State GOP chief Jim Greer rips Obama -- but pushes Republican views at schools

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There once was a political operative who loved to tell crowds he had a simple way of explaining to children the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

"Republicans get up and go to work," he would tell his son. "Democrats get up and go down to the mailbox to get their checks."

This man not only talked to his son about Republican values, he went into public-school classrooms and talked about them as well.

That man is Jim Greer — the same Jim Greer who, as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, just threw a nationwide hissy fit, claiming that the classroom is no place for politics and Barack Obama's "indoctrination."

One Seminole County mother, Barbara Wells, remembers the day Greer spoke to her son's sixth-grade class. "My son said he made some sort of Hillary Clinton joke," she recalled.

But you know what? Wells didn't pitch a fit.

She didn't call up the local TV station to scream about Republican indoctrination.

Instead, she advised her son: "Whatever you are told in life, remember there are two sides to every story."

In fact, Wells didn't even think much about Greer's foray into her son's classroom until she saw him on TV complaining about Obama.

There's no longer any question: Greer is a hypocrite.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether mainstream Republicans in Florida will allow him to drag them deeper into the divisive and irrational fringes of their party.

Mainstream conservatives, after all, are being left behind.

While they want to talk about real issues, like out-of-control spending, they are forced to watch their state "leader" make a buffoon out of himself in the national spotlight. This just two weeks after a former House speaker was allowed to rack up $170,000 in GOP credit-card bills on Greer's watch.

This country needs a healthy two-party system with smart debate.

But there's nothing healthy or smart about Greer's claim that the president's pep talk about succeeding in school was really an attempt to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."

Presidents have been talking to schoolchildren ever since we've had schools.

And not just presidents. Politicians of all stripes — from Govs. Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles to Mayors Buddy Dyer and Rich Crotty.

In fact, as I sit here, rereading the previous two paragraphs, I find myself amazed that I even had to kill trees to print such obvious statements.

Are we really so far removed from reality that we don't understand the value of a president encouraging children to work hard?

One of the last times Obama spoke to schoolchildren, he said the following: "No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands. You cannot forget that."

Heavens to Betsy! The indoctrinator in chief must be stopped!

Late Friday, I caught up with Greer, who said he has no regrets about accusing the president of spreading "liberal lies" before Greer even knew what Obama was going to say.

In fact, Greer actually believes that, had he not called Obama out, the indoctrination would have taken place.

And he didn't see any fair comparison between his own school visits and the president's. The main difference, Greer said, is that he didn't have the Department of Education organizing lesson plans meant to idolize him the way he's convinced they would have for Obama, had Greer not stopped him.

But Jim, Thursday night on Hardball you said: "Before anybody talks to my children from a political perspective, I want to know what they have to say." And yet you didn't run your opinions by any of the parents before you started molding young minds, did you?

"That was different," he said. "I wasn't using lesson plans."

I'm honestly not sure whether Greer really believes what he's shoveling. But I know I'm not alone in thinking his divisive rhetoric is beyond the pale. Conservative talk-show host Joe Scarborough labeled Greer's comments "insane talk."

But Scarborough didn't stop there. He wondered why Florida's leading Republicans weren't taking on Greer, "standing up and saying: 'Guys, calm down. This is no way to conduct a debate.'"

It's a good question.

So I ran Greer's extremist statement by four high-profile Republicans: Gov. Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. John Mica, State House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon and Orange County GOP leader Lew Oliver.

I chose conservative leaders whose positions I respect. And Crist, too.

I just wanted to see whether a single one had the guts to call Greer out and take a stand for mainstream values and rational debate.

Not a one of them did.

And that is even scarier.

Scott Maxwell can be reached at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6141.

Schools' plans How will local districts handle Obama's speech? Page A14

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