Preston Brooks, Joe Wilson and the Palmetto State

523px-PBrooks-SC2 Mr. Wilson of South Carolina is representative of a long line of hotheads from that place. 

Preston Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner nearly to death with a cane on the floor of the US Senate while a friend held other senators at bay with a pistol.  Brooks was also from South Carolina.  The reaction in South Carolina was mixed, "joy and jubilation."  Well wishers from across the state sent Brooks new and better canes to replace the one he broke over Sumner's head.  What was Sumner's offense?  He had made a foolish and insulting speech.

A few years later South Carolina led the South out of the Union because Lincon had been elected president on the basis of a majority in the Electoral College but only a plurality in the country wide popular vote. Virginia eventually and reluctantly followed rather than fight the rest of the South.  Hundreds of thousands of deaths were suffered and a there was a hundred years of economic blight in the South.

Last night Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted "you lie!" at the president of the United States during his address to the Congress on health care issues.

For shame, sir!  For shame!  You apologized?  There should be some greater penance than that.

If we can not be civil even as we disagree, then we are nothing but a mob.


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79 Responses to Preston Brooks, Joe Wilson and the Palmetto State

  1. Cieran says:

    The modern GOP: the party of poor impulse control.

  2. Subkommander Dred says:

    Joe Wilson probably forgot he was sitting in the US Capitol, listening to a speech by the President of the United States, instead thinking he was in a Town Hall meeting. Like Preston Brooks, he’ll probably get a hero’s welcome when he goes back to his home district, so I don’t see any sort of sanction for his actions from the voters back home. However, The U.S. Congress can and should censure him. Again, a relatively toothless measure, but it’s the least that august body ought to do regading this most ungracious and disrepectful act.
    Pete Deer
    Charlottesville, Virginia

  3. linda says:

    yes, it’s shameful, and my initial disgust has flipped to amusement as i realized obama couldn’t have asked for a more perfect illustration of the republican party he has to deal with — contemptuous of process and the institutions of government — and not in the least bit interested in negotiating in good faith.
    and the resulting contributions ($100k and counting) to wilson’s democratic challenger, rob miller, are just icing on the cake.

  4. Nancy K says:

    Maybe Joe Wilson can lead South Carolina out of the Union again (only kidding).
    I imagine many in SC are rejoicing just as they did when Brooks beat Sumner. I’m not so sure civility can be taught.

  5. Maureen Lang says:

    Censure is needed for Wilson & his nationally televised public gaff, despite the afterthought forced apology.
    He disgraces South Carolinians. They’re not all like him, or the other SC mutts who get airtime so frequently.

  6. crf says:

    The worst isn’t the fact that Joe Wilson can’t control himself.
    How could you expect anything different, when many Republican leaders have gone on a two month anger-fueled binge, spouting lies about a “government takeover” of the private insurance system and “death-panels”: both blatant lies about health care reform? And all the while giving winks and nods to the birfers and other barely-concealed racists? And have the media lap all this up and only demand more?
    One of the best things about the speech was when Obama offered to work with senators to improve his health plan. But not if they were going to lie about it.
    He cannot trust the media to properly analyse this discourse. He’s going to have to do it himself. Those on the fence or against health care reform would have learned more in Obama’s short speech than watching months of TV news coverage.

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    Ah. I forgot to mention that I am not in favor of the “public option.”
    I would favor federal regulation of private health insurance companies and an expansion of Medicaid to deal with the truly poor.
    I know it offends many people to speak of anything European but that seems to work in a number of countries. pl

  8. curious says:

    The backlash has gone viral.
    Rob Miller (Joe’s opponent) has now raised a quarter of a million. (at 60K/hr rate). Dkos alone raised $100K+. My guess Rob is going to raise around half a million. It is now beyond the reach of natural representative race fund raising capability. This is nation wide backlash.
    see statistic here:$250,000-and-counting!!-Wilson-pay-for-his-disrespect

  9. cb says:

    I’ll take prime minister’s questions, which make Joe Wilson look like a schoolboy. Obama is not a sun king — he’s a guy with a job. If you think he’s lying, say so.
    A little shouting? I wouldn’t have thought we would all be so delicate.

  10. lina says:

    It is my understanding that people with employer-provided health insurance would not be eligible for the so-called public option.
    The public option, as it is being presented in the several bills pending, is for people who cannot obtain insurance in the private market – for one reason or another (and there are many – beyond simple poverty).
    The state of Vermont has enacted something like this for its citizens. The state government has entered into a partnership with two private insurers to get everyone covered at a reasonable cost.
    It is truly unfortunate how misinformed people are about what is in the legislation, when the legislation itself can be accessed on-line.

  11. Mark Stuart says:

    I understand that Mr. Wilson’s outburst was considered by many as out of place to say the least.
    I am not familiar with life inside Congress, but I wonder on what basis? is that on the basis of sheer proper etiquette pertaining to speeches in general or else?
    In any case, does anyone see a difference between booing and his outburst? I personally found both rude and uncivilized.
    Following the same reasoning, i wonder if the President’s supporters couldn’t have cut down on the standing ovations?! I found it not only disruptive and a bit much, but their frequency and frenzy made them worthy of parliaments found in dictatorships! Simple rounds of applause would have sufficed in my opinion.

