There was a hue and cry in some political circles because the president of the United States gave a speech to the nation's schoolchildren. The speech included this advice:
"Block out the kids who think it's not cool to be smart," the president said. "If someone goofs off today, are they cool? Are they still cool years from now, when they're stuck in a dead-end job? Don't let peer pressure stand between you and your dreams."
No, that wasn't an excerpt from President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday. It was from President George H.W. Bush's address on Oct. 1, 1991, at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C.
Proving that all the nutcases and political opportunists aren't to be found among right-wing Republicans, some Democrats questioned Bush's motives in giving the speech.
Richard Gephardt, who had presidential ambitions as the House majority leader, accused the Department of Education of providing paid political advertising to Bush.
Rep. William Ford asked the General Accounting Office to investigate whether it was legal for the government to spend the $26,000 it cost for the president to speak at the school.
The GAO said it was fine. It was also fine for Obama to give his talk to America's students from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday.
But based on the nonsense spouted from some circles before the speech text was released, you would have thought the president was reading from "The Communist Manifesto." Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity said the president's speech "seems very close to indoctrination."
Fox commentator Monica Crowley: "... [H]ere he comes to indoctrinate our children," and "[T]his is what Chairman Mao did."
Radio talk show host Michael Medved said: "Using government schools to force students to bond with the maximum leader might seem appropriate for Cuba or North Korea, but it's clearly out of place in a constitutional republic."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely presidential aspirant, accused Obama of forcing his views "upon the nation's schoolchildren."
Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer accused the president of trying to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."
As it turned out, of course, Obama's speech _ like Bush's _ was nonpolitical, politically benign and stressed students' personal responsibility to work hard and get a good education.
But it is the zealots on the left and right who really need an education beyond The Daily Show, Fox News and talk radio. It is time to replace vitriol with wisdom.
Moreover, it's time for some folks to just get a grip on reality.