Wednesday, January 18 , 2017, 3:42 am | Fair 43º


Susan Estrich: Respect and Responsibility

The president's critics could learn a thing or two from the lessons taught to schoolchildren

The gifted woman who headed my children’s elementary school, Reveta Bowers, always said that teaching kids values was as important as teaching them skills. Maybe more, I have come to believe, as my children got older. Facts are easily forgotten; what isn’t is the determination you show in learning them, the responsibility you take in trying. The values we teach our children, at home, at school, at our places of worship, are what will hopefully stand them in good stead as the challenges get bigger and harder.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich

Learning to work hard, get along with others, accept failure, redouble your effort — that’s what school is about, as much as sine and cosine; learning to accept responsibility and show respect is critical to every other lesson.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that these are the things President Barack Obama talked about in his address to the nation’s schoolchildren last Tuesday. There was no partisanship in the speech, nor was there any reason to expect there would be. There was no call to pass a government option for health care or support gay marriage or grow up and register Democrat.

Even some of the president’s harshest critics admitted, after the fact, that the speech was entirely appropriate and inspirational.

So why did they make such a fuss beforehand?

Why have we been “treated” to days of conservatives clamoring that the president had no business addressing the nation’s schoolchildren on the first day of school? How is it that conservatives have allowed their own antipathy for the president to subvert the values we should be teaching our children?

Take respect for the presidency. I would have thought that was a very conservative value. As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you how many times I heard conservatives attacking liberals for not showing respect for President George W. Bush, and rightly so.

So why not this president?

Last week, Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, attacked the president’s planned speech, accusing the president of trying to “indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.” Today, after he read the speech, he admitted that it was a “good speech” and speculated that maybe the president changed it because of him.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Now what is the lesson you’ve taught America’s children?

Show no respect for the president. Assume the worst.

Do no wait for facts. Attack first, verify later.

Go for the jugular. Not educate but “indoctrinate.” Not Democratic but “socialist.”

When you turn out to be wrong, don’t admit it. Don’t apologize.

Instead, take credit. Even if you have absolutely no facts to suggest that your smears had anything to do with the speech, say it’s because of you that it was a good speech.

Got that: First you attack, smear and lie; then you take credit for the fact that what never was going to happen didn’t happen.

Conservative? Not in my book.

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

Reader Comments

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» on 09.15.09 @ 11:15 AM

Thank you.

» on 09.15.09 @ 01:52 PM

Ya know, it’s getting really tiresome reminding the kettle that they are black too. This article by Suzi-Q would be good if we didn’t have the last 8 years of the most vile and repulsive hatred spewed by the left toward a sitting president in the history of our country. Sue, practice what you preach, but in all fairness (since you are not the most radical out there) get your lefty colleagues to do it first and we’ll follow your example.

» on 09.15.09 @ 03:10 PM

Sounds like Mr. Greer copied the play book from the Democrates.

Actually, the reason I didn’t like it was not the speach itself but that the Dept of Education sent along a little lesson plan asking the students how they could support the president. Not a good idea. In fact the Dept. of Ed. is not supposed to do lesson plans but what can you expect from a department that hasn’t done anything for education since it was established. How much better are our schools now compared to when the Department was formed? And how much has it cost us?

» on 09.15.09 @ 04:54 PM

Respect AN50’s right to espouse 1890s conservative Republicanism, and do it well.

GW Bush was unprepared on September 10th, and was out of town when thousands died. He was speaking at a public school. No one picketed him there.

Bush invaded Aghanistan, but let binLaden escape, prolonging that war by 7 years, costing new American lives every day. Read the new “Pat Tillman” book, and weep.

Bush invaded Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, at a cost of 4,000+ military lives, many civilian casualties, and an ongoing U.S. presence 7 years later.

Bush funded both wars off-budget. Combined with his tax cuts for the rich, and
his non-stop market de-regulation, he primed the skids for the worst fianacial
collapse since the Great Depression. He and Greenspan wiped out hundreds of thousands, and ruining many more lives in the process.

Yet through all those dark years, no one mobilized, packing “heat”, to picket when
Bush went out to speak, or denounced him when he addressed students, or jumped up, and screamed, “Lie!” during a formal presidential address to Congress.

Bush was criticized for what he and Cheney were doing to America, not for who
they were, where they were born, what color their skin was.

Can you honestly say the same for the angry, shouting members of Limbaugh’s mob-army?

» on 09.15.09 @ 08:48 PM

Publius, I warned you once before if you kept calling your grandmother an angry mob, tea bag or Astroturf I would rat you out. That it, I’m calling!

» on 09.16.09 @ 02:40 AM

People weren’t upset about the President making a speech to school kids, it was the Dept. of Education creating a lesson plan for teachers on how students could serve the President.  And FYI, the Dems. went as far as to create a panel to investigate President H. Bush on his speech to school kids back in the day.  Most people don’t have a problem with our Presidents telling kids to stay in school, respect their teachers, etc.  But when the Department of Education steps in and gives the teachers a curriculum to follow, that’s when some parents were upset.

» on 09.16.09 @ 12:37 PM

Susan, Susan, Susan.  If you allow yourself to believe in what the liberal media (this rag included) says about anything Obama then you are a fool.  The media is having a love-affair with Obama.

Since you have sort of distorted the truth, let’s set the story straight - there was a change in the White House when a big uproar was made about Obama putting together a Post Speech lesson plan that really did seek to have students idolize Obama.  That change DID come about as a result of the uproar.

I like to think of it as yet another Obamination.  My new coined word.  The truly terrible thing is that he has an agenda that America DOES NOT SHARE, and he is ramming that agenda down our throats.  So are we rude if we don’t like that?  Are we rude if we tell Barack and his henchwoman Capps to keep their hands out of our pockets, and their ears, eyes and mouths out of my doctors visit?

How could you even pretend to have some moral higher ground when you managed the campaign of a man who cheated on his wife during his presidential campaign?  Dukakis was a pig, and he was outed as such.  Barack is morally corrupt too, he just hasn’t been caught yet.  Mark my words.  He is a loose cannon.  You campaigned for a pig for president and now you supposedly have a new ability to judge presidents?

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