I had to debate right-wing extremist Terry Jeffrey of Human Events on the controversy over President Obama's back-to-school address on "Hardball" Friday afternoon. What a big steaming pile of misunderstanding, prejudice and outright lies.
Jeffrey started out doing a fair imitation of a reasonable person, insisting, "I don't have a problem with the president of the United States talking to school children." He went on to say his issue is with the additional materials the Department of Education provided to go along with Obama's speech; we differed about how much of the materials had been withdrawn by the Department after the controversy erupted, but even I admitted that sometimes the Obama camp does play up the cult of personality a bit (the faux-presidential seal before he had the nomination? The Classical columns in Denver?). Six minutes in, it was shaping up to be a ho-hum debate -- but keep watching (text continues below):
But Jeffrey couldn't help himself; he simply had to unleash his inner fascist. Just as Chris Matthews seemed to be ending the debate, Reasonable Terry began to fade away, suggesting, maybe he did have a few objections to Obama speaking that went beyond the instructional handouts. Then Crazy Terry showed up and ran amok for the rest of the segment. Quoting C.S. Lewis that "An education should teach a child to love what's right and hate what's wrong," he began frothing about how "there's a "culture war going on in this country, from abortion to the question of whether two people of the same sex should be allowed to marry" -- and Obama's on the wrong side. Of course, so are the public schools, which he insisted should be teaching the values of the Christian right. Can you say tolerance or pluralism, anyone? How can these wingnuts purport to respect the Founders when they truly want to impose a state religion? How un-American is that? Terry Jeffrey hates our freedom!
I tried to remind Jeffrey that abortion is legal, and a majority of the country wants it to stay that way, and that Obama was elected with 54 percent of the vote -- the biggest first-election margin for any president since Lyndon Johnson. We are the mainstream, he is the fringe. I also reminded him that I'm a Catholic C.S. Lewis fan, with a daughter who got a great education in both Catholic and public schools (the Catholic card always surprises them). But he kept nattering on that schools "should teach people that abortion is wrong," and how Obama is guilty of "advancing the wrong value system," and I had enough, telling Jeffrey: "Yours is the fringe point of view, and I will not have it inflicted on my daughter or my community. And you're losing, my friend. He's our president, Terry. He's our president."
I'd like to end the week on that note. Have a great Labor Day weekend, everybody. Even Terry Jeffrey.