“You Lie!”

I did not watch the President’s address. I didn’t feel the need to listen to the same version of a speech he’s been delivering since before the election. But as soon as I heard about Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst, I cringed. I just knew that would come back to haunt him, and he obviously did as well given his near immediate apology.

However, the more I thought about it, the less upset I am about how the affair reflects on health care reform opponents. First, the comment was in reply to Obama’s statement that Republicans are lying. While that doesn’t make the breach of decorum appropriate, it does provide an important opportunity to refute Democratic talking points that the GOP otherwise may not have had.

On top of that, I think the style of the British Parliament is kinda awesome. Spirited debate with a bit of spice isn’t always a bad thing. It is not the process our Congress uses, and I understand that. But, seeing the jokes on Glenn’s site about a transition to that style did crack me up.

Ultimately, Wilson will pay a price for his outburst. Daily Kos and ActBlue mobilized to use it as an opportunity to raise more than $100,000 for his Democratic challenger over night. Some members of Congress are calling for formal punishments. His district is a fairly solid GOP area (PVI R+9). But between the negative attention that Wilson will attract to South Carolina, along with the fiasco that is Mark Sanford, hopefully the Republican voters don’t feel too beaten down by 2010.

26 thoughts on ““You Lie!””

  1. Perhaps we on this “side of the asile” should counter the left by sending Mr Wilson a donation and encourgment….I was pleased someone in the republican party had the stones to make a very clear statement that the president was in fact spouting lies.

  2. That is certainly a good idea for folks who want to take action. I’ve often lamented the lack of a good ActBlue for the right. Slatecard tried, but they never really took off in the same way. One of the biggest problems I found with it was that it was limited to candidates at the federal level. ActBlue went all in and is set up to raise money for candidates at the federal and state level. Slatecard did try to add some novel social tools like reasons for giving where you could add an icon to your donation that explained why you were making it (i.e. gun rights, immigration, pro-life, etc.). I really liked the concept, but it just wasn’t useful for a well-rounded activist.

    I think such a tool could be used by groups and blogs to quickly drive donations with a quick link. If the right wants to use online tools to actually advance their election goals, it would probably be a worthwhile investment. (ActBlue has raised more than $100 million for Democrats in 5 years.)

    By the way, since their announcement that $100K was broken for Wilson’s opponent, two of the largest groups created following the comment have now raised more than $145K for him.

  3. The double standard is extraordinary. The Democrats boo Bush during a State of the Union speech. No Apologies, no hand wringing in the media.

    But, a Republican in a fit of pique yells out you lie and he needs to be drawn and quartered. Why did he apologize? If any one believes that any plan drawn up by the Democrats isn’t going to cover illegal aliens then I have some prime swamp land in Nevada to sell them!

    Why must the Republicans always apologize. This isn’t going to hurt him in his district. They need to stand up and fight this unconstitutional grab for 1/3 of the U.S. economy. This milque toast attitude in the face of the Left’s unceasing aggression is one reason that I have a hard time calling myself a Republican. They are wimps!

    1. In this case, it’s unique. What he did is specifically against House rules. It looks like Pelosi is actually going to accept the apology and then let it go rather than seeking formal punishment. Amazing that Pelosi is showing more class to the other side than Arlen Specter in this case.

  4. I think a lot of rules are going to need to be broken before all is said and done. The man has nothing to apologize for. Not after the last eight years.

  5. Looks like the Dems are sucking hind teat if all they have raised is $100,000….Joe has received over $200,000 since he made the statement!

  6. I think that’s a reasonable argument to be made, but I also think that the apology keeps the distraction of a formal punishment away. In the meantime, the initial outburst actually gives the GOP a chance to talk about why he might have been inspired to do it and make a case that doesn’t involve just screaming, “You lie!”

    But, I was just pointing out that in terms of a need for an apology, there is a valid argument to make that it was appropriate given that he did technically break a rule. I’m not aware of any rule specifically about booing. Is it against decorum? Yes. But there is not the added element of a formal punishment.

  7. By the way Eagle, they aren’t running behind. I only mentioned two groups raising money for the Democratic opponent. In reality, he has raised more than $200,000 from individual donors since the statement – and that was 4 hours ago. It may be neck-and-neck, but it doesn’t look like the Dems are falling behind.

    You also have to consider that some Dems might be at the point of giving all they can. The left just recently hosted another ActBlue fundraiser for the progressive caucus members who pledged to vote down any bill that doesn’t have an exceptionally strong public option. That turned up more than $400,000 for them. This isn’t a one-time shot like any fundraiser on the right has been, it’s been an ongoing (albeit depressing to watch) campaign.

  8. “On top of that, I think the style of the British Parliament is kinda awesome. Spirited debate with a bit of spice isn’t always a bad thing.”

    Well, yes. But there is a major difference. The PM is just that – the primary of many Members of Parliament, basically more equivalent to Nancy Pelosi. I somehow doubt that heckling the Queen during a speech to the combined Houses would be acceptable. But then, in the past British monarchs have been physically thrown out of Parliament and are still barred until formal permission is granted at the door, so maybe…

  9. I would agree, heckling the Queen now would probably land a swift denunciation nowadays. The fact is that it was out of line with current expectations of civility. For that, it shouldn’t be applauded. I am willing to concede, however, that it may have opened a door we didn’t have open before.