  12. ExBrit says:

    I’m going to throw some cold water on you lot for your tenderness regarding Wilson’s shout out. I am an Obama supporter, but I think you take this too seriously. When the PM addresses the British Parliament he is liable to get some lively and noisy response. Is our democracy so fragile?

  13. turcopolier says:

    The prime minister is not head of state. He is a member of the Commons. Obama is head of state and was a guest of the Congress. Pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  14. turcopolier says:

    Civility toward the head of state should be easily understood. Pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  15. geos says:

    I know it offends many people to speak of anything European but that seems to work in a number of countries. pl
    I assume you a speaking roughly about the German model: health insurance is underwritten by private companies but there is a common ‘policy’ tied to employment, heavily regulated by the government and subsidized for those with lower incomes. Those with higher incomes may then afford ‘extra’ coverage on top of the common policy.
    As with many things, even though the German system looks ‘privatized’ it’s very much dependent upon the German way-of-doing- things. But most importantly, I doubt you could ever implement the German model if the German health insurance companies were in open antagonism with the German state. I am completely sure that, in the U.S., any health insurance regulation will immediately be examined by the best lawyers money can buy for loopholes that allow the insurance industry to continue it’s current business practices (aside from the influence they will undoubtably have had in crafting the legislation in the first place.)
    For me, the main justification for the “public option” is that it would use the market (rather than the courts) enforce a government mandated standard of coverage (a ‘common’ policy) It’s just an American way of heavily regulating the health insurance industry.
    What is amazing to me about the health insurance debate in the U.S. is that American business hasn’t come to the conclusion that providing for universal health coverage is in it’s own best interest; as if the implosion of GM wasn’t enough of a cautionary tale. I think the debate would be remarkably different if more Americans traveled in Europe. Right now, those Americans with the most experience with European culture and society are either in the economic and business elite or the military, neither of whom need to worry about health insurance (for very different reasons.)

  16. Nancy K says:

    I support Universal Health Care in the sense that every American would have access to Health Care. Private insurance when possible and a public option when private insurance companies refuse to cover, drop coverage or make coverage so expensive that a family or individual has to choose between housing and food and health care.
    We are not British nor do we have a Parlimentary Gov. My husband grew up and was educated in England and he was apalled at Joe Wison. He agreed that the members of Parliment can be very vocal but they are usually more eloquent than “You Lie”. Joe Wilson was not disagreeing with a point, he was demeaning the President of the United States of American.

  17. Kevin Walsh Crean says:

    One aspect that has yet to be commented on is the social signaling of the event. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in courtrooms, with lots of money on the line and lots of pressure in the air. I’ve found that the party with the poorest argument often begins to unravel in subtle and not so subtle ways, just before a crucial decision is to be made. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.
    Last night, it was almost as if Joe Wilson had been unconsciously selected by the Republicans to stand up and signal their weakness. (And if you look at Wilson’s comments today, he’s claiming that the outburst was all but uncontrolable.) In the face of Pres. Obama’s even-handed call to rational discourse, the party that fails to control its tone when it objects is done for.
    Substantively, Pres.Obama gave a moving, masterful speech. Given the force of that speech and the fact that the healthcare bill is still a close-run thing, Republicans could have positioned themselves very differently–that is, had they not signaled to us, clearly, their own view that they cannot withstand the pressure of a rational debate on the merits. For this, we should be thankful for Rep. Wilson, though he didn’t know then, and apparently doesn’t know now, what he did or why.

  18. doug says:

    My parents hail from the Palmetto State.
    The SC pols are increasingly embarassing to this Republican. Come to think of it, why the hell am I still a registered Republican? Laziness, as they have repelled me during the Bush II financial profligacy. Not that the Dems would have done any better. It appears financial soundness will ultimately be imposed externally. That is a shame.

  19. If we can not be civil even as we disagree, then we are nothing but a mob.
    This reminds me of a famous confrontation between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor in the House of Commons.

    Astor: “Mr. Churhill, if I were your wife and you were my husband, sitting across from me at the breakfast table drinking a cup of coffee, I would put poison in that cup.”
    Churchill: “Lady Astor, if I had the great misfortune that you be my wife and I be your husband sitting across from you at the breakfast table, I would drink that cup.”

  20. ExBrit says:

    Col. Lang,
    Civility towards the head of state should indeed be easily understood, but we are talking about a Republican from South Carolina!
    With all due respect, saying the British Prime Minister is not the head of state is a pretty fine point to balance on. While it is true that the Queen is actually the head of state her position is nominal, since the PM is the executive power of the government.

  21. turcopolier says:

    Absolute nonsense! Can you imagine a member of the Commons shouting “liar”
    at the queen? Pl

  22. par4 says:

    Gen Eaton called him out @ Huffpost. He said an ex-military man should know better (paraphrase}.

  23. confusedponderer says:


    I am completely sure that, in the U.S., any health insurance regulation will immediately be examined by the best lawyers money can buy for loopholes that allow the insurance industry to continue it’s current business practices (aside from the influence they will undoubtably have had in crafting the legislation in the first place.)

