- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sauce, gander

President Obama’s giving a speech Tuesday to the nation’s schoolchildren is not unprecedented; President George H.W. Bush did the same in 1991.

Opposing the other party’s president giving a speech to the nation’s schoolchildren also is not unprecedented, notes James Richardson at Red State.

Mr. Richardson cited Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying the president’s speech will be apolitical and seek to “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” But then came the punch line.

“Democrats, of course, sang a far different tune when a Republican was preparing to address the nation’s school children. Then-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) said, ‘The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the President.’ To be clear, the Department of Education is only a tool of indoctrination when the Secretary of Education answers to a Republican President. When students are instructed to ‘help the president’ and no doubt support his anemic legislative agenda, it’s a teaching experience - namely the lesson of political double standards,” he wrote.

Mr. Richardson also linked to a more detailed account of the Bush furor, posted by David Catanese at KY3 Political Notebook. Mr. Catanese cited an Oct. 4, 1991, Washington Post account that read as follows:

“Democrats assailed the Bush Administration today for spending $26,750 in taxpayer money to hire a production company that oversaw President Bush’s telecast from an eighth-grade classroom here to schoolchildren around the country on Tuesday. The money came from the Education Department’s salary and expense budget. As a result, Representative William D. Ford, the Michigan Democrat who heads the House Education and Labor Committee, demanded that Education Secretary Lamar Alexander appear before the committee to defend his ‘spending scarce education dollars to produce a media event,’ ” the report read.

‘Not’

Did you hear that Mark Steyn said President Obama’s school speech was building a cult of personality akin to those of such dictators as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il?

Only. He. Didn’t. As Mr. Steyn pointed out at National Review’s the Corner (the post was dryly titled “It’ll be in Bartlett’s by next week”) it was just reported that he had said that in the New York Times, and it was then repeated endlessly in the journalistic equivalent of the party game telephone.

At his Corner blog post and a link to Tim Blair’s blog at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Mr. Steyn detailed how “a significant percentage of American newspapering is little more than provincial wannabes doing New York Times karaoke” - the error was picked up in the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Examiner, the Las Vegas Sun and the Sacramento Bee.

The Times’ initial report read: “Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator, speaking on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, accused Mr. Obama of trying to create a cult of personality, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.”

Mr. Steyn then linked to a 54-second clip (he was substitute-hosting “The Rush Limbaugh Show”) helpfully archived by the anti-conservative site Media Matters that showed that the Times had gotten it 180 degrees wrong. The word “not” is a wonderful thing.

Mr. Steyn spoke of the now-repealed suggested essay assignment on what students can do to help the president as something “which I find sorta slightly unhealthy. I mean, it’s all part of the cult of personality. Obviously we’re not talking about the cult of personality on the kind of Kim Jong-il/Saddam Hussein scale. But I don’t see that it’s part of American education.”

Always the dry jokester, Mr. Steyn concluded his Corner post with, “Still, look on the bright side: My non-quote got more [mainstream media] coverage than (“green jobs” czar) Van Jones! Gotta know your priorities.”

He and Mr. Jones

As for Van Jones’ resignation, conservative bloggers were unanimous in calling the whole furor a defeat for the mainstream media, which hardly printed a word about Mr. Jones’ radical associations - he once called himself a communist, described the green economy as having a radical revolutionary kernel and supported cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal.

“If people relied on the mainstream media, especially print media, to keep up to date on the government, then they must have quite a shock this morning with the resignation of Van Jones. For instance, the New York Times makes its first mention of the Jones controversy this morning - by reporting his resignation,” said Ed Morrissey of Hot Air. “When did the New York Times - and to be fair, most other newspapers in the country - get around to reporting in print that a paranoid conspiracy theorist had a job as a White House czar? Today, after he quit.”

Mr. Jones’ interesting views, which had been fodder for Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart and others for weeks, came to a head last week when Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit reported that Mr. Jones also was a Sept. 11 “truther” who had signed a petition demanding an investigation of whether the George W. Bush administration had known of the terrorist attacks in advance but had let them happen in order to provide a pretext for war.

(Aside: This is also the latest example, contra blogger Matt Yglesias, of conservative bloggers doing “real reporting” that the mainstream media doesn’t. It’s a common enough charge that Michelle Malkin has a running archive of all the news stories broken by conservative bloggers.)

On Monday, Mr. Hoft had more direction for the mainstream media - namely the Obama administration’s vetting process, which once was tooted in the New York Times as “the most extensive - some say invasive - application ever.” Mr. Hoft posted PDF images of examples from the questionnaire that apparently Mr. Jones didn’t go through because he didn’t need Senate confirmation.

“Imagine Truther-communist cop-killer supporter Van Jones’ response to question number 8 … ‘Briefly describe the most controversial matters you have been involved with over the course of your career.’ Again, imagine communist-Truther Van Jones’ response to this question: ‘12.) Speeches: Please identify all speeches you have given. If available please provide the text or recordings of each such speech.’ ”

“If the Obama Administration had actually used this template to screen Van Jones, his controversial speeches, his past arrest, and his musical collaborations with cop-killers should have raised a red flag or two with the administration. Either Team Obama ignored Van Jones’ past; accepted and agreed with his past; or completely misrepresented their vetting process to the American public.”

c Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes .com.