It's Not What Wilson Said, It's How He Said It

Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You Lie," at the President during his health care address to a joint session of Congress last week. Perhaps you heard of it.

He called to apologize to the President that night and got Rahm Emanuel instead. Oh, what I would have given to be a fly on the wall for that call.

In true House fashion though, that's not enough. The House has threatened to sanction Wilson for a breach of decorum. Actually, a fair point. Thing is, if there isn't bipartisan support for the move, I think it would serve little value. Based on what happened in the chamber at the time of the outburst, there should be support across the board. On C-Span, the faces of Republicans showed the same shock and dismay as those of Democrats.

Yet, now, a week later, the conversation is shifting. Republican King has circulated a letter to other representatives noting, among other things, that Obama called "prominent politicians" liars in his speech with regard to the charge of death panels. With all due respect to Rep. King - and I owe him some respect for this deft machination - that's not what the Wilson sanction is about. Calling the President a liar in front of Congress is bad, but the breach of decorum comes in the exclamation itself, not the content. That is, the House would sanction him for yelling at the dais. It is that action which is unacceptable. You want to call the President a liar on your own time? Call a press conference.

Can we coin a phrase? An unwelcome outburst shall henceforth be known as "Shouting liar in a crowded chamber."

1 comment:

Miriam said...

My friend Yoni writes for the New Yorker. He also wanted to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. This is his take on what must have happened: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2009/09/yoni-brenner-the-apology.html