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September 11th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Under the Capitol Dome: Even madder men

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

After weeks of angry folks with pitchforks storming town hall meetings on health care, it is not surprising to see a hint of anarchy burst like a firecracker in the middle of President Obama’s big speech. There he was talking about how he won’t cover illegal immigrants when suddenly South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, to borrow from Paddy Chayefsky, was saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Actually, he said, “You lie!”

Let’s put aside for a minute that the actual bills suggest he was mistaken, and the president was right. Let’s step around the obvious breach of decorum; this is, after all, not the Taiwanese Parliament where a simple motion for recess can mean taping on the gloves and pulling on your Everlast trunks. Let’s even ignore the fact that the Congressman apologized almost immediately.

We still have a question: Why does this President evoke such fierce feelings?

Some people insist it’s because he is black. “It’s just racism,” they say. Others respond indignantly, “He was elected by vast numbers of white people. Are you going to pull that out every time his policies are challenged?”

Others argue that after running with a centrist, bi-partisan message he is veering hard into liberal-land, leaving even some supporters feeling “betrayed.” That’s a loaded word even among battle-hardened politicos.

And still others say he is simply trying too aggressively to bring sweeping change to a town that never really wants it, so voters and their Representatives are striking back.

Having listened to an awful lot of voters over the past month or so, I think each of these notions is a little right, but more…incomplete. There is a forest lurking among these trees. I’ve talked to disaffected Republicans, Independents, and Democrats; conservatives, liberals, and moderates; blacks, whites, and everyone else. Each group has people who oppose the president’s plans for different reasons.

What they all have in common is that they feel as if they are being ignored; that when they politely try to discuss the issue, the White House is blowing them off. The President and his defenders say they have tried valiantly to include, even accommodate, the opposition, but many voters just don’t believe it. None of this excuses the Congressman’s behavior or the collapse of professionalism and civility on both sides of the political aisle. But it is still a problem for the president.

A historian once wrote that the cause of every revolution is a ruler who won’t hear the complaints of the ruled. That doesn’t mean the ruler must agree with the disgruntled masses, but they must know they are being heard…or the shouting will only grow louder.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Art

    Mr. Wilson's out burst during the presidents speech was totally obnoxious and uncalled for. It just goes to show you the character of some these people in in Washington.

    September 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  2. lisa from Mn

    Here's how I see it. Last November the Republicans lost and lost big. They don't like it so they behave like juveniles. In August they went to town hall meetings and spred lie about death panels and abortions being paid for with tax dollars. They are just poor losers and need to start behaving likes adults.

    September 11, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  3. Larry

    I guess there's no freedom of speech in a Democratically-controlled Congress, Senate & Administration; unless its the Democratically-controlled Congress, Senate & Administration doing the speaking.

    September 11, 2009 at 9:07 pm |
  4. Art

    America can't see past it's own nose Tom, what goes around, comes around. By the way, I voted for the president and have no faith in the congress or senate of this country.

    September 11, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  5. Donna Wood Lil' Tennessee

    I loved your caption Tom. It is so appropriate! You are always right on the ,well, I would say money if anybody had any! Keep it coming big guy! Thanks!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  6. Melissa

    This kind of stuff has got to stop. I've never seen them so militant and dangerous. They're like an infectious virus eating us up from within until it destroys the country. No more.

    September 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  7. Michael C. McHugh

    I have never believed the Town Hallers are a populist movement, but only a kind of false populism whipped up by the Republicans based on a campaign of deception and fear. They are good at that, going back at least to the days of Joe McCarthy. It is a peculiar kind of populism indeed that supports not the good of the common people, but the welfare of big banks, corporations and insurance companies. No 19th Century Populist would have recognized any kinship with the right-wing Republican variety.

    September 11, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  8. Lukas

    We've seen a new political tactic come to utilization in the United States, scare tactics.

    September 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Conserve' for USA

    The health care bill will cover illegal aliens. GOP tried two times to have wording put in the bill to prove your citizenship before receiving healthcare. The democrats voted it down both times.
    Illegal aliens will be able to get free health care. Maybe the President doesn't know about this? Maybe not!

    September 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm |