That was then, this is now – how Democrats treated GHWB’s speech to schoolkids

Posted by: ST on September 8, 2009 at 10:22 am

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last week or so, you’ve seen and maybe even commented about the controversy surrounding President Obama’s speech to schoolchildren, which he has either already given this morning at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA or will give sometime today (I don’t know the exact schedule of events).

I don’t really have an issue with him giving a speech to schoolkids – provided there is no line in it about how the kids can “help the President” with his agenda (thankfully, there isn’t), and provided it’s pretty innocuous (it is). In fact, it appears as though there is a tradition of sorts surrounding Presidents giving “pep talk”-type speeches to public school students at least once during their respective administrations, and usually in the fall.

What’s interesting to me about all this is the hypocrisy angle. Byron York has a detailed look at how the left treated George H.W. Bush’s speech to school kids in October 1991. They didn’t kick up much of a fuss before the speech, but they sure as heck did after it – even launching a GAO investigation as to whether or not it was appropriate:

Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.

Unlike the Obama speech, in 1991 most of the controversy came after, not before, the president’s school appearance. The day after Bush spoke, the Washington Post published a front-page story suggesting the speech was carefully staged for the president’s political benefit. “The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props,” the Post reported.

With the Post article in hand, Democrats pounced. “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.'”


Lost in all the denouncing and investigating was the fact that Bush’s speech itself, like Obama’s today, was entirely unremarkable. “Block out the kids who think it’s not cool to be smart,” the president told students. “If someone goofs off today, are they cool? Are they still cool years from now, when they’re stuck in a dead end job. Don’t let peer pressure stand between you and your dreams.

Not only that, but lost in all of this is how conservatives are being treated as “nuts” by the MSM for being concerned about what the context of Obama’s speech was going to be (the speech transcript was finally released over the weekend), whereas the MSM obviously played an active role in perpetuating the liberal myth that GHWB’s speech was nothing more than “political propaganda.”

Mainstream media hypocrisy? Check. Congressional Democrat hypocrisy? Another check.

Same crap, different day.

GayPatriot asks a good question here in wondering whether or not the speech would have been overtly political in nature had conservatives not made such a fuss about it. My guess is that it probably would not have been, and I say that as someone who takes second place to no one in calling out this administration’s shameless political opportunism time and time again.

Let’s save our energy for the bigger battles we will continue to wage against this administration on a number of issues including the war on terror, cap and trade, the free market, ObamaCare, union favoritism, the rights of the unborn, etc. Compared to those things, his speech to school kids is small potatoes, IMO.

RSS feed for comments on this post.


14 Responses to “That was then, this is now – how Democrats treated GHWB’s speech to schoolkids”


  1. Severian says:

    Well, if Obamacles can claim credit for jobs that would have been lost but for MEEE! I don’t see why we can’t claim credit for forcing his speech to be less controversial and overtly leftist than it would have been. Goose/gander, that kind of thing.

  2. bertie says:

    A fundamental difference between “Us” and “Them” (and that’s not always D’s and R’s). Conservatives were more concerned about exactly what the president planned to say, based on the released lesson plan there was reason for concern.

    In 1991, “they” did not really care what the president said or what the kids heard. Their only interest was in not missing an opportunity to attack.

  3. Brontefan says:

    Same crap, different day.

    Yes, and I agree with Bertie; the issues do not necessarily run along party lines. I know some Dems who are not thrilled with their “fearless leader.” And neither Bush nor Reagan were anti-American. Neither of them flew around the globe apologizing for the USA!:(
    I don’t have any children in school anymore, but the truth is I became an educator when the public school agenda no longer promoted my values.

  4. Kate says:

    I hear ya Sister…there truly are bigger fish to fry which begs the question…was all this some kind of diversion? Just the way in which the president’s speech was “announced” and the department of education had little hand outs all ready to do…so nice and neat. Either they are so naive that they didn’t consider the content of those handouts a little bit political or in some dark way they wanted to do a preliminary check to see how people felt before they do something really drastic in the way of educating our children. Just makes you wonder….

