A characteristic of this White House, probably of any White House, is a desire for message control. But just to show you just how far that goes, consider this episode:
It turns out that people in the Obama administration made several attempts to reach actor Matt Damon just before he spoke at last month’s Save Our Schools rally in Washington D.C., blasting education policies that focus on high-stakes standardized tests.
According to two people familiar with the efforts, the administration tried to arrange a meeting with Damon and government officials, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, before the July 30 march. The sources declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
In fact, Duncan was willing to meet Damon at the airport when he flew into the Washington region and talk to him on the drive into the city, according to the sources. Damon declined all of the requests.
The Department of Education did not deny this pursuit of Matt Damon.
Matt Damon is an actor, and he gave a good speech, standing with the right people, on education policy. I’ve seen a mini-boomlet of liberals talking about “Matt Damon for President!” based off this action; that sounds suspiciously like falling in love with some other person based off, say, a keynote speech at the 2004 DNC convention.
But the White House is clearly concerned, I guess, because it attaches someone with a high profile to critics of their education policy. It just seems insane to me that ,with all the nation’s challenges, talking Matt Damon down from criticism is somehow one of their priorities.
What’s even more interesting is that the teachers who organized the Save Our Schools march were suddenly invited to a meeting with Administration officials the day before the march. I assume this occurred once the Education Department realized they couldn’t get to Matt Damon. The teachers declined the invitation, and asked if they could meet after the march. They were told no. Obviously they wanted to blunt the criticism, not engage on the policy.
So this is a clear effort to veal pen Matt Damon and the organization whose rally he supported. It signals a fear of activism, a fear of political pressure, even from the most trivial of sources.
This from the President who as a candidate said that “change does not come from the top down, but from the bottom up.”