Tuesday, September 15, 2009

House vote on Wilson highlights historic hostility directed at new president

At least most of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives remember what an insult is when they hear it directed at someone else. That someone else, of course, is President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, whose speech to a joint session of Congress was interrupted by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) on Sept. 9. The House voted 240-179 on Tuesday -- largely along party lines -- to pass a resolution of disapproval against Wilson, who shouted "you lie" during Obama's speech, according to Cable News Network (CNN). No matter what anybody thinks about Obama, the financial crisis or the health care debate, this was clearly an insult and a violation of common sense. He is the president of the United States, and a measure of respect is called for. Nobody in government interrupted George W. Bush while he was speaking, and he was probably the worst president ever. In fact, nobody in government has ever blatantly interrupted a speech by the president in the country's 220 years, according to the House historian, CNN said. But what does it mean that our elected representatives treated even this as a partisan matter, except possibly for the 12 Democrats who voted "no" and the seven Republicans who voted "yes?" Do the House Republicans think their organized opposition to whatever the Democrats -- and Obama -- propose is reason enough to abandon rules that have kept debate at the Capitol civil over all these decades? Hasn't the Republican Party done enough to polarize the country by trying to demonize Democrats who opposed the last president and who supported Obama? The disapproval resolution was the mildest punishment the House could levy on Wilson, who apologized to Obama right after the speech but refused demands from Democrats to apologize to the entire chamber. "In my view, by apologizing to the president, the most important person in the history of the world, that applied to everyone," Wilson said during Tuesday's debate on the resolution in the House, CNN reported. But Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Wilson's refusal to apologize to the House merited punishment, whether Wilson apologized to Obama or not.

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