On Tuesday, the president talked to schoolchildren across the nation about the merits of hard work, personal responsibility and staying in school.

He said they should not allow their personal problems to become excuses for doing poorly.

What a bunch of nanny-state, liberal mumbo ... wait a minute. That sounds almost like the stuff conservatives usually extoll.

But a lot of kids in the Lowcountry did not get to hear his message. You see, some nuts protested -- claimed that President Obama was trying to brainwash kids, indoctrinate them to a socialist agenda. Many schools wimped out and didn't show the address, for fear of riling the easily riled.

Funny thing is, if President Bush had made that very same speech, those whiners would have lauded it as a wonderful example of conservative principles, and called the president a role model.

That's American politics today -- perpetually divisive, disagreeable just to be disagreeable, and about as subtle as professional wrestling.

Except wrestling is much more sensible.

These folks -- along with people who say the president isn't American, and that wacky preacher who hopes Obama will die -- are not helping the conservative cause.

Politics or NASCAR?

Neal Thigpen, a Francis Marion University political science professor, calls this protest "absurd" -- and he's a Republican.

Thigpen remembers his family doctor inviting school kids to watch President Truman's inauguration at his home. Not a lot of people had TVs then, and it was a treat. What's interesting is, the doctor was a Republican.

But see, it wasn't about politics, it was the president of the United States -- the entire United States. Nowadays, that country doesn't exist. Everybody has to have a team, and that team always has to be right.

"Our politics have gotten so divisive, it really doesn't matter what the issue is," says David Woodard, a Clemson political science professor.

So basically, some idiot can get on the Internet and say the president is going to put children in a trance, or claim Obama is assembling a national police force, or that he was born in Africa, and more than a few people are actually going to believe it.

But then they say it's unpatriotic to criticize their guy.

'The O'Reilly Factor'

A couple of months ago, the conservative TV personality Bill O'Reilly wrote an article for Parade Magazine in which he praised President Obama for pulling himself up by his bootstraps and succeeding despite his origins -- broken family, modest means. He said those were lessons children could learn from.

If O'Reilly -- bane of the Democrats -- can see the merit of Obama's story, why can't these people?

It's too bad everything has become so vitriolic. It's not good for the country. And all this crying wolf makes the other side look more reasonable and hurts Republicans more than Democrats.