In the hour or so after the president’s speech, my Blackberry wouldn’t stop buzzing. The Tweets came fast and furious as everyone discussed Joe Wilson’s outrageous behavior tonight. He was the guy who shouted, “You lie!” to the president of the United States during a joint address to Congress.
Which was, let’s face it, a new low in the annals of partisanship in America.
My wife was startled to hear it, saying, “I thought he was more mild-mannered than that.”
He is. But he was under the influence of a particularly insidious drug. It’s the same one that Jim DeMint was on when he spoke hopefully of the health care debate being Obama’s “Waterloo.”
Politicians in Washington, and increasingly right here at home, are so high on the frisson of perpetual partisan warfare that they find themselves thinking things, saying things and doing things that they wouldn’t think, say, and do otherwise. The positive reinforcement they get for it is considerable. Even as Democrats were beside themselves with indignation over Joe’s outburst, some of the more extreme Red Staters were ready to canonize Joe for his moment of irrationality.
So Joe had to choose. As it happens, he chose to apologize (ironically, he did so BEFORE I got the press release from the S.C. Democratic Party demanding that he do so):
“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.”
Good. That’s something. But I’m afraid the standards for political disagreement just got ratcheted down another notch tonight, and I’m sorry that my congressman did the ratcheting. He’s sorry. Well, so am I.