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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Sideshow Becomes the Center Ring

It's tempting to call it ironic -- and it is. But just a little. During President Obama's address to a joint session of congress, he called out Republicans on their lies. There are no "death panels" in his plan for reform, no funding for abortion. But it was illegal aliens that made a Republican Representative to get his rage on.

"There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants," the president said, shooting down a popular right wing lie. "This, too, is false -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."

Rep. Wilson makes an ass of himselfIt was here that Rep. Joe Wilson felt the need to shout out, "You lie!" Obama was accused of lying about Republican lies. A little ironic, since the accusation in itself was a lie, but mostly it was just good old Republican hypocrisy.

Nancy Pelosi shot up straight in her chair, obviously shocked. Then she looked out into the chamber with the same expression I'd imagine she'd wear if she were saying, "I think I can get a clean shot." Vice President Biden just shook his head. Then everything went on.

Afterward, the White House chief of staff wanted to know who the shouter was.

New York Times:

Following the speech, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, approached lawmakers on the floor to ask who had accused Mr. Obama of lying. Mr. Emanuel was told it was Representative Wilson.

"No president ever has been treated like that, ever," Mr. Emanuel told reporters.


Probably not entirely true, but Wilson doesn't have a civil war as an excuse.





"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," Wilson said later in a statement. "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."

But Wilson's apology, like his shouted accusation, is a lie -- or, at least, dishonest. Congress members were given a bound copy of the speech, as they always are, and Wilson was aware of everything Obama would say. He wasn't sitting there when the mention of illegal aliens caught him by surprise. He was probably waiting for that moment. Rep. Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, apparently thought this would just be a brilliant move. It wasn't. Joe Wilson's 2010 opponent -- Democrat Rob Miller -- has raised $91,275 since last night, as of this writing.

Unfortunately, the sideshow has become the center ring today. Wilson is the headliner, not Obama. When I checked twitter last night, "Joe Wilson" was the number one topic -- but Obama was around seventh or eighth. So it's not surprising that the news media, reactive as it is, makes Wilson a big story. But what's being lost is that President Obama gave what early indications show was a very successful and persuasive speech last night.

According to a CNN flash poll [PDF], the president killed. Asked, "What was your overall reaction to President Obama's speech tonight -- very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or very negative?" 77% of respondents answered that it was either very or somewhat positive, with the majority -- 56% -- calling their reaction "very positive."

But that isn't the only indication that the president's words had an impact. Where 60% said they thought Obama would move the country in the right direction before the speech, 70% thought so afterward -- a ten-point jump. He had even more success with opinions of his specific plan; 53% supported Obama's healthcare reforms before the speech and 67% favored them afterward.

75% believe that congress will pass most of his proposals and 72% felt the president was clear about what he wanted. Looking through this, there isn't a bad number in this poll. But Joe Wilson is getting a lot of the coverage.

While Wilson's outburst inarguably hurt him directly and, in all probability, Republicans in general, it's not really helping Obama or Democrats. As I wrote earlier, he's the sideshow -- the townhall mob made manifest in front of news cameras at an event where it had no business. It's a great illustration of what's wrong with the GOP these days. As dishonest as they are angry, as fact-free as they are opinionated, they stand for nothing so much as the status quo by standing against any possible success Democrats might enjoy. They're obstructionist by design and by default and nothing will move them toward any semblance of sanity. They are against everything and for nothing. They have become enraged nihilists.

But this makes Republicans a vacuum. There's nothing there -- just insubstantial lies and empty complaints. Democrats should be able to rush in and fill the void. But the media keeps treating them as if they were something other than empty holes and sore losers. "Republican says stupid, insane thing" becomes "GOP critic of reform speaks out."

We have to get these numbers out. Because the media won't. Not even CNN is making a big deal of their own poll -- last time I checked, they were asking talking heads whether the president made an impact, stupidly ignoring their own factual data that shows he did.

We can't even count on the media to report the numbers they have. So we have to do it and Democrats have to do it. Otherwise, we're going to be stuck watching the sideshows for the foreseeable future.

-Wisco


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7 comments:

Marvin said...

I agree that Wilson is a distraction. We shouldn't let his ridiculous display distract us from the real issue: Getting Health Care Reform Passed NOW. No more delays.

vet said...

In your second piece on this, you draw a comparison with the UK's House of Commons. It's not a bad comparison, but as one who's spent three decades monitoring that forum, I'd like to point out one thing:

The House of Commons has rules.

In Britain, Mr Wilson's language would have seen him kicked out of the House, probably for the best part of a week. There's a rigidly-enforced list of things you just can't say, and "lie" is very high on that list.

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

I'm quite pleased about this myself. We're on the eve of something crucial and the GOP is happily shooting itself in the foot over and over again. The "indoctrination in schools" nontroversy turned out to be a week's worth of nothing and now this. Let's hope they can top this off with something more ridiculous.

The HOC in Canada has rules too, such as not directly engaging the person you want to talk to. "You lie!" would be a breach; in order to call someone a liar you'd have to get permission to speak and then tell the speaker that "The honourable representative from such-and-such is..." and then go from there. Not sure about using the word lie though.

M said...

If the story is Wilson, it's only going to embolden the kooks and maybe even some politically aloof Independents. This is the heart of what drives TV media.

Here's a guy that called the president a liar during a joint session of congress, in front of the country and the world, as if he's some sort of patriot for not being fearful in "calling the president out for all his lies!"

It doesn't matter that Wilson is the one lying about the president lying-- to an il-informed audience. What matters is the appearance of the "little guy" standing up to the radical-communist-illegal alien who may or may not be trying to indoctrinate the kids and take over the economy by killing old people.

This is it for the GOP. Whether it's Ricci Vs. Sotomayor, or the President Vs. Confederate Joe, the GOP is simplifying their role to that of "fighting underdogs" of, for, and by, stupid white people.

For some people, hearing Joe Wilson(R-SC) yell, "Lie!" in a setting like a joint session of congress can only carry more credibility-- because if a republican congressman isn't stupid, wrong, disrespectful, or a lying liar....he's "got a point," says the TV media because as they like to say,

"some are saying....": Joe Wilson is courageous and has proven he's willing to risk it all standing up and speaking out calling the "liars, liars" while fighting for what he believes is right and civility be damned!

The impression doesn't even really need that much "both sides= equal argument" play to swing it back to the idea that the president's plan is a "tough sell" for the public or "unpopular with some lawmakers."

The GOP can only be more emoldened by this. This time it's, "You Lie!" Next time what? One of those Southern Strom Thurmond Confederates gonna go all John Wilkes Booth?

I saw it as an open disgrace to the country on a subject that boils down to: ..."he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance, what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent, there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.

I see no real difference between calling the president a "liar" or a "traitor" here. And for what? To make access to healthcare easier and more affordable?

You're a real fucking hero, Joe Wislon.

Joe Wilson should be censured and removed.

Vet makes an excellent point.

Realjimbo said...

You must be kidding (lying). Obama lies every time he looks into the teleprompter and moves his lips. Who really believes that a $9 trillion plan can be paid for by savings from Medicare and that Medicare won't be cut?

Turn out every last Democrat and Republican for the next three election cycles. That way we can get back to what our founding fathers envisioned.

Charles Pergiel said...

http://pergelator.blogspot.com/2009/09/health-insurance-debate.html

Anonymous said...

Realjimbo -- You sack of douche.

You have NO IDEA what the founders envisioned you hack.