Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Lie!

The most dramatic moment in the President's address to Congress last night was when Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) hurled this verbal missile at the President: "You Lie!"  Every head in the room craned around to see who had the audacity to say something like that.  House nanny, Nancy Pelosi, known for her windswept wallpaper-like visage on such nights (or is it every night?), glared in disbelief at her petulant charge.  Even President Obama momentarily locked eyes in a death-grip stare-down with Joe.  It was must-see-TV.

Can we set aside the question of veracity for a moment?  I mean -- just for a moment -- let's not debate whether the President actually lied or not, nor whether Congressman Wilson lied when he called Obama a liar, nor any Pilatian meditation of "Veritas?  Veritas?"  I know it's hard, but let's set that issue aside for just a few paragraphs.

Nobody enjoys a good, spirited political debate more than the Watchman.  He doesn't mind a little old fashioned political mud wrestling or verbal sparing.  He prefers a reasoned argument that avoids ad hominem attacks, but in his weaker moments, he's been known to hurl the occasional epithet himself.  He's not proud of it, but it happens.

And such is the traditional of our country.  If anyone thinks that political discourse has become more base, crude, or vile in our generation, he need only read the political commentary of the revolutionary era.  Even by today's standards, the language and attacks of that day could curl your hair.

And while the Watchman believes that these behaviors are just fine in the digital ink of a blog page, the curtained stage of a political debate, or the open air of a town hall meeting, he thinks there are still some lines that should not be blithely crossed.

One of those lines is a joint session of Congress where the heads of all three branches of the federal government are present to exchange ideas.  If we don't reserved any hallowed locations or occasions for statesmanship without rancor, we might as well dump our constitutional system in favor of  a parlamentary melee.

Have you ever seen the parlamentary sessions that the British call the "Prime Minister's Questions"?  Why you would think that a football game had broke out indoors complete with cheering, booing, grumbling, gufawing, and all other manner of boisterous behavior.  I think they draw the line at flipping the bird, but that's about it.

And that's the world's tame parlament.  Shall we abandon all decorum and become like the Russians...

...or the Koreans, where even the ladies duke it out...

...or, Heaven help us, like the Bolivians?

What ever happened to the artfully crafted zinger as when Lloyd Benson said to Dan Quayle, "I know Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. And you sir, are no Jack Kennedy". And who could ever forget Reagan's backhanded slam of a reporter's question about his age? Reagan said, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience."

By comparison, "You Lie!" seems singularly lacking in creativity, wit, and wisdom. "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" would at least have been more entertaining.

I really enjoy the pomp and circumstance that goes along with the beginning of a joint session of Congress.  I still get a thrill when the doorkeeper of the house stands just inside the door and bellows, "Madame Speaker, The President of the United States!" and everyone rises to give the President a thundering ovation.  Call me old fashion, but I like the formal way in which one branch of government honors the head of another branch even when that head is a sniveling weasel (digital ink... it's OK)

Will the day soon arrive when the door keeper is reduce to the role of a WWE announcer, "And in this corner, at 6' 1'' and weighing 155 pounds including the 1200 pages of his health care bill, Barak 'The Bomber' Obama!  We've got a great match up tonight folks, a tag team event with 'The Bomber' and his partner Nancy 'Stretch' Pelosi vs Joe 'Loose Lips' Wilson and his tag partner..."  Well, you get the idea.

To prevent this slide into Vince McMahon's world, the Watchman encourages a return to the traditional standards of congressional decorum.  It's good that Mr Wilson was rebuked for his conduct and very good that he quickly offered a genuine apology and not the kind of whiny explanation that usually passes for an apology in Washington.

And while we are at it, let's have an apology from Mr Obama for his use of the word 'lie'.  I guess the passive voice in that sentence softens the blow somewhat.  It's a half step better than "You Lie!", but only a half step.

Let not conservative leaders extol Congressman Wilson as some kind of truth-telling hero. [editor's note:  14 paragraphs.  Not bad.]  He set a bad example and made a terrible precedent.  Do not embrace his mistake.  Leave the name calling to us bloggers.

1 comment:

  1. With so much going on in the recent days I was looking for a new post. Hope all is well. See ya soon.