Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2009 27 Elul 5769
Joe Wilson: The Dems' Rude Herring
By Roger Simon
Health care is an extremely complex and important problem that won't go away until Congress sits down and solves it.
So you can see why lawmakers would rather flap their gums over Joe Wilson.
It is so much easier to debate a resolution condemning his rudeness than it is to agree on a bill that provides health care to all Americans without increasing the deficit.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was visibly disturbed by Wilson's outburst on Wednesday night, said exactly the right thing when asked about him afterward.
"It's time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson," she said.
Precisely. Way to go. A voice of reason amid the hubbub.
So, of course, Pelosi quickly abandoned that position. Not because she was wrong but because her party wanted something else.
Her party wants blood. Her party wants vengeance. Her party wants to replace one form of hyper-partisanship (a rude outburst) with another (a cold reprisal).
The Democratic majority in the House wants to demonstrate that there is a Democratic majority in the House.
So the Democrats will use that majority to pass a meaningless resolution reprimanding Wilson. And they will feel darn good about it. They will have accomplished something!
They will have agreed on exactly what our new health care system will look like — public option, triggered public option or co-ops, for instance — and exactly how to pay for it: Tax the insurance companies, tax the rich or tax the middle class, for instance.
No, wait. That is what they will not accomplish by reprimanding Joe Wilson. That is what they will avoid accomplishing by reprimanding Joe Wilson.
And it is not as if Barack Obama is sitting around the White House with hurt feelings, demanding such a reprimand. Quite the opposite.
Asked about Wilson by Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes," Obama said he "appreciated" Wilson's apology, though the whole incident was an example of "a coarsening of our political dialogue that I've been running against since I got into politics."
At which point Kroft asked Obama if Wilson "should be rebuked."
Obama laughed. "Well, but see, this is part of what happens," Obama said. "I mean, it becomes a big circus instead of us focusing on health care."
And what better description of Congress than a big circus? One where, right now, the only thing Democrats can think about is cleaning up after the elephants.
Democrats should see Wilson for what he is: a gift. Wilson feeds their stereotype that most hard-core Republicans are white, Southern, rude and wrong.
But Democrats should want Wilson to be embarrassed, which is what he is now, instead of embattled, which is what a House resolution will make him.
Wilson's stated reason for his outburst is a gift, too. "I had just completed town hall meetings," he said. "People were passionate. I had what one of my sons said was a 'town hall moment.'"
And what else is a "town hall moment" except bellowing when somebody else is trying to speak? We are now seeing what we might expect to see in a nation obsessed with what Obama calls "the loudest, shrillest voices." Both Wilson and the Democrat running against him are raising large sums of money because of the outburst. Each side wants to teach the other a lesson it will never forget.
In America today, being in Congress means not just promoting one piece of legislation versus another or even one view of government versus another. It is good versus evil, a zero-sum game where for one side to win, the other must lose — and not just lose but be vanquished, crushed, decimated and devastated.
So we cannot move on from Joe Wilson's bad behavior; we cannot avert our eyes from the car wreck. We must dwell on it and wallow in it. Congress must pass a resolution condemning Wilson to demonstrate that Congress can do something, anything.
"He violated the decorum of the House," Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, sniffed.
The decorum of the House?
Who says humor is dead in this country?
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate