Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"You Lie" Is Joe Wilson a Racist?

In an overwhelmingly partisan vote, the House of Representatives expressed its disapproval of Representative Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s speech last week. Wilson’s interruption of the President was certainly inappropriate, prompting the Representative to properly apologize to Obama. Some Democrats, however, are increasing the poisonous atmosphere in Congress through their insistence on drawing race into the picture.

Before Congress’s vote, Hank Johnson, D-Ga absurdly stated that without action taken against Wilson people would be wearing “white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside" – a direct reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Likewise, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Barbara Lee, D-Ca, said that we “can't sweep race under the rug — racism is still a factor and must be addressed.” While not directly in response to the Wilson affair, former President Jimmy Carter echoed this sentiment. He stated that “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man."

The Left’s fixation with bringing race into the discussion is disingenuous and reprehensible. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to suggest that Rep. Wilson’s or any American’s disagreement with Obama’s and the Democrat’s policies have anything to do with race. Wilson’s outburst, while unacceptable in that forum, was the result of well-thought out policy differences, not a deep-seeded racism. The fact that this was the first time a President has been shouted down while speaking on the floor of the House is a testament to the divisiveness and partisanship that has grown under the current administration. The fact that a Representative, who by all accounts is respected and respectful, broke such rules of decorum only speaks to the fact that the administration’s policies are threatening to a vast swath of America.

The Democrat’s endeavors to paint this as racism, is simply an attempt to stifle discussion. By trying to divert the discussion, they are seeking to avoid real discourse over the issues. While Wilson should have addressed his concerns in another forum, Democrats are willing to pull out every stop to silence him. President Carter’s blanket statement is even more dangerous. To label any disagreement with the President as racism takes America down a perilous path. Under such a Carteresque world-view dissent is not allowed and the opposition is silenced.

The only issue of race in any of this is in the heads of these Democratic statesmen. Whether they truly believe these disagreements with the administration are race-based or whether they are simply using race as a political tool to silence Republicans, the Democrats are sorely misguided. It is time for the Democrats to mature past the siren’s call of race as their fall-back explanation for every disagreement with Republicans. Americans care far more about good policy than the skin-color of the individual proposing it. If Democrats are so naïve to think otherwise, they are hurting themselves and America.


  1. Your position is unrealistic. Joe Wilson has been a congress person for 8 years. To simply ignore the rules of decorum in such a ridiculous way is not an act of heroism--it is an act of stupidity. There was no "well thought policy difference" there was one man deciding that the rules of conduct didn't apply to him.

    Regardless of his position that was not his place to speak (and never will be). Many of us engage politics whether we agree with the President or not. It is the responsibility of every congress person and senator to support their country; that includes choosing appropriate times to express their opinions.

    It is reprehensible that you would defend Joe Wilson's behavior. Even John McCain, a long time senator and the presidential hopeful that lost to Obama, points out that no member of the congressional branch is warranted in that type of action.

    Certainly Wilson was not present when health care was tackled during the Clinton administration but there are many divisive issues that have been covered in presidential address that have been handled in appropriate ways. Joe Wilson's refusal to publicly accept responsibility for is actions is a display of moral weakness. Had he simply manned up to his asinine behavior to remind the country that you are responsible for supporting your country for as long as you are a citizen all of this conversation would be moot.

    But, until then you have to face the fact that the race issue does exist and Occam's Razor points to Joe's behavior being darkly motivated.

  2. Carlos~

    Thanks for your comment. First of all, no where in my post do I defend Joe Wilson's outburst or state that it was acceptable. In fact I say, at least three times, that what he did was inappropriate and wrong. I fully agree with your criticisms of Wilson's actions- as I think Wilson does himself. Contrary to what you state he has apologized and expressed remorse at his behavior. He spoke to Obama who accepted his apology and continued to express his remorse in other public forums. If you read his interview with Chris Wallace he again states that he was wrong. He won't, as you surely know, apologize on the floor of Congress. This is, according to him, because the issue is between the president and him. Whether this is correct or not - I'm not sure.

    However, the fact that his actions and delivery of dissagreement were inappropriate does not change the fact that his dissent was based in a disagreement in the substance of the issues and not some personal disdain for the President. Again, if you read the Chris Wallace interview Wilson states that he read the entire plan and states that their was no enforcement rules to prevent illegal immigrations from gaining benefits.