  5. forest hunter says:

    As always, excellent point Severian! =d>

  6. Great White Rat says:

    Let’s save our energy for the bigger battles we will continue to wage against this administration on a number of issues…Compared to those things, his speech to school kids is small potatoes, IMO.

    I have to disagree respectfully with ST on this point. She’s right about all the issues where we must fight, but we must be just as vigilant about preventing the left from indoctrinating the young. It’s bad enough that leftist propaganda is woven into school curricula at nearly every level. Allowing the DOE to issue “study guides” encouraging teachers to assign students to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president” would make it even worse.

    Part of the left’s strategy is to warp the minds of the young and impressionable as early as possible. To them, it’s part of the same political process as working for unrestricted abortion and quitting in the war on terror:

    That’s one of the things that’s actually annoyed me for about 40 years of being a progressive educator: the separation of the concept of progressive education from the concept of politics and political change. You can’t separate them. – Bill Ayers

    It will do us little good in the long term if we win every battle this year “on the war on terror, cap and trade, the free market, ObamaCare, union favoritism, the rights of the unborn, etc.” – and then lose on all those fronts in ten years because the left has drummed Obamaism into the skulls of the next generation.

    Lest anyone think that Obama isn’t exactly in tune with Ayers, think of the job Obama did as head of the Annenberg Challenge. Given $100 million by Ayers to spend on improving education in Chicago, every bit of it went to left-wing racial identification or radical movement functions. Nothing went to programs to help inner city kids improve in math, or science, or anything that might help them succeed as adults; in fact, some existing programs along those lines were terminated to drain the money to leftist ideological pursuits. So whatever Obama might have read off the teleprompter today about “learning”, forget it. He didn’t mean it then and he didn’t mean it now.

    Make no mistake – the Community Organizer in Chief sees our young as another community to be organized and manipulated. The difference between Obama in Chicago and Obama in the White House is the thoroughly creepy cult of personality that he and the MSM are trying to construct around Dear Leader. It’s not an accident that the mindless Hollywood celebrities in the “pledge” video do not pledge their support for America – they pledge it to Obama.

    Organizing the young to become mindless drones dedicated to the state is a fixture of leftist totalitarian regimes. Name one that didn’t have its version of the Comsomol.

    As for the liberals’ dark accusations that Bush was using his address to the schools for political purposes, by now every regular ST reader surely knows that whenever a leftist accuses someone of some heinous act – a culture of corruption, racism, astroturfing – it’s because they’re guilty of the same deed and are trying to distract public attention.

    So I for one do not think this is “small potatoes”. It’s another important front in the struggle against leftist domination.

  7. GWR, if we were talking about the DOE’s “help President Obama” BS that they recently had to scrub from their website, or some radical Ayers agenda, I’d agree wholeheartedly. But his speech today sounded similar to things Reagan would say to school kids. I’m all for fighting against a uber-leftist educational agenda – been doing it for years on any number of issues, especially sex ed – but this speech didn’t even come close to that, IMO. It was pretty much straight up “work hard and do well in school” stuff – pretty standard fare for political speeches to school kids. That’s why I don’t think battling him giving this speech was worth the time. If he’d said “I need you to help me pass ObamaCare” then yeah, I’d be fighting, but that’s not the kind of speech it was.

    Where he needs to be watched is not in some speech where everyone can hear what he’s saying and verbally blast him if he came anything close to sounding like a proponent of leftie indoctrination, but instead both he and his admin need to be watched with the fine print, like in the study guides and things like that where they think no one is paying attention. That’s where the leftist war on traditional educational values will be waged.

  8. Carlos says:

    It sounded to me, from the early promos for his speech put out by DOE that the speech got severely reconstructed. Can’t prove it, but that’s the impression I got over the weekend.

