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Mr. No Respect: Joe Wilson Edition

This past Labor Day weekend I wrote a column about the lack of respect the office of the President has gotten lately from certain individuals, but I actually got to witness disrespect live and on television Wednesday night when Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina called the president a liar to his face, by shouting "You lie!" at him during his joint address to congress.

President Obama was explaining that healthcare benefits would not extend to illegal immigrants, but Wilson shouted to differ. Not only was he loud and boorish, he ended up offending everyone from Nancy Pelosi (who gave him the blinkity-blink-blinky stare of death then quickly wrote something down) to other Republicans who honestly didn't need the distraction when they had successfully hijacked the healthcare debate up until now.

Wilson has since apologized for his outburst but the damage is done.

More after the jump.

From Popdecay:

Wilson called the White House to apologize to President Obama in person, but was routed to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, according to Associated Press. He also issued a statement: “This evening I let my emotions get the best of me,” 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.”

“Everybody was stunned,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, said of Wilson’s eruption. “It was just something that nobody had ever witnessed before. We all felt embarrassed.”

Republicans froze; several glanced in Wilson’s direction.

The problem with Wilson's outburst is would this have happened to any other president? I can't think of ANY other instance where something that disrespectful was shouted at the president by a member of Congress. At Politico, Roger Simon quipped that if Democrats had shouted "You lie" every time they thought a Republican president was lying to them Richard Nixon would still be speaking. It's simply unheard of no matter how much you disagree with the president. There is a certain weight the office carries that is supposed to go beyond disagreements, beyond political wrangling. He is the president. As I said in my earlier column, if you can't respect the man, respect the office he represents. There is never a good reason for a member of congress to behave like a Philadelphia Eagles fan booing Santa Claus. Was Wilson drunk? Was he lacking in "home training" as my mother would say? I highly doubt it. He knew what he was doing and did it anyway. It's the old reporter's adage -- act first, apologize later.

Well, this outburst will likely not benefit Wilson. He'll get a few attaboys back home in South Carolina, but for the most part he was an embarassment, soon to be used by Democrats as the symbol of the opposition -- a crash, rude bumblebutt who doesn't know when to shut up. Who isn't interested in political discourse, but shit-talking. It's his face and his name they will point to as why it is near impossible to get a bipartisan bill passed. How can you work with the opposition when the opposition can't even keep a lid on it for a presidential speech? Don't let the T-shirts fool you, the president is not your homeboy. You can holler at him all you like, but it is you who will end up looking like the fool.

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Reader Comments (35)

My concern is that the attention his heckling gets will plant doubt in people's minds about whether the President WAS lying -- as in, "well, he shouldn't have said it so RUDELY, but someone had to say it" When actually ... he was the one lying.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRegina

D.C. PHONE (202) 225-2452
FAX (202) 225-2455

Call his office and voice your opinion... I did. If you can't get through call your local rep and voice your opinion. and then they can transfer you to his office and you can voice your opinion to them. His Official web site is down so you can't leave a message on line at this point.. But we have to call, write and keep calling and writing and being respectful but getting our point across that we are not going to let our country go to the dogs...

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCathyfc

If you don't live in South Carolina or have a big check in hand, he doesn't care what you have to say. Call your own Congressman, they might actually care.

September 10, 2009 | Registered Commentertarheelio

I think the lack of respect is running rampant across the country. I couldn't believe what people said about the President addressing school children. Regardless of your opinion, he is the leader of our country and you should respect that. No one has any respect for anyone else any more. You don't like what someone is saying, you boo (or shout something, in this case). You don't like what someone is doing, you flip them off. Our country, in its pursuit of a classless society has become a country without class. We are all equal, so let's forget our manners, and treat people the way we want to instead of the way we want to be treated.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDj

why's he gotta be compared to a philadelphian - LOL! great post, as always :-)

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaila


Thank the baby boomers and their progeny for this country's lack of class. Theirs is a generation built on lack of respect for authority. No Wilson shouldn't have done what he did but what what he did is only slightly worse than the response of some Dem members of Congress to Bush.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Scott, what is it with you? You tirelessly and tediously drag out the old totems of so and so acted like a jerk so that's why others get permission to do the same. Can we at least suggest that Wilson who presumably had the speech in advance if I am getting my news correct was without any justification and stop the perpetual explanations of crudeness? You probably are a nice enough guy but give the excuses a break. Back to my reading on the sly.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Williams

Two thoughts.