    My post, however, was not about the appropriateness of Wilson's actions (which like I've said I think were inappropriate); nor was it about the actual healthcare debate. It was about the inappropriateness of pulling race into the issue. You seem to spend 95% of your comment claiming that Wilson's actions were (correctly) reprehnesible and thus (incorrectly) conclude in one brief statement that it must be because of racism. I fail to see the logic in this conclusion.

    Where is the evidence that this was race-based? This is one of the key problems that I have- namely that the default explanation is racism. Seemingly, a white male who disagrees with a black man and inapporpriately expresses that disagreement is a racist. I see no grounds for that. Why is there a failure to understand that most Americans are motivated by more important issues than race? Is Kanye West a racist because, as a black man, he interrupted a white woman? I think that is just as ludicrous but a fair parallel.

    The point is that race doesn't belong in the picture. I think(some of) the Democrats are using it to cloud the media channels and avoid the really tough debate on healthcare. That is the issue. If you have any indication of Wilson being motivated by race I'd appreciate seeing it.



  3. I should state my point differently.

    Joe Wilson handled himself poorly in the moment. Worse than that he has refused to simply lead by example. Had Joe Wilson stood up in front of congress and said "I acted rashly and it reflects poorly on my party, my state and my constituents. I would like to apologize to my COLLEAGUES in congress for my behavior." It all would have been over.

    Just because it is possible that race can be read into actions our representatives need to hold themselves to a high standard in their responses. Wilson's motivations are suspect because they are unclear; when pressed on race he talked about where Michelle Obama's family comes from.

    Why refuse to apologize to your colleagues and the state you represent? The belief that one article of a 1000 page document is inadequately enforced is not a realistic answer. You are right, we can't say categorically that this was race driven, but we can't say that race isn't an issue. Wilson's behavior is questionably defended, so, it leaves lingering questions.

  4. Carlos~

    First of all, I'm not sure that it it "would have been over" as you state if Wilson had apologized to his colleagues. I don't see how that is relevant to your assertion that Wilson's supposed questionable defense leaves lingering questions. I think the left would still harp on the race issue if Wilson had grovelled on the floor of Congress.

    Your logic fails to address the fact that is it isn't really possible to categorically rule out any reason for Wilson's outburst. Maybe he wasn't motivated by health care or race, but motivated by an intense opposition to Obama's cap and trade policy. Maybe Wilson has a deep-seeded personal hatred for Obama because of a snub at a social event last year. The point is none any of these possible explanations are likely or even sensible. In parallel, there is really no reason to think that race is an issue. My aim was to point out that Americans are so conditioned to think in racial terms that race illogically becomes an explanation when there is no reason to think about race.

    I, by no means, think racism is 100% eradicated in this country, but lets use the concept only when appropriate. If Wilson had said "You lie, black man" then by all means let him have it. But just because you are not happy with Wilson's method of apology does not mean race is an issue here.

    In fact, I think the real issue of racism lies in the people who jump to call Wilson motivated by race. Particularly the likes of Jimmy Carter and the Congressmen I cite above (as well as a whole slew of leaders such as Al Sharpton) have an inability to view the world w/o a racist lens. I for one- as I'm sure a wide swatch of America - view Obama as a man, as a Democrat, NOT as a black man. The inability to not view Obama as a black man is a failing that many on the Left have and is supported by their insistence of seeing opposition motivated by race.

  5. Josh and Carlos,

    I must disagree with you. Although I do agree that Wilson's comment was highly inappropriate, it is not this first time something of this sort has happened on the congressional floor. Has everyone forgotten how Bush was booed by the Democrats in Congress last year (I believe)? How are these two incidents different?

    Second, Josh, I don't believe this comment was because of 'well-thought out policy differences'. I think it was because Obama lied, plain and simple.

  6. I don't know if the booing of Bush is any different, except in the fact of Congress's response to it. If that is political driven and/or hypocrisy I'm not sure. However, it doesn't make either right or respectful. The correctness of the act and response wasn't something I was addressing here. Wilson himself admitted he was wrong.

    As for your second comment- maybe that phrase wasn't entirely clear. I wasn't trying to imply that there was a policy debate between Obama and Wilson, but that Wilson's comment was grounded in an analysis and understanding of the bill. He challenged Obama because he knew what was in the bill, not because of some external issues (such as race). Wilson's outburst was a result of policy concerns.

    Thanks for your comment.


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