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Pants on Fire September 11, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Health Care, Joe Wilson, National Politics, Politics, Republicans, Right-Wing Extremism, US Senate.
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PantsEvery year while my daughter was in elementary, middle, and high school, I would get a note from at least one teacher about inappropriate behavior in class.  You see, my daughter was one of those kids that enjoyed school as a social occasion, but it didn’t matter to her if she actually learned anything there.  She was (and still is) bright, argumentative, articulate, fidgety, and not afraid to tell anyone – even someone in authority – exactly what she thinks.  I wanted her to be that way, but it was always a struggle to get her to understand that everything has a time and place – the old “shouting “fire” in a crowded theater axiom.  And that there was never, and we meant never, any excuse for bad manners.  

Grown-ups, we told her, had rules for civil society.  They did things that they didn’t particularly want to do or like to do if those things were the right thing to do.  Grown-ups always respected other people – even if they didn’t agree with them –  in order to gain respect for themselves.  Respect, we taught her, did not mean ass-kissing or sycophantic behavior – sometimes the greatest respect you can offer a person is to disagree with them.  But before you disagree, you must always listen, evaluate, and try to understand the other person’s position.

These are (some of )  the reasons why I was so appalled at the behavior of Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina during President Obama’s address to Congress on Wednesday night.   Wilson heckled the President during his remarks about extending health care benefits to undocumented residents – explicitly calling the President a lair. 

To yell  “you lie'” from the floor during a speech was so unprecedented as to be mind-blowing.  In keeping with the American cult of apology, Wilson offered a “mea culpa” to the White house about two hours after the outburst.  Since then, however, Wilson has been on right-wing talk shows and radio saying he “won’t back down” from his (erroneous) position.  The great white whale of the right, Rush Limbaugh, has said that Rep. Wilson should have never apologized.  The extreme right talking heads are making this guy out to be some sort of hero.  Even “Morning Joe” Scarborough of MSNBC got into the act with Time Magazine writer Joe Klein this morning. 

Klein’s latest article in Time says that he expects that some sort of health care will be passed this year, but ” it will not end the public malignancy that has attended this debate and threatens the democratic fabric of our nation.”   Scarborough asked Klein what he meant by “public malignancy.”  He explained that the level of public discourse has been so hijacked by extremists – aided and abetted by the media – that civil debate no longer seems possible.  Scarborough immediately jumped in with the fact that people on the left called George Bush a liar, and nobody got this excited.

Joe Scarborough is right.  I am one of those people who called Bush a liar.  I said it to anyone who would listen.  I wrote it in this blog and cheered when Harry Reid did it on “Meet the Press” in 2004.  I have also called George Bush a moron, an idiot, a war criminal, and lots of other unpleasant things.  So did a lot of people in Congress.  But here’s the difference.  They never did it during an address to Congress.  Time and place.

Klein went on to try explain this difference to Scarborough.  He mentioned the MoveOn.org “General Betray-us” ad in the New York Times.  Klein called the ad shameful and disgraceful, but said that several leading Democrats denounced the ad and sponsored a Congressional resolution officially condemning it.  “No they didn’t, ” Scarborough nearly jumped out of his seat.  In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it was the wrong message for his party to send.  “I don’t like any kind of characterizations in our politics that call into question any active duty, distinguished general who I think under any circumstances serves with the best interests of our country,” said John Kerry.  Scarborough finally grudgingly conceded that there was condemnation – but it didn’t happen soon enough.

Klein finished off the interview by saying that the public malignancy was even more disturbing because there is a significant portion of the right that will not accept the legitimacy of the Obama presidency.  THAT is really the crux of the matter.  People who do not believe that their leader has the right and obligation to lead them will mutiny and we are seeing this mutiny in the wing-nut right.  The problem is, the Republican party is so enjoying this – and making the political calculation that they can fan the fears of the idiocracy to win political points – that none of them will stand against it.

And that, my friends, is more than just lies and disrespect  – it is dangerous.


A Kitchen Table Project February 23, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Democrats, Economic Stimulus, Economy, Health Care, National Politics, New York Politics, Obama Administration, Politics, popular culture, Republicans, US Senate, Women's Issues.
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prescriptionI am embarking on a project studying what real people have to say about health care.  Please see my new “Health Care Tab” and leave me some comments about your health care experience and your ideas.  I am keeping the tab open for the next 60 days and I look forward to hearing from you.