in the teacher lesson plan to supplement the presentation: “Write a letter to yourself explaining how you can help President Obama.” Surely there would have been meat in the presentation to stimulate the kiddies to write their affirmations of help. Try this: Obama orders all military personnel to write their commanding officers about how they can help President Obama. Would anybody on the left raise an eyebrow at that?

kens on September 9, 2009 at 11:37 AM

We’ve already had 40 years of liberal indoctrination in our public skools. Today’s high school grad is more academically ignorant than when America’s education system was little more than 1 room school houses (locally funded and controlled). But they sure do have plenty of self esteem.

Bevan on September 9, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Cricket624:

If your daughter had said: “It’s silly to stand up in front of a TV set,” she’d have a good point.

But insisting that she wouldn’t stand up for “something she didn’t believe in” simply made her seem small, petty, and unpatriotic.

skylark on September 16, 2009 at 8:19 PM

Comment pages: 1 2