    That’s just silly. Germany has very capable and expensive lawyers who do just what you describe, successfully.
    Lawyering wasn’t invented in the US. Neither was lobbying for that matter.

  24. R Whitman says:

    Joe Wilson is guilty of just bad manners and lack of respect for the Office of the President of the United States.
    On health care. Somewhere between 40 and 50% of the US population are already covered by government health programs. Medicare, Medicaid, VA, Tricare, Military, employees and families of federal, state, local and GSE agencies, prisioners in federal, state and local jails are all covered. Most are very happy with government provided health care. Extending it to the rest of the population should be a “no brainer”.

  25. turcopolier says:

    Yup. I understand this fellow graduated from W&L and is retired from the USAR as a colonel of the JAG corps. I have to think of him as the village idiot who happens to be the squire’s nephew or the cousin who one attempts to keep quiet at Thanksgiving dinner at least until the ambrosia is served. pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  26. Absolute nonsense! Can you imagine a member of the Commons shouting “liar”
    at the queen? Pl

    Goodness, since Charles I, royalty have found parliament to be a pain in the neck. Commons ritually slams the door in her face when she arrives to give her annual speech, you know.
    But the president is more analogous to the prime minister. Or should be.
    Simply calling someone a liar is crude. I was certainly not defending it. Rather, I was appealing to The Lost Art of the Insult
    For what it is worth, in response to your point, we have this:

    Unparliamentary language
    Unparliamentary language breaks the rules of politeness in the House of Commons Chamber. Part of the Speaker’s role is to ensure that MPs do not use insulting or rude language and do not accuse each other of lying, being drunk or misrepresenting each other’s words. Words to which objection has been taken by the Speaker over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor. The Speaker will direct an MP who has used unparliamentary language to withdraw it. Refusal to withdraw a comment might lead to an MP being disciplined. MPs sometimes use considerable ingenuity to get around the rules; for example Winston Churchill famously used the phrase “terminological inexactitude” to mean “lie”.

  27. hoppinjon says:

    You failed to mention Benjamin Ryan Tillman who earned his nickname when he said he would like to stick a pitchfork into that bag of beef (Grover Cleveland.) The difference between Tillman and Wilson is that ‘Pitchfork Ben’ was an intelligent, self-educated (if deranged) man. Joe Wilson is just plain dumb.
    We South Carolinians go crazy every couple of generations. Bad as Ole Strom’s politics were, he was no Ross Barnett, George Wallace or Lester Maddox. When Harvey Gantt integrated Clemson, he said if you couldn’t appeal to a South Carolinian’s morals, you could appeal to his manners. Obama’s election has unhinged many of my white neighbors and reason and manners are in short supply.

  28. mlaw230 says:

    I am curious as to what the SST community and Colonel Lang objects to in regard to the “public option?” this may not be a “core” subject for this group, but perhaps that is a good thing.

  29. turcopolier says:

    Another low country favorite of mine. Have you seen my recipe on how to
    cook a country ham? I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. You are correct
    of course in the matter of manners. It is that which I most regret in this
    incident. Pl

  30. J says:

    What would Thomas Jefferson say?

  31. J says:

    Cured Virginia ham, now that makes me hungry. Why wait until Thanksgiving, a good cured Virginia ham is enjoyable the year around.

  32. Brett J says:

    Kevin Walsh Crean, I find your hypothesis re: forces buffeting Wilson (and comment itself, besides) thoughtful and idea-prompting.
    The outburst’s…insubstantiality (and time of occurrence – liar re: immigrant coverage? that’s REALLY what got you wound up?), in addition to his distancing of self from it shortly afterward, does bring one to think of what other variables may’ve prompted the event.

  33. mike says:

    There’s a program that airs on public radio called “The Thomas Jefferson Hour.” The associated website is I wouldn’t be surprised if they answer your question on an upcoming program. The show can be downloaded free.
    I live in the city where the show is produced; I’m not affiliated with it.

  34. The outburst perhaps indicates that members of both parties now understand that only one of them can survive and maybe not either. Tension is rising as people are still able to obtain enough information despite the spin of the MSM that individu als must deleverage and that foreclosures, underwater mortgages, and job layoffs have ended forever the US consumer driven economy. It is just the rentier class and FIRE sector [Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate] that have so far survived due to government handouts and Corporate Socialism. Not much left on the table for the rest of US! Rumors continue of all-time high in credible threats against the President. As a distinguished black lady long treasurer of one party in my geographic told me in the early spring of 2008–“I just hope they let him [OBAMA] live!” Since I always will wonder at the ifs of the deaths of the President and Senator Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King at the end of bullets I certainly agree with that woman and understand her concern. The outburst should result in a formal act of censure.

