September 10th, 2009
08:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #234: Yelling at the President

Reporter's Note: President Obama spoke last night about his efforts to reform health care. I spoke with my wife last night about my efforts to clean the garage. The thing is, both President Obama and I have other items on our agenda too…for example, me writing a letter to the White House every day and the president, perhaps, reading it.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/10/obama.heckled.speech/art.joe.wilson.heckling.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie" after President Obama denied health reform would cover illegal immigrants."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I had a whole letter written and ready to send, and then that Congressman yelled at you during your speech and well…it’s been on my mind ever since. So I just got home from the office a short while ago, it’s midnight, the whole family is asleep, and I’m sitting here with the dog doing a rewrite. (And btw, she’s not helping much.)

When that Representative barked (out of decorum, I won’t mention his name…although it was South Carolina’s Joe Wilson…uh…I mean, never mind) I wasn’t entirely sure what he’d said. I thought it was “liar” or “you’re lying” or possibly “Does anyone have change for a five?” As I understand it, what he actually said was “You lie.” Odd syntax, don’t you think? Sounds like something you might hear in an ESL class.

Anyway, there are several things that trouble me about this. First, accusing someone on Capitol Hill of a lie is like accusing them of breathing. It is not so much a cheap shot as just a waste of everyone’s time. There are some good and relatively honest folks up there, but politics and truth often hang out on different corners.

Second, as best I can make out as I have waded through the massive swaths of these bills, he was wrong. Despite relentless accusations that illegal immigrants will be covered, that just does not seem to be the case. You said so immediately before he sounded off, and you appear to be right.

And third, we just don’t do that to presidents in our country. Or at least we shouldn’t. I know the Congressman apologized almost as soon as the speech was done, and said he got carried away by his emotions. I understand such things. This is a highly charged issue with intense feelings on both sides. There are people who genuinely, honestly believe you are not shooting straight on this issue. There are people who, with great patriotism in their hearts, think you are trying to turn the country Socialist.

But no matter what you, or George Bush, or Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon, or James Garfield, or William Howard Taft, believe or have to say, as long as you are saying it with the mantle of the Presidency on your shoulders, the office deserves respect. Maybe I’m old-fashioned or hopelessly standing on ceremony, but I don’t like for my president to be yelled at, whether I agree with him or not.

Mind you, I don’t like being yelled at by Presidents either, but that’s another story. Hope it didn’t spoil your night. Call if you can.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Josh- California

    Tom you are right.

    Joe had no right (not matter of his emotions) to yell at the President. All Presidents need to be respected, as if he was your boss. Joe represents his state, and so far he has done a bad job of it. What might the rest of the country think of his state that he represents? Joe should step down, apologizing is not enough. He is a discrace to congress, the country, the state he represents, and his family. Shame on him.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  2. Jeff

    Back in 2003 when we were getting ready to go to war, it was the Republicans who said "if you aren't with the President, you aren't patriotic" or other words to that effect. Why can't Obama use that same kind of tactic against the Republicans now?

    September 10, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  3. Tyrone

    President Obama address the country about healthcare. The same idoit republican that voted for the needless Iraq War. That cost America troops over 4,300 American citizen lifes for nothing! Vote against American citizen when it come to healthcare. I can't say I was shock nor should I be surprise but it was shameful as a American to hear a Congressman call the President of the United State a liar on national tv.
    Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, pointing angrily at the president, blurted at the top of his voice: "You lie!"
    His outburst prompted cries of "Shame!" from the Democratic benches and Americans around the world, while the president looked startled and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, shot a furious look to the left of the dais. First Lady Michelle Obama, watching from the public gallery, shook her head in dismay. He should have been escorted out of the President address. His remark is a insalt to the President and the country. Even the Republican colleague to Mr Wilson's left patted his arm to calm him down. But not shut him up ! The disrespect of the officer of the President is at the highest ever! There is no other reason but President Obama being the first African American. Shamefully a few white anti -American get all the press they want from the white controled media. Look at the incident that was blow up in the white control media about the President of the United State of all American. In the issue of speaking to student about staying in school and being all you can be. Some white anti-American parent first claim had issue of a request of the President. Asking students to give susgestion for a better America. The President people change the innocent request. Then the complain was the President of the United State will somehow brainwash their children. The white control media blew up the anti-American story. Promoting anti-America hatred and showing a lack of white leadership.As soon as the president had uttered the last word of his speech, Mr Wilson bolted from the chamber of the House of Representatives on a media-evasion mission. Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a former whip in the House, moved rapidly towards the area where Mr Wilson had been sitting and remonstrated with Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina and whichever Republicans were listening.
    Veteran Congress watches had never heard anything like it. Previous presidents have been subjected to the odd ironic chortles, a disapproving murmur or perhaps a jocular heckle, but not a full-throated insult like this.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  4. Leeaust

