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Now that the provocative proto-socialist text
of Barack Obama's speech to kids in school tomorrow has been released, we can sum up this little set piece in 21st century American politics in five geographical bullet points.
The right's reaction to word that Obama would give the speech was beyond loony. Sure, it's reasonable to caution that it shouldn't be an ideological or partisan speech, and the initial draft of the Department of Education's teaching plan was improvident. But to assert
, as one state's GOP chair did, that the speech will "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda," takes the conversation to somewhere between unhinged and demented.
Reasonable though it is on its face for a president to send a "work hard and stay in school" message to schoolchildren, it's astounding that Obama's politically savvy administration so deeply miscalculated here. At a time when Obama is getting set to try to retake the debate on health care reform through another high-stakes speech -- Wednesday's address to Congress -- how on earth is a Labor Day weekend news cycle dominated by the school kerfuffle helpful? And, more to the point, how was said kerfuffle not thoroughly and completely predictable?
Metro Schools got it wrong
when they decided Friday that administrators at each individual school would decide whether to show the speech. What a gutless move by MNPS central. The speech either deserves to be heard by kids or it doesn't. Take a goddamn stand.
Now that the predictably innocuous and uncontroversial text of the speech is out, some on the right are suggesting that it was only the objectionable study guide that precipitated the maniacal level of outrage. One prominent conservative blogger wrote
today that "had the White House skipped the study guide and simply released the speech from the beginning, it seems unlikely that this would have created much controversy at all." Please.
 The Land of Denial.
Once again the news media swims in a river of denial, failing to grasp that the choices editors and producers make about news coverage influence events in ways for which they later cannot eschew responsibility. We see it repeatedly: the press incessantly amplifies imbecilic, extremist views from the margins, and then fashions itself as objectively reporting on a supposedly spontaneous and widespread firestorm of objection. Here's a question: how many Republicans in Congress are on the record with public objections to a presidential speech to schoolchildren? Has any newspaper or cable network tried to figure that out? I suspect it's not very many. Teabaggers and other activists are free to speak with as much volume and vitriol as they like, but a responsible press would place extremist discourse in context. Instead, failing to examine it critically, they echo it blindly and then report a manufactured and exaggerated controversy as though it were legitimate journalism.