Intentional Grounding
When the text of today’s speech to students by President Obama was released in advance yesterday, a good friend remarked to me that, as she expected, the whole youth indoctrination brouhaha turned out to be much ado about nothing. The speech reads as a fairly straightforward call for students to stay in school, in part through the exercise of greater personal responsibility. Given my friend’s comments, I decided to play devil’s advocate by replying that she was correct about the actual text released by the White House, but that wasn’t necessarily the speech Obama intended to give, before all of the controversy.
Sure enough, despite some kind words from conservatives like Newt Gingrich, the dominant line among political elites and observers on the right is that only their pressure forced the White House to sanitize what would have otherwise been a much more ideological speech to the students. Critics point to the clumsily worded lesson plans developed by the Department of Education as fairly incriminating circumstantial evidence of the Obama Administration’s intentions.
My broader point in devil’s advocate mode is that until Democrats more effectively counter conservative success in painting President Obama as a big government liberal with socialist tendencies toward redistribution, virtually every policy debate will be squeezed through this same ideological filter. We have seen it now for both health care and education, and conservatives will continue to drive a similar narrative on presidential motives (and drive down public support) for whatever policy issue Obama turns to next.

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