Last week the President delivered a health care speech to a joint session of Congress. The most newsworthy part of the event, from the rightblogger perspective, was Representative Joe Wilson’s cry of “You lie” during a section having to do with coverage of illegal immigrants. (Whether the still-fluid health care reform plan will cover illegals is a matter of debate, which interested readers may review here and elsewhere.)
In this rightbloggers momentarily achieved rare consensus with leftbloggers, who dug into Wilson’s background: his defense of the late Senator Strom Thurmond when his illegitimate daughter came forward in 2003, his defense of the Confederate Flag, his 2002 claim that critics who recalled that America had armed Saddam Hussein when he was our ally suffered from “hatred of America,” etc.
These were meant as knocks on the South Carolina representative, but as you might expect, they did not cool rightbloggers’ ardor for him. In fact they only exacerbated it, as the controversy over Wilson’s holler offered them — as the health care Town Brawls receded into historical memory and the President’s speech gave chances of health care reform a lift — a new, national publicity platform for their opposition.
In early innings, when it was not clear how the nation might react, some rightbloggers sought to minimize the Wilson incident. “Now, if he had stood up and started yelling and preaching for an extended amount of time,” said Sarah Palin 2012, “that would have been uncalled for.” Plus Wilson had a Good Reason: “He couldn’t sit through Obama’s obvious lying and lost his composure.”
Sarah Palin 2012 also mentioned the contentious Question Time sessions in the House of Commons, a model rightbloggers had not, to our knowledge, previously recommended for the U.S. Congress, but which was also invoked by The Digital Hairshirt, who said, “If you have ever watched the question-and-answer sessions in the British House of Commons, what happened during Obama’s speech was minor. Maybe it is about time the President has to think about what he says and the reaction it could get before he makes a speech.” “Try imagining a US President like Obama having the balls” to face Question Time, said directed-by. “He’d be in permanent PTSD!” One is tempted to imagine previous U.S. Presidents also enduring such an arrangement.
And anyway, some also pointed out, Bush endured a short burst of unsupportive noises at a State of the Union address. This may not strike readers as a direct equivalent to calling the President a liar to his face, but the moment of moral equivalence quickly passed, as rightbloggers for the most part concentrated on the heroism of Joe Wilson.
“America’s congressman?” asked Don Surber. “America’s congressman,” asserted American Power. “Joe Wilson Just Expressed What is in Our Hearts,” said Mark Noonan. “By very rude means, all Wilson did was tell the truth…” “MY HERO !!!!” swooned The Cook Shack. “We are all Joe Wilson now!” said Donald Douglas. “Joe Wilson Greatest Living Statesman,” said Maggie’s Notebook (apparently not joking). “Joe Wilson — our next president?” said The Right View Wisconsin (ditto).
Riehl World View rushed to interview the Congressman, and though they only repeated one word of his responses (“appalling,” regarding the President’s assertion), they characterized him as open-minded (“he went into the speech hoping Obama would genuinely reach out both to the people and across the aisle to address their concerns”), sensitive to the needs of his constituents (“Wilson also stressed his concern for the existing high unemployment in South Carolina”), and a man of even temperament, at least on most occasions (“Other than the single, short impromptu blurt, Wilson said he was in complete control of himself at all times”).
As is customary in these controversies, rightbloggers portrayed Obama’s attacker as the wronged party. “Naturally, Wilson is being vilified and trashed today as no other,” said Liberty Sphere, reaching for an unfortunate analogy, “since Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond on his 100th birthday.” “Defend Joe Wilson Against Leftist Attacks!!” cried ZackFord Blogs. “Joe Wilson is fighting back,” roared MacsMind, “stand with him and support him NOW!”
The Underground Conservative thought Wilson didn’t go far enough. “I wish Joe Wilson would have thrown a shoe at the Street Thug in Chief. Or at least rotten produce,” he said. “Dirty, rotten lying bastard.” Manly’s Republic attacked Republicans whom they felt had not shown Wilson sufficient support. “They may have succeeded in emasculating Joe Wilson,” they said, “but they won’t emasculate us — there are far many more of us then of them… You are either with us or against us — there is no middle ground.”
Some saw a positive political outcome separate from Congressman Wilson’s fortunes among the Obama-haters. “Whether he intended or not,” said The Rhetorican, “he’ll end up forcing discussion of Obamacare and illegal aliens, thus keeping the White House on the defensive on that issue.”
When contributions started to flow toward a Wilson opponent in the 2010 race, rightbloggers mounted a pledge drive for Wilson. “Fight back by contributing to Joe’s campaign,” said Conservative Outpost. “Donate what you can, if for no other reason then to let the dems know that it is ok to disagree with Obama!!!” said No Feet Required. “This is still America…….isn’t it?” (Both candidates have since the incident raised over a million dollars, proving it’s an ill wind that blows no one some good.)
Somewhere in all this, Wilson apologized for his remark, which further enraged rightbloggers. “Wilson: In the End, Gutless,” said Blogger News Network. “He should never have apologized for anything,” said Shwiggie. “He should have sat up, said what he said, if not more; and walked out of the building in a blatant show of disrespect and disdain.” “I wish he had not apologized,” said We The People. “Why apologize to a liar?”
Perhaps sensitive to this — and to the large tea party demonstration in Washington this weekend — Wilson told the world he would not apologize a second time from the floor of the House, which brought the brethren back into his fold. “Way to go, Joe!” said Something is Rotten in America. “Wilson has nothing to gain and everything to lose if he grovels on the House floor,” said Weasel Zippers. “American Hero Joe ‘You Lie!’ Wilson stands firm that he will not apologize for his remarks again despite calls for such action by partisan Democrats seeking to score cheap political points,” reported The ConservativeXpress. Sarah Palin Information Blog demanded that Obama apologize instead. “Wilson’s out-of-order accusation,” they said, “came only after an out-of-order accusation by the president himself.”
Rightbloggers continue to champion Wilson, with a “You Lie” bumper sticker, “I’m With Joe Wilson” and “Joe Wilson for President” t-shirts, Facebook support drives, “spontaneous” rallies, etc. Thus did Joe the Yeller become the biggest rightwing thing since Joe the Plumber and, at least at that outrage aggregator that is the blogosphere, render a major address by the President of the United States secondary to the story of a little-known Congressman hoisted to national attention by his bad manners and belligerence. As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, what a country!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 14, 2009