Thursday, September 10, 2009

A lack of civility

Passions run high in politics; that is a given. This year has seen a crescendo, culminating in a Representative heckling the President of the United States during a speech in the House chamber. Disagreeing is fine; it is even patriotic, given this nation's birth from dissidence. Yet the level of vitriol has reached bothersome levels.

Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, pictured here, yelled "You Lie!" at another point at the president, after Mr. Obama asserted that no illegal immigrants would receive benefits under his plan. Mr. Wilson later issued an apology to the president for what he called "this lack of civility."

That has become the way of doing things: first commit a transgression, then apologize. But heckling the President is really objectionable; it legitimizes all the anger that has been spewed, and the anger to come.

Rep. Wilson's 'Lie' Yell Boosts Rival In the hours following the South Carolina Republican's outburst during Obama's speech, his 2010 Democratic opponent has raised about $100,000.

Gail Collins always impresses me with her insight. To wit: This was when Obama said illegal immigrants would not be covered by health care reform. It seemed like a pretty tame remark for so much disrespect, given all the recent uproar over the president’s alleged ability to brainwash elementary school students.

Sure, Obama talked the fiscally responsible talk last night. But he cannot hold a candle to Baucus and Chuck Grassley, the committee’s lead Republican. These guys are really, really, really concerned about balancing the budget. And that seems only fair since they were basically the ones who unbalanced it in the first place when they worked in splendid bipartisan concert in 2001 to pass George W. Bush’s first $1.6 trillion in tax cuts.

How is it that the very people who made the mess get to clean it up?

Obama's Health Care SpeechSlide Show
Obama's Health Care Speech

It’s always possible that the Republicans will realize that their virulent opposition is not doing the country any good, and at least be obstructionist in a more cheerful way. Although Wednesday night, when the TV cameras caught the House minority leader, John Boehner, he looked as though he had just swallowed a cough drop.

Yet look at the picture of the President surrounded by members of Congress: to the President's right is Senator McConnell, and, behind him, that tanned dude, that's Boehner. Guess he couldn't help himself.

Boehner got the day off to a fine start by telling reporters he expected the president would “try to put lipstick on this pig and call it something else.” It was a stunning development, suggesting that a new page in American politics was turning, one in which members of both parties could once again come together and toss around that lipstick-pig metaphor without being accused of a sexist attack on Sarah Palin.

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