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September 4th, 2009
06:33 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnuts' try to politicize president's talk to kids

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

Rep. Pete Stark (L) and Jim Greer (R).

Rep. Pete Stark (L) and Jim Greer (R).

As a heated wingnut summer heads to a close, we look at a new GOP “socialist” attack on President Obama for speaking to school children, a ‘brain dead’ attack on Democratic centrists and, in a bonus round, a callous conspiracy theory just in time for the 8th anniversary of 9/11.

President Obama is slated to give a speech to America’s school children next Tuesday on the subject of taking personal responsibility for their success in school.

Last time I checked, personal responsibility and socialism were opposite concepts, but that didn’t stop Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer from firing off an unhinged press release. Here’s an excerpt:

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology … I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda. The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates…Now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves."

Greer accused the president of using the speech to promote his political agenda – though the speech was never slated to cover policy. The Department of Education did change language in a lesson plan that suggested students write a letter about how they would help the president after hearing him speak. PolitiFact’s Truth-o-Meter did a rundown on the ‘controversy’ and published its results with a “Pants on Fire” ruling.

This knee-jerk name-calling and hyper-partisan hysteria is the latest sign that things have become completely unhinged inside the hotbox of the GOP. Accusing the president of having a “socialist ideology” and spreading “liberal lies” and “propaganda” don’t even raise common sense – or common decency – concerns.

Wingnuts live in a world without perspective, and those on the right are trying to turn the President of the United States into a fearful figure in order to score partisan points with their base. Only the far, far left fringe would have accused President Bush of having a ‘fascist ideology” – and they would have rightly been laughed off the stage. These statements are coming from GOP party officials – politicizing a talk to school kids by the President of the United States. Stay classy, GOP.

But liberals have showed plenty of their own wingnuttery in recent weeks, wrestling among themselves over the anger at town hall protests and asking whether compromise is courageous or cowardice. Liberal Democrat Rep. Pete Stark, who heads the health subcommittee on the Ways and Means Committee, took aim at the centrist Blue Dog Democrats on a conference call with reporters, saying they “just want to cause trouble” and that they are "brain dead.” Here’s the full quote:

"They're for the most part, I hate to say, brain dead, but they're just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process."

Lyndon Johnson once famously said that the difference between liberals and cannibals is that cannibals don’t eat their friends and family members. The idea that the Blue Dog Democrats – who have been trying to rein-in spending and fighting to preserve the possibility of a bipartisan bill – are promoting a "right-wing agenda" is evidence of a creeping intolerance on the part of liberal congressional leaders. They are starting to look like mirror images of the play-to-the-base partisanship they rightly decried during the Tom DeLay era.

Finally, in an off-the-grid bonus round that hits a new low, former CIA analyst and conspiracy theorist Michael Scheuer lobbed another offensive claim just in time for the 8th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th – asserting that the Obama administration wants America to be attacked by terrorists:

"Oh sure we're going to be attacked … and, you know, Rahm Emanuel wants an attack. He loves crisis, and crisis, the Democrats, he says, can get all of their programs through. These people simply do not care."

A few months ago, Scheuer hit on a variation of the same ugly theme, this time almost cheerleading for an attack: "The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States ... Because it's going to take a grassroots, bottom up pressure, because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans. It's an absurd situation, again. Only Osama can execute an attack that will force Americans to demand a government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary."

It’s hard to imagine an uglier or more offensive accusation, especially on the approaching anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in history. It’s shameless and a shameful new low in the wingnut ring of dishonor.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (449 Responses)
  1. Rob

    How is it that anyone, right, left or center, can say what will OR will not be in the speech when the actual text of the speech has not been released? Why is the White House waiting until the day before, a national holiday when noone will be paying any attention, to release the text of the speech? Release it now and then people can make up their own minds about whether it is or is not political.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  2. Dan

    Even though my messages never get posted I'll try.

    Why is it that if President Bush would have tried a stunt like this we would have heard the EXACT comment from one of the far left 'wingnuts' whatever?? and no one would have painted that person as a crazy person?

    Everything is SO one sided and we all have to 'bow down and keep our mouths shut' during this administration. Whether you think Greer is right or not . . . he has the right to speak out about why he thinks a president shouldn't be nosing into the day to day education of our children.

    Fix the unemployment, work on the health care issue, find ways to fund education but stay out of the classroom.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  3. chs

    It's unbelievable to me how many parents were disinterested in politics and their child's education over the past year, but now are suddenly interested in becoming involved citizens and parents.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  4. MRSCORIE

    Last month, in an interview with 11-year-old student reporter Damon Weaver, the president announced his big back-to-school plan:

    "I'm going to be making a big speech to young people all across the country about the importance of education; about the importance of staying in school; how we want to improve our education system and why it’s so important for the country. So I hope everybody tunes in."

    HOW IS THIS RADICAL! I'M GLAD WE HAVE A PRESIDENT THAT WILL SAY, "NO EXCUSES! DO YOUR BEST!"

    September 4, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  5. John M NYC

    At first these wingnuts, the yelling and screaming at town halls, the gross lies about healthcare reform was just so ridiculous, it was funny. it's not any more, it's frustrating and I don't understand why people need to live their lives in such fear?

