Obama's Appeal to Students Wins Some Kudos on Right

Some conservatives defend it as good or just banal, but others say the medium is the message

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Obama's plan to give a speech to school children drew conservative outrage last week over fears that the speech would serve as "indoctrination" of "junior lobbyists" to help push Obama's political agenda. But, over the weekend the White House released the text of the speech and some key conservatives have given it the thumbs up. It turns out the speech isn't indoctrination, and in fact is not even very political.

The concern trolling by Michelle Malkin, Cato, RedState and others, who speculated the worst of Obama's speech, turns out to have been largely bogus. And those, like Newt Gingrich, who withheld judgment until the release of the speech have come out looking pretty good. But some suspicions do remain among a handful of conservatives.

  • A Good Speech  New Gingrich, after reading the speech, wrote, "It is a good speech and will be good for students to hear." National Review's Jim Geraghty agreed. "Not only uncontroversial, Obama's school speech is the finest of his presidency so far," Geraghty wrote. "Kids need to hear there's no easy route to success." Ed Morrissey called the speech "entirely innocuous" and a "non-event" due to its banal material. "It focuses on achievement and perseverance, two less-than-controversial qualities of success," he wrote. "It avoids any hint of proselytizing." Morrissey even questioned the far-more political speech Reagan gave to students in 1986.
  • The Medium is the Message  Reason's Jesse Walker argued that the text of the speech is irrelevant. "The exercise itself has ideological undertones, with an implicit lesson that reinforces the bipartisan cult of the presidency," he wrote. "The man in the Oval Office is not supposed to be the nation's chief guidance counselor or its father-in-chief, and it sends a creepy message to act as though he is." Walked argued that "politics is about conflict" and that children are well served by controversy over the speech. "The protests are healthy. It's a rare day when parents across the country explicitly tell their kids to take their lessons with a grain of salt."
  • There is No 'I' in Country  Ed Morrissey, though generally approving of the speech, expressed concern over the number of times Obama referred to himself far more than anything else (56 instances of "I' and only 7 of "country," for example). "Barack Obama referenced himself more than school, education, responsibility, country/nation, parents, and teachers combined," he wrote. "And to think that people accused Obama of self-promotion!" Morrissey returned to these numbers several times on Twitter.
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