Joe Wilson’s outburst goes below the pale of civility and respect

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Joe, you can’t have it both ways! 

By Juanita Bratcher 

For crying out loud! A 62-year-old heckler in a Joint Session of Congress?

U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson’s (South Carolina) outburst “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s speech in a Joint Session of Congress defied logic and tradition. It was certainly out of order…and certainly below the pale. Frankly, it was disrespectful to the President and to the Office of the Presidency.

Wilson’s outburst was heard around the nation…around the world, via news media. Why didn’t someone tell Wilson that hecklers and heckling have no place in a Joint Session of Congress? Well, I’m sure he was fully aware of this when he did it; he just didn’t see fit to hold back his outburst. No doubt, his actions were premeditated. And they fit right in with the mood of recent Tea Party demonstrators, gun-toters at Town Hall meetings and Birthers who feel comfortable in verbally spewing out “mean-spirited” words or displaying venomous poster signs to try and embarrass the president.

Wilson crossed the line of civility; but aside from that, his actions were a total breach of decorum and protocol. Rebellion? Racism? Or angry over the Obama Administration’s policies? Probably all of the above.

The next day Wilson apologized for his rude behavior. It was certainly not by his own volition, but a jack-up order by Republican leadership. He said as much himself in his half-laden apology the next day: “I heard from the (Republican) leadership today. They wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate. I did.”

Did that sound like a personal apology? Or did it sound like the Republican leadership insisted that he apologize? His apology was made to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. It was accepted by President Barack Obama.

In accepting his apology, President Obama said he is a ”big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation. And I’m appreciative of that.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was ”stunning to hear such a statement made on the floor of the House when the President of the United States is speaking,” and Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner, a staunch Obama critic, deemed Wilson’s behavior “inappropriate.”

Lonny Randolph, President of the South Carolina State NAACP, said Wilson “embarrassed the state” and they’re “outraged and disappointed” over his comments.

Shortly after his apology, Wilson came back before TV cameras and said he would not be “muzzled.” Some Democrats demanded that he go to the House floor and make an apology or they would formally introduce a “Resolution of Disapproval” against him. Wilson refused, stating that he would offer no more apologies. The Resolution (Disapproval) was introduced and passed.

While some saw his actions as “racist”, there were others who did not. But the teetering question was: Would he have acted in such a manner had it been a white president speaking? You can bet your last dollar, he wouldn’t have.

Wilson has a right to speak his mind, his views, his feelings and concerns as any other American citizen. But there’s a time and place for everything. Why didn’t he wait until after the Joint Session and call a press conference to espouse his point of view? Maybe  it was done during Obama’s speech to get more bump from his actions. Timing means everything, you know. And in his case it worked. The next day there was more media coverage on his outburst than what the President had said in his efforts to set the record straight on misconceptions and lies that are making the rounds about healthcare reform.

There are some who are deliberately and intentionally trying to confuse the American people about healthcare reform in hopes of derailing it.

There’ve been several politicians from the state of South Carolina that have instilled themselves in rude behavior through racist words. Racism is a nurturing art to them.

Take for instance the words of South Carolina U.S. Senator James Henry Hammond, a wealthy plantation owner who also owned slaves, addressing the U.S. Senate on March 4, 1858: “…Our slaves do not vote. We give them no political power. Yours (northern plantation owners) do vote, and, being the majority, they are the depositories of all your political power. If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot box is stronger than ‘an army with banners,’ and could combine, where would you be?”

Wilson’s career officially began when he worked as an aide to the late Senator Strom Thurmond and U.S. Congressman Floyd Spence. When Spence died in office in 2001, Wilson ran for Spence seat after serving as a South Carolina state senator from 1972 to 2001. He won.

As a state senator, Wilson voted against a bill to remove the Confederate Flag from atop the South Carolina Statehouse and move it to a monument on the capitol grounds.

Thurmond was a known segregationist. Both Thurmond and Spence switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party – Spence in 1962 and Thurmond in 1964. Thurmond then supported Republican Barry Goldwater for President against Democrat Lyndon Johnson.

Thurmond left the U.S. Senate in January 2003 and died in June 2003. Six months after his death, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, 78-years-old, revealed she was Thurmond’s secret (black) daughter. Washington-Williams was also the daughter of Carrie Butler (1909-1947), who worked as a maid in Thurmond’s Home in Edgefield, South Carolina.

Washington-Williams didn’t know her black birth mother until she was 13-years-old. And Strom wanted to keep his paternity a secret for social and political reasons.

When Obama won the presidency, I warned in an editorial, “Don’t declare racism dead: that tough cookie will survive.” But never in my wildest analysis in the editorial did I ever think that racism would come out in full view as to what has happened since he took the oath of office. It seems that the hatemongers are going full circle at rapid speed to spread their venom through devisive tactics. Call it what you want; but it is what it is!

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