The latest Republican exercise in manufactured outrage may very well cost them for decades. The GOP threw weeks of melodramatic anger at the speech with accusations of indoctrination and socialism. Conservatives ignored the Department of Education's description of what the speech would be about, i.e. stay in school, take responsibility for your education, work hard in school, and went about treating the speech like they have treated the stimulus and health care reform. They ignored the facts and invented their own specifically designed to maximize outrage.
Based on the lies put out there by the Republican Party, parents kept children from school, school boards alternatively decided not to show the speech, or required parents to opt in, or opt out, etc. The lies caused some parents to have visible breakdowns on television, driven to anguish and concern by the fantastic claims of socialist indoctrination.
Now, the speech has been given. What do the students think? The Saint Petersburg Times compiled a list of students comments at http://www.tampabay.com/features/article1034344.ece . Here are some excerpts:
Justin Jones, 16, Chamberlain senior
Obama's speech was just dripping with socialist values, especially when he told kids "I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter."
Rachel Lubitz, 17, Countryside High senior
We have heard about this speech for a long time, way too long in my opinion, and the consensus is in. Yes conservatives, you can come out of your bunkers in Wyoming and send little Jimmy back to school because there are no socialist agenda fist-pounding moments and no brain-sucking Marxist remarks. There is just one man -- the President -- giving a speech about staying in school.
Tori Creighton, 17, St. Petersburg High senior
Schools sent out permission slips to parents, Pinellas County offered excused absences to students and some schools just flat out refused to show President Barack Obama's speech. After all the hype, I am left wondering just what it was all about.
The speech had no socialist agenda and only the best of intentions: getting students to realize that the circumstances of their life are no excuse for not trying in school.
Students learned one important lesson from the speech and it is an unintended one as far as politicians on both side are concerned. The dissonance between what the Republicans claimed would be in the speech and the speech that was given will forever have these students questioning whether anything the Republican Party and its politicians and pundits say is true or yet another fantastic lie. In these children's formative years, Republican officials have proven to them that they are liars and like most human beings, once an entity has proven itself to be a liar, it will be hard to trust them ever again.
This will be a serious setback for a Republican Party that depends on twisting or making up facts as a matter of course in debates on the most important issues. An entire generation growing up that has experience with catching the GOP at telling lies will scrutinize everything that Republicans tell them going forward.
What I now wonder is whether adults will take a cue from these students and wake up to the fact that Republican politicians are serial liars. Now, many folks might be reading this and saying to themselves, all politicians lie. I disagree. There is certainly a fair amount of creative framing that goes on, but where Republicans are concerned, they go much farther than that, particularly when we are talking about anything Obama has done or has proposed. Virtually everything that Republicans and conservatives have said regarding the stimulus and health care reform has been a lie. Perhaps this overreach with the GOP's protests regarding Obama's speech to students will be at long last the catalyst for the US public to have more skepticism with regards to Republican assertions.