First, as long as elected Republican party members act this boorish, the President has little to worry about when it comes to facing any actual resistance to implementing his platform.

Given that the most 'powerful' conservatives are sitting behind a microphone in a radio booth or a television studio and not sitting in congress, he's largely going to get everything he wants, but for a few minor compromises.

Lastly, I think that William F. Buckley took a bit of the old school decorum that conservatism had in its cache moons ago with him to the grave. Even at their Willie-Horton, welfare mother bashing worse, Republican's has a code of behavior that allowed them--as a party--to be as effective as they were for so long.

Of course, underneath all of that starch and gloss lurked the barely-literate, hyper-racist types we've seen since those McCain rallies. But it just seems that more work was put into at least appearing to believe in the values they profess in years past than they do now.

As an example, I point to a former possible Presidential contender from South Carolina who has (up to this point) given five extended interviews detailing how much he absolutely adores his South American born mistress.

It's not a movement anymore. It's a mob.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersnobfanforeal


In what way? please identify one example of when a Democratic member of Congress, in either house, EVER, was blatantly disrepectful of President Bush, heck, any President, in the manner in which Jim wilson represented himself, his state and his party last night. It was unexcusable and merely adds support to the unfortunate observation that THIS President seems, for some reason, not to deserve the appropriate respect, courtesy and dignity of the Office of the Presidency. He won the election by a sizable margin, no half percentage points or Court intervention, although many attempt to, you can not question his credentials and intellect. When you start ruling out all of those characteristics for legitmate derision, you are left with the unpleasantness of plain ole bias and prejudice. And even then, you DO NOT DISREPECT THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT! Regardless of the holder! I have no problem with diagreement and/or dissent. i freely admit I think and thought Bush an imbecile and terrible for this country, but was completely outraged at the reporter who through his shoe at him. There is a line and you don't cross it in a civilized society. Wilson high-jumped with a holler over that line, and he should pay the price for it.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdivaliscious11

Andrea Williams:

I didn't excuse what Wilson did at all. Would my statement have seem less like an excuse if I had split it into two different sentences? That said, I always find it amusing when folks get all sanctimonious that Repubs did X or Y when at some point Dems have done the exact same thing. I also stand by my comment about the baby boomers.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott


Ask and you shall receive. I disagree with the author about the difference but that is opinion and doesn't change what the Dems did::

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Perhaps Obama is more clever than most strategy critics give him credit for. It may be that he is counting on building his long-term credibility while temporarily losing ground by giving his opposition enough rope to hang themselves behavior-wise. It always seems to me he is thinking two steps further than everyone else. These will be very interesting mid-term elections.

Wishing you all progress.

September 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterAabaakawad

First, its Joe the its Joe the Rep.


September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercdf

Scott - Not the same. I had no problem with the boos from last night. That suggests a policy difference and again, disagreement often results in better policy if it leads to more critical analysis. But when you personally attack the President by calling him a liar, in the middle of an address in front of Congress, you have crossed a line. In a congressional session, calling someone a liar is grounds for censure, because you are no longer challenging the position, but challenging the character and the motive of the issuer, which are two very different things. So no, I do not equate the two.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdivaliscious11

There's no defending Wilson by bringing up some hissing in the Democratic peanut gallery when Bush was president, which the American public barely witnessed. Calling President Obama a liar and interrupting his speech is far worse. Wilson's "incivility" shunned an audience and caused several high officials to give him the stink-eye right on live TV. Scott, you've lost whatever credibility you had by trying to lamely defend his behavior.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Wise

The lack of respect is appalling. You would think an elected official would know how to behave (at least in front of other people)!

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

What's with the spam-control that won't let a comment with a link get through? (No matter how many times I type out the letters in the box.....) Anyway there's an item on a WSJ blog (no I don't read the WSJ, someone linked it on FB) saying Wilson's opponent has raised over $200k since last night. :)

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRegina

@ scott

everyone is a hypocrite. the only thing that's consistent in this world is that everyone are inconsistent. whenever dems harassed bush, reeps got mad. but those same reeps harassed clinton for 8 years. and those same dems got mad. after they harassed bush 1 and reagan for 12 years. it's life. and it's politics.

