(This post originally appeared on Politico‘s The Arena)
The noise about President Obama’s impending speech to schoolchildren Tuesday is muffling the real issues. While the President has every right to address any segment of the nation on any subject – and we all have the right to voluntarily listen or not – it’s both the way this thing was rolled out and the predicted content that should be most alarming to people – Republican or Democrat.
First, let’s talk about process, i.e. the rollout. Rather than simply announce that the president was making a back-to-school speech, the policy/PR/other sundry staffers attached to this wrote and distributed superficial lesson plans as if they knew anything about education to begin with and as if this speech was indeed about the president, not the nation’s education crisis. Telling teachers they should consider engaging students in a dialogue about how President Obama inspires them is ludicrous, not because some may not agree with him, but because it suggests this speech is after all about HIM. To then go ahead and attack people for attacking the speech is like smoking and then getting outraged when someone says they smell smoke on you.
The speech massagers were clearly set about getting the president press. While I don’t doubt the president wants to give a great, meaningful speech to kids, his handlers messed up and have thwarted that potential now, not Bill O’Reilly or dozens of other known detractors. The president’s “men” fell on their swords on this one, and President Obama should take full responsibility for that.
Second, the president’s predicted content which we’ll all now see prior thanks to the defensive posture the White House has had to take on this, should not just be about