Barack Obama won a lot of praise for telling the NAACP on July 16 that black students should quit using social disadvantages as an excuse for slacking off in school. But at almost the same time, his administration was busy using social disadvantages to manufacture an excuse for a new racial quota in high schools nationwide. And nothing promotes slacking off in school like educational quotas — “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” as another president once called it.

Give Obama credit; he says a lot of the right things. He always has. During the campaign last year he not only endorsed charter schools but explicitly endorsed “competition” in education, and he was booed at the convention of the National Education Association for endorsing merit pay.

It makes an important difference that Obama says these things. Competition and merit pay in education used to be untouchable concepts in the Democratic Party, and now they’re mainstream — thanks in large part to Obama.

The NAACP speech continued Obama’s longstanding practice of saying a lot of the right things:

We’ve got to say to our children, yes, if you’re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that’s not a reason to get bad grades. [Applause] That’s not a reason to cut class. [Applause] That’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. [Applause.]

And he didn’t just leave it at that — he drew the fundamental moral:

No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands. You cannot forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. [Applause.] No excuses.

“No excuses!” That’s strong stuff. It makes a big difference that a black president of the United States went to the NAACP — ground zero for the culture of racial excuses! — and said these things. And was repeatedly interrupted by applause!

Of course we know the NAACP’s applause for this sort of thing isn’t sincere. Oh, perhaps they felt at the time that they really approved of the message. But come the next morning they were right back at their desks, hard at work promoting racial excuses. That kind of applause is the sincerity of the insincere — they’re honest with everyone except themselves.

Nevertheless, the fact that they feel the need to applaud is a good sign. Hypocrisy really is the tribute that vice pays to virtue — and when do nations make payments of tribute? When they’ve lost a power struggle with a stronger neighbor. The all-excuses culture of the NAACP pays tribute to the “no excuses!” culture of Barack Obama because it knows it has lost the fight for public opinion.

If only the Obama administration lived up to the “no excuses!” culture promoted by its president.