    As far as School Kids writing letters, ins't it about instilling a sense of patriotism (How the GOP can argue about that, those self confessed and proud flag wavers – the my country right or wrong party)? Perhaps had the DOE phrased it differently like, "How would you help your country?" Which in a society that is supposed to be tolerant and respectful (at least amoung the majority of it's citizens since it's obvious it's not always important to our elected officials) may simply be about helping out in the local community, recycling more waste, visiting the elderly and homebound, listening to parents and teachers, staying out of trouble and doing the best they can in school so that one day they will become informed, educated, and good citizens of our nation, a nation to be proud of.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  6. Tedd

    I'm just totally disgusted with that part of the US population that has found fault with the President's address to school kids. Paranoid? Totally! Unfounded? Absolutely. When I went to school, the president's picture hung in every classroom, and no one ever minded. We were, above all else, proud of our country and proud to be an American, and he was our president. No one called for it to be removed or seen as a political statement When did some of our population get so off track as to think every presentation by the President is an attempt to brainwash the population or circumvent a parental right? Maybe it's because THEY would use and do use every opportunity to brainwash others, just as has, apparently, already been done to them. Yee of little faith in your fellow man. Not everyone is deceptive in their motives. Remember, Obama is a father with kids in school, and he and Michelle appear to be pretty darn good role models for raising some really solid kids. I'd listen to him, and would love to have had the chance for him talk to my kids.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  7. Darin

    This is obviously a mixture of right-wing fake conspiracy, sour grapes, and outright racism. Every parent and school district that opposes the President of this country giving a speech on taking personal responsibility for getting good grades should be ashamed of their bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Kids, please tell your parents to grow up!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  8. Angela Chambers

    I am copying and pasting info from the article because I cannot believe some of the responses.

    The Department of Education did change language in a lesson plan that suggested students write a letter about how they would help the president after hearing him speak. PolitiFact’s Truth-o-Meter did a rundown on the ‘controversy’ and published its results with a “Pants on Fire” ruling.

    CNN did report that the DOE's lesson plan was controversial.
    I am a high school teacher. No, I will not show the speech because I I am not willing to deal with the closed-minded responses I would get from parents in my conservative, rural district. If you think teenagers are capable of being brainwashed by a speech by anyone, you obviously have been around teenagers in quite some time.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  9. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    I have been retired since 1997, and I surf the internet daily, but I also "have a life." I restrict my computer and tv-watching to a reasonable amount each day. I don't have a Twitter or Facebook account.

    I think alot of young people who are online all day long need to think about it a bit more. You are supposed to be working or job hunting! Or you have more family obligations than I do. Are you on-line or watching tv in lieu of taking care of work and family?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  10. Kurt

    Everything is politiczed by both sides these days. There is no one America, it's either the left or the right. Both sides are equally guilty of that. If George W. Bush had tried this the teachers unions would have freaked and never allowed it.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  11. Ken

    My Son had to watch George Bush lie about WMD's. Shortly there after a war ensued, which we have learned never should have happened. Why not let him watch someone actually trying to fix a problem.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  12. Me

    Ummmm, Dems accused Bush of fascist policies ALL the time over the past 8 years. Then-Speaker Daschle accused Bush of "indoctrinating children with partisan politics" when Bush did the exact same thing that Obama is doing, except Bush only did it at ONE highschool!

    Keep ignoring the hypocracy CNN. It's what ya'll do best.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  13. Jack Lowe

    You lost me, buddy, when you say that "personal responsibility and socialism" are opposite concepts.
    As a Christian socialist I carry my brother's burdens as directed. End of subject! Period!
    That is my very personal responsibility.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  14. PC

    Everyone forgot that REAGAN GAVE SPEECHES TO KIDS FOR THEM TO WATCH. But ooh no, these Republican right-wing redneck idiots are just firestorming their stupidity to everyone. They haven't even watched the speech yet!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  15. Miller8

    I am SO sick of the left screaming that anyone who doesn't worship the ground Obama walks on is a racist. I wouldn't have voted for Clinton on a bet, does that make me an anti-adulterer? It's pretty pathetic that the tone of all political discussions (case in point this blog) always regresses to name calling. I don't care who is to blame for the current economic mess; the point is that the left is in charge and indeed they are in charge with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and a large majority in the House. Short of his curing cancer, there is no way I would vote for any Democrat. By the same token there are libs who are just as adament when it comes to voting for a Republican. The only group to "preach" to are the independents, and poll after poll is showing that the left is in for a rude awakening in November of 2010. If the unemployment irate s still 9+% or higher, the electorate will take their frustrations out on the people in power. No amount of lip service from Joe "if i say the stimulus is working better than even we imagined it must be so" Biden is going to change the reality.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  16. Mike

    I think the President has an obligation to encourage our children to do better and take responsibility for improving their own life, but he should NOT bring politics into the discussion by asking them to help him with his liberal agenda.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  17. Rae

    Where is the concern when kids sit in front of unlimited advertising and questionable programing on television? I think that the worry is that the President's speech may show children that he is a likable guy and we can't have that. What a fear to have to address positive comments about the president in the homes of wingnuts and biggots.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  18. Victoria P Muscare

    my what short memories the right has. what was george w bush doing when he learned of the 9/11 attacks? READING TO SCHOOL CHILDREN!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  19. randy

    I would not want his socialist monkey talking to my dog much less children. Did not know that kids should work towards being a community agitator and dirty politician. Obama is a punk pure and simple and a racist.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  20. Fredd

    Just another Bias ridden – leftist propaganda piece from CNN. CNN is now nothing more than another lame apologist for Barack Obama and Dems.

