Unlike Chris Matthews who did an absolutely horrible job interviewing this guy, CNN's John Roberts and Roland Martin actually did a pretty well in taking on Jim Greer over his fear mongering on Obama's upcoming speech to students.
A little back ground on this. The invaluable Media Matters took everyone's favorite Drudge gossip-rag, The Politico to task for their initial fact free "reporting" on Jim Greer's statements.
Reporting on the conservative reaction to President Obama's planned speech to students, the Politico uncritically quoted Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer's claim that Obama will speak about "his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies." PolitiFact.com, however, found Greer's claim to be "factually incorrect" and noted that the Florida Republican Party was unable to provide any support for his statement.
PolitiFact gave Greer a "Pants on Fire" rating for his fear mongering and Roberts and Martin actually do their job and confront Greer with their reporting. Of course Greer just tries to dismiss them as some "liberal" outfit that shouldn't be taken seriously. What a surprise, huh?
Steve Benen has a great write up on this at the Washington Monthly:
IT'S COME TO THIS.... In 1988, then-President Reagan spoke to students nationwide via C-SPAN telecast. Among other things, he talked about his positions on political issues of the day. Three years later, then-President Bush addressed school kids in a speech broadcast live to school classrooms nationwide. Among other things, he promoted his own administration's education policies.
President Obama wants to deliver a message to students next week emphasizing hard work, encouraging young people to do their best in school. The temper tantrum the right is throwing in response only helps reinforce how far gone 21st-century conservatives really are.
Transcript below the fold.
ROBERTS: Talk about a teachable moment. President Obama's plan to make a back-to-school speech to students next week has some conservatives up in arms. They're urging schools not to show the address in class, calling it -- quote -- "an attempt to indoctrinate students."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: On Tuesday, the president is going to be addressing the schoolchildren and saying that they should work hard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Critics say the speech and the teaching aids are just a way for the president to indoctrinate children. And some school districts say they're not going to show this and some parents are refusing to send their kids to school that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is some historical precedent for presidents speaking to students in nationally televised addresses. President George H.W. Bush did so in 1991. Ronald Reagan even talked politics with students in 1988.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the head of Florida's Republican Party accused President Obama of trying to turn kids into socialists. Like other controversies, this one spread over the Internet and talk radio faster than the White House could contain in t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, is this a manufactured controversy, or do critics have a point? Joining us me now is Jim Greer. He's the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He put out a statement condemning the president's planned speech as -- quote -- "an attempt to indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda." And on the other side of the issue, CNN political analyst Roland Martin.
Jim Greer, let's start with you.
What's your problem with the president addressing schoolchildren next week?
JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, first of all, we have to see where we are today, compared to where we were 24 hours ago.
Up until recently, last night, the White House had lesson plans distributed throughout the country for teachers to talk about how students can help President Obama, the new ideas of President Obama. There was clearly going to be designed some effort to engage the students across this country into the public policy debate.
After the parents across this country and the uproar that occurred, the Department of Education withdrew all of that language last night. The White House reissued its lesson plans. And now they have said they will let parents see the text of the speech.
So, I think my concerns and the concerns of parents across this country certainly were substantiated by the scramble that the White House went through last night.
ROBERTS: In fact, Jim, if I could, just to help folks at home, let's put up what the original text was of this lesson plan, which is what you have an immediate problem with, and how it was amended.
ROBERTS: First of all, here's the original lesson plan, which asked students to -- quote -- "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." That was amended now to read, "Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short- term and long-term educational goals. These will be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."
So, Roland Martin, was there a little bit of problem there with the additional materials that were provided to go along with the president's speech?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. It's not a problem.
What you have is, you have some insane parents who want to bring their ideology into the table. Now, here's what's interesting. Our guest heads the Florida Republican Party. I remember, when I was in school, John, the former head of the Texas Republican Party, George Strake, came to my school. Thank God I didn't have some crazy parents saying, oh, no, I want my child to opt out of listening to George Strake because he might indoctrinate my child to become a Republican.
This is about ideology. Why is it -- I didn't see people sitting here saying when President George W. Bush went to go read to students, oh, I want to see what book he is reading. I want to pull my kid out of the class because I'm a Democrat, he is a Republican.
This is absolute nonsense.
GREER: Well, you see, the example you gave, the parents didn't have an opportunity to decide whether you have to listen to when the chairman came to speak.
Here, in this case...
MARTIN: Because they shouldn't. It was ridiculous. They should not.
