As if it weren’t bad enough that our President apparently could not be trusted talking to our children, last night he was called a liar not once but twice on national television.
The first incident, called by some the insult heard ’round the world, was when Obama told a joint session of Congress that health care reform would not cover illegal aliens. After some rumbling from the crowd, South Carolina Republican representative Joe Wilson shouted “you lie.” I’ve watched my share of presidential addresses to Congress, and folks older and more seasoned than I have confirmed my belief that this kind of rudeness was never displayed to a President before during a joint session.
Many are ready to move on because Wilson issued an apology before the night was over. Trouble is that in his own words, he did so after being urged by senior members of his party. It did not occur to him on his own that you don’t call the President a liar on national TV while he is giving an address? Some (like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough) say this was out of character for Wilson, who is normally mild mannered. Others say this is the real Wilson. Regardless, the current mood in our country made Wilson feel comfortable telling the President of the United States that he is a liar. Wilson will get his comeuppance as his challenger for the 2010 election is already raking in the dough, in protest against Wilson’s unbridled insolence. Of course, Wilson’s behavior should not overly surprise us as he is a”deather” (supporter of Sarah Palin’s delusions), a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and is on record criticizing Strom Thurmond’s bi-racial daughter for bringing “shame” to him by revealing her identity.
The lying accusations did not end there. After Obama’s speech, we got treated to the Republican response. The last Republican response was the infamously awkward response delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. For reasons known only to the geniuses in the Republican party, they went to the Louisiana well again, this time choosing Charles Boustany, an LA representative to deliver the response. Boustany within a minute of speaking referred to the “government takeover of healthcare” in direct contradiction to Obama who stated there was no such thing afoot. Wow I guess Obama told lots of lies last night.
But it gets better. Boustany, a heart surgeon, has been sued three times for malpractice. (In his defense, many doctors are sued in this litigious society … but three times?) And now … wait for it …. Boustany is … keep waiting …. a birther! Yes you read it right. The best the Republican party could do in finding a speaker last night was someone who doubts Barack Obama was born in this country.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Tom Friedman made the following remark regarding the “Obama will indoctrinate our children” kerfuffle:
What it needs is for people to stand up and say that’s flat out stupid, ok? That’s flat out stupid what you’re talking about.
Indeed the Republican party has graduated from the Party of No to the Party of Stupid. Instead of universal condemnation of Wilson’s outburst, we get near silence from his fellow Republicans. Instead of asking Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney or even the slightly unpredictable Mike Huckabee to deliver the Republican response, they turn to a deservedly unknown incompetent doctor who as a birther is at best stupid and at worst racist.
While I am a liberal to my core, I am almost rooting for a resurgence of the Republican party in the intellectual corridors of the northeast and the west. Intelligent men in the mold of William F. Buckley seem to have disappeared from the Republican party and what is left is a bunch of backwoods, south-will-rise-again, would be secessionists. Perhaps I should be delighted at this development? Let’s face it, because of idiot Joe Wilson, very little attention has been paid to what even ultra-liberal MSNBC and Huff Post contributor Lawrence O’Donnell felt was an underwhelming speech by Obama. People are not talking about how Obama will pay for healthcare. They’re talking about the House Rep who stepped out of a scene from “Deliverance” into the House chamber last night.
Yet I’m not delighted. Last night’s display is another in a series of incidents that show our country to be on very shaky social ground. While it is true that the office of the Presidency has not regained its luster since the debacle that was Richard Nixon’s second term, never has the level of disrespect risen to this level, this very personal level, where the President is a threat to our children and a liar in the eyes of our elected officials who are willing to humiliate him in public to make their point. On MSNBC’s “Hardball” the son of the Great Communicator, Ron Reagan warned that we are headed down a dangerous road. He is right.
How can we expect the general public to control their darkest impulses when we can no longer expect civility from those who set an example, our elected officials? The Republicans need to clean up their act and fast. It is only so long before the fuse that they keep lighting eventually runs out and the resulting explosion has consequences for which they alone will be responsible.