Some Perspective on Rep. Joe Wilson's Outburst
At President Obama's latest media extravaganza (I have to write this quickly before that line becomes outdated), Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out at one point what many of his fellow Americans were thinking, "You lie!" (Video) I'd say he's a great example to the rest of us, but unfortunately he quickly apologized. Even so, Vice President Joe Biden said that Wilson had "demeaned the institution" of the US Congress. Biden and other Democrats repeatedly said they were "embarrassed." Republicans, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), said it was "inappropriate" and "disrespectful." House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) even discussed taking punitive action against Wilson.
It seems like some perspective is in order here. Plenty of bloggers have pointed out Democrats' hypocrisy. Sharon Soon has a great piece here. Many point to Youtube videos like this one from 2005 where Democrats showed Bush the same level of respect that Republicans showed Obama last night.
But the truth is, if Bush couldn't handle some boos from his fellow countrymen, there was no way he'd be able to handle Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-Il, and the same goes for Obama. The office of the President is the most powerful office in the free world, and the policies of the President affect every American and many non-Americans as well. If the President can't even take as much in-your-face criticism as comedians do, how is he going to justify those policies to the American people and to the world with any kind of clarity and strength of purpose?
By the nature of his job, the President makes life-and-death decisions every day. He advances policies that could save or destroy lives, rip apart families or bring them together, encourage jobs and economic growth or drive them away. These policies should be treated as the serious life-and-death matters that they are, but instead in American politics we approach everything with kid gloves. Obama's health care allies like Michael Moore say we should follow Canada and Great Britain. When it comes to how they approach heckling in their national legislatures, I say we could certainly learn a thing or two from our Canadian and British brothers and sisters.
This is how they do things up north. (The good stuff starts about 45 seconds in. At 1:30, Prime Minister Harper is shouted down and can no longer speak. Speaker of the House Peter Milliken has to call for "order" no less than nine times. Some other notable interruptions and jeers occur at 4:20, 5:40, 7:00 and 9:05.) Here is another instance, with a shorter video, this time on Obama's own Youtube channel. The frankness with which Canadian MPs approach their politics is nothing short of refreshing.
Health care reform is as life-and-death of an issue as it gets. Lies need to be shouted down. The truth needs to be heard, no matter how loudly you have to speak to make it heard or who you have to interrupt. Joe Wilson's outburst should be just the beginning. I would love to see some real confrontations, like the ones in these videos, go down in Washington, D.C.