Obama Education Outrage

Today Barack Obama gave a speech which was to be delivered to schools across America. Before the text or the speech was even made public, Republicans had already created a brouhaha as if the President were giving drugs to kids. I believe the outcry was worse than that over Obama’s proposed health care plan.

But this is not what I want to address today. This kind of overreaction without bothering to consider the facts is just what the Republicans are doing almost daily to attempt to discredit Barack Obama, and to distract the public from noticing they have no leadership, no policies and no future vision. This barrage is likely to continue.

The real question is how can one survive and overcome this kind of daily ambush? If you find yourself in this position, you could go over every sentence you will say and try to avoid anything controversial — but this won’t prevent the attacks.  And doing nothing or ignoring the attacks will not counter the impression that somehow you (or President Obama in this case) have done something wrong.

The last message standing is the one that sticks in people’s minds.

If one is to stop the attacks and change the last message standing, you need to go on a campaign of OUTRAGE!

“How dare they treat the American people like idiots? Has the entire Republican party completely lost their grip on reality or is it just some radical elements? The American people will not stand for such lack of values and respect. Since when do we want to teach our children to lie, not listen and reject a message before they have even heard it? It’s time they remembered the First Amendment.It’s time the Republican party learned some manners.

If you do not express outrage, each and every time you are subject to attack, it will appear that, at some level, you agree with what was said, or at the least, you had no adequate response. Instead, reframe the attacks into what they really are – evidence of unreasonable, disrespectful behavior. You will need to do this each and every time — make sure you up the ante to demonstrate you will not be pushed around. Make it difficult to take you on and get angry if you have to.

Outrage is a powerful force. This is not the time to go Zen! To deal with bullies you need to demonstrate that it is too costly to mess with you.

13 thoughts on “Obama Education Outrage

  1. Judith E. Pearson

    Shelle, I am one of your admirers, so of course I was eager to read your posting, and I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the Republicans. Where I had mixed emotions was in the definition of outrage. You encourage those of us who disagree with Republican tactics to express outrage. However when I shift my perceptual position to Republicans, I am pretty sure they believe they are also expressing outrage (albeit very unskillfully), just as you have recommended. Can anyone help me make a distinction between “outrage” and what the Republicans are doing? Shelle, it would help me a lot if you could describe what “outrage” would look like and sound like, expressed in a way that doesn’t escalate the anger, hatred, lies, racism, and attacks that the Republicans condone against President Obama and the Democrats. Thanks for all your wonderful work.

  2. Raymond

    Some of what happened is politics as usual, some of it has at least a basis for justification. President Obama did change some of the content of his talk. The originally intended talk had sections which were modified because his writers did concede that the message being presented was off base and more focused on him rather than on the students.
    Second…………President Bush talked to the nation’s children when he was in office and received even more outrage from the Democrats to the point where there was an investigation of the situation. That fact easily gets ignored.
    So Shelly…….when presenting a point, be sure to include the facts and not just your opinion.
    It does seem that the news media only picks up information regarding outrage………while also ignoring facts. Unfortunatley your point, that emotions win these arguments, is correct. Call someon a name, demonize what they are doing, get the major press to print it, and you seem credible…….even when you lie.

  3. Sean


    Love your work, will continue to rave about it (and you) delightedly to others, but your political filter is in front of your communication expert filter on this one.

    The objection, clearly stated but then later misrepresented by critics (and by your blog post), was not to the president addressing the children, but the presuppositions of the questions accompanying the speech.

    Here’s an early “attack” (?) from the conservative Cato Institute…

    “It’s one thing for a president to encourage all kids to work hard and stay in school – that’s a reasonable use of the bully pulpit. It’s another thing entirely, however, to have the U.S. Department of Education send detailed instructions to public schools nationwide on how to glorify the president and the presidency, and push them to drive social change.”

    Were there some who simply didn’t want him speaking to their children? Sure. However, to be fair, that objection comes on the heels of his representatives repeatedly characterizing any critique of his healthcare plan as “unpatriotic” (Pelosi) or “lying” (Obama) or even “racist” (MSNBC, et al).

    In my experience, name-calling is not a good rapport move. I would even call it ill-mannered.

    As for the “study questions” that were the objectionable part of the talk…

    Well, anyone interested in language patterns may find the questions worth a glance.

    A rep from the department of education apologized for the “inarticulately” written study questions, and then they were withdrawn.

    It seemed to me they were quite carefully written. (I just KNOW there’s a dog-eared copy of Cialdini’s book in the white house somewhere.)

    Some years back I remember hearing that we who vote democrat ought to be careful with the presuppositions in our language if we want to gain and keep power. (Lakoff, Thom Hartmann and others had some specific good advice about this.)

    Framing is everything.

    Which is why criticism of W by voters and activists was healthy and patriotic dissent. (Even, I suppose, when the placards read, as they actually did sometimes, “Bush, F*** You Motherf***er!” Or showed a photo of Bush with a gun to his head and a caption: “patriot act.”)

    Wait a second…

    Did that behavior of protesters show “lack of values and respect”? Would you say that those critics should have “learned some manners”?

    I hope it’s not just criticism of Obama that concerns you.


  4. ME

    I agree, it’s an outrage when Democrats will not listen. Remember the last election was not about ideas and direction, it was about the mismanagement of the last two Presidents.

    Just look at the ruling party’s disconnected liberal leadership’s unwillingness to discuss “tort reform” but insisting on a “public option” and “salary caps” rather than listening to it’s President. Contrast those, “I don’t give a d…. what anyone else thinks” Democrats with the in-touch “Blue” Democrats (and possibly aforementioned President) that actually want a solution that works for EVERY American and not a few elite people. It seems if reform is discussed “everything” should be on the table, not just pet subjects.

