Random thoughts about the case of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina), who broke House rules by yelling "You lie!" during one point in Pres. Obama's healthcare message to a joint session of Congress.
1. It's interesting that the press tried to dig up dirt on Wilson or searched archives for comparable outbursts in our nation's history, but very few reporters even cared whether Obama was, well, guilty.
2. A lot of this involves whose ox is being gored. Many of the people who demand respect for the office of the president were practically clamoring for bronzed replicas of the shoe an Iraqi journalist threw at President Bush.
3. Perhaps rather than a crass, explicit denunciation such as "You lie!," the genteel way to heckle any politician is by shouting, "Your lips are moving!"
4. Columnist Ann Coulter has called Wilson "America's greatest living statesman." His opponents view his lack of etiquette as a sign the barbarians are at the gate. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
5. Those who demanded a public apology from Wilson really know how to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. It's terrible for a congressman to call someone a liar, but apparently it's okay to vote on bills you haven't read, take junkets to the Bahamas to study Siberian trade agreements, spend more time campaigning for re-election than tending to congressional business, etc.
6. Wilson's detractors view his outburst as one more example of the current rancor, shrillness and incivility that make social progress impossible. But a dream of universal health care has been around at least since the time of Teddy Roosevelt. If there really was a Golden Age of gentlemanly public discourse, what exactly was blocking reform in the decades BEFORE right-wing talk radio, the Clinton impeachment trial, the Willie Horton commercial, and shouting matches at town hall meetings?
7. Wilson's foes say there is a proper time and place for voicing dissent. Yep, 2 a.m. on the American Samoa feed of Home Shopping Network -- a week after the legislation passes.
8. Let's not oversell cooperation and bipartisanship. They've given us pork barrel projects, raids of the Social Security trust fund, and campaign laws granting the incumbents a death-grip on their offices.
9. Why is the House so uptight about liar charges? Either a lot of liars worry about being caught or every member fears his esteemed colleagues will start making false accusations willy-nilly. Either way, if that's the best they have to offer, maybe they should resign en masse and give someone else a chance.
10. Ironically, the "rules is rules" bunch are dedicated to granting amnesty to people who broke our immigration laws and overlooking the excesses of the ACORN advocacy organization.
11. The novelty and shock value of "You lie!" is yesterday's news, so politicians pushed to the breaking point need new phrases. They should bring up the big artillery by hauling in speech teachers, mothers, and P.E. coaches to do the taunting. ("You split an infinitive!" "Stop slouching!" "Drop and give me 50!")
12. Heaven help the poor Chief Executive who outlines a major policy initiative after a showing of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." ("Your father was a hamster and your mother smells of elderberries!")
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