It’s come to this

IT’S COME TO THIS…. In 1988, then-President Reagan spoke to students nationwide via C-SPAN telecast. Among other things, he talked about his positions on political issues of the day. Three years later, then-President Bush addressed school kids in a speech broadcast live to school classrooms nationwide. Among other things, he promoted his own administration’s education policies.

President Obama wants to deliver a message to students next week emphasizing hard work, encouraging young people to do their best in school. The temper tantrum the right is throwing in response only helps reinforce how far gone 21st-century conservatives really are.

This is no small, isolated fit, thrown by random nutjobs. The New York Times, Washington Post,LA Times, AP, and others all ran stories this morning about the coordinated national effort to either keep children at home so they can’t hear their president’s pro-education message, or demanding that local schools block the message altogether.

A Republican state lawmaker in Oklahoma said, “As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality. This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” Fox News personalities have adopted the same line, calling a stay-in-school message from the president “cultist” and reminiscent of “North Korea and the former Soviet Union.”

I can appreciate there’s a question of whether the Department of Education erred in the wording of one sentence in the supplementary materials. It’s reasonable to think officials should have been more cautious.

But that’s not what this is about. The administration not only edited the supplementary materials, but has 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.

Michelle Cottle had a good item on this, calling conservatives’ behavior “disgraceful.”

…Obama is the leader of this entire nation. It doesn’t matter if you voted for him — or even if your head threatens to explode every time you think about him. He is the president, and, as such, it’s a big deal that he’s speaking directly to students about the importance of education. (Not teachers unions, you hysterics.) And, whatever one’s party registration, the idea that any child should be kept home from class purely so their parents can make a political statement about an apolitical speech is appalling. Is the idea that we should shelter children from any contact with or knowledge of any president we personally dislike? Maybe, during the years our preferred party is out of power, we should just pretend that the president doesn’t exist. That’s a healthy way to run a democracy.

Admittedly, Obama is smooth. But he ain’t smooth enough to wipe away an entire childhood of conservative teachings with one quickie speech about (all together now!) working hard in school. Buck up, all you deep-red wingers: Make the kids watch Glenn Beck afterward if it eases your anxiety. Have them genuflect before a poster of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. But don’t be so paranoid about what might happen if they’re briefly exposed to the sinister charms of a liberal president that you drag them down into your foxhole of craziness.

Even Joe Scarborough asked, “Where are all the GOP leaders speaking out against this kind of hysteria?” They are, alas, nowhere to be found. As John Cole explained, “The entire party has been taken over by crazy people.”