    And if that’s the case, the good guys had every right and responsibility to scream “FOUL” and make them back up at 100 MPH.

    Our children are the only resource that, in the end, really count when we leave this earth. We can’t leave them to those who push the collectivist vision because that’s leaving them absolutely nothing except a hard life.

    Life is hard enough as it is. Don’t let them make it any harder.

  9. ClassicFilm says:

    With all due respect, I must agree with Great White Rat, Severian, and Carlos. The outcry of parents and other conservatives forced the original speech to be revised, and happily, the end result was not an attempt at indoctrination of his personal agenda on ObamaCare or the Waxman-Markey global warming “tax Americans to death” energy bill. Had there not been such outcry, I feel confident that the speech he delivered today would have been much heavier on the Castro-esque mentality. Since we never saw the speech prior to the protests and inevitable revisions, we’ll never know for sure.

    The lesson plans put forth by the White House, that were posted by DOE, were yanked before I had a chance to review them. But I’ve read from other people’s posts and blogs that they considered them “creepy.” I don’t know if I would have viewed them as such, I’m just relaying what I’ve read. IMHO a small battle that had the potential of becoming Pandora’s box was averted.

    I agree with you, Sister Toldjah, on picking the right battles to wage. I just feel that this was indeed one of the right battles. Leaking dike plugged on this one for now… next battles, ObamaCare and Waxman-Markey.

  10. Kate says:

    I agree with you Carlos…this all goes to intentions. If the basic principle was to work hard and be responsible, the DOE hand outs would not have asked such pointed questions as to “How can I help President Obama..blah, blah. Or, why should we listen to the president, senators, etc, etc. Letter writing and posters are nice if they are letters to tell the president how hard they are working (not what a great president he is) or signs of encouragement to peers to be responsible and do your work.

    I feel I talk a lot about my conservative politics with my children and it is amazing how much of that does trickle into their little heads when they are young. They just have a rough time in the teens/young adult period when they are inundated with a lot of different ideas. But I have noticed with my son, who will be 26, that he has taken on a more conservative outlook on life. It is encouraging to me, at least. I was a lot more liberal and a democrat many moons ago….parenthood made me grow up and see the world for what it is.

  11. Great White Rat says:

    ST, you’re right that the text of the speech as delivered is uncontroversial. You’re also right that we need to watch what this administration tries to do to education when they think no one is looking.

    But Sev, Carlos, and ClassicFilm are also right – in view of the DOE “study guide” and Obama’s narcissism (Ed Morrissey notes that he used the word “I” more than he used the words “school”, “education”, “responsibility”, “country”, “parents”, “teachers”, and “nation” combined), I have little doubt that the clamor raised by parents and conservative watchdogs prevented a far more partisan and self-indulgent speech. Considering the left’s educational agenda, that’s something we must monitor rigorously as well.

    I agree with you, Sister Toldjah, on picking the right battles to wage. I just feel that this was indeed one of the right battles.

    Spot on, and a much more succinct way of saying in one line what took me six paragraphs. :)

  12. Severian says:

    It’s being reported now that in his remarks to the kids at the school where he gave this speech, before he gave “The Speech” he was all about pushing health care and sob stories about people with no insurance, the typical BS he’s been pushing elsewhere. Anyone really believe that without the kerfluffle over this in the blogosphere and such that “The Speech” would have been as benign as it was? Even then, it was all a “MEE MEE MEEEE!” type of egotistical, narcissistic little rant.

  13. Carlos says:

    Anyone as inept and with the “fatal flaws” as our beloved leader has to be a narcissist and flexible enough to put off to tomorrow what can’t be passed today. He will be back sometime to the children to pipe the originally planned tune, and we need to be there to thwart those plans again.

    As soon as he has the children in tow, it’s but a short step to having them report “fishy” activities of the parents to a special hotline or web site. That’s just another reason home schooling is so important.