GREER: As a parent, as a parent -- and I believe parents across this country believe this -- I want to know what my child is going to be taught. I want to know who is teaching it to them, and I want to know what my child is going to be exposed to.
MARTIN: Really? How about this, John?
ROBERTS: Roland -- Roland, let me just interject here for a second if I could, because, Jim Greer, you talk about the lesson plans that will accompany the president's speeches being really the central focus of the problem, but you also said this the other day. You said, "The idea that schoolchildren across our nation will be forced to watch the president justify his plans for government-run health care, banks and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs and racking up more debt than any other president is not only infuriating but goes against the beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."
Now, when you look at the central part of that statement, forced to watch the president justify his plans for government-run health care, banks and automobile companies. PolitiFact ran that through their truth-0-meter and they said well, that's pants on fire untrue. That you just made that up.
GREER: Well, I really don't have or believe in much credibility of political fact because it's run by some left-leaning people that don't really focus on the issues.
MARTIN: Oh, here we go.
GREER: But let's get back to the issue at hand, John. Here's when the White House put these lesson plans out and they asked students to write a letter and say how they can help President Obama. Well, President Obama has for the last nine months been very vocal and aggressive on his vision for the future of America.
MARTIN: OK, John.
GREER: And his vision may not be the vision that I want my children to hear and that's why parents have raised their voices nationwide. And, John, that's why the White House has scrambled and changed the lesson plans and now are telling parents what he's going to say.
MARTIN: And, John -- and, John, here's why Jim's argument is an absolute fraud. Most school board members across this country are elected. So here's what I want to know.
I want to know does Jim plan to protest every time a school board member, a state rep, a city councilman, a governor, a congressman goes to visit any school in the state of Florida, because if you want to suggest that parents should opt out of pulling their kids out when any politician speaks, all of those people are elected. So are you going to say right now that you are going to protest any elected official who goes to any school in your state or anywhere in the country?
GREER: Well, I can tell you, Roland, if there's a lesson plan to attack your vision --
MARTIN: Oh, no, no, no. Now, you're switching. Now you're dancing.
GREER: That's the problem is.
MARTIN: No, no, no. No, no, no, Jim. It's the lesson plans that were attached to his speech is what started this controversy.
GREER: John, it's clearly what has shown --
ROBERTS: Hang on, Roland, on that point, federal statute does deny the Department of Education from providing any kind of curriculum to schools on the state level. So, does he have a point?
MARTIN: A little point.
ROBERTS: Does he have a point --
GREER: I have a point.
MARTIN: No, Jim --
ROBERTS: Does he have a point about this curriculum should not have been distributed (ph). MARTIN: No. Jim doesn't have a point because what he's complaining about that students are going to be writing letters to the president. Do you know how many children every day in classrooms as a part of the process actually write letters to the president, to the White House?
There are kids they send packets every day to the White House from schools all across this country. This is politics, John. Jim wants to dance around it.
You know, people who are bringing their ideology saying I don't want my child listening to this liberal Democratic president when you have people complaining -- John, your letter was ridiculous talking about health care in all industry.
GREER: I have never said --
MARTIN: He's talking about kids staying in school. Your letter was incendiary.
GREER: The president should not be allowed --
MARTIN: And it was on purpose.
GREER: I believe that the president, any president, should be allowed to talk to students on the first day of school to talk to them about staying in school and the benefits of an education. I believe that. This president included.
MARTIN: You just say this president --
GREER: Let me finish, Roland. Roland, no. No, I haven't said anything about pulling kids out.
GREER: Others are saying that. I do believe -- let me finish. I do believe that parents, parents, not the government, should decide what their children should be exposed to. And I would tell you in this day and age I think the president has enough to do focusing on the economy and finding jobs for Americans than writing lesson plans out of the Oval Office.
MARTIN: Well, you know what?
GREER: That's what's concerning.
MARTIN: You know what, Jim? Considering the dropout rate in this country and concerning so many kids don't even understand civics in the United States, I'm glad we have a president who's willing to speak to children because maybe these same parents were acting like children. I mean, they can't listen. Maybe the kids can also teach them a lesson on how to have some respect for the president of the United States.
ROBERTS: Gentlemen --
MARTIN: I'm not afraid of kids listening to politicians talk like you are.
GREER: Roland, you have --
ROBERTS: Unfortunately, we're --
GREER: Do you have any children?
MARTIN: I have --
ROBERTS: We're going to have it leave it there.
MARTIN: And I love them to talk to politicians any time.
ROBERTS: Roland, Jim Greer, we have to leave it there. A spirited debate. Thanks for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
MARTIN: Thanks a lot.