Saturday, September 05, 2009

A teaching moment

Tim Rutten of the LA Times has a column about the hysteria some people are raising about Obama's planned talk to grammar school children next week.
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.'
This is a wonderful opportunity for Obama to talk about this sort of hysteria in general. He needn't address the hysteria the right wing is creating about health care specifically. But he should use this opportunity to help kids understand that sometimes people just get carried away by their paranoia. I hope he takes advantage of it.

In the process he might point out that Reagan and George H. W. Bush gave similar addresses with no one raising an eyebrow. The Democrats didn't complain about Presidential indoctrination then. But the Republicans are complaining now. The balance of paranoia is clearly over-weighted on the right. He should be clear about that and point out how much damage that sort of paranoia can do to the country.

This is not a matter of campaigning for specific programs. It's a matter of pointing out that paranoia can destroy a country. It's one thing to debate about policies. It's another to become so out of touch with reality that such a debate can't take place. That can destroy a civil society—and it is in the process of doing just that.

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