Dem amnesia strikes again: Congressional decorum during presidential speeches isn't a new problem.

I didn’t watch President Obama’s speech last night, primarily because I was occupied with the family. I was also pretty sure what I was going to hear and, with 2 exceptions, I was right. The 1st was the mention of tort reform I’ve already written about this morning. The other was the outburst of Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) when he reacted to President Obama’s assurances that illegal immigrants won’t be covered under Obamacare by yelling out, “You lie!” or something to that effect.

H.R. 3200 is explicit about this matter: persons in the United States illegally may not apply for or acquire health benefits as described in the bill. So, strictly speaking, the President didn’t lie. However, the bill contains absolutely no measures to actually detect whether an applicant is, in fact, a “person in the United States illegally.” Also in fact, an amendment proposed that would have placed such abilities into the bill was specifically killed by Democrats in the committee in which the amendment was proposed. H.R. 3200’s inability to detect illegals attempting to gain access to the health benefits Obama insists they won’t be allowed access to is an inability explicitly engineered by Democrats in Congress and they’re doing what Obama wants done. So, was it a lie? No. Was it a misleading assertion? Oh, yes. Yes, it was.

Does that excuse Wilson’s outburst? Not a chance. Obama’s own language in the speech – calling assertions that the bill will allow illegals to be covered “lies” and, by extension, those making such assertions “liars” – could certainly be viewed as provoking a response. But a sense of decorum and professionalism on the part of members of Congress should have kept any vocal response from rising to calling the President a liar on national television. Wilson has already apologized for letting his emotions run away with him. Good. He should have. And, you’ll note, that his apology isn’t the non-apology apology that several members of the Left have made into an art form. From an article over at the Huffington Post:

Not long after the speech ended, Wilson issued an apology. “This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill,” he 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.” Wilson also called the White House to apologize.

There’s none of that “if anyone was offended” or “apologies to anyone who might have been offended” nonsense. He knows full well that his actions would be viewed as an offense by any reasonable person and he doesn’t try to mitigate his error. Good for him.

What bothers me the most as I wander the ‘sphere this morning looking at the reactions is the incensed outrage on the Left over this incident and the wider outrage about the reactions of the Republicans as a whole. The general feeling, it appears, is that the Left thinks the Republicans should have either been standing in applause or sitting completely still and quiet during the entire speech. Where were these people the last several years? Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air wonders the same thing and uses the 2005 State of the Union address as an example. If you’re of the opinion that the Republicans last night were acting in an unprecedented manner, as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel apparently does, you need to watch this video and tell me what you think this is all about:

Unfortunately, people on the Left want to keep hyperventilating about this as though the world was born on the day Barack Obama won the presidential election. As Omri Ceren and Michelle remind people, the Democrats were hardly models of decorum in the last administration. Here’s a clip from the State of the Union speech in 2005, when George Bush warned Congress that Social Security was going broke and needed reform immediately. Did Democrats politely listen to the warning? Not exactly. Listen to the boos and catcalls:

The SOTU speech in 2005 was not unique. Morrissey asks the same question I did when I read the first post this morning demanding widespread apologies from the entire GOP side of Congress: did any of those demand apologies from their side for the rudeness displayed in that video? Did any Democrat offer such an apology. No and no. When their side takes decorum toward a sitting president seriously enough to demand better treatment toward a president from the other party, I’ll take their demands for decorum on our side more seriously. Until then, I’ll just note that Congressman Wilson offered his apology in short order and didn’t qualify it. His outburst wasn’t right but his reaction to it has been. I’m satisfied that we, at least, are acting honorably.



  1. Please. You’re comparing the booing and hissing during Bush’s speech with what Wilson did? Do you need a new straw for all that grasping? Going back as far as the Reagan years, I can remember our elected officials booing, hissing, clapping, refusing to clap, refusing to stand, standing. That is NOT the same as someone standing up and yelling out “you lie!” (Try that in the private sector–in a meeting with your CEO or company president and see if you don’t get fired on the spot.) You can try and spin this all you want to put the GOP in a better light, but it’s a dim light at best. Even GOPers, last night and today (particularly McCain) have voiced their contempt for what Wilson did. What I found interesting was Obama didn’t miss a beat–he kept right on speaking. Showing what a class act he is. Wilson, meanwhile, with his outburst just showed what an *ss act he is. It truly saddens me to see how far the GOP continues degenerating. They once were a grand ol’ party. But the GOP of my younger years, the party I was proud to be affiliated with, is alas no more. And not a party I ever want to be associated with again.

  2. Wow, you missed that whole 1st couple of paragraphs of mine, eh? Well, that’s the nice thing about the Web – you can go back and catch what you skipped the last time.

    Incidentally, your metaphor about CEO’s only works if you think members of Congress work for the President. They don’t, although that’s a mistaken impression I run into a lot these days.

    And the President most certainly missed a beat. He, Biden and Pelosi all three looked over at where Wilson was sitting and pretty much stopped what they were doing, Obama included. Hardly surprising – it’s the most natural thing in the world and any man would do the same. His recovery was very quick – I believe he replied to the outburst with the statement “Untrue”, referring to the suggestion that he was lying. Then he continued.

    Feel free to read my post in its entirety. I think you’ll see in there that I said it was bad form on Wilson’s part. You may, of course, spin the behavior directed at previous presidents any way you want, too, but I see a lack of decorum that could easily have been avoided all around. Perhaps if both of our sides simply dropped the offended stance and made a real effort at being civil from here on…?

  3. It takes no courage to boo and hiss but it does implicate an entire Party. It takes courage to own your actions, as Joe Wilson did, and then to apologize and again, own the action. Joe Wilson is a graduate of one of the most polite colleges in the United States, and in my opinion, his graduating class was the best one in the history of W&L. He is a brave,polite man, driven to react to a lecture from a President who was either lying or completely clueless about what was contained in “his plan”.

  4. Very interseting article. I find, as an unaffiliated person, that both parties have forgotten government in the interest of politics. That, I believe, is the cause of the sad state of affairs in our country. I agree with the idea that civility should be restored and congress and its parties should start acting with decorum rather than as 5 year olds whose toy was taken by the other.

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