Our political Quote of the Day comes from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on the furor over President Barack Obama’s upcoming speech to school kids, as conservatives around the country are calling districts and demanding that their kids not be forced to sit through what some of them are calling socialistic political indoctrination:

“I think we’ve reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can’t tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school. I think both political parties agree that the dropout rate is something that threatens our long-term economic success.”

[For background on this controversy and an extended roundup read our previous post HERE.] Meanwhile, the Politico notes that this controversy continues to grow:

School districts from Maryland to Texas are fielding angry complaints from parents opposed to President Barack Obama’s back-to-school address Tuesday – forcing districts to find ways to shield students from the speech as conservative opposition to Obama spills into the nation’s classrooms.

It also notes this:

Obama’s speech to students was first announced late last month but criticism grew this week, as conservative commentators including Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin said Obama was trying to improperly influence the students. Beck even urged parents to take their children out of school on Tuesday to protest Obama’s speech.

……Obama isn’t the first president to be criticized this way… President George H.W. Bush made televised address to students in October 1991 as campaign season was heating up. A handful of Democrats denounced Bush’s address as pure politics. Bush asked students to “take control” of their education and to write him a letter about ways students could help him achieve his goals, strikingly similar to Obama’s messages.

This whole incident is further evidence of the power of talk radio as a kind of town hall to influence and get the message out to conservatives, who do respond.

But there is a danger in this for the GOP as party — and it comes within a few days.

Obama’s speech to school kids would generally have been a ho-hum, who cares-so what kind of story — a kind of boiler plate, expendable, pro-forma story that might have gotten a few paragraphs in newspapers’ increasingly shrinking news holes, or a few seconds (a minute at most) on TV.

But now newspapers and broadcast networks will want to see the speech, which the White House has consistantly said will contain certain elements and not a political component. There will be great mainstream and new media interest in what he says and coverage of the speech will be multifold now.

So Obama gets two high profile speeches this week: a speech to kids (that would normally have not gotten much play or attention) and his speech to Congress on health care reform.

What Obama says to the kids about staying in school won’t matter to those who already detest him and consider him a usurper or extremist. (Do you want to take bets now on how Sean Hannity frames it?) But those who support him or who don’t agree with him or who might not even like him but don’t detest him and don’t consider him a Nazi or Socialist but someone who sees things differently, could look at that speech and conclude:

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf?

GO HERE to watch Joe Scarborough say this:

Seriously, why don’t we want the president of the United States, any president of the United States, delivering the message to kids: work hard, stay in school, succeed…And, again, there are certain people that are going to try to whip up ratings by comparing him to Chairman Mao. It’s asinine and it’s just making themselves look stupid. Go ahead, get your ratings if you want: you’re just screwing your political party.

It also shows a reporter from The Politico who is also dismayed over the firestorm.

UPDATE I: Here’s the embed so you can watch the Scarborough segment:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

UPDATE2: Here’s a TV news report on the controversy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rifng9cRqRE&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.google.com%2Fnwshp%3Fclient%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial%26hl%3Den%26tab%3Dwn&feature=player_embedded

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Kastanj

    If the people shouting agreement into one another’s mouths over at memeorandum had an honest, intellectual impulse in their minds they would have at least bothered to compare with Reagan’s undoubtably political and ideological speech for the same audience. But they won’t, reinforcing the suspicion that they only care about Obama’s party affiliation and that their complaints and misgivings about this administration are not worth listening to. There are tolerable and useful critics of Obama. Malkin et al. can not and most importantly don’t want to be in that category.

  • adelinesdad

    “Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf?”

    I think that’s a great summary of what’s going on here. There are plenty of things to be critical of the president about. This isn’t one of them. During the election, I considered myself a conservative-leaning moderate. But recently I’ve found myself having to defend the right more often, since i disagree with many of the policy positions of the Obama administration. I was beginning to wonder if I really should be a Republican after all. And then something like this happens and sets me straight again.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Can you think of a better walking advertisement for the importance of a good education than the half-black half-white president of the United States of America that holds a JD? This man if he were not president would still be a walking advertisement that a good education can overcome almost all barriers.
    I agree totally though. Many parents will be forced to sign permission slips. Many parents that are doing so will remember a lack of one for Bush I Bush II or Reagan and if they like or do not care much about him they will likely begin to tune out the other side. For every red meat conservative happy to pull their kid from the room a liberal and a moderate and possibly a non-political person will be pulled closer to the presidents side. We have had many “jump the shark” moments over the last 9 months but I think this one could be one of the most damaging to Repubs.

  • kritt11

    The far right has poisoned the well to the nth degree. They are no longer critiquing the president with any sense of reality. There also seems to be a total disregard of the long term consequences of their rants, and for a common sense approach.

    It is very sad to see how many ordinary Americans believe that socialism is right around the corner- even after such an apolitical speech.

    We actually received a message from our daughter’s school giving us a choice to opt out of this speech. What parent in their right mind wouldn’t want their child to work hard and stay in school?? How much more benign could the president’s message be??

  • DLS

    “It is very sad to see how many ordinary Americans believe that socialism is right around the corner- even after such an apolitical speech.”

    The sadness has arisen from the takeover of the banks, of two Detroit automakers, from environmentalism by Washington not only with motor vehicle regs but with the House climate bill and now with health care, increasingly among lib Dems since this year, combined with post-election continued staged-and-managed “campaign” appearances (and managed press conferences) by Obama and continued exploitation of his personality cult.

    And though that’s more than enough to set intelligent people long on edge already, there was the more generalist version of the lesson plans distributed in advance of Obama’s school speech (which itself reeks of grossly excessive and inappropriate federal presence among those who value propriety).

    The real sadness is how many ignorant or worse, approving people saw nothing wrong (typically not even paying attention to the original lesson plans, or questioning a speech to kids now, as the health care effort is deeply troubled, let alone by the federal government at any time as a propriety issue).