    ...and of course, this comment will never be posted by CNN's moderators.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  21. Nicole

    I've never been more disgusted with the GOP than I am today. Ever since people at the town halls called Obama a socialist, marxist, communist, (what ever boogeyman they could think of), I've lost all hope that America will ever be able to function. When you don't need facts to back up your attacks and you just throw out ridiculous lies, how can there be any real civil discourse? It's like being in a country with a bunch of crazies who think the grass is blue and the sky is green. Where are those people on the right during the Bush years who said it was un-American to talk badly about the president?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  22. HD

    What I find amazing is Republicans have been attempting to spin their agend on school childred for years. They want religion to be taught in schools, they want evolution removed from schools, they want certain books eliminated from schools. It was ok for George Bush to be speaking at a school on September 11th. But Presiden Obama want's to make a speach encouraging students to work hard and that's a socialist agenda? These people need to crawl back into their caves and just let the country move on.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  23. Dave

    He's the president! I didn't like Bush, but I would NEVER have accused him of something sinister if he went to talk to school children. And that's even during the eight years where any dissent of his administration is met with scorn. Now angry people who don't have facts straight are saying they're being met with scorn?? No way, not even close. Saying "what the heck are you talking about, that's not factually correct" is not "scorn".

    September 4, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  24. J.S.P.

    "Wingnuts" is one way of describing them. I prefer treasonous, fear-mongering fascists. The future of America belongs to the open-minded.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  25. John

    Is it true that President Obama will use high-tech hypno-eyes to convince children that republican parents must die?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  26. Stephanie P.

    @ S. Watt, what you said is nothing but the God to honest truth. At least now we can definitively say that we DO NOT live a post racial America. This country will always be hung up on race and for so-called Christians to be the driving force behind so much hatred and division is sickening. It's ok, they will one day meet their maker on Judgment Day.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  27. Josh

    Greer's comments are really funny! He says "indoctrinate"- how much you wanna bet he supports parents who take their kids to church, send them to parochial schools, etc. What a fool.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  28. Jazz

    Thank you President Obama for valuing our nation's children and giving them the attention they deserve. Considering what an excellent father that he is, it comes as no surprise to me that children are on his radar. I respect his emphasis on civic duty and making September 11, 2009 a meaningful day rather than just a photo-op and lip service. I am proud of my President!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  29. Ken

    Obama and the democrates want the message to ask chrildren,
    think how you can help President Obama and make the country a better place to live.

    The Republicans want the message to ask the children to think
    how they can help our cities, states and America to make a better places to live for all of us.
    With no mention of helping Obama. Because that is sounding like, get behind me and spread my polices. That is the Problem!
    Am I the only one that can see it??

    September 4, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  30. brian

    it's always half the story you people write, never giving the full context for people to understand the CORE REASON why there is dissent over a topic. Yes, Obama's message to school kids about taking academics seriously is a good message – that's OBVIOUSLY not the rub here. What is the rub: a) the blindsided nature in which parents across the country were informed about this nationwide address to their kids, b) not vetting it and letting it filter down through the school district hierarchy to (i.e., typical policy/protocol), and c) the ORIGINAL lesson plan that was designed to accompany this speech, asking kids to – for one – write a letter to themselves about "...what they can do to help the President..." That last point might not be so bad had we parents known exactly and in a formal way what the address contained (i.e., help him with WHAT?), as well as the obvious point about kids need to learn how to help themselves (you know, that ole American virtue called determination and hard-work).

    Unbelievable – keep stirring the pot and maybe one day the media intelligensia will get what they want...

    September 4, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  31. D

    OM*G!.. is obama paying yall to force opinions at the public?..you have no idea what the real fear is about the speech, you payed no attention to the reports...not to metion...if you keep calling the realisticly minded people "wingnuts" or "theorists" you may end up with a class action law suit from 70% of the population across the world .you are defaming and slandering the public.you are a disgusting breed of media that speaks what your told to report and have no mind of your own,merely charading for a dictator intent on a world government thats never gonna be allowed to form.you can keep feeding BS to the masses, but the infowar is in OUR favor,not yours...we know the truth.. although i admit your BS reports make spreading "truth" slightly more difficult,..but only slightly..lol..just gotta work harder for my cause.the people will prevail,the NWO will sink in the ashes of thier own device and fall deep into the graves that they once dug to throw US in..have a good day.
    i see the plan has changed..obama is changing the details cause he realised the people werent gonna except his plan,(we win again,lol)..now the lesson plan has changed and now...(as we believe is correct and expected) he will provide a preview for the parents..although its not the same speech as originally proposed.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  32. sam, HIGHLAND RANCH, COLORADO

    Republican wingnuts

    RUPUBLICAN WINGNUTS!!

    RUPUBLICAN WINGNUTS!!!

    GOT IT NOW?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  33. daisy

    You people that want to "keep politics out of the classroom" where was the outrage when Bush addressed classrooms? Or when Reagan took questions from high schoolers and had it broadcast?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  34. Bill

    I believe Jim Greer is a idiot.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  35. MD

    Liberals as usual have no facts to back up anything. Most people who disagree with Obama are not racist, they are not interested in the US becoming government run.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  36. DJH

    Shag – where do you get that 77% want a public option number from? You either made it up or you're a complete liar because the exact opposite is true. The vast majority have stated THEY DO NOT want a public option (ie. government intervention). Why is it that you folks who blindly support Obama keep making wildly outlandish claims with absolutely nothing to back it up – do you honestly believe that if you keep saying it enough it'll change?

    The majority of Americans support healthcare reform, but not one that puts the government in the middle – this isn't an opinion, every single poll shows that WE DO NOT SUPPORT A PUBLIC OPTION. Additionally, how can you have health reform without tort reform, which was one of the original driving factors for the skyrocketing costs of healthcare? OH – that's right, trial lawyers gave at a rate of 95% to democrats... so they wont support REAL REFORM, just more government control.

