Planned Obama Speech Inspires More Paranoia On The Right

The Los Angeles Times on the latest example of delusion and paranoia coming from the conservative movement:

Calls to boycott Obama’s speech to kids offer a disturbing lesson in paranoia

Those who are whipping up hysteria over the president’s address are playing a dangerous game with an unhinged segment of public opinion.

While it long ago crossed the borders of reason and civility, the hysteria over healthcare reform is — at some level — understandable, because wellness and infirmity are really just stand-ins for those most terrifying of issues, life and death.

But there is no similar way to rationalize the bizarre controversy now raging over President Obama’s plan to deliver a brief televised address on Tuesday to the nation’s grammar school children.

According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Obama will “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Sounds innocuous. Who, after all, could be against good study habits, personal responsibility and productive lives? As it turns out, quite a number of people who seem to believe that Obama intends to induct their children into — well, it’s not quite clear what they’re afraid of. The Web and talk radio are abuzz with various attempts to organize a boycott of Tuesday’s speech. One group is urging parents to demand that their children be excused from watching the president and be sent instead to the school library to read the Founding Fathers. (The theory, one supposes, is that a good dose of the Federalist Papers will inoculate the young against Obama’s attempts to subvert the republic through good grades.)

On Wednesday, Fox News devoted a substantial portion of one of its prime-time newscasts to a discussion of whether Obama is, in fact, trying to seduce schoolchildren to some darkly obscure personal agenda. The sole guest, a spokesman for the libertarian Cato Institute, reported that “we’ve gotten a lot of calls from people asking, ‘How do I keep my child from being indoctrinated?’ ”

On Thursday, Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, accused the president of attempting to “indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.” According to Greer, “the idea that schoolchildren across our nation will be forced to watch the president justify his plans for government-run healthcare, banks and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other president, is not only infuriating but goes against the beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.”

Anxiety over the speech seems particularly high in Texas, where many districts are offering parents involved in the boycott movement the option of taking their children out of class. (Whoever thought we’d see Texas treat advocacy of personal responsibility like sex education?)

The irony wasn’t lost on everybody in the state. Puzzled Texas education officials told the Houston Chronicle that students often watch presidential speeches broadcast during school hours and that, in 1989, President George H.W. Bush specifically spoke to students about drug abuse. “It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than attacking the president of the United States for talking to students about the importance of getting a good education and being a good citizen,” said Kathy Miller, president of a statewide school monitoring group. “I wish our elected leaders were responsible enough to denounce this kind of wild-eyed paranoia. But the problem is too many of them are actually feeding this kind of nonsense — like when the governor flirts with secessionists and state Board of Education members say the president sympathizes with terrorists.”

Miller has identified precisely the process at work in the healthcare hysteria and, increasingly, elsewhere where the GOP thinks it can shove the Obama administration into a ditch. Republican officials such as the Florida state chairman are playing a dangerous game with an unhinged segment of public opinion that regards Obama not as an elected official with whom they disagree, but as an illegitimate usurper of the presidency.

That paranoid fantasy is what’s really behind the “birther” movement and the allegations that the president is — take your pick — a secret Marxist or a secret Muslim.

It’s the kind of fanciful anxiety that produces comments like this, posted on a conservative website this week: “Barack Obama and his left-wing Chicago machine regime are putting into place laws and institutions which will insure that there will never again be free elections in America.”

These are the people who are stockpiling ammunition and keeping their children at home next Tuesday.

I recall no such fears from the left when Ronald Reagan and other Republican presidents have given similar speeches to inspire school children.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “Republican officials such as the Florida state chairman are playing a dangerous game with an unhinged segment of public opinion that regards Obama not as an elected official with whom they disagree, but as an illegitimate usurper of the presidency.”
    I’m usually not the one to embark on this particular argument, but in this case: Democrats started it. The court challenge to the ballot-counting scandal in Florida, followed by four years of many liberals denying that Bush was the legitimate president, set the tone for this. It brought the idea that one could delegitimize the president into the American political, consciousness. It’s why Republicans have been all about ‘voter fraud’ since the 2006 mid-terms that gave the Democrats control of the House and Senate. It’s why ‘ACORN’ has been transformed into a code name more sinister than ‘SPECTRE’, ‘THRUSH’, or ‘KAOS’ by conservatives.
    Naturally, there was some legitimate question as to the honesty of the election in 2000 that did not exist in 2006 or 2008. But that isn’t the point. Republicans don’t need a political argument to be legitimate, they just need it to be appealing.
    ACORN, the birther idiocy, voter fraud paranoia from the party that may have made voter fraud ‘cool’… all this is able to sneak into the margins because many liberals chose to attack Bush as an unworthy usurper rather than a president with whom they disagreed.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    There were real reasons to question the 2000 election (although Bush was legally president once the Supreme Court ruled and the electoral votes were counted with Florida going to Bush).

    A better comparison might be 2004. There were a handful of people on the left who claimed that the election was stolen but this remained an isolated viewpoint. Such claims were not widely held by Democrats in the way in which any nutty idea from the far right is adopted by a significant number of Republicans and the conservative media.

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I don’t deny the reasons to question the 2000 election. In fact, I believe that the Supreme Court made the decision it did primarily because it was stacked with Republican appointees. I understand the quasi-legitimacy of the idea that election fraud and a judicial coup put Bush in power without him truly being elected.
    The problem is that, in politics, accusations that appear legitimate and reasonable at the time always open a door to future accusations which are paranoid and ridiculous. The Republicans politically motivated attempts to prosecute Bill Clinton and members of his administration and the Democrats’ accusation of same led directly into the credence given to the belief that any pursuit of the members of the Bush Administration guilty of various crimes is a similar politically motivated ploy.
    Many among the non-political, by which I mean people who do not follow politics in any kind of detail beyond what they see on the evening news and vote based on their whim of the election, do not understand the difference between legitimate or quasi-legitimate accusations of political impropriety and purely political accusations. Thus the fact that Republicans pursued Clinton unfairly lends credence to the idea that Democrats are doing the same to the Bush administration when the Republicans claim they are being persecuted.  In a real sense, the Republicans’ own impropriety helps create the notion among many non-political Americans that this sort of thing happens regularly on both sides since ‘all politicians are crooks.’
    I don’t know if there is a solution or not, but the way many Democrats chose to regard Bush as an usurper (for legitimate cause) after 2000 led directly into the legitimacy given in far too many circles the idea of regarding Obama as an usurper. I don’t believe we should not tell the truth or that misconduct should go unchallenged. I simply cannot solve the problem of political escalation the cycle of legitimate accusation and ridiculous accusation creates.

  4. 4
    Divorce Attorney says:

    American kids need to know their president, whether they support his policy agenda or not

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