    I agree, he must have been paid by the same insurance companies that bussed idiots to Town Hall meetings to yell out? Was he the same one that had a paper in his lap that said 'WHAT BILL"? Maybe they or he had written a bill, and did not want to share it. It is really shameful. I think the ugly head of raceism is still here. So is the fear of change!! AND so is the feel of green (money) in their pockets. Very sad day for the country. Do people think that they can really do ANYTHING TO ANY BODY and all they have to do is apologize and all is alright, all is forgiven??? NOT!!

    September 10, 2009 at 10:00 am |
  5. Alexi

    Absolutely agree with Tom. It seems as if there are no centrists left in the GOP representation, particularly in the southern portion of our country - apparently they were all replaced in Congress by centrist Dems. I, personally, am pretty tired of the far right and their increasingly bizarre behavior and claims.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  6. miriam zapata

    You write the way I think. However, someone is always going to be mad about something you didnt do or didnt say, or did do or did say. So sometimes when you are in a position to do whats best for everyone, like President Obama is, you have have to do what you have to do. One day everyone will thank him for it.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  7. Moneca

    Amen, Mr. Foreman. Amen.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  8. austinwatcher

    Good post Tom! Joe Wilson looks like a complete idiot. Scary for South Carolina.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  9. Angie, Plano TX

    These ignorant outbursts (from the town halls that were held last year to the premeditated remark that Rep Joe Wilson made) and the sign that Rep Louie Gohmert wore are totally unprofessional. In my opinion, both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Gohmert should resign. This type of public insubordination is very disrespectful.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  10. Melissa

    Tom, that was very well said. It wouldn't matter what party the person belonged to, behaving like that is wrong. Have respect for the office if you don't have respect for the man, and do not behave like a spoiled bully toward the President during a Presidential Congressional Address. Period.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  11. Pedro

    This will be simple... you respect and salute the office and the title not the man or woman.
    There was time when congress representatives and senators where statesmen with civility and education. Lets try to honor that and remember our founding fathers when we enter instituions that represent our nation. That representative or senator who spoke out should not only apolize in a written and verbal manner to the President of the United States but also to every member in congress and to the people of the United States of America.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:20 am |
  12. Conserve' for USA

    I guess you didn't watch what the democrats said to GWB when he gave his speeches in the senate, not that it makes this right to do now.

    September 10, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  13. Kristen, MD

    Agreed Tom. Whether you like President Obama and his politics or not you must respect him as President and I'm getting sick of people not doing that.

    September 10, 2009 at 8:45 am |
  14. Alice, AR

    Very good Tom!! The level of disrespect that the Republicans have shown this president with their remarks, outbursts and outright lies have troubled me. I voted for McCain, but the right man won, because in this country, the people get to choose our leader.

    We need to be very concerned about the hatred spewing from the mouths of the right wing movement towards this president. I am ashamed and I am questioning my political choices.

    September 10, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  15. Billy

    Joe Wilson's outburst was COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!!
    I just wish that, as a people, we would learn to agree to disagree without all the mudslinging. We are Americans, yes, and we are entitled to opinions. However, we should respect each other and have civil disagreements. It's entirely disappointing to see such irresponsible behavior from an elected member who is supposed to be setting an example. The United States is still the best example of legislative debate – even if Joe Wilson doesn't practice it himself, and shame on him!!

    September 10, 2009 at 8:37 am |