    Don't go pointing your finger at others and calling them liars or 'blockers' when you yourself don't seem to be able to comprehend clear English that refutes the falsehoods of your claims.

    The dems HAD the votes and didn't need republicans AT ALL – yet they claim the rep's are blocking them. HOW?

    Funny, for all the whining, complaining and intolerant hate filled rhetoric by liberals about the republicans blocking the dem agenda yet not a peep from you folks about all the lies and disinformation from Obama and the dems. Clearly, to you, a lie is only a lie when you don't support the ideology of the liar. The word 'hypocrites' comes to mind.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  37. atcross

    Ms. Metcalfe, thank you for mentioning W. F. Buckley. When I was a kid I was a fan of his. Even as I grew older and away from most of his positions, I still respected him. I'm certain that if he were alive today he would be thoroughly disgusted with the behavior of not just the people of the far right in general, but especially of the elected officials and party leaders of the GOP who are helping to inflame them.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  38. Nola Miller

    I hope that all the nuts keep their children at home on Tuesday – I will make sure that my three grandchildren are at school and will provide them points to pay attention for in the President address. When they get home from school we will again discuss what they got from the President speech and how they intend to work harder this school year. I want my grandchildren to take the time to listen and to be encouraged to excel in school this year. I want my grandchildren to reach as high as they can possibly go in life.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  39. JayW in Austin

    "Stay in school and make good grades" is a socialist agenda? Sheesh, now I understand why the Republicans were so anti-science and anti-intellectualism during the Bush years.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  40. WIL

    I'm sorry but I need to call it like it is PURE RACISM and more americans need to speak up President Obama won with a majority of votes promised change. This country needs to try different things this is not one of them Regan and Bush 1 did it . We as a majority need to stop these bad apples from trying to spoil the bunch weather it be the economy, heath care, and know encouraging our kids to care about them selfs and their education and this is a problem wake up america please we can not sit back and take this speak up call it for what it is the town halls the debate from the Republicans they have proven they have no intentions of working with the president I'm sorry that's the way I see it.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  41. Todd

    Indoctrination is indoctrination even when you call it propaganda. To the gentleman who complained about the Bush request for American children to send Afghan children money that is a whole different deal. How is that indoctrination? As for the writer of this article can we say hateful bias.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  42. Tom

    Wingnut parents have no faith in their children, do they? How sad.

    These parents have so LITTLE FAITH in their children demonstrated by their fear that a 15 minutes speech by a sitting president would brain wash their kids. Do they really feel their chidlren are that susceptable? Did they do such a BAD job of raising them that they think Pres. Obama can use mind-control to turn their kids into democrats? They should be ashamed.

    These parents should be ashamed for their lack of faith in their children.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  43. Kel

    Seriously? Let's get real people. Obama is telling kids to stay in school, not promoting his "liberal" agenda. What would that accomplish. And consequently, many liberals are not happy with Obama. I didn't hear anyone complain when Bush and Reagan did it. It's really not that uncommon for Presidents to do this sort of thing. And furthermore, telling kids to be studious and learn is a capitalist idea: the promotion of self-work. If I were a parent, I would be glad the President is taking the time to leave students with the message entailing the importance of education.

    People were angry with Bush for not communicating well, now people are mad at Obama for doing just that. Besides, even if he did detail his "liberal" agenda and push for communism (again, are you kidding me?) what do you think's going to happen. Most kids wouldn't even pay attention. All he's doing is telling kids to stay in school, that shouldn't make anyone angry.

    And as far as him wanting a terrorist attack... I don't even know what to say to that. That is a terrible accusation, it's diguisting and insulting. You would have to be truly sick to believe in something as ludicrously asinine as that.

    Come on people, what have we come to? This is completely ridiculous. Instead of instilling fear in the American people and our kids, instead of making Obama out to be some secret Hitler, why don't our politicians actually work to get things done. Make constructive debate and compromise, not petty bickering. Frankly, we're all sick of it.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  44. Travis

    Obama is a narcissist. There is no need for the president to address our children. No one else can do the job right except for him. What about the number of times he uses I in his speeches. Any one remember when it used to be the United states. And yes his crazy czar leaders are real. Hope you all wake up before its one nation under Obama. Chavez and Castro got nothing on this guy.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  45. Dave

    Complex minds make simple things complex. Is Obama pushing man's agenda or God's. If it is man's don't support it, if it is God's support it, because it will be fair and honest and truthful. We should teach our children 2 basic principals love they God with all thy heart and Love they neighbor then ALL OTHER PROBLEMS WILL GO AWAY.

    And I challenge any complex mind to a debate on these principles

    September 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  46. GB

    The Republican's position just simply ridiculous. Obama is our current President, he is the President of all Americans, and of all American school children. He has a responsibility to speak as the Leader of this Nation, and in the past he has done a good job in his speeches, and I am confident he will do so now.
    What's wrong if he addresses our kids and teachers that they should study hard and not settle for less but the best? And how do we even know what he is going to talk about?
    Of course some people are against his political points of views, but making this spectacle ahead of the speech is childish. Even if you are against his views, talk with your children at home after the speech. Don't you want them to grow as self thinking and deciding individuals? They should have the chance to listen to the President and then make up their mind themself.
    I want my son to be proud that he has been addressed by the President himself in a speech, and I would think so even if the President is Republican – he is above all our current leader.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  47. Molly Weasley

    The ignorance in this country is getting astounding. Sure, there's racism involved - some will never be comfortable with a black man in the White House. But the bigger problem seems to be an unwillingness of those on the right to cede power - ever. And the media are just duped along.

