You Lie Mr. President!
President Barack Obama was trying to put the rhetoric and angst against healthcare behind him. All of us have seen the town hall meetings with people on both sides of the issue foaming at the mouth. Granted, one side has a lot more foaming people than the other, but there was rhetoric coming from both directions. But the era for civility and calm conversation will have to wait just a bit longer. In the middle of his healthcare address, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson yelled from the floor two words, “You lie!” This was in response to Mr. Obama’s statement that his plan for healthcare reform would not cover illegal immigrants.
Now Mr. Wilson might want to explain away his rudeness as a momentary lapse of civility based on his passion for the subject at hand. Supposedly, Mr. Wilson is a firm opponent of illegal immigration. He might even try to blame his emotional outburst on his latent turrets syndrome that manifests whenever he sees an authoritative black man. But one of the television cameras in the house chamber panned over to Mr. Wilson. He was holding a sign in his lap saying, “What bill?” It should be obvious that Mr. Wilson came prepared to do his impersonation of a typical town hall foamer ready to cause a ruckus for ruckus sake and not ready to listen at all.
In response to Mr. Wilson’s outburst the chamber erupted in a wave of disapproving boos. Mr. Obama held Mr. Wilson with a harsh gaze for a moment and calmly responded, “That’s not true.” As Mr. Obama went on with his speech, both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden continued to send eye daggers Mr. Wilson’s way. Mr. Wilson looked around at all the people giving him their own stairs of disapproval as if to say, “What?” For the remainder of the night, his attention was focused on his Blackberry.
Mr. Wilson’s actions did much to reinforce Mr. Obama’s words. As if prepared for a shameful display of Mr. Wilson’s caliber. “What we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government,” said Mr. Obama. “Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed,” he added, to Democratic cheers.
Well, in Mr. Wilson’s own words, you lie Mr. President. There will always be time for bickering and for lies and for mistruths for political gain. There will always be time to put self serving political agendas ahead of what’s best for the nation. There will always be a time for a politician to scream an improper comment from the safety of the sidelines. There will always be time for people to be obnoxious when there is plenty to support the notion that others are ready to support and reinforce obnoxious behavior with their own obnoxiousness.
Many other Republican Party politicians expressed open contempt for Mr. Obama by tweeting during the speech, scanning their BlackBerrys, or holding up copies of Republican healthcare reform bills during the speech. Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said that he was incredibly disappointed in the tone of Mr. Obama’s speech. He said that he found Mr. Obama’s tone to be overly combative and believed he talked in a manner beneath the dignity of his office that will make it more difficult to find common ground. The way Mr. Graham speaks you’d think Mr. Obama simply walked over to the Republican side of the House and just bitched slap them all, not that they and their Democratic associates, don’t deserve it.
So this morning, it’s clear that the speech didn’t do much of anything. People on the left are still on the left. People on the right are still on the right. If anything, the trenches just got deeper, the heights of the stonewalling has a new layer of stone on top. There will always be a time for entrenchment. It seems to be the natural order of things. If anything, it is the time that we can achieve anything that resembles reform or at the very least a bipartisan effort that looks like it might lead to reform, is what has come to past. The idea that we can set aside differences and come together for the true benefit of the American people is a bold lie.