PRE-EMPTIVE RESPONSE ON EDUCATION…. The more the president’s detractors push the White House to scale back its agenda, the more Obama pushes back. Here’s the president today on education policy:

“I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.

“America will not remain true to its highest ideals – and America’s place as a global economic leader will be put at risk – unless we not only bring down the crushing cost of health care and transform the way we use energy, but also do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.

“For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America. … So let there be no doubt: the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens.”

This probably won’t stop folks like David Brooks from complaining — the columnist today described improving education as “plotting extensive renovations when the house is on fire” — but it should. Improving the economy and laying the groundwork for long-term growth should be treated as parallel, complementary goals, not opposing forces.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.