    The media buy into anything, including CNN. Every time a Republican or someone on the far right opens his or her mouth, it gets airtime. There's no context, no basic statement saying, "In fact, that's not true," no fact checking at all until WAAAAY afterward. Meantime, lots of people have heard or read this nonsense and believe it to be true. Then someone "on the other side" (often a journalist, not even a progressive or a Democrat) will say something, and the CNN hosts smugly think they have done their jobs.

    Even the writer of this commentary uses the "false equivalency" meme. Pete Stark taking some of his fellow representatives to task is hardly the same as a GOP crazy claiming that Obama is using an address to kids is part of a socialist agenda. (And why isn't EVERY story reporting this pointing out that Reagan and both Bushes did the same thing in talking to kids?) How is a debate whether compromise is courageous or cowardice the same as spreading lies about health reform?

    Every "crazy" town hall meeting got huge air time, leaving the country with the impression that everyone across the country hates the idea of health reform. In fact, more and more people in FAVOR of health reform came to those meeting to show support for the idea - but those meeting never got covered, because they didn't show screaming. REAL reporting would show stories like this: "You've seen plenty of town hall meetings where opponents of health care reform shouted down their congressman. Now we're going to show you some meeting where people asked real questions about policy." But CNN is too lazy or scared to do that - afraid of being labeled the "liberal media," which it clearly is not. Why are you so afraid of Fox News?

    Sure, many progressives couldn't stand what the Republicans did to this country over the last eight years. But we still respected the office of the presidency, because we believe in the Constitution. Obviously, those on the far right don't care. They show their jingoism - not patriotism - and they get on TV.

    I thought the media couldn't get any worse than they were during the lead-up to the Iraq War, when cheerleading reporters and anchors dutifully reported every lie from the Bush Administration without doing any reporting. I was wrong. This is NOT what I learned in journalism school.

    You people make me ashamed of my country.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  48. Mike from Chicago

    Avlon, did you just write an article condemning name calling and then label large groups of objectors as "wingnuts?" Now you see why the media has lost all credibility with the American public so we turn to alternate forms of information (blogs, commentary on articles, etc...) to try and find the truth.

    I am no wingnut, but I believe the lesson plan Obama prpeared for kids was an outrageous dose of political advocacy to be implemented by a core group of his supporters – teachers in unions. I don't ever recall a President going after kids in this manner. Speeches encouraging hard work have been common, but directives to get kids to talk about how they were inspired by the speech or what were memorable lines is truly what you'd expect in a totalitarian state, not the US. My kids' schools have banned Obama's speech from being used or discussed because of the outrage (despite the fact that the admin & teachers are pro-Obama). They realize it's totally inappropriate political advocacy from the White House.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  49. Greg

    The lunatic fringe on the right and the far left that want to play the race card all need to go and crawl back into their holes and go away. and as for the media both Cnn MSNBC FOX ABC CBS NBC and any other right leaning media outlet need to do balance Reporting period.
    And as for are President i think he is a fine human being however i do not agree with his politics. and yes we do need health care reform.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  50. Dan

    The opposition to Obama's policies have nothing to do with race. Those of you claiming racism need to take off the dark classes. We are opposed to big government, high taxes, and deficit spending. Those come in all colors.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  51. cameron

    More evidence of desperation; they do not care what the message is, it's the messenger. They are so pissed that a BLACK man is going to succeed; they have whipped themselves up into a delusional state. Next thing you will hear WingedWhacks talking in tongues.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  52. Corey

    I find it hilarious that people would criticize the president for speaking to school children and having them WRITE letters. I thought the purpose of school was to learn??? Writing a letter to the President of the United States with ideas of what they feel they could do to help sounds to me like a good lesson in preparing a set of ideas and conveying them clearly in a well written letter. I also think that children setting goals for themselves and trying to meet them is also a good idea. I also think children listening to an address by our President and comprehending it enough to write about it is also a good idea. The Republican Party is so out of touch with this country it is sickening. They use fear to brainwash people into being scared of the Democrats. HEY REPUBS IF YOU DO NOT LIKE THE DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM COME UP WITH BETTER IDEAS!!!! STOP TRYING TO SCARE PEOPLE INTO AGREEING WITH YOU!! LAY OUT SOME FACTS AND PRODUCE A HEALTHCARE BILL YOU FEEL WOULD WORK BETTER THEN WHAT THE PRESIDENT HAS AND LETS TALK ABOUT IT!!! Oh thats right, you can't do that because that would require you to actually do the job you were elected for. They call president Obama a Nazi.. Kind of ironic considering the Republicans use the same tactics as Hitler did to get his own people who did not agree with his views to join his side.. That tactic was FEAR!!!!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  53. Mike in St. Louis

    I don't know if this expression is used elsewhere in the country, but here in St. Louis ever since the election, people in the black community are now saying "We're entitled". The less educated are saying "We is entitled". What's up with that? Don't they understand that President Obama and his family have absolutely nothing in common with the vast majority of blacks? The Obama's are well off. They have more money that the average person, black or white. will ever see in a lifetime or two. Before they came to the White House, they were living in a three story Georgian mansion that they purchase. for $1.65 million. The black community needs to wake up, stop drinking the Kool-Aid and realize that "their president ain't like them at all". Oh, by the way. I voted for him.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  54. Chris

    Just last year "dissent was the highest form of patriotism".

    It seems that his year "liberalism is the highest form of hypocrisy".

