Earlier this week, ThinkProgress noted how conservatives are freaking out over President Obama’s upcoming speech to America’s schoolchildren, in which he will explain to them the value of “persisting and succeeding in school.” Conservatives, such as Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), have been fearmongering over the speech, claiming that it is “school indoctrination.”
On Fox News Sunday this morning, host Chris Wallace asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about the controversy, noting that in 1991 Gingrich defended a similar speech by then-President George H.W. Bush by saying, “Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?” Gingrich replied that if it’s “a totally positive speech” that parents can see “in advance” (which they can), then “it is good to have”:
GINGRICH: My daughter Jackie Cushman just wrote a column in which she said, “if the president gives a speech as a parent to students to encourage them to learn and stay in school, it is a great thing for him to do.” It was a good thing for Ronald Reagan to do. It was a good thing for George H. W. Bush to do. And I’ve been communicating with Arne Duncan and the team at the Department of Education. I believe this is going to be posted, people are going to be able to see it in advance, it’s going to be a totally positive speech, and if that’s what it is, then it is good to have the president of the United States say to young people across America: Stay in school, study and do your homework. It’s good for you and it’s good for America.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who was Secretary of Education under the first President Bush, also defended Obama’s speech, saying “of course the president of the United States should be able to address students and of course parents and teachers should decide in what context.” Watch it:
But when Wallace asked Gingrich if some of his “fellow conservatives” should “back off,” the former House Speaker dodged the question, claiming that “Sean Hannity, by the way, has publicly said this is a good thing.” In fact, on his show this week, Hannity said that he “would not normally have a problem [with] any president that wants to address schoolchildren, wants to encourage them to study hard, to develop — to learn, to have a great education” then added, “But when you read the specifics here…it seems very close to indoctrination, or at least has the potential.”
MSNBC’s John Harwood comments on the right-wing hysteria: “I’ve been watching politics for a long time and this is, this one is really over the top. What it shows you is there are a lot of cynical people who try to fan controversy and let’s face it, in a country of three hundred million people there are a lot of stupid people too.”