Can you believe this? Republican South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson broke the rules of civility, threw decorum out the window, and called President Barack Obama a liar during his address to both chambers of the Congress. Mr. Wilson claims he was caught up in some fit of passion that he simply could not contain his emotional outburst.
Joe the Heckler immediately apologized after the address was through. At the request of Republican Party leaders, Mr. Wilson called Mr. Obama that night to apologize. A sudden rush of people going to Mr. Wilson’s website knocked out the servers and phone lines. His Democratic opponent reported nearly a half million dollars in new political contributions the next day. A hastily created web site highly critical of Mr. Wilson includes a link to donate to Ron Miller, his suddenly popular political opponent.
What Mr. Wilson has done is thrown down the gauntlet. In essence Mr. Wilson has issued a challenge to him and to the Democratic Party. In front of the nation, in front of the world, a lackey in the Republican Party tossed an insult to the leader of the Democratic Party. If this was the Godfather, the insult would have required a hit on the Tattaglia family.
For all intents and purposes Mr. Wilson was doing his part to undermine Mr. Obama’s office and called the President and the rest of the Democrats pussies. Mr. Wilson was making a bet that none of the Democrats had the balls to throw down. And even if they did decide to mix it up, the Republicans had the support from so many Americans ready to carry guns to town hall meetings where the President was scheduled to make an appearance. The President’s poll numbers were steadily falling. More and more people were deciding that healthcare reform was not what they needed since they think they already have what they need to assure and insure their health and the health of their family for the future. Mr. Wilson was feeling pretty good.
And to many people, the people who think Mr. Obama pals around with terrorists, who think Mr. Obama is secretly a Muslim who attended a Christian church intent on spreading hatred for white America, who thinks that Mr. Obama threw his grandmother under the bus because he described her as a typical white person, who thinks Mr. Obama isn’t a United States citizen and his certificate of birth from Hawaii is not legit, who thinks Mr. Obama is out to take everyone’s guns, who throw tea parties because they think Mr. Obama is responsible for the massive deficit, who thinks Mr. Obama is preparing death panels, who thinks Mr. Obama is Adolph Hitler reincarnated, Mr. Wilson is emerging as an American hero. The same people who will yell that Mr. Obama is a terrorist and “kill him” at a Republican rally will support Mr. Wilson and anybody who would scream any unruly criticism of the President.
This isn’t anything new. Glen Beck called the President a racist with a deep seated hatred of white people and he hasn’t stopped yet. A lot of people called Mr. Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court a racist with a deep seated hatred of white men. And through it all people rally around these mongers of hatred like moths to a flame. In response to all the cash contributions going to Mr. Wilson’s political opponent Ron Miller, Mr. Wilson is asking people to donate to his coffers and people are opening their wallets.
In his speech the other night, Mr. Obama said that he’s ready to call people out and it sounded aggressive. But Mr. Obama is once again ready to let bygones be bygones and turn the other cheek. Instead of calling Mr. Wilson out and holding him up as an example of the atmosphere of politics these days, he’s more likely to invite Mr. Wilson to the White House to make peace over a drink of his favorite suds. With all the talk of blister Mr. Obama has shown time and time again that he is more than ready to forgive and forget with a great deal of emphasis on the forget part.
When the Reverend Jeremiah Wright called him a politician Mr. Obama was so outraged that he formally and very publicly severed his relationship with the man. Mr. Wilson calls Mr. Obama a liar and more likely than not Mr. Obama will let bygones be bygones and open up a six pack. That’s not the way you take people to task. That’s not the way you call people out. That’s not the way you make people regret their tempting fate.
In the Godfather, to let such disrespect stand would mean that a family was weak and toothless. Well, it should be obvious how Mr. Wilson and many Republicans feel about the Democratic family. It looks like the gauntlet has been slammed down at Mr. Obama’s feet. Joe Wilson is ready for political war. But a challenge is just a challenge until somebody agrees to a dual or something. Joe Wilson is ready for war. And a lot of people who support Joe Wilson are ready for political war.
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.