September 14th, 2009
08:15 AM ET

Why the shock about Joe Wilson?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/13/wilson.no.apology/art.wilson2.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, shouts "You lie!" during President Obama's speech Wednesday night."]

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

When Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress by yelling "You lie!" a livid House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked as if she was about to jump out of her seat and give her colleague a five-minute "time out" for misbehavior.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn warned that he supports reprimanding Wilson unless he goes to the well of the House and apologizes. Many pundits and politicians have subsequently lamented that the incident has revealed a new level of incivility in Congress.

And certainly this was an embarrassing moment for the GOP, which looked more like the party of Joseph McCarthy than Ronald Reagan. This has been a summer when some members of the Republican Party outside of Congress have chosen a strategy of yelling and screaming, rather than debating and legislating.

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Filed under: Julian E. Zelizer • Raw Politics
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Bonnie Crawford

    Regardless of whether or not Representative Wilson agrees with President Obama's policies, he should respect the position he holds as President of the United States. Representative Wilson's behavior was indeed appalling and there is no room in our government for that kind of emotional outburst. If they would attack problems and issues with the same fervor they attack people, we could get something accomplished.

    September 14, 2009 at 9:13 pm |
  2. GH

    A quote from the article: "The GOP would do well to remember the warning of Maine Republican Margaret Chase Smith, who worried in 1950 that her party was trying to achieve victory on 'the Four Horsemen of Calumny - Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.'" How fitting an acronym describing the Repubs right now: "FIBS".

    September 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  3. californiagirl

    Joe Wilson represents the worst in America. To show such disrespect to the President of the United States of America is appauling!

    September 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  4. Fed Up

    Obama either lied or he plans to give amnesty to all the illegals............plain and simple, read the bill for yourself. Do you really think we are going to deny anything to the illegals? It's a don't ask don't tell policy where no proof of citizenship is required.

    September 14, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  5. janinpenna

    It's almost like the The Jerry Springer show has become acceptable behavior.

    It's embarrassing to our country. We must treat all people with respect and basic courtesy. Those in public service have an extra burden to curb their emotions and set a good standard for the rest of us.

    This is just as bad as the town hall meetings. People need to learn how to act in a civilized society. You can't say everything you're thinking people!

    September 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  6. Bobby

    I understand that Rep. Wilson was angry because President Obama's views on healthcare, but so were the other members of his party and you didn't see them show absolute and clear disrespect for the President.

    In the end I think it boils down to Rep. Wilson breaking House decorum and showing a blatant disrespect for the Office of the President. Even if he doesn't necessarily agree with the policy goals of Barack Obama, he should still hold respect to the office that President Obama holds.

    September 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  7. Conserve' for USA

    Has the president said he was sorry to the police officer? Has nancy pelosi said she was sorry to the cia? Has harry reid said he was sorry to gwb?
    Why should joe wilson say he was sorry, when these others haven't said they were sorry?

    September 14, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  8. Suzy

    Next thing you know, we'll be seeing bench clearing brawls in Congress like we see in other countries. The man has no class.

    September 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  9. Dan

    I don't believe President Obama is a liar. But he was the first person to bring up such allegations during his speach. He specifically blamed the healthcare furor on lies by Republicans. He was right, but his language injected accusatory tones that were at odds with his call for bipartisanship. Wilson's outburst was uncalled for and unprecedented, but given that he probably felt personally attacked by Obama, it's understandable. Still, I contributed to Rob Miller's campaign just in case.

    September 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  10. Thelma Sanders

    This Country is so screwed up. It’s OK to exercise your freedom of speech when Joe Wilson disrespects the President of the United States by calling him a liar but it’s an issue when Kanye West exercise his freedom of speech by disrespecting Taylor Swift for winning an award. HURRY and get health care approved because a lot of people need antidepressants.

    Thelma from VA

    September 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  11. GF, Los Angeles

    I'm glad Joe Wilson had the nerve to say something. Even though it's written that illegals will not receive these benefits, there is nothing in place to enforce that therefore any person who seeks medical aid does not have to prove they're an actual citizen. It's a flaw that Obama needs to address.

    September 14, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  12. Melissa

    The shock is cultural. Its one of those things that you just don't do. Kind of like touching the queen without her permission. You just don't do it. And frankly, there are actually ways he could have been censured for such behavior in Congress (I don't know why he wasn't) because they even have rules on such behavior.

    The shock is justified. Just because something has been done in the past, doesn't mean that the same behavior is ok now.

    September 14, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  13. Heather,ca

    I don't understand why he just didn't do what anyone else does mainly the other side and boo him. They do it all the time. Yeah he screwed up. He said he was sorry. Now move on.

    September 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  14. Enough

    How soon they forget how disrespectful they were when Bush spoke..............oh, but it's ok if you're a Democrat. Sorry folks, Wilson spoke the truth, it was a reaction and things pop out when blatant lies are being told!! He apologized, not for the statement, but for the interruption.

    September 14, 2009 at 10:40 am |