George Graham

There’s More Than Meets the Eye in Fuss over President’s Speech

Nothing ever seems to be upfront these days. For example, the “news” is seldom about what is really happening. And “public debates” are seldom about the real issues being disputed.

I was reminded of this yesterday evening when I heard MSNBC’s Chris Matthews arguing with a furtive looking far-right flack. The guest on Matthews’ show was a guy named Terry Jeffrey (photo below, right), and you might remember him as one of the geniuses behind Pat Buchanan’s laughable presidential campaign. But he is also some kind of fringe journalist, an alumnus of the Mooney-owned Washington Times and contributor to a barely coherent blog site that focuses on anti-abortion, the denial of global warming and various conspiracy theories.

terryjoanWhere does Matthews dig up these people? Didn’t he do enough harm when he created the Michele Bachmann media monster? And why did a reputable journalist like Salon’s Joan Walsh (art work at right) consent to being on the same show as this Jeffrey guy?

Anyway, they were yakking about a press release produced by the Republican Party of Florida, which posits the preposterous notion that President Obama plans to “use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda” when he delivers a televised speech to students next week.

I am not going to repeat the nonsense in the press release. You’ve probably read about it in your local newspaper.The media have been full of noise about a parents’ “revolt” against the President’s speech. What caught my attention was Jeffrey’s complaint that Obama pays to send his children to a private school in Washington DC yet his administration opposes tax-funded vouchers for parents who want to move their kids from public schools. The light bulb clicked on: So that’s what’s fueling the fuss – school vouchers!

Back in my reporting days I wrote about Florida’s school voucher program, and from what I gathered it was certainly not designed to help poor families get a better education for their children. My impression was that it was a sneaky way of bringing back segregation. What I saw was white parents moving their kids out of integrated schools or “home schooling them” to save them from mingling with black students.  But there’s more to it than that. Many private schools are run by religious groups, and teach Bible based beliefs like Creationism. Those students are really indoctrinated – about abortion for example.

When Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, he introduced a voucher system which let parents use the money that the government would have spent educating their children in the public school system to pay their tuition at private schools.  It was a bonanza for private schools and the religious groups running them. But it didn’t last. The state Supreme Court ruled the vouchers unconstitutional. Florida Republicans launched a fight to reinstate school vouchers, pushing an amendment to the state Constitution. But the Supreme Court removed the amendment from the ballot.

Still, Republicans cling to the hope of restructuring America’s school system through these unconstitutional school vouchers, or something similar. People like Jeffrey claim that public schools teach children “liberal lies” like evolution. They want kids to learn about religion and the evils of abortion instead. And I suspect a lot of those parents want their kids kept away from black students, as they used to be in the “America” they want to bring back.

So why are “conservatives” really fussing about the President’s plan to deliver a speech urging kids to stay in school and do their homework? I think it’s because they’re mad at the Obama Administration for opposing school vouchers. And – of course – for supporting the right of American women to make their own reproductive decisions.

Right now, there are two basic issues dividing Americans – racial prejudice and legalized abortion. Most of that town hall furor and the torrent of hate propaganda flooding the web and the media are prompted by anger at a black family occupying the White House and at a President who is pro-choice. But you won’t hear that on TV. They’ll yak-yak-yak about the public school system and Obama’s supposedly “socialist” policies instead.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for