Flashback 1991: Gephardt Called Bush's Speech to Students 'Paid Political Advertising'

As Barack Obama prepares a nationwide broadcast to America's students next Tuesday, it has been revealed that Democrats complained in 1991 when then President George H. W. Bush broadcast a speech from a Northwest Washington junior high school.

In fact, the House Majority leader at the time, Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), said "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students."

Such was reported by the Washington Post on October 3, 1991 (h/t KY3 Political Notebook via Chuck Todd):

House Democrats criticized President Bush yesterday for using Education Department funds to produce and broadcast a speech that he made Tuesday at a Northwest Washington junior high school.

The Democratic critics accused Bush of turning government money for education to his own political use, namely, an ongoing effort to inoculate himself against their charges of inattention to domestic issues. The speech at Alice Deal Junior High School, broadcast live on radio and television, urged students to study hard, avoid drugs and turn in troublemakers.

"The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students," House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said. "And the president should be doing more about education than saying, 'Lights, camera, action.' "

Two House committees demanded that the department explain the use of its funds for the speech, an explanation that Deputy Secretary David T. Kearns provided late in the day in a letter to Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander was out of town.  [...]

Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, said it was outrageous for the White House to "start using precious dollars for campaigns" when "we are struggling for every silly dime we can get" for education programs.

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.) said that if Bush feels obliged to use government funds to hire outside consultants "to make him look good," then he should fire some of the public relations experts on the White House payroll. "Then the president might be more sympathetic to unemployment benefits," Frost said, referring to Bush's threat to veto legislation to extend benefits.

Makes one wonder if today's media, with the economy in what they've repeatedly called the worst recession since the Great Depression, will question Obama's use of education funds for his upcoming speech.

After all, when you look at Education Secretary Arne Duncan's letter concerning this event, one has to assume it's costing the Department a great deal of money.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.