  35. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Wilson’s boorish behavior wasn’t even the half of it:
    From the antics of the Birthers, to the falsifications of the Deathers, to the astroturfing of the Tea Baggers, the right wing “charm” assault on public discourse inevitably culminated in this nonsense. The sullen mob of racists, authoritarians, and religious zealots is on the move, covertly financed by reactionaries, and egged on by the dog whistles from wingnut politicians. To these people, elections have NO meaning. They don’t feel that they should have to engage in dialogue with people of a different race or ethnicity. For them, it’s right wing authoritarianism and the national surveillance state or the highway. And since God is undoubtedly on their side, you know who must be on the side of the others, eh?
    We saw it for eight long years. They bullied those who tried to expose the falsehoods that they were noising about to justify their cherished illegal wars. They impugned the character of those who protested their contempt for the rule of law, calling us traitors to our country. They corralled those who peaceably assembled to voice their contrarian political views into “free speech zones” in order to squelch their voices. The list goes on and on. And now? Now they want to institute a tyranny of the minority.
    The prospects for resistance to this are not propitious. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are largely in thrall to our corporate masters, those huge immortal “people” who bestride the Republic like colossi, increasingly unanswerable to any check from those whom they view as “consumers”. (Pardon me, but I still prefer Citizen, as quaint as that may seem to be given the apparent lateness of the hour.) Oh, and restrictions on campaign financing are on the chopping block in the Supreme Court as we speak, so the Big Immortal “People” will soon have even bigger voices and unfettered rights to line politicians’ pockets. Huzzah. Will appeals to the defense of the republican values enshrined in our foundational documents save the day? To turn the phrase uttered by Barry Goldwater back in the day, “Cravenness in the defense of the rule of law and civil liberties is no vice”, seems to be the principle at work, judging by the legislation enacted in recent times, and the blind eye turned to misdeeds.
    In the face of this naked chicanery, one sometimes is at a loss to know what to do. But a line from a poem by e.e.cummings comes to mind, “…there is some s*** i will not eat…”
    Apologies for the rant, CITIZENS, but sometimes you just have to howl.

  36. CK says:

    I can imagine telling an employee whom I have caught in a lie, that he is a liar. The president is not a royal, he is a servant on the payroll. When he lies he deserves to be called on it just as one would call any other lying employee.
    Was Rep Wilson correct in his designation of the president as a liar. Time will answer that.
    Should he have called him a liar in the way and in the place that he did? Probably not the most efficient or effective long term strategy, but as a short term tactic it had obvious merit.

  37. gypsy howell says:

    I’m somewhat surprised that you are not a supporter of the public option, but instead favor private health insurers. Do you also support getting rid of taxpayer-funded government-run TRICARE and Medicare, and turning the groups currently covered under those plans over to private industry?

  38. Mark Stuart says:

    Honestly, who cares about what the Commons do or don’t do with their Queen ?! With all due respect to both.
    This is America since July 4th 1776! England is no Motherland anymore! And whatever they decide to do in London doesn’t constitute in and of itself a seal of approval, nor sound proper policy or etiquette.
    The key word in our host’s response is: guest. But was the President really invited or Rahm Emmanuel worked his magic once more to “crash the party”? If the President is invited by Congress in a closed door meeting to discuss and present his reform, there is no doubt in my mind that you don’t heckle or boo him. You don’t treat a guest like that. It’s just plain rude and uncivilized. More so if it’s to talk, discuss, and negotiate.
    But if the President is convening the countries representatives as well as the American People directly by having the speech broadcast live on every channel, to present his plan and seek their support, i don’t see why on earth he shouldn’t expect anything but praises, and applause?! No matter how high and respectable his office. He’s got his share of standing ovations, hasn’t he?
    Are Americans supposed to witness on TV a fully submitted apathetic Congress and follow suit? Again the President is no Queen of England, nor is he Louis XIV. (OK maybe on Halloween or in the comfort of his privacy)
    Still, why are people outraged at Wilson’s outburst still remaining mum about the booing? There is no logic here.
    So is it all then merely some political plot on the part of some out there in Washington to redirect people’s attention on anything but the reform or just some political brouhaha at which politicians and MSM excel?
    As for the Reform, just one word of advice: whatever the French did…don’t do! lol

  39. Legislative bodies create their own rules and this is referred to as legislative procedure. Thus in our Congress, the Senate and the House have different and separate sets of rules. Foreign legislative bodies have their own distinctive sets of rules.
    Under its rules, personal attacks/insults are not allowed in debate in the Senate of the United States. I presume it is also a violation of the rules of the “Other Body” (the House). Courtesy, comity, and decorum are to be respected as are the rules.
    Wilson has apparently used personal insults in debate in the House before. Thus his disgraceful outburst/insult behavior to the President of the United States/Commander in Chief appears not anomalous.
    In my service on the Senate staff, I witnessed two very rare outburst/insults on the Senate Floor during debate: 1) the Senator from South Carolina called the Senator from Ohio “the Senator from B’nai B’rith”. This remark was stricken from the Congressional Record and thus does not appear in the historical record. 2) the Senator from Wyoming personally insulted the Senator from North Carolina. Out of respect for courtesy and decorum, the Senator from North Carolina back in his office from the Floor instructed his staff to say nothing publicly about the incident. I believe this outburst/insult was also stricken from the Congressional Record.

  40. turcopolier says:

    You don’t seem to have read my comment very closely. pl

  41. turcopolier says:

    You, like so many today, have no sense of what is appropriate and not. pl

  42. Langvir says:

    Colonel –
    I understand that Joe Wilson is a retired colonel in the National Guard – does the National Guard have the same cutoms and rules as any other armed service about the proper respect that is to be show to the Commander-in-Chief?

