Friday, September 11, 2009

Say It Isn't So, Joe Wilson

Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina is the person who shouted "You lie!" during President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening. Wilson violated the rules of the House of Representatives, of which he is a member, on a variety of counts that are respected even in the most heated Congressional debates -- no direct address, except to the Chair, and after being recognized; no characterization of another speaker in the body as lying. Oh, and don't heckle the speaker. Treat the President, the judiciary, members of the "other body," and colleagues with respect and courtesy.

Wilson's heckling is rightly regarded as beyond the pale, and his apology came only after the Republican leadership, seeing how idiotic this made them look, insisted to him that he apologize--which he did in a message to the president's chief of staff. The president, typically, forgave him. Wilson continued to excuse and justify his act to the press--insisting that he spoke spontaneously (the righteous reaction of a virtuous patriot!), and, after all, he tells the press, although President Obama was technically correct that the health care bills so far passed prohibit enrollment by illegal aliens, Wilson thinks the preventive resources are not sufficiently harsh.

Such justifications bring discredit upon Wilson and his cause--are in fact a declaration of the bullying resentments of a displaced and disgraced minority groaning at its own impotence--declaring that impotence by its tantrums. At least that's the way I read the most likely rhetorical response to Wilson's actions. True believers, of course, will think otherwise, asking the rest of us to regard their shouting as a sign of deep sincerity. Perhaps it is. Is it the rule that they would like us all to live by?

Wilson appears to be hearing about this from his constituents--at least he was until the outpouring apparently overwhelmed his Congressional web site. Here's how it looks at the moment:


Joe Wilson

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