Rep. Joe Wilson’s Hat-Trick

I visited–actually, my computer visited–Rep. Joe Wilson’s Congressional Web page a moment ago, and beneath a virtual replica of the Congressional icon or seal, these words appeared:

“Due to exceptionally high traffic, this site is temporarily unavailable.
Please come back shortly.”

Well, the site wasn’t unavailable; it’s just that the information it holds was unavailable. The information I sought was the Representative’s educational background and perhaps a little something about town he grew up in and what high school he went to. I was looking for information that might shed light on what would make a U.S. Representative behave so rudely to a guest, and to the President of the U.S.

Since I won’t be going back to the site shortly or longly, I’ll shift to what seems like a kind of hat-trick (in the parlance of hockey) that Mr. Wilson has pulled off:

1. He behaved with extraordinarily immature rudeness, even if we acknowledge that members of both parties have sometimes mumbled, grumbled, and booed when presidents have spoken in Congress.

2. Arguably, he chose one of the most easily checked facts about which to charge President Obama with lying, and, lo and behold, in at least one draft of the emerging health-care bill, the language explicitly excludes “illegal immigrants” from benefiting from the provisions of the health-bill. So Wilson was rude and wrong.

3. Because he is a White man from South Carolina, and because he crossed the line of appropriate behavior so robustly, he enticed citizens to reach the conclusion that, if the Democratic president speaking had been White, he would not have behaved so badly. Put another way, one might be forgiven for concluding that Rep. Wilson believes he is essentially better than President Obama, as a human being, not as a politician. I do not reach that conclusion, by the way. I simply don’t know the Representative well enough, and I would rather not attribute motives. But Mr. Wilson did open the door to such considerations.

4. (Oops, a hat-trick is supposed to involve only three things.) According to well documented information conveyed on cable TV channels last night, Representative Wilson is using the incident as a basis for raising money, and apparently he has recorded a Youtube video with which to make the appeal, which includes (this is a close paraphrasing rather than a direct quotation) the line “I will not be muzzled.”

Indeed, apparently he will not be muzzled, even by a sense of propriety and by self-discipline. This much he demonstrated the other night. Also, who is trying to muzzle him? Apparently, members of the GOP leadership asked or told him to write an apology, which he tried to do, or which he directed an employee to do. As a rough draft, it is okay, but he released it as a final draft, and it is not very good because it is so weasly. Nonetheless, in the statement, he does apologize. Good for him.

Note, however, that he was not muzzled. He was invited to speak further. So, once again, Mr. Wilson is incorrect–and, even within the disintegrated confines of our political spectacle, he is crass. Raising money based on embarrassing, adolescent outburst? Portraying oneself as a muzzled victim when an unmuzzled outburst, which was your idea, is the source of controversy? As an adolescent might say, “Eeww” or “Gross!”

Ah, rhetoric! Ah, politics!


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