  43. Rider says:

    The rules of decorum in Congress are not those of the British Parliament but were based on the far more civil rules of the Iroquois Confederation. Google it.
    As for Rep. Wilson, here’s all you need to know about “where he’s coming from” (hint it all comes down to fear of “Negro Rule” circa 1867):

  44. When it comes to personal insults, what would be more effective than Mark Anthony’s refrain in Julius Ceasar?

    Brutus is an honorable man.

    Of course, we have Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo’s denunciation of a rival poet:

    Be not flatulent,
    Vilest of sewers,
    Through which Parnassus
    Purges its excrement!

    True poetry.

  45. Patrick Lang says:

    The National Guard has the same standard of behavior as the regular forces. pl

  46. cdawg says:

    Please give me a break, GW Bush was so disrespected by the Democrats it was disgusting. I remember when Harry Reid called him a loser, also the tapes are out there of GWB’s SOTU in 2005 being loudly booed.
    Sorry, but turn about is fair play. There is lack of civility from both parties, please, lets stop with the manufactured outrage just because its toward a President that clearly CAN’T take it. Bush took it, and then some.
    The Dems are trying to make Joe Wilson the story, when in fact the story is a country that is already going bankrupt and cannot afford nationalized health care.

  47. Mark Stuart says:

    Which CK? the CK, CK? or CK Clifford Kiracofe?
    But seriously M. Kiracofe:
    You’re saying that “his disgraceful outburst/insult behavior to the President of the United States/Commander in Chief appears not anomalous.”
    If this rule you mention is actually part of the legislative procedure, its intent is to regulate the discourse between congressmen themselves and not between them and the President giving a speech before Congress. And the two examples you give where that rule was broken seem to corroborate that opinion. They pertain to Senators among themselves.
    So as long as you have not brought forth anymore evidence that such heckling of the President giving a speech before Congress is commonplace or sanctioned by the legislative procedure, it will be anomalous.

  48. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t recall that a member of Congress or anyone else yelled at GWB that he was a liar, a fool or anything else while he was addressing the Congress. pl

  49. cdawg says:

    My point is that I think we can’t let this non story IMO be a distraction. It’s like watching a magician do a trick. Everyone watches what he is doing with his right hand while his left is the one we should really be watching.
    The office of the President has been disrespected immensely since Bill Clinton was there. He took it, GWB took it…BO clearly can’t. He handled it well at the time but the next day his minions are out for blood and trying to drum up red meat.
    The story for me is a country that is being transformed over night into something that it was never intended to be.

  50. Patrick Lang says:

    This was grossly disrespectful and you know that is true. pl

  51. Philip Cunningham says:

    Aside from the discussion about whether the best analogy is with the Queen or Prime Minister (and I agree with PL), convention dictates that you cannot directly accuse a fellow member of being a liar – it is “unparliamentary language”. is an example of the delicacy of exchanges in the Commons. I cannot vouch for the Lords, but I expect similar standards apply.

  52. “Mark Stuart” (if that is your name)
    Apparently you seem not to have read full text of my paragraph. I said: “Wilson has apparently used personal insults in debate in the House before. Thus his disgraceful outburst/insult behavior to the President of the United States/Commander in Chief appears not anomalous.”
    Wilson’s outburst appears not anomalous for him based on reported prior outbursts information about which is online. The reported past outbursts apparently involved him impugning a fellow member of the House’s patriotism.
    As Wilson is a member of the House, any discipline by that body would fall under the House rules.
    Thus we see in POLITICO today:
    “Clyburn said he would support a resolution reprimanding Wilson, or another punishment called a “resolution of disapproval,” unless the South Carolina Republican took some further step to defuse the majority’s anger. “I said to him that the proper thing to do would be go to the well [of the House] to apologize to his colleagues,” Clyburn said.
    Otherwise, he cautioned Wilson that “there are more than 218 votes on my side” for some kind of sanction against him. “He has no remorse whatsoever. So his words have very little meaning,” Clyburn complained on MSNBC.
    All this is not so hard to grasp I should think.

  53. cb says:

    “I don’t recall that a member of Congress or anyone else yelled at GWB that he was a liar, a fool or anything else while he was addressing the Congress.”
    That’s right — they sat there quietly while he told them that Iraq was seeking Nigerian yellowcake so they could give nuclear weapons to their allies in al-Qaeda. Then they raised their hands meekly and said “Da!” in unison.
    I know which behavior I prefer.

  54. charlottemom says:

    In all the back and forth about the rudeness and inappropriateness of J.Wilson’s outburst, why has no one discussed the validity of Wilson’s claim. Is that also not germaine?
    Truth be told — they’re both liars, sort of. Obama is right that the legislation (in all versions?) does not extend to coverage of illegals. Technical point. Wilson is right that there is NO mechanism for implementing this nor is there a way for differentiating who is illegal or not. Real-life loophole.
    That said, Joe Wilson was certainly rude and based on top campaign contributors (pharma, doctors, nursing homes – the usual suspects) not the exactly a profile in “speaking truth to power.”
    All in all, the president existing in a bubble does not do democracy any good. I understand why this is, but am so weary as his appearances (bush too) are so managed – from “townhalls” to Congressional speeches to fastfood drop-in photo-ops. I’d like to see the president verbally dusted up occasionally — as a sort of a tough love way of keeping him honest. If not the legislative branch constitutionally charged with overseeing the executive, then who?
    Since this admin seems to prefer to deal with the “gang of six” and selected, favored representatives rather than the congress as a whole, it must be mighty frustrating being a lowely congressman these days. Especially when they don’t have the benefit of scripting their town halls.
    Just food for thought.

