Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting All Hot And Bothered About Sweaty Brown People

Updated at 8:50PM PDT

Biden: It's OK, Nance. Wilson's just ranting about the brown folks again.

Image: Screenshot from this video by Cujo359

I was beginning to believe I would never see the day. Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), who shouted "you lie" at President Obama during his speech last night, apologized later that evening:

Midway through the speech, as the president was defending his plan to a chamber packed with members of Congress, Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, shouted, "You lie!"

Senior Republicans, including Obama's opponent in last year's election, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quickly called for him to apologize. About 90 minutes after Obama finished, Wilson issued a statement saying he had "let my emotions get the best of me."

"My comments were inappropriate and regrettable," the statement said. "I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."

Rep. Joe Wilson Apologizes, Calls Outburst During Speech 'Regrettable'

Republican politicians and their supporters shout so many outrageous and stupid things these days that it barely counts as news. Apologizing for it, though, is something generally left to Democrats.

No, I really don't expect that this is the start of a new trend. It's more likely that they'll just avoid shouting nonsense during nationally televised speeches. Even that would be an improvement.

While we're on the subject, let's examine the content of this apology. Recall that Rep. Wilson shouted out this insult while the President was saying that illegal immigrants would not be benefiting from this plan. Of all the moments for what Wilson describes as an emotional outburst, why this one? Was he upset when Obama said that tens of millions of Americans are doing without health care? Was he mortified that people die every day from lack of such health care, and that this pitifully inadequate plan wouldn't be implemented for four years? Was he upset because a public option might conceivably mean that insurance companies won't suck every possible cent out of the health care system? No, he wasn't upset by any of those human or fiduciary tragedies. He was upset because he thought there was a chance that some of those sweaty brown people who enter the country illegally might be getting health care.

As Blue Texan notes at FireDogLake, avoiding the appearance of racism isn't high on Wilson's list of political priorities:

Long before Joe Wilson (R-SC) made a complete ass out of himself and his party on national television, he fought to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over South Carolina.

The flag came down that year [2000] after Republicans in both houses went for a compromise that would put it on Statehouse grounds at the Confederate Soldier’s monument. The “Magnificent Seven” of Senators who voted to keep the flag up included current Congressman Joe Wilson...

That's right -- Wilson was one of only seven members of the South Carolina Senate to vote to stick it to the blacks keep the battle flag. It was finally brought down under intense national pressure and from an NAACP boycott, which cost the state millions in tourism revenue.

South Carolina Congressman Who Screamed at President Obama Fought to Keep Confederate Flag

[links and emphasis from original]

In a more enlightened constituency than Rep. Wilson apparently represents, these would be unflattering observations.

UPDATE: Fixed the time of Wilson's apology. Originally, I'd said he apologized today. I also added the quote from Blue Texan.

UPDATE 2: Thers over at FireDogLake deserves the last word on this thing, if only for the title of his piece:

All I'm saying is that the problem with the "You Lie" thing is that it was crazy horseshit, not that it was impolite, even though it was impolite. [Washington Post writer Dana] Milbank is shocked, shocked at the lack of decorum at "what was supposed to be a sacred ritual of American democracy." Milbank is thus upset because an Unwritten Law of Washington Protocol was violated -- far more so than he is about anything like who is lying and who isn't about this "illegal aliens" race-baiting intentional-distraction nonsense.

The Shocking Lack of Civility in Our National Discourse, In My Considered Opinion, Sucks Hairy Baboon Ass

I couldn't agree more.


Chris Rhetts said...

At first I thought it should be irrelevant to check if Wilson had any grounds on which to believe Obama was not telling the truth, since a Congressman calling the POTUS a liar on national TV is inexcusable on any basis. But then I thought heck, why not check it out? It turns out that Republicans have accused Democrats of creating a loophole in the health care reform bill by not voting for the Heller Amendment, which would have added a strict enforcement mechanism to prevent illegals from receiving any kind of government health care subsidies. Debate over the amendment revealed that Democrats were not against it out of some hidden agenda to allow aid for illegals. In fact, their objection was based on the legitimate and practical opinion that the amendment would have created difficult and costly barriers to qualified persons and medical providers to obtain or deliver health care, especially emergency care, on a timely basis. Subsequently, the party line vote which defeated the amendment indicated the Republican's real strategy for proposing it, which was merely to create a political talking point in future elections (you can just here it now: "Joe Schmoe voted to give your tax dollars to illegal immigrants...") But, even if you could claim, as many right wing pundits are doing right now (albeit unjustifiably), that the vote over the Heller amendment raised questions in Republican's minds as to whether or not Democrats are serious about denying benefits to illegals, still, Obama was absolutely correct and 100% truthful when he stated "...there are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false.” So it turns out Joe Wilson was just trying to get some mileage out of a fake, non-issue in order to score a few cheap points, except he just really sucks at it.

Cujo359 said...

I'm glad you were skeptical enough to look into this, Chris Rhetts. If I'd thought about it, I'm sure I would have realized that there was some strawman they were up in arms about. The Democrats' reasoning is correct - police and other law enforcement folks can be fooled by fake IDs, why couldn't hospitals? There's also the question of whether we want to have large pockets of unhealthy people living among us, just so we can show them who's boss.

But, I think it still comes down to a petty instinct to blame others for our troubles, and to demonize people who are different. Whether Wilson's outburst was genuine or not, it's clear that he's bought into that philosophy on some level.

Chris Rhetts said...

I hope you don't mind my filling up your blog with these comments, but I wanted to add a couple of points, since to my mind they are absolutely crucial to understanding the Republican strategy. Both parties in Congress frequently introduce bills with the express purpose of servicing political messages in future elections. For instance, Republicans have introduced "English Language" bills which purport to make English "the official language" of the U.S., the latest being HR997 (2/09), co-sponsored by one of our favorite nut cases, Michelle Bachmann. The real intentions of these bills have always been ulterior, since they are front loaded with conditions which would result in a costly bureaucratic nightmare. So, no one expects them to be passed. And that's what is behind the whole Joe Wilson outburst. The Republicans sponsored the bullshit Heller amendment to the health care bill, knowing it wouldn't fly, and are cynically using the voting record on it to polarize public opinion. Joe Wilson is an educated man and we can rest assured he understood all of this when he made his now famous accusation. I wasn't just being rhetorical when I said he sucks at making political points effectively. I honestly believe he intended, beforehand, to call the President a liar at some point during the speech. And that's pretty scary.

Cujo359 said...

Not at all. That's what comments are for. I'll just request that if you're making a long comment by quoting an article, that you just provide a link and a brief summation.

Anyway, it's certainly possible that he did this deliberately, but he also has a history of faux pas that makes one wonder. And being well educated is no guarantee against being a racist or a bigot - it just makes such a thing less likely.