Monday, 23 February 2004

Er, uh, run that one by me again…

The Secretary of Education (thank Dick Nixon for that great idea) talked to some governors today. His speech, er, didn’t go very well:

Education Secretary Rod Paige said Monday that the National Education Association, one of the nation’s largest labor unions, was like “a terrorist organization” because of the way it was resisting many provisions of a school improvement law pushed through Congress by President Bush in 2001.

To his credit, at least Paige isn’t bothering to claim he was “quoted out of context,” or similar such nonsense:

His initial remark was described by four governors and confirmed by the Education Department. “The secretary was responding to a question,” said Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for Mr. Paige. “He said he considered the N.E.A. to be a terrorist organization.”

But he did offer a sorta-kinda retraction later:

After his remark had begun circulating, Mr. Paige issued a statement saying he had gone too far in describing the union as a terrorist organization. “It was an inappropriate choice of words to describe the obstructionist scare tactics that the N.E.A.’s Washington lobbyists have employed against No Child Left Behind’s historic education reforms,” he said.

“As one who grew up on the receiving end of insensitive remarks,” said Mr. Paige, who is black and was born in a segregated Mississippi, “I should have chosen my words better.”

Now, in general I’ll be first in line to criticize the NEA, who are among the worst kind of rent-seeking interest group to pollute the waters of the Potomoc basin. Their lobbyists routinely try to delude the public into believing that their members’ best interests (which is what the NEA lobbys for) somehow coincide with the best interests of American children (which, more often than not, is what the NEA lobbys against).

However, the NEA is in no way, shape, or form a “terrorist group.” Al Qaeda is a terrorist group. Hamas is a terrorist group. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a terrorist group. Shining Path is a terrorist group. Terrorists generally blow stuff up, kill and maim people, and the like. The NEA, by contrast, is a group of middle-class workers who peacefully lobby for their preferred public policies through non-violent activity. They don’t even qualify for the mantle of “shakedown artist,” unlike leftist fellow-travellers like Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson. I think it’s time for Mr. Paige to ease himself into a nice, early retirement—not just because he’s the Education Secretary, but because this sort of rhetoric is on the level of the “Bush=Hitler” analogy and should be beyond the pale.

Elsewhere: John Cole agrees, Jonathan Wilde at thinks it’s about time someone told the truth, and David Bernstein misses the point entirely, as my co-blogger would probably expect.