Wednesday night, like millions of Americans, I watched President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on the need for health reform.
And, like millions of Americans, I heard a Congressman shout out from the floor “You lie!” when the President insisted that his plan did not cover illegal aliens.
It turned out, the Congressman who heckled the President and called him a liar during the speech was Joe Wilson, a Republican of South Carolina.
Heckling is a tradition in the British Parliament, with the Prime Minister taking shots from the opposition for half an hour every Wednesday. However, that’s planned. And there’s one thing that an MP doesn’t do — they don’t accuse the PM of being a liar.
But the British system is not the American system. A stately decorum within the halls of Congress was expected. Which made Joe Wilson’s outburst so shocking.
Keith Olbermann had a great reaction line to Wilson’s outburst: “You got up in front of the world, embarrassed your district, embarrassed your state, embarrassed your party, embarrassed your nation, shouted at the President like he was a referee at a ballgame and you were a drunk in the stands, and you were wrong.”
I, too, had something to say to Joe Wilson. I typed out a letter in the heat of the moment Wednesday night. It’s not an angry letter, though. It cites Teddy Roosevelt and the history of the Republican Party. It says that actions speak louder than words. It says that if Joe Wilson is really serious about health reform, where’s his plan?
Former Senator Bob Dole was quoted in yesterday’s USA Today as saying, roughly (as I don’t have the article here in front of me), that the Republican Party needs to offer a plan and make it public, because very soon the American public will start to ask, “What do the Republicans stand for?”
Do I expect Wilson to take up my challenge and be a constructive party to the debate on how to fix the health care system?
I do not.
I also wrote my own representative, Dutch Ruppersberger:
Like millions of Americans, I watched President Obama’s speech on the need for health care reform last evening. I thought the President laid out a cogent series of proposals that would help to make health care more affordable to all Americans and to insure the millions of Americans currently without access to health insurance and health care.
Unfortunately, I was appalled by the behavior of one of your colleagues, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina. During the speech, he heckled the President and shouted “You lie!” when the President noted that the health care bills before Congress do not apply to illegal immigrants. The long tradition of decorum in Congress was broken. Representative Wilson showed disrespect for the presidency, for the body in which he serves, for the constituency he represents, and for the people of the United States as a whole.
I believe that Representative Wilson should be censured. Rather than contribute constructively to the debate on health care, rather than offer his own substantive proposals, he villified the President’s plan and called him a liar. This is unfortunate and sad, and I would hope, Representative Ruppersberger, that if a motion to censure Representative Wilson comes to the floor of the House that you would support it and vote in favor of it.
Do I expect Joe Wilson to be censured?
Again, I do not.
He’s taken his licks in the media. He’s been chastised by his leadership. Unfortunately, he’s also a hero to the right now for his childish outburst from the floor.
Still, I said my piece to Wilson in my letter to his office. I expressed my displeasure to his colleague in an e-mail. And never once did I call Wilson a feckless douchebag wanker.
Because that would have been beneath the dignity of my keyboard.