    September 4, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  55. John

    The real truth is the homework Assignment directed by the whitehouse to the department of education and then to the state from there. It is agianst police for the Department of Education to directly assign homework to the classroom, That is the states and teachers responsibility, the adminsitration then appologized AGAIN saying they didnt know they could not do this. OK, the problem with Obama and his adminsitration is that they APOLOGIZE weekly for this or that, saying OH, we didnt know we could not do that. THESE PEOPLE ARE RUNNING OUR COUNTRY FOLKS AND THEY HAVE NO IDEA THEY COULD NOT DO THAT. that scares the hell out of me.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  56. Beccy

    My school district in Hilliard Ohio has decided to ban the President's speech. It doesn't get any more un-American than that.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  57. C. Rettew

    Everyone I've spoken to this morning is truly astonished that CNN is giving serious air credibility to yet another outrageously fabricated attack on attempts by the government to improve the situation of this country – this time encouraging education.. Why would CNN set up media arenas where Democrat's are forced to defend positive and beneficial actions for future generations against lies by irrational extremists whose only concern is to make any improvement impossible so that they can power?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  58. cedgar

    The lesson plan was and is the problem period!
    How about we let Rush give a speech to school children with a very
    political lesson??? Would left leaning parents like that?

    I watched c-span last night on the debate from 7/20/2009 on
    bill HR-3200 For all you wanting this bill, you need to look at
    the amendments that the Rep. put forward and were voted down!
    Why? The amendment was very straight forward, in plain language
    and about no Political or Federal person could mandate how a
    doctor practices medicine.
    I have found in watching these debates that the Dem's are either
    faking bi-partisan, making a statement "we won we write the bill'
    or very disingenuous about this whole bill?
    Purple indep. turning more an more red each passing day!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  59. MJ Parlier

    I read the press release, regarding Obama's chat with school children, after someone circulated a petition on Facebook against it. Having no idea why anyone would object to teaching kids about personal responsibility, I asked the pollster, "Hey, what's the problem?" People have this idiotic idea that Obama is going to spread socialism and liberalism all over their kids. Having read this article on CNN, I know where they got the idea! It has been a long summer of outright lies and propaganda coming from the Repubs, hasn't it? All of this desperate, irrational behavior is a disservice to this country and I can't believe any responsible media outlet would allow these wingnuts to be taken seriously. Please stop feeding their dementia.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  60. Hannah

    We are surely living in a nation of truly ignorant people and it will be our downfall. People who support illegal and unnecessary wars, but don't want health care for Americans. Wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of people, yet they want to protect an embryo that when it becomes a human being, they will do nothing to help the poor mother who can't afford the child, to feed and clothe it. These people say they are christians but everything they do says otherwise.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  61. Elie H

    Since when has it been controversial for The President of the United States of America to address our children? Since the President became black! This is so shameful that I realize I will never ever in my life vote Republican!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  62. Chad

    Cynthia W., you quoted Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Last I checked, Obama was the elected leader of our Country, so writing a paper on how students could help Obama.. is in essence helping the Country. I will agree with you though, the media is no longer a source for news. It has turned into a more fanciful version of a tabloid magazine. I sure miss Cronkite.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  63. MLH

    I think that while joining in the fray might be interesting, terms like 'wingnut,' 'birther,' etc. do nothing to improve the tone of discourse in this country. Yesterday I heard people at a town hall meeting in New Jersey jeer at someone who expressed support for the public option after talking about her parents' death. Wouldn't it help everyone if those of us who still had a shred of decency left in our bodies committed to being polite, open minded, and quiet, but firm about our convictions.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  64. Otis in Va

    This is just ridiculous. President Obama taught Constitution Law at the University of Chicago. He should be applauded for talking to any student about staying in school and applying yourself to a set of ideals. This Greer nobody claims that the President is wrong for speaking to his children? What a waste of breath! I will not call it racism for the simple fact that I know racism when I see it. I think it is just jealousy and ignorance that drives this Greer nobody. Anyone with power and education sends people into frenzy so that stupid accusations spill out of their mouths when confronted. Like President Obama said, “Some people may not like the decisions that I make, but I will make decisions based on sound judgment from a consensus of ideas."

    September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  65. Tony from Michigan

    I didn't think things could get worse in our public discourse. Sadly, I was wrong.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  66. cameron

    I love this stuff. It is becoming more and more appearent the desperation of the Talibon right wing. They are destroying the Republican Party.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  67. GOPisDYING

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Right wingers are doing themselves a huge disservice by turning themselves into the modern-day Henny Pennies.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  68. Glenn Harris

    I can completely understand why the right-wing nutcases would not want the President of the United States to encourage school children to do their homework or anything else that might encourage learning. After all, if everyone were well-educated, there would be no right-wing nutcases.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  69. Jethro

    I'm going to wait to read the promised posting of the text of the speech before making any decision about whether or not MY CHILD sees this or not, just as I did when Prez Bush did his.
    What my child watches remains MY decision as the parent.
    Department of Education releases to the public the pre-K-6 "Menu of Classroom Activities" for teachers – THEN – Department of Education releases to the public the UPDATED pre-k – 6 "Menu of Classroom Activities"...
    INTERESTING.

    Suggested Cabinet Post: PROOFREADER

    September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  70. Tyler Durden

    The world would be a lot better place if there weren't right wing morons in this country plain and simple.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  71. Sidney in Atlanta

    As one who is neither right nor left, I think you are doing a disservice by suggesting that the right and left are equally to blame when it comes to extreme, outrageous and untruthful attacks. Both sides have "wingnuts" and always will. But the right wing has made a deliberate and carefully orchestrated choice to pursue these viscious attacks, from Lee Atwater in the 1980s to the demonization of Bill Clinton to Newt Gingrich's infamous "Talk Like Newt" memo to Karl Rove.

