22 September 2009

NO LIE! Joe Wilson is my new hero

"You lie!" Joe Wilson hollered out in the middle of Barack Obama's address to Congress. Talk of racism quickly emerged. People who hate Obama or were frightened by the thought that everyone might get health care all ran to Joe's defense. But even the Republican Party elders rebuked Joe, who then called Obama to apologize.

I hope that Joe's outburst is a harbinger of things to come. I say this for two reasons: one, presidents need to be treated more like regular people and it is time for some face to face debate.

I thought that President Clinton was great, thought President Bush was awful, and am hopeful for President Obama. But one thing they all had in common was this incredible swagger once they'd been in office for any length of time. It's hard to remember that you're just a guy when you are the leader of the free world. But Clinton screwed up (and I don't just mean with Monica), Obama is stumbling and Bush had his moments when he did the right thing. Nobody is the simple label we affix and it does no one any good to sustain the odd tendency towards deification or vilification. (After World War II, more than half of the Japanese thought that their Emperor was descended from God, or gods. An even higher percentage of Brits thought the same thing about their queen. Think we're smarter than that? The painting in the Capitol dome is of George Washington transforming into a god, titled The Apotheosis of Washington. Some part of the reptilian brain loves to deify victims and heroes. It might be the same part of the brain that loves parades.) I loved that Joe Wilson basically said, "Look, you might be president but that doesn't mean we have to applaud every inane thing you say."

And that brings me to my next point. A president makes a statement to Congress and he gets applauded throughout. Even for the most gratuitous comments. And then once the speech is over, the Republicans group over in one corner, the Democrats in another, (and Independent Bernie Sanders, presumably, goes off to play solitaire on his computer) and they reinforce the views they came in with. What's lost is the opportunity for real dialogue, for exploring alternate views while sitting face to face with each other.

After Joe Wilson's little outburst, some commentators said, "It was like British Parliament." Well, other than the wigs, I think that the spirited debate in Parliament would be the one thing that I would most want to import from Britain. Done right, spirited discussion can actually bring people together. It is one thing to disagree. It is something else entirely to not even understand or hear others.

Sadly, Joe Wilson's little outburst didn't further the idea of debate between opposing worldviews. Rather, it just led to more firmly defined lines of battle. I'm just a lowly blogger, Joe, but let me say, from the other side of the debate, that I like what you tried to do.

13 comments:

Big Al said...

You know . . . REAL debate in our government would be good. Unfortunately, all we commonly hear are posturing comments. Wouldn't it have been GREAT if instead of Joe Wilson yelling out, "You lie!", he would've stood up and politely said, "Mr. President, based on what I read I can't agree with what you just said and would appreciate if you could please point to the language in the Health Care Bill that supports your claim." But no . . . "procedure" was that Obama lectured and everyone else was supposed to sit and listen. And this is probably why I'll never run for office. I just couldn't have sat and listened w/o wanting to ask clarifying questions.

Jen said...

Ditto what Big Al said.
Joe Wilson got a little too excited and was used as a whipping boy. Arrogance and posturing, plus a big 'ol dose of the race card thrown in for good measure. Nothing learned, nothing gained. Politics as usual.
I think we could stand to be a bit more like the British parliament, too.

Lifehiker said...

I beg to differ, Ron. What Wilson did was boorish and crude. His outcry was not, "Prove it!", but, "You lie!". This translates to,"You are a liar", which is no way to start a debate because the other party is already convicted of falsification of facts.

This outcry,coming on the heels of multiple outright falsities regarding the health care plan from those in Wilson's camp, struck me like a lightning bolt. It was despicable.

In my view, both the left and the right need to condemn those in their parties who cross lines of acceptable behavior. When the facts get lost in a cacophany of name-calling, nothing positive happens.

Anonymous said...

But in reality, what Joe Wilson said was true. It is only after his outburst that the amendments were added to require proof of citizenship......but I'm sure amnesty is coming so in the end, our King will be satisfied and our country will either go broke or we will be taxed (or maybe it isn't a tax, maybe just increased costs) to death.

Lifehiker said...

Why is it always "Anonymous" who writes the silly stuff? Silly? How about the word "King"?

Obama is having a hard time with his own party, let alone the republicans. Who can make "King" out of that, unless they're brainwashed.

If we had a recent president who aspired to "Kingly" powers, it was Bush for sure. He was the "decider", remember? How short our memories...

Gypsy at Heart said...

Agree with everything Lifehiker says and I can't say it any better.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, if all else fails, Lifehiker, always point to Bush.

How short our memories...and how ignorant our views.

As Always,

Anonymous

Big Al said...

Anonymous,

President Obama is indeed having a hard time, but GW wasn't a saint by any means. He said he was "The Decider", and he really did plow forward on HIS own agenda, leaving his own party to try and distance themselves in the last year+ of his presidency. Ironic, isn't it? GW didn't seem to care what anyone thought, including his own party, while the Democrats seem hell-bent on their own agenda, forgetting one of their own party is the sitting President.

Gotta' love politics . . . NOT!

Life Hiker said...

Anonymous, please explain why you use the word "King" to define Obama. I tried in a more oblique way to get you to discuss this, but you apparently didn't get it.

In the spirit of Ron's post, let's have a discussion if you are capable of it. You used the word, Pal. Defend it.

ThomasLB said...

I'm all for giving the finger to Obama, or better yet mooning the little twerp, but Joe Wilson is no Abbie Hoffman.

He carefully timed his outburst to appeal to the racist anti-immigrant crowd, then lied his way through an "apology." A gutless Machiavellian is a dangerous thing.

Jen said...

Hey LifeHiker, what do you think of Obama's chanting mantras in front of crowds today and yesterday? ...whooping up emotion...

Kinda boorish and ill-mannered for a POTUS, huh?

Kinda rock-star-ish?

Kinda creepy, if you ask me.

I don't mind seeing that kind of stuff on the campaign trail, but not from a sitting president.

Big Al said...

Jen,

How is Obama's chanting mantras any different than former president GW Bush standing on an aircraft carrier proclaiming "Mission Accomplished"? When in speaking he would attempt to portray a folksy Texan? Or when he was on the golf course and said, "Now watch this swing"? Or when former President Clinton played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show?

Every President has the unenviable position of showing he truly is a Leader but at the same time also show himself as "one of us". In my time (born in '59) the one President I've observed who actually did a pretty good job of walking that fine line well was Reagan.

Yet another good reason why I'll probably never run for office.

David said...

You dudes have to quit dueling and take this in the spirit that Ron offered it, thought0provoking, fun-to-read and factual as opposed to opinionated, Bush-thrashing, name-calling, yada. There are plenty of Democrats and Republican buttholes worse than Joe Wilson. I see better comments on RAND toilet stalls.