When President Obama’s speech to school children became controversial, the press was quick to remind us that President George H.W. Bush had done the same thing in 1991. What they didn’t often mention, however, was the Democrats’ reaction. Byron York reminds us:
Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue. …
The day after Bush spoke, the Washington Post published a front-page story suggesting the speech was carefully staged for the president’s political benefit. “The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props,” the Post reported.
With the Post article in hand, Democrats pounced. “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.'”
Democrats did not stop with words. Rep. William Ford, then chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate the cost and legality of Bush’s appearance. On October 17, 1991, Ford summoned then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander and other top Bush administration officials to testify at a hearing devoted to the speech.
The GAO concluded that Bush’s speech was “legal,” but that didn’t stop the National Education Association from denouncing it.
The controversy eventually died down and seems to have been forgotten, not only by the press that reported it but by the Democrats who denigrate those Republicans who question Obama’s speech.