  55. greg0 says:

    Lots of commentary out there. I liked the line “Pay no attention to the elephant behind the curtain.”
    Here are a couple links folks might enjoy.
    David Letterman – “It’s been months since a SC Republican embarrassed his state.”
    Craig Ferguson – “It’s not the Jerry Springer Show!”

  56. charlottemom says:

    In all the back and forth on the rudeness and inappropriateness of Wilson’s outburst, have we discussed the validity of his claim? Is that not germaine?
    Truth be told he and Obama are both liars, sort of. Obama is right that the language in the legislation states that illegals will not be covered. Technical point. Wilson is right that there is no mechanism for implementing this nor is there a way to differentiate coverage for illegals or even how hospitals should distinguish who illegals are. Real life loophole.
    Joe Wilson was certainly rude, and based on his donors (nursing home, health professionals, pharma, the usual suspects) not exactly a profile of “speaking truth to power.”
    But really, Obama (Bush too) does seem live/work/speak from inside a bubble and I don’t think that is a good thing for our democracy. I understand the security issues, but all appearances are so managed – from townhalls, to congressional visits, to fast food drop-ins.
    I’d like to see our president verbally dusted up occasionally in a tough love way of keeping him honest. So if not the legislative branch charged constitutionally with overseeing the executive, then who?
    This administration prefers to deal with its “gang of six” and selected favored reps rather than Congress as whole, so it must get mighty frustrating being a lowly member of congress. Especially since they don’t seem to have the benefit of scripting their own town halls.

  57. Nancy K says:

    I have listened several times on line to the 2005 SOTU speech by Pres Bush, and I don’t hear boos or anyone yelling You Lie. I do hear voices of dissent but they are well within appropriate bounds. People did boo at Bush’s Inaguration but this came from the people not from the Congress.
    Joe Wilson was out of line and acted the rube.
    To say that Pres Obama handled it poorly is innacurate. He was very much the gentleman during the speech.
    I think some people are just very poor losers and cannot tolerate that a majority of Americans voted for someone they do not approve of. Get over it please.
    The other point I wish to make is why is health care for all Americans a bad thing. Even Jefferson extolled the importance of healthy citizens. Many of us are fortunate enought to be able to qualify for and afford private insurance but there are many millions of Americans who cannot qualify or cannot afford private insurance. In our wonderful country is our answer to them just get sick and die. I sincerely hope not.

  58. cb says:

    Glenn Greenwald, in a recent post:
    “…our political mores demand vehement repudiation of petty acts of incivility (not all, but most) while tolerating and even approving of extremely consequential acts of indecency as long as they’re advocated with superficial civility. Those who use curse words to oppose torture, wars and lawbreaking are evil and unSerious (The Angry Left); those who politely and soberly advocate morally repugnant, indecent policies are respected and Serious.”
    Different topic, but same idea.

  59. mike says:

    Should he have called him a liar in the way and in the place that he did? Probably not the most efficient or effective long term strategy, but as a short term tactic it had obvious merit.
    If this is about tactics and strategy, Rep. Wilson is terrible at both. His outburst galvanized his opposition and let them change the subject. It was also off-putting to undecideds. Really a textbook example of how you can’t isolate your opponent with words, they have to actually look like what you accuse them of being.

  60. rfjk says:

    Brooks and Sumner were the norm of the times who exterminated what little promise and hope remained of the revolution and the first republic.
    Whether we date today the 2nd republic birthed in Civil War, or the 3rd born of depression and WW II, corrupt politicians like Joe Wilson are today’s norm who are witlessly killing the great lie that has reigned every since 1865.
    When the Man of Democracy arises, and I’ve no doubts come he will, inferior, unfit men like Wilson who lust for what they ought not are the sheep to be slaughtered on the horned altars of their own inequities.

  61. Patrick Lang says:

    Now, that, was interesting. You might like my novels. pl

  62. jedermann says:

    If this is a “non-story” it accretes with a lot of other non-stories that have come to form a body of bad behavior and incivility rationalized and justified by the perceived, immanent threat to our liberty embodied in the person of Barak Obama. Many of us feel that the Bush administration was systematically chipping away at civil liberties and was lying to the American people and we said so forcefully and repeatedly. Evidently Bush’s handlers expected the kind of over-the-top behavior we see now at Obama events and they made sure his audiences were carefully vetted to exclude anyone who did not support his policies. It may be that we simply didn’t have the opportunity to be so uncivil to his face, but at the one occasion each year on which Mr. Bush was forced to expose himself to people who disagreed with him, the State of the Union address, no one called him any names or shouted that he was a liar. They may have expressed their dissent by booing, and that was wrong and an embarrassment to those who did, but calling our head of state a liar at a public, official function is an affront of a different order. If this non-story is allowed to become a precedent in the way we conduct ourselves we will find it much easier to continue the descent into darkness than to climb back up into the light. The yahoos throwing around fighting words and whipping themselves and others into a state of hysteria may just reap the whirlwind for all of us. There exists an awful precedent for that.