    I don't favor either point of view when it comes to policy, but as a matter of fact, the right bears the lion's share of responsibility for the ugly tone of current public debate.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  72. Randy

    You need to ask me for permission first, before ask my kids to help you Mr. President, they are not your servants, you are our public servant.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  73. George

    If I were President Obama, I'd give this country their presidency back! It seems people were a lot happier with a fool than a wise man for president. Let these loud mouthed, ungrateful, backward thinking, racist people have THIER country back. THEY are not going to allow anything you say or do to go unchallenged even when there is something in it for them like with health insurance reform. Let's bring Bush back so that he an Cheney can finish the job of running the US into the ground and further alienating the world against us. Boy, were they happy as a pig in slop then!!!!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  74. keith

    As Obama once kinda said...Americans are winning the health care debate, get over it.

    Obama talking to school kids about Obama is beyond arrogant.
    As for him being black, the left seems to be more concerned with that fact than the right.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  75. WINGNUT

    Why diesn't B. O. just have Nancy Pelosi & the "Left WingNuts" in congress write it. They seem to write everything else.WHAT THEY DON'T DO IS ATUALLY READ THE BILLS.

    Maybe if B.O. steps away from the teleprompter, he would also have time to do something.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  76. krobar

    I am so tired of anybody who diagrees with President Obama's actions or policies being labeled as a racist.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  77. marcos

    These right wingers are a couple cans short of a six-pack no matter how you look at it. The cheese fell off the cracker a long time ago.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  78. bgerard

    For those who are complaining about CNN not mentioning the lesson plans. Did you read the article? Its right there. "The Department of Education did change language in a lesson plan that suggested students write a letter about how they would help the president after hearing him speak." First paragraph after Greer's quote. Second sentence.
    Don't you get tired of being wrong all the time?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  79. Boob McNutt

    Is there anyone left who still doesn't think Dick Cheney invited bin Laden to attack us? If not, they should listen to what the GOP is saying today.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  80. Isaac in Indiana

    I would bet money that Greer is a christian. No wonder he knows so much about brainwashing.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  81. chris

    name calling? wingnut? neo-con? evil mongers? mobs? barak has more important things to do like....explain exactly how the stimulus bill is a stimulus and not really 10,000 pet projects like it reads. how cap and trade WONT be the crippling blow to our economy and lowering taxes on private and public businesses would. how government will NOT fail at running healthcare like it has at social security, medicare, medicade and EVERY other federal service agency. what will the teleprompter say?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  82. Mike

    Hey Shaq, the insurance companies donate to every single political campaign out there. Don't kid yourself.
    They have to look out for #1 so of course they will try to defeat this measure. Do you know how many ordinary people who work for these insurance companies will lose their jobs if Obama gets his way? Maybe your family member, friend, neighbor, or someone else you know.
    The public option is not the only option.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  83. WarhammerTwo

    Oy, in regards to the lesson plan, I have a few folks in my my family and a few friends that are teachers. They explained it to me like this: the kids are supposed to write letters to themselves on how they'll help thte President achieve his EDUCATIONAL goals of lowering drop out rates, improving American school childrens world-wide ranking in math and science and stuff like that. It's all about education and getting our students to think about how they can improve themselves and our educational system. Before folks go spouting off, they need to take a few moments, a few deep breaths and do just a little bit of research to gain the proper perspective on these "hot button" issues. I mean, seriously. Good grief....

    September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  84. Nate

    i can't believe people are writing negative things about the commentator because he dared to address both sides. how could you have a column about wing nuts without touching on what the lib's are doing? If anything the column is left leaning.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  85. Ron

    Sure, now that there has been backlash, the spin is that it is about personal responsibility, but that was not the original hype. Regardless of the message or the messenger I do not want my children receiving this kind of propaganda without parental involvement. Anything that includes statements like "what does the President want me to do" and "being a servant of the President" is just the wrong approach for impressionable young people. I thought the President was there to serve us, the American citizens, those of all views.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  86. Bill

    hey greer, i think there's medication available for paranoia.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  87. Mark

    A quick English lesson: people, such as those who oppose anything President Obama says simply because he is African American, are not "prejudice"; they are "prejudiced." They have prejudice (noun); they are prejudiced (adjective). Carry on.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  88. Rich P.

    Michael Scheuer did such a great job heading the Bin Laden unit. If he's representative of the mentality of the CIA, no wonder we haven't caught the guy yet. Scheuer failed and Americans died as a result. Common decency would instruct to crawl under the covers and stay there for the rest of his life.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  89. Jeff

    It makes me laugh that some of you jump right to "prejudice of the black man" because we don't want Obama speaking to our children. Tell you what, if you keep it up you haven't seen racism yet. Did you ever think we just don't like the guys policies just like you didn't like Bush's policies? I agree that for the most part Republicans have been worthless and have left their conservative roots, but Obama is not the answer. Just because he can read a teleprompter and say things you want to hear doesn't mean he is going to fix anything. When has any politician in the past 30 years fixed anything? There all worthless and in it for themselves.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  90. JPAUL

    OK people, please read the article. The lesson plan IS addressed by this article. It says, "The Department of Education did change language in a lesson plan that suggested students write a letter about how they would help the president after hearing him speak." Not to mention. in a classroom setting, when a teacher says to a k-6th grader, "how can you help the president?" after seeing a speech about setting goals and taking personal responsibilty, MIGHT it be refering to how can you help the president in challenging yourself to do better?! Take a step back and try to put this all in context, but if after that you still feel its part of the socialist machine, or whatever, I am sure your chil is doomed to suffer from the same mental road block you do.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  91. SM Battles