    1. The problem is that it inspired the left even more. I just read that in addition to the direct-to-candidate donations, unsolicited donations to the DNC have topped more than a million dollars since the outburst (up until about 4pm today).

      There are risks to every action, and I’m thinking this was a bad one to make given the numbers they have put up. Hopefully the numbers on the right are stronger.

  10. What is the problem? It was the only honest thing heard on TV last night.

  11. I’m relatively certain that failing to report almost half your net worth and a goodly portion of your income is against the rules too – but since Rangel has a “D”, he gets to keep his chairmanship and his job.

    The double standards and hypocrisy….

  12. It might be, but that’s not the public spectacle I’m discussing here. Rangel is a different beast completely, and an issue that clearly needs to be dealt with.

  13. It has done one other thing and I am not sure yet whether it is a good thing or a bad thing but the story has become about Wilson instead of Obamacare.More people are talking about and and the media reporting about what Wilson said than the “Chosen One”

  14. I’m with you Ben, I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I guess we’ll find out soon enough… (Pelosi won’t set a timeline, but Biden is now saying before Thanksgiving.)

    Keep calling and preaching, that’s all I have to say.

  15. The Democrats have set the bar pretty damn high on punishable behavior. In 1983, Rep. Gary Studds was censured for the statutory rape of a male congressional page. He turned his back on the House while the censure was being read – and went on to be re-elected six times.

  16. Frankly, the more people that stand up and call Obama a lying sack of horse offal, the better.

  17. Yosemite Sam, booing (or spontaneous murmuring of disagreement that sounds like booing) is not unheard of on either side of the aisle:

    Paul Begala (CNN host): 1993, I was with President Bill Clinton in that House chamber when he addressed a joint session of Congress. And Republicans heckled him when he cited Congressional Budget Office statistics about the deficit. [CNN, Crossfire, 2/3/05]

    In addition to the 1993 State of the Union, Republicans also voiced their disapproval in three other Clinton State of the Union addresses:

    The upheaval wrought by the Republican election landslide was visible throughout the president’s State of the Union address—from the moment Speaker Newt Gingrich took the gavel to the striking silence that often greeted Clinton from the GOP. At one point, Republicans even booed. About 20 of them left as Clinton went on and on for an hour and 20 minutes. [Associated Press, 1/24/95]

    Only once did they unmistakably and collectively show their disapproval—when Clinton spoke disparagingly of a GOP-sponsored constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Many Republicans hissed and some booed. [Los Angeles Times, 2/5/97]

    Clinton’s proposal to expand Medicare to allow Americans as young as 55 to buy into the system drew shouts of “no” and some boos from Republicans during his speech. [Chicago Tribune, 1/28/98]

    On the other hand, standing up, yelling and calling the President of the United States a LIAR to his face is just kind of …. not done. No Democratic congressmen did that to Bush or any Bush administration officials any of the times they were standing there blatantly lying, and that’s probably how it should be.

    It just crosses the line of respect for the office and I don’t think our legislators should be screaming at and insulting the executive on live TV—regardless of party affiliation.

  18. “First, the comment was in reply to Obama’s statement that Republicans are lying.”

    What the president said, as he was addressing concerns about what is (and is not) in the bill, was “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This too is false.” He did not say “Republicans claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. They are liars!” There’s a pretty big difference between the two statements.

    I think the style of the British Parliament is kinda awesome too. But that’s not how we do things here, so isolated outbursts like that don’t really fit.

  19. In fact, I would say I expect our congresspeople to at least meet a bare minimum standard of adult conduct …. kind of like what a blog such as this one might expect from it’s commentors:

    You may make your case passionately, but civility is expected.

    I don’t think that’s too much to expect :)

  20. And for what it’s worth, you can’t call someone a liar in Parliament. It’s considered “unparliamentary language” and if someone had shouted “YOU LIE!” in Parliament, the Speaker would demand that the offensive term be withdrawn, failing which the Member of Parliament would be disciplined or dismissed from the Chamber:

    The basic characterization of unparliamentary language is that in the view of the Speaker of the House of Commons or equivalent chamber, it breaks the rules of respect. The convention of politeness whereby British Members of Parliament refer to each other as “the honourable” and use other artificial formulas of respect extends to not accusing each other of lying, being drunk, misrepresenting, or insulting each other.

    Just sayin’ :)

  21. “Joe Wilson gets results.”


    I question the instinct that made you cringe when you first heard it. Civility and not scaring off moderates is plausible, but not an absolute virtue. Liberals already set the terms of debate in the mainstream media and in elite polite society. Their own incivilities are glossed over if not celebrated, while they not only excoriate but even try to define ours. Screw that. If we’re in a position where boorishness is the only direct way to reach the American people with the message that Obama was indeed lying, then it beats staying silent.

  22. Yeah, it will be awesome when everyone decides that screaming and shouting at each other is the only way to effectively reach people. Why stop there? We can just let our legislators physically fight everything out in no-holds-barred cage matches. Welcome to Idiocracy.

  23. Rep. Joe Wilson has already raised over $1 million in new campaign contributions since Wednesday.

    Obama lied to him, repeatedly, to his face. I found myself screaming “You Liar” repeatedly to the TV during the speech as I am sure were many other Americans. Joe Wilson only said what over half the country wanted to say to “The One”.

    Nov 2010 can’t come soon enough.

  24. Noel, half the country thought Bush was a liar too, Does that mean Democratic congressmen should have stood up and yelled at him whever he was speaking?

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