"no one likes it when it's them"

@ david wise

i don't think anyone is trying to defend wilson. just pointing out inconsistencies when people try to become "agents of justice." people do need to accept the fact that they're hypocrites.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterswiv

Hypocracy is the nature of the beast when it comes to politics. I too think that Scott likes to point out inconsistancies in politics and in general. It just gets us (or me) to thinki about the issue more objectively. However, in this instance, shouting "You lie!" is a far cry from hissing and booing, which by the way I don't condone either.

Unlike Scott I agree with the author, GlennThrush, who said

"So why the outcry over Wilson?

I think it's because Congressional Republicans have used the health care debate to vent a deeper, uglier contempt for Obama that verges on the personal."

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrandi

Scott, Ayn Rand said the same thing about your generation. Each generation attributes a fall in standards to the next generation. Always passing the buck. Joe Wilson is responsible for what Joe Wilson did - not the baby boomber generation. There were lots of members of the baby boomer generation present last night who chose not to conduct themselves as Joe Wilson did. Joe Wilson is to be held accountable for his own behavior. To state otherwise is just another dodge of personal responsibility.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

Joe Wilson from South Carolina, is just another good old boy where in the morning these married men preach to you that there should be prayer in our schools and in the evening they are on their cell phones setting up a date with their other women on the side, hypocrisy has been bred in. I am not surprised that he felt compel to yell like he was at some Friday night game. He is a hater not a debater like most of his side of the isle.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

His website is down but I sent him an email via like I did (see below)

Thank you for using Mail System.

September 10, 2009

Mr. Wilson,

Your thoughtless and reckless commentary during the President's speech was unbecoming of a lawmaker and unacceptable for an adult.

Please stop to consider the following:
- You have severely damaged the reputation of your party.
- You have disgraced the State of South Carolina
- You have put innocent people in serious jeopardy.

Are you aware there is now a viral internet message floating around that has the address of one Joe Wilson of South Carolina listed? It goes on to encourage outraged citizens to "show up at Joe's house and show him in your own special way what you think about his behavior" Some of the more sickening suggestions are about burning down the house with your family inside.

Is this what you want? To flame mob mentality? Because remember that when you do that, you do not have control over the mob. Which has apparently turned on YOU!

Now I can only pray to God for two things: one is that an extremely agitated and anxious populace does not act on this suggestion and secondly, I pray that the address listed is actually yours and not some other innocent Joe Wilson who happens to have the same unfortunate name.

I hope your little outburst was worth the cheap thrill because you my friend, are now a YouTube sensation in the worst possible way.

But you sure made my day. You probably just turned the entire State of South Carolina Blue.

Way to go, Joe! Stay classy!

PS to Joe's staff: I would call in sick for the next two weeks if I were you. It is probably safer.

Theresa sent this message via, which uses the Capwiz·XC system. is a free public service of Capitol Advantage and Knowlegis, LLC. You may access here:

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

South Carolina has a long list of dignitaries that includes Lauren Caitlin Upton (Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant contestant), Governor (and avid Appalachian hiker), Mark Sanford and now Joe “the hater not a debater” Wilson or the “screamer not the dreamer” as others have dubbed him. I did enjoy him cut and running through his apology, which only goes to show that he stands for nothing. So long Joey, you too will be seeing the unemployment lines.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Unemployment line? Doubt it. That district has been republican for 44 years, democrats are on the ropes all over the country (look at Harry Reid), and lots of conservatives down here may believe what he did was rude -- and I do believe it was -- but they like the fact that he (a) stood up to the shove-the-bill-thru tactics, (b) told the president that he, along with others, aren't buying his b.s. about illegals getting health care on our dime, and (c) that he retorted directly to BHO's assertion that some on the other side were lying. Again, i disagree with how Wilson did it, but BHO stood there and accused those who disagreed with him as liars -- rather than answering the charges -- and JW simply turned the table on him.

Finally, I'd like to comment to the jerk who wrote this above:
Way to go, Joe! Stay classy!

PS to Joe's staff: I would call in sick for the next two weeks if I were you. It is probably safer.

Are you insinuating there may be violence? Isn't that, in your words, "inflaming mob mentality"?

Quite hypocritical, if you ask me...

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraaron

In fact, its not really hypocritical, it almost reads like a threat.

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraaron
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