  63. Patrick Lang says:

    I have a Lebanese friend who is a political science professor, but nevertheless an estimable gentleman.
    He is a Canadian officially, but has an interest in American life. He thinks that the country (this one) is starting to break up. I note the echo of that in your comment.
    I hope not. We are beginning to hate each other again on sectional, cultural and political grounds.
    That’s a bad, bad trend. pl

  64. Mark Stuart says:

    Clifford Kiracofe:
    No! My real name is Big Foot!
    So you mean to tell me that the whole previous comment was to tell us that it was not out of character for Wilson? I thought this was all over the internet already?
    Indeed I prefer rfjk intervention. If that’s his real name!? His comment is a learning moment for me.
    Colonel Sir:
    I find the consecutive use of the conjunction “but” and adverb “nevertheless” quiet interesting.
    Also, i feel that too often Americans lack faith in the confidence, hope and resolve that is embedded in the very fabric of their country’s soul. America has a way to rise from its ashes like no other country. This is American exceptionalism. The capacity to renew and rebuilt herself at times when it seemed overwhelmed by disaster.
    As G.W. Bush was being reelected i was telling my European friends to wait for the day: the day will come Americans will wake up from the 9/11 trauma and make the right decision. The day has come and Americans rose to the challenge. Although Obama was not the favorite pick for many, he was i think the only best option of the moment and Americans were there to make it a learning moment for the world to witness!
    Ask any French today about the old time lessons they used to give us when Josephine Baker first took up residence in Paris! Ask any French from foreign decent if today they’d prefer to be a minority in Paris or NYC!
    As the global economy hit America last year, many in Europe and in America were quick to forecast the demise of America and its “empire” and saw in the US recession the beginning of the end. I advised then those same skeptics to watch for America’s come back. I forecast then that the US economy would be the first to recover in full vigor.
    The numbers are out. And although still partial the recovery seem to be closer today then we ever thought it would be. The U.S. economy expanded at a faster pace than previously estimated in the second quarter of this year. The 3.3 percent annualized increase in gross domestic product from April through June was higher than forecast, the Commerce Department said today in Washington.
    Have a little more faith in America’s exceptionalism. I have. Simon Schama has.
    The American Future: a History , by Simon Schama.
    (For anyone interested in discovering or rediscovering what makes America so special, so exceptional. Few people have understood her the way he does.)

  65. turcopolier says:

    Mark Stuart
    “I find the consecutive use of the conjunction “but” and adverb
    “nevertheless” quiet interesting.”
    Do you? What is this, some kind of insult? I am not supposed to qualify my
    comments? Only an idiot would fail to do that. pl

  66. wisedup says:

    PL, have you read Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian?
    The contrast he draws between the British and the Irish with regard to personal affronts and the need to duel to retain honor is very germane to this current issue. Wilson’s insult was easily proved wrong, highly publicized, and extremely personal. He is just as likely to spit on the WH carpet. Given your background, what say you about the costs incurred and benefits gained by the old code of the Scots and Irish which demands immediate redress.

  67. turcopolier says:

    Yes, and all the others. Pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  68. Mark Stuart says:

    Far from me Sir. I have too much respect you and your knowledge.
    I just found troublesome the contrasting that it created.
    I inferred maybe hastily that you might have some bias towards political science professors.
    But it might be a language issue here since English is indeed not my native language.

  69. “So you mean to tell me…” Say what?
    Big Foot,
    Why do you invent things so as to be able to randomly bitch.
    I take it English is not your native language. Your last post seemed rather incoherent to me.
    Are you a friend of Highlander’s?

  70. Arun says:

    Wilson’s incivility bothers me infinitely less than that he was wrong on the facts.
    The other side to being able to disagree with civility is this – from Glenn Greenwald – “As HTML Mencken insightfully noted in what is one of the best blog posts ever written, our political mores demand vehement repudiation of petty acts of incivility (not all, but most) while tolerating and even approving of extremely consequential acts of indecency as long as they’re advocated with superficial civility. Those who use curse words to oppose torture, wars and lawbreaking are evil and unSerious (The Angry Left); those who politely and soberly advocate morally repugnant, indecent policies are respected and Serious. As long as one adheres to Beltway decorum, one can advocate the most amoral and even murderous policies without any repercussions whatsoever; it is only disruptive and impolite behavior that generates intense upset. Beltway culture hates “incivility” (public use of bad words) but embraces full-scale substantive indecency (torture, lawbreaking, unjustified wars, ownership of government by corporations, etc.).”

    If civility is manners masquerading as morals (Sydney Blumenthal’s expression) then it doesn’t do us much good. I’m in favor of decency. To continue quoting Sydney Blumenthal:
    “The introduction of the word “decent” into the political vocabulary can be attributed to George Orwell. In his essay on Charles Dickens, he defined the essence of the great novelist’s sensibility as “decent.” In an age of totalitarians, Dickens’s message was still contemporary. Orwell wrote: “The central problem — how to prevent power from being abused — remains unsolved…’If men would behave decently the world would be decent’ is not such a platitude as it sounds.” Since Orwell’s use of the word, a number of liberals, intellectuals, and reformers have taken it up. “Decent” connotes a tempered moral position, one that carefully avoids righteous absolutism; it also suggests compassion and patience.”
    May we become a decent, and then also civil people.