    That is why there is “outrage.” That is why someone yells “lie” when the President speaks from the floor of Congress. It is fair to say that the same tactics used by Democrats (such as holding children out of school when the President addresses them) are the same ones currently being used by Republicans. The revolving door of deaf ears and screaming will continue until some leader has the courage to break the cycle. (And the ruling party has to have the courage to listen to him… hint, hint) It is time for a certain President to grab his party by the throat and put it to work for EVERY American not just the elite.

  5. Charles T


    I know you have a very highly polished skill of talking from both sides of your mouth at the same time. I’m wondering why your article was so ONE-sided. 🙂

  6. Scott Cunningham

    I am neither Democrat nor Republican. I as an individual did not feel comfortable with Obama addressing school children. Simply because of the same type of smear campaigns used by the Democrats during the town hall meetings against citizens. It is in fact both parties that look down their collective noses at the citizens of this country. I form my opinions on factual information and try to refrain from emotional arguments in the decision making process. The reason I did not feel it appropriate for him to address the children was that he has been pushing this healthcare issue so hard and it appears that he will stop at nothing to ram it through. Couple this with all the other half baked programs and free give aways the united States is on the fast track to bankruptcy.

    Enough of my political soapbox rantings. I do Agree with you on your other points whole heartedly. Never back down from an attack. It seems to be the in thing any more to viciously attack anyone’s opinion, or grammatical mistakes in blogs and discussion forums. It seems like the Internet’s anonymity has created a mob mentality. After all we don’t have to hold ourselves accountable if nobody knows who we are. I have long had a policy that I won’t speak any words that I would not say on the town square at noon. I honestly feel that I don’t need to defend my words, thoughts, or actions. I do however, take responsibility for what I say and do.

    If everyone took responsibility for their actions the world would be a more peaceful place something the folk in politics need to learn, no mater what party they belong to.

  7. Lorraine Maddams

    To generalise from the particular, I agree that he who shouts loudest is not always shouting common sense!

    Those of us who shy away from overt conflict often require strategies to stand firm and to speak with authority. In organisations some people require advocates to stand alongside them, some can be coached into greater self-belief and some people just need to be told that what they have to say does matter. I agree that one has to actively support leaders who command respect. Leaders are only leaders if they have active followers, and to be an active follower one sometimes has to develop one’s own leadership qualities.

    Please remove the word ‘everywhere’ from my comment above – and replace with ‘widespread’ – a slip of the keyboard…..

  8. GH

    Wow. I agree 100% with your political observation, as well as, your very actionable way of dealing with attacks. I work in an environment where many people disagree with our President and they rant continuously. I like to ask questions, looking for specifics, and proof. What I usually get is an outburst of fear. Attacks of this sort are smoke screens, diversions in order to keep the focus away from a real issue or problem. It’s like the magician who wants you to focus on his right hand, while the trick is done with his left hand. The trick here is not done to entertaine, but to generate hate. I get outraged and then I am told my outrage is expressed fear because I President is ruining the country. That’s when they get both barrells for being forgetful of the previous 8 years, the poor showing of a bimbo running-mate during the last election (what was that?), and the fact that they watched and promoted the 8 year downfall of our country and are now unwilling to give the President a first year to turn things around. You have a lots of guts for writing what you did. I was just a casual reader, but now I’m a fan!!!

  9. Lorraine Maddams

    I read that some parents kept their children at home fearing that they would be indoctrinated by Obama’s ‘socialist’ message (to work hard, take responsibility for yourself and finish your studies, I believe). Will President Obama have the resiliance and gravitas to stay in there and tackle the mis-information that is everywhere in America. I remember a few years back talking to a nephew of mine about climate change and sustainable practices ( I think it was in response to all the polyester cartons we were accumulating at every meal we went to) and his response was something like ‘ the democrats want us all to go back to living in mud huts’. I did not pursue the argument – let’s hope that President Obama does.

  10. Andy Smith

    Good arrticle Shelle – a similar idea, that you can’t afford to leave the Republican narrative unchallenged, is set out in the fascinating book “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” by Drew Westen.

    The mistake that Democrat campaigners have made again and again, according to Westen, is relying on facts and reason, when voters are more swayed by emotion. Only Clinton and Obama have (to some extent) realised this – and they are the Democratic candidates who won. If you don’t express outrage when attacked, and come back with a counter-attack, the danger is that you look like a wuss – especially to Southern voters.

  11. David Woolf

    I am as outraged as you, Shelle, but not the least surprised. The good old boys of the right is USA have historically been quite prepared to assassinate a potent Democratic president or fix the polls to deny one the presidency. British Victorian attitudes to the poor seem to endure among the ‘haves’ of the US right – they deserve their poverty and it is the duty of those with the means to help to impose God’s judgement on their fecklessness.

    Strangely, this stance is more difficult to sustain without the underpinning of religion.

    The problem with playing the Outrage card in politics can be seen in the current British political scene. David Cameron is adept at professing outrage at every posture, or even presumed posture, of the government. Gordon Brown, by comparison, who really should have taken time out for one of you WTCM programmes, is hopeless at demonstrating Outrage and even when he plays the card he gets the timing wrong! Then DC is outraged and GB’s outrage, and so it goes on…

    When CD became leader of the Conservative party he declared an end to ‘schoolboy yah boo politics’. I rather think that he has replaced it by indignant, self-righteous outrage, and he has the majority of the electorate fooled.

    The lesson, I think, is that Outrage is an essential reaction for those that have learned to communicate effectively but can backfire horribly on those who are not blessed with a winning persona.


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