September 8, 2009 | 7:36 am
President Obama's back-to-school speech -- derided by conservative critics as an attempt to impart socialism to the nation's impressionable youngsters -- is (finally) winning some high-profile endorsements from the right.
Former First Lady Laura Bush told CNN, "There's a place for the president of the United States to talk to schoolchildren and encourage schoolchildren" to stay in school.
In an interview with CNN from Paris, where she is part of a U.N. mission on global literacy, Bush praised Obama for doing a good job but faulted the Education Department for issuing lesson plans suggesting that kids write letters on how they could help Obama, guidance since rescinded.
The former schoolteacher and librarian also said she hopes parents will echo the president and "encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have."
Even more telling, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a conservative running for president who initially called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor a racist -- has come round on this one.
In interviews on Fox News and on the "Today" show, Gingrich called the White House "smart" for releasing the transcript Monday (see earlier Ticket post) and called on students everywhere to listen up.
Obama, for his part, may welcome the dust-up. After all, it may be easier to deflect conspiratorialists who see socialism in stay-in-school messages than those who see death panels in healthcare reform.
As he tells the kids today, "Being successful is hard. Don't let failures define you."
-- Johanna Neuman