  71. jedermann says:

    I don’t know that the country is about to break up. The spectacle of significant numbers of our fellow citizens parading their refusal to be receptive to reason and proudly celebrating the sheer yahooism of their heroes makes me pretty queasy. The flaunting of guns is especially disturbing. The chaos that threatened our political viability in the era of political assassinations, burning cities and internal conflict over the war in Vietnam seems like it was a much more immediate danger, but the differences between that situation and the present may be telling in some way.
    I don’t believe that the struggles over civil rights and the war were fundamentally ideological. The concepts of extending equal rights and opposition to a foreign war are neither liberal nor conservative but were changes to the established order promoted largely by liberal elements and naturally resisted by conservatives. In other words it was the change itself and the threat to vested interests that precipitated the alignments of Liberals and Conservatives around those issues.
    The present situation is one in which almost everyone agrees that change is needed. The fight over what kind of change there is to be has been shaped by Republicans and Conservatives who quickly caught on that they could gain a certain tactical advantage by casting the changes suggested by the Obama administration as a fight between Socialism and Big Brother versus a mash-up of Capitalism, Democracy and individual rights under the rubric of “FREEDOM” (uppercase required at all times). Democrats and Liberals have not, for their part, chosen to embrace the “Socialist” tag for their agenda nor have they accepted any ideological position more specific than to declare that government is not the enemy of the people. In spite of being the progenitors of change, Democrats and Liberals are not having much success defining the terms of the debate about it. There seems to be an emptiness among Conservatives when it comes to what kind of change they would like to see, but this has not discouraged or seemingly hampered them. In place of substance they have offered ideology, which requires fervor on the part of the faithful to keep soldiering on for a cause that is really beside the point. That fervor is the danger because by definition it is heedless of what it destroys in feeding and expanding itself. The people who seem to be most admired on the Right are those who most energetically and outrageously stoke the fervor. Those people have reason to keep stoking at all costs because they are largely entertainers fighting for market share. In time their fan base may gradually become fatigued from the constant administration of adrenalin or maybe the audience will become bored and the show will just move on. I am hoping that something like this will happen. Most often neither my worst fears nor my fondest wishes pan out in the course our society takes.

  72. Patrick Lang says:

    “I don’t believe that the struggles over ….. the war were fundamentally ideological. The concept(s) of ……. opposition to a foreign war are (is) neither liberal nor conservative but were changes to the established order promoted largely by liberal elements and naturally resisted by conservatives. In other words it was the change itself and the threat to vested interests that precipitated the alignments of Liberals and Conservatives around those issues.”
    That sounds like “poly-sci speak” to me. Are you one of those?
    I would be curious how the desire for change (Oh Holy Word!) manifested itself in the creatures of the New Left marching in the streets of America carrying the flags of the NLF (Viet Cong) and The People’s Republic of Vietnam all the while chating such memorable dittys as “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh. The NLF is gonna win!” and “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”
    Somehow, it was possible to get the idea that the marchers were not pacifists pure in spirit bt rather part of a large and well thought out agitprop effort.
    Why don’t I “get over it?” I will. pl

  73. Patrick Lang says:

    The neocons are many things but they are not capable of having this country start the war up again in Iraq. pl

  74. Patrick Lang says:

    I’ll take your bet. The stakes will be lunch at the “Bistrot Lafayette” in Alexandria.” pl

  75. jedermann says:

    I am not “one of them”. I have never taken a poly-sci course.
    The New Left helped make “Liberal” a dirty word in this country. Their lefter-than-thou pose of doctrinal correctness was as reckless and fervent as the right is today. It took every opportunity to discredit Liberalism. By seeking to destroy liberals rather than co-op them – as the wingnuts seem to have successfully done with conservatives – they isolated and marginalized themselves. Protests against the war aggregated people with a lot of different agendas who found common ground on one notion. The failure to prevent Richard Nixon’s reelection demonstrated how little coherence there was in the “movement”.

  76. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t remember much about that election, too busy walking about in the woods, etc., but I do remember my Vietnamese counterpart, a major who had been my classmate in the Special Forces course at Ft. Bragg, saying to me one day – – “What are you doing?” I was filling out my absentee ballot in our shared “cave.” Outside were good and worthy “tigers” that we had the honor to lead together. In the custom of the day, I wore their camouflage uniform and one of the maroon berets that they had inherited from their French friends and mentors.
    “I m filling out my absentee ballot in the US election,” I said.
    Hearing that, he was interested. “Can we get some more and send them in?” he asked.
    I said no, and we returned to our fight.
    He had been captured at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when De Castries surrendered the garrison, spent nine months in a re-education camp with his French comrades and then, when relesed, had returned to the fight. pl

  77. daves says:

    have you people ever thought that Obama might really be a liar.

  78. turcopolier says:

    Daves – Of course. He IS a politician. PL
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

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