By Calvin Palmer
The normally staid and reverential atmosphere in Congress resembled the cut and thrust of the British House of Commons tonight when Rep Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, shouted out, “You lie”, as President Barack Obama said his plan for health care reform would not benefit illegal immigrants.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the personification of a drama queen, looked visibly shocked by the outburst.
Another outburst came when President Obama assured Congress that federal funds would not pay for abortions.
As Obama said his final words, Wilson bolted from the chamber to avoid the media. An act in keeping with what the Republican Party appears to stand for these days.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel approached two Republican House leaders, Roy Blunt and Paul Ryan and said, “No president has ever had that happen,” and urged them to have the lawmaker “apologize immediately.”
Sen John McCain, R-Arizona, Obama’s opponent in the presidential election, called Wilson’s outburst “disrespectful” and urged Wilson to apologize.
By 10:30 p.m., Wilson had apologized. Whether of his own volition or because of pressure applied by colleagues, we shall never know.
“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me,” Wilson said. “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.”
As The Daily Telegraph notes, it was a new low in American politics. It seems the Republican Party is prepared to descend to the very depths to thwart Obama’s reforms.
Perhaps the vociferous opposition to Obama by Republican supporters represents the death throes of a section of American society that is being marginalized by a better educated and informed population.
Sure people like Rush Limbaugh and the pundits on Fox News like to think they speak for the vast majority of Americans but the result of last November’s presidential election would suggest otherwise.
People want access to health care and do not wish to face bankruptcy to obtain it; they get tired of hearing of the senseless killings that happen daily thanks to the easy access to firearms; and are capable of thinking for themselves and well able to distinguish between indoctrination and information.
The Republican death wish for the United States and its people constantly amazes me. I often ask myself whether Republican supporters would be so agitated if Hillary Clinton had been elected president. And that begs the question of whether racism is playing its part.
The charges of socialism, indoctrination and the depiction of President Obama as Adolf Hitler have their origins in the far right in the South.
As The Daily Telegraph states, “Is it just that they are not comfortable with having the first black American in the White House?”
I am slowly beginning to think that is indeed the case and my biggest fear is that the far right, the ultra conservatives and fundamentalist loonies, feeling threatened and staring political extinction as far as national politics goes, will resort to the gun to try and stop the change.
One thing is for sure, political discourse and debate no longer exists in the United States. Wilson’s actions tonight make that point as did the Republican response to Obama’s speech.
Rep Charles Boutenay, R-Louisiana, labeled Obama’s reforms as wrong, quoted fantasy figures to raise the specter of “big government” but never once stated what he and his party would do to solve the problem.
It was the same lack of positive policies that cost McCain the presidential election. People get tired of hearing that the other guy is wrong and to be feared, they want to hear what a party can do for them. In that respect, all the Republicans can offer is to maintain the status quo.
For many Americans, particularly in these hard times, the status quo, with its inherent inequalities and easy ride for the rich and wealthy, is simply is not good enough.
The sad thing is that a large proportion of Republican supporters would benefit from the changes Obama proposes. Perhaps that is the reason why far-right media lackeys trot out a daily diet of misinformation and untruths to try and keep those supporters on board.
It will be from among their ranks that an assassin may well emerge, spouting trailer trash patriotism as the justification for his crime.
As the 18th century English essayist and man of letters, Dr Samuel Johnson, said: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
[Based on a report by The Washington Post.]