Washington The furor over President Barack Obama’s start-of-school speech to the nation’s students — challenging them to work hard, earn good grades and stay in school — typifies the country’s rift over politics and social issues.
It’s certainly an unwelcome distraction as the president prepares to address both houses of Congress and the nation Wednesday about his embattled attempt to overhaul the health care system, which has taken a hammering from Republicans and some middle-of-the-road Democrats.
Dating back to his campaign for president, some Obama opponents have tried to paint him as a “socialist.” Since winning the White House, the attacks have continued over his attempts to invigorate the economy.
Far-right critics now charge that Obama would use his back-to-school remarks today to indoctrinate youngsters into his alleged “socialist” agenda.
Many school districts have decided not to show the speech, partly in response to parental concerns.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called that “just silly” during a Sunday television interview. He said the text of the speech would be on the White House Web site Monday and that watching the address was voluntary. The Lawrence School District has given students the choice to opt out of watching the speech.
Some Obama critics are sparing no efforts to diminish his presidency — piling on such distractions as he prepares for the critical health care address — hoping that a defeat of the overhaul will tarnish his administration. That, the thinking goes, could open the way for Republicans to make a comeback in next year’s midterm elections.