Comes now the curious case of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) who, in a moment of passion, pique or politics yelled at the President during his speech to Congress this week, "You lie!" I guess that needs the exclamation point.
Presidents do lie, of course. You can argue where Richard Nixon's "This president is not a crook" line falls in the true-false spectrum, but Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that women" (Monica Lewinsky) was clearly in the flat-out lie category. So they do lie sometimes, but we don't interrupt their speeches to tell them so. That's rude--oafish, loutish behavior. If Congress or some other group awards Mr. Wilson the "Oaf of the Year Award," I'd probably cheer.
Or Mr. Wilson could resign from Congress, move to Britain and run for Parliament. They yell insults at each other all the time. Question Time, a Parliamentary institution, is where the abuse is often thickest. An opposition MP asks the Prime Minister, or whoever's turn it is that day, a question. The answer will be immediately interrupted as opposition MPs yell things like "Sit down!" One of the legendary putdowns--generations ago, but the story is still told--came when an MP named Palings (a paling, but the way is a fencepost) called Winston Churchill a "dirty dog." Churchill: "The honorable gentleman has called me a dirty dog. I would remind him of what dogs do to palings," which of course is to pee on them.
I enjoyed the British system when I lived there. They were good at hurling insults without ever actually hating each other. I'm not sure we have that knack, but I expect we'll find out as we follow Rep. Wilson's career, assuming he still has one. At any rate, he has a last name which does not immediately invite attack.
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