There was no question that Joe Wilson should have apologized to the House for violating its rules and just generally for conduct unbecoming a gentleman (and unbecoming Joe Wilson, if you know him — he’s generally a gentle man). Barack Obama was not the only person insulted by “You lie!” If you insult a guest at a social occasion, you apologize to your host as well as the insulted guest.
But as soon as it became something that the Nancy Pelosis of the world were trying to MAKE Joe do, all question of right action went out the window. It became a matter of which side is going to win? That’s what everything boils down to these days in our nation’s hyperpartisan capital. Thought doesn’t go any deeper than the playground equation of whether one can be compelled to say “uncle.” And once a crowd had assembled, and members of his own gang were assembled around him urging him not to give in (and sending him $1.6 million), Joe wasn’t about to give in.
Silly and contemptible, but that’s party politics for you.
So I don’t attach much importance to the vote yesterday to express weak “disapproval” of Joe’s outburst. The outcome was predictable. Republicans voted against, and Democrats voted for, and since there are more Democrats than Republicans, Joe got “punished” — punished in a manner so insubstantial that it put me in mind of what Huck Finn said about Aunt Sally’s attempts to discipline him: “I didn’t mind the lickings, because they didn’t amount to nothing…”
I guess we all tend to choose up sides, but for my part, I tend to lump all the partisans of both parties on one side, and myself on the other. To me, they all act alike. Not only that, but their actions so perfectly complement and support each other that it’s almost as though they were colluding. Think about it: It would have been impossible for the House Democrats to make such a production over the matter, with a formal vote of official disapproval, if Joe hadn’t cooperated with them so beautifully by childishly refusing to apologize to them. Everyone played his assigned part to perfection. Or almost everyone.
In fact, I’d ignore the whole affair, except for the fact that the vote wasn’t entirely along party lines. For instance, South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis voted for the “disapproval” resolution. Because he did that, because he thought for himself and did something that might cost him the support of many in his tribe, what Bob Inglis has to say about the subject actually matters. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much about what he had to say on the subject in the paper — just the usual ritual pronouncements from the people who voted along party lines, and you knew what they would say.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a statement on his decision to vote as he did on his Web site. But I did find his statement from the other night about the president’s speech. (That’s the video version of it above. Note his fundamentally respectful way of disagreeing with the president — something that shouldn’t be noteworthy, but is.) And because he stood up for decorum and had the courage to vote against his own party, I paid more attention to what he had to say about health care than I otherwise would have. By the way, here’s what he had to say at the time — before it had been inflated into another meaningless contest between the parties — about Joe’s outburst:
OBAMA: “The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.” One congressman, South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson, shouted “You lie!” from his seat in the House chamber when Obama made this assertion.
THE FACTS: The facts back up Obama. The House version of the health care bill explicitly prohibits spending any federal money to help illegal immigrants get health care coverage. Illegal immigrants could buy private health insurance, as many do now, but wouldn’t get tax subsidies to help them. Still, Republicans say there are not sufficient citizenship verification requirements to ensure illegal immigrants are excluded from benefits they are not due.
Bob Inglis has always been a thoughtful guy who stands up for what he thinks is right, regardless of the dictates of the tribe. I’ve always appreciated that about him, even when I think he’s wrong — such as when he opposed the troop “surge” in Iraq. His iconoclasm causes me to care about what he says, which puts him in a lonely category in the U.S. House. A man who’s willing to pay a political price for his views deserves to be heard.
I would also like to know more about the thinking of those Democrats (Arcuri, Delahunt, Giffords, Hinchey, Hodes, Kucinich, Maffei, Massa, McDermott, Moore, Taylor and Teague) who voted against the mild “disapproval” resolution. I haven’t seen anything from any of them, but if any of my readers would kindly provide a link, I’d like to read what they had to say. It interests me far more than the ritual pronouncements of party orthodoxy…