    This is a shame that we, America have not gotten past our racial issues. Regardless of what President Obama intends to discuss with the school children WILL NOT be accepted by some. Just as having various ethniticities teaching in certain schools WILL NEVER be allowed and tenure is used as the excuse there. Wake up AMERICA, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ IS NOT pleased with us NOT getting past what we can see and judging the persons words by who they are versus judging them by their character. I am ashamed of the hoopla that is going on over something that is trivial and almost expected of a President. People lets wake up and accept and support our current President as Presidents past.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  92. chris a thinker, not a sheep

    Are you kidding! This is totally crazy! Does anyone remember the D.A.R.E. program from President Regan that encouraged kids to report parents to police if they see drug use in their home. How is that different from this? If the Republican party is so against using children as political chips then why is 14 year old JOHNATHAN KROHAN speaking at GOP events?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  93. Chris Cantwell, Bradenton FL

    You never know, we may be surprised on what information our President has to share with our children that might be very helpful to their futures. Maybe our President will let the kids know which industries the government does not plan to take over? Maybe the President will let the kids know which corporate industries are more likely to receive tax payer funded corporate welfare no matter how poorly management conducts business? Maybe the President will let the kids know which country we will be invading by the time they graduate so our kids can brush up on the corresponding language if they are considering to enter the armed forces? Maybe the President will go over the new power structure in Washington and help us parents also learn about the President's reasoning for the unconstitutional use of czar's and how they circumvent the accountability to the people's representatives in congress. We just do not know how helpful the President's speech might be until we hear what has to say.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  94. Bill

    First of all my fears are coming true as I read these comments. I literally was moved to tears when I watched the Inauguration of our first black President. People of all races and walks of life have worked very hard to make that a reality. What a proud moment. I am Republican and I AM NOT Rascist. I teach my children to love and respect all. I am so proud of where many of our communities have come with love and respect and true growth and healing. Granted we have along way to go with race relations but look how far we have come. This hate and predjudice was engrained into people for thousands of years. We are getting there. Things are getting better! Just because I differ with our President does not make me a racist as many have stated here. Also, thank you very much sir we are highly educated and encourage our children for to study. My wife and have risen from white poverty and our now working on our doctorate. Libs don't fall into stereotyping people. Isn't that your matra anyways? What can't we pledge to do more and not pledge to a person. I am fine with the encouragement to our students just not a pledge to a person. How about ourselves, community, country and world?

    September 4, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  95. Nancy

    What Mr. Avlan conveniently fails to acknowledge is that the majority of opposition surrounding the president's speech is related to the materials the Department of Education would circulate to school children asking what they can do to "help President Obama" rather than a more general question about how they can meet their educational goals and acheive success. No one, including myself opposes the president encouraging children to study hard and stay in school. He is a wonderful example of how far education can take a person. As to some of the other comments posted, please don't insult our intelligence by making this about race. That is a cheap shot and if you can't dig any deeper than that and come up with a better argument then don't bother. Your not elevating the conversation here.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  96. Dennis

    The term "wingnut" too often refers to right wingers. There are left wing nuts out thetre as well. Please acknowledge this by stating whether the nut is a right or left wingnut

    September 4, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  97. Jason

    Why is a presidential address to children in the classroom news? This has been a practice for many, many decades and is used to help expose children to the Executive Branch and American politics and to help develop a sense of civic duty and patriotism. It is outrageous to assume that President Obama is going to push any agenda with this population that presidents before haven't already, which would be the aforementioned.

    This, to me, seems to be a classic example of the fear-based extremism that is prevalent in modern American politics. As a citizen, "news" like this is embarrassing and the reaction to it by some is disturbing.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  98. larry loebig

    Dems and GOPs get all the ink and it is the Independents who will decide. We need a stronger better organized independent party.
    Two Party Dilemma – when we have one choice = we are in a decision prison. When we have two choices = we have a dilemma. When we have three choices – we can actually have a choice.

    The Indies apparently outnumber GOP – times are shifting
    Let's Reimagine America

    September 4, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  99. Allen from Illinois

    What has happened the country I love? What is wrong with us? We are acting like ten year olds! Give it a break people! Grow up! Presidents have spoken to our children for generations! Both Republican and Democrat! No one went bananas when Bush spoke to our kids, or Clinton, Bush Sr., or Regan. Presidents have done it through speeches, TV programs, pamphlets, and in person. I remember Regan recording a lesson for us when I was in high school, we watched on the school TV! Every President has asked our students to participate and help them make this a better country. There was no indoctrination! My parents never worried about what Regan said to me, and I didn’t worry about what Bush said to my children. I’m not worried about what Obama will say to our kids either. Accusations that President Obama is indoctrination our children is nuts, absolutely nuts. If it is true, then every one of us has already been indoctrinated! I can’t believe any Democrat or Republican would say such a thing. What bunch of cow patties…

    September 4, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  100. former repub

    ON2U – the practice of researching a sitting president for the purpose of analysis and discussion is an integral part of a participatory democratic republic. This is exactly the behavior that schools should be modeling and encouraging for students.

    Perhaps the public would feel better if students considered what they could do to support/help their 'country' instead of helping their President? Nevermind the reality that the President represents the country.

    It is ridiculous to politicize a President's speech that tells students to work hard in school and get a good education. Does that mean that being educated is only for Democrats?..... hmmm.........maybe it is political.

    September 4, 2009 at 10:36 am |
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