Presented by Fisher Investments: Maine Senate Race; Green Promises; 9/10/01

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Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. On this date in 2001, a president who’d been in office less than eight months was touring Florida classrooms. George W. Bush was doing made-for-TV events to drum up support for his plan to bolster effective teaching methods in the nation's public schools.

Over time, the reforms set in motion by this push from Washington took on official names: The No Child Left Behind Act during Bush’s presidency and Common Core during Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. Then, as now, both were targeted by an odd-bedfellows alliance of left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans.

Eighteen years ago today, however, Dubya’s approach was not ideological. It was down-to-earth. “It's time to wage war on illiteracy for the young, and to whip this problem,” the president said that afternoon, as his brother -- Florida’s governor -- looked on. The setting was Justina Road Elementary School in a working-class Jacksonville neighborhood. There, both Bushes emphasized that quality education should not be a partisan matter.

“Getting every child to read in America is an American issue, and it ought to be an American goal,” President Bush added. “There are great teachers who have got wonderful hearts who don’t know how to teach reading.”

I’ll have more on that day in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

“Dark Money”-Fueled Ads Heat Up Maine Senate Battle. Susan Crabtree reports on efforts to unseat four-term incumbent Susan Collins in what’s shaping up as one of the most hotly contested 2020 races.

CNN's Climate Debate Hurts the Democrats It Tried to Help. Charles Lipson writes that the extravagant promises made by the presidential candidates last week would likely harm the eventual nominee’s chances in the general election.

2020 Coverage: After Biden, Also-Ran Order Varies by Channel. Kalev Leetaru has the latest numbers from the Television News Archive.

Ten Debating Democrats Giving It the Old College Try. Bill Whalen draws comparisons between the 2020 candidates and football teams with title aspirations.

Government Price-Fixing Will Put Health Care on Life Support. Ron Paul urges Congress to consider Independent Dispute Resolution as a better way to protect the interests of providers, insurers, and patients.

Why Is Surprise Medical Billing Congress’ Problem? In RealClearPolicy, James Capretta faults the insurance industry for failing to take steps that could have kept Capitol Hill at bay.

It’s Time to Escalate Against Nicaragua’s Ortega. In RealClearWorld, Ryan Berg calls for the U.S. and the OAS to step up pressure against the regime.

“The Case Against Education.” In RealClearBooks, Max Diamond interviews Bryan Caplan, whose new work assails the rise of credentialism and useless degrees.

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Jeb Bush had helped select Justina Road Elementary as the backdrop for his older brother’s push for No Child Left Behind because of its rising test scores. After the president spoke, the governor who had made education such a priority in Florida took his turn to speak.

“I agree with you,” he said. “And you agree with our mother -- that reading is maybe the most important thing we can do to ensure there is rising student achievement.”

From there, the president went to Longboat Key for the night before heading to Sarasota -- and a similar session there at Emma E. Booker Elementary the following morning. The staffers in the advance team had selected a book for Bush to read aloud to the kids. It was titled “The Pet Goat.”

Meanwhile, a complementary event was being prepared in Washington. Although education policy wasn’t yet a strictly partisan issue, the House and the Senate had passed divergent versions of No Child Left Behind and the legislation was languishing in a conference committee that was supposed to reconcile the two bills.

Among Bush’s staunchest allies was Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The iconic Massachusetts liberal was planning hearings the following day, Sept. 11, 2001. Among the invited witnesses was first lady Laura Bush, who planned to tell the Senate education committee, which Kennedy chaired, about the results of a summit on early childhood cognition she had hosted earlier that summer at Georgetown University.

Ted Kennedy had attended some of those July sessions and had personally invited Mrs. Bush to testify. On the eve of the hearings, his staff checked with the first lady's office to make sure things were on track for Tuesday, Sept. 11. They were told that Mrs. Bush was looking forward to it, that everything was going to be fine. That’s what nearly everyone thought.

Adding to the sense of optimism: The next day’s weather promised to be clear and pleasant. The sky, as Bruce Springsteen would later write, was an unbelievable blue. But that wasn’t a good omen. And in New York City, Arlington, Va., and central Pennsylvania -- where lethal black smoke would fill the air the following morning -- it was more akin to an illusion. 

Carl M. Cannon  
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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