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Civility is the ability to disagree with others while respecting their sincerity and decency. Civility begins with understanding. We can best understand our political differences by first understanding the moral foundations upon which political views are built. This site features research, resources, and commentary related to the pursuit of Civility through understanding.
 

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Maureen Dowd’s NYT column about Joe Wilson…

In August, Clyburn picked up a newspaper to see that Wilson was
holding his first town hall meeting in Clyburn’s district, three
minutes from his house, at the high school Clyburn’s children went to
— an “in your face” breach of Congressional protocol.

“He was being confrontational and combative,” Clyburn said. “And
Wednesday night was just bringing his town hall meeting antics to the
floor of the House of Representatives.”

The black members of Congress were fed up, after a long, hot summer of
sulfurous attitudes toward the first black president. Clyburn
privately pressed Wilson three times last Thursday to apologize for
breaking the rules — Wilson’s own wife asked him who the “nut” was who
was hollering at the president — but the Republican was getting chesty
with his unlikely new role as king of the rowdies.

He was regarded as a hero at the anti-Obama rally in Washington last
weekend that featured such classy placards as, with a picture of a
lion, “The Zoo has an African and the White House has a Lyin’
African;” “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy;” “We came unarmed (this time)”
and “ ‘Cap’ Congress and ‘Trade’ Obama back to Kenya!”

A camera also caught Wilson in Washington signing for a fan a picture
of himself confronting the president, and he has raised $2 million in
the last week.

Former President Jimmy Carter weighed in with Brian Williams of NBC
News on Tuesday: “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.” He said he felt that was true in the
South and elsewhere.

Clyburn won the manners round, but Wilson was back Tuesday night
tweeting his rude new fans, people who, as the minority leader, John
Boehner, put it, are “scared to death that the country that they grew
up in is not going to be the country that their kids and grandkids
grew up in.”

It’s not. That country is gone. And in terms of biases that have
faded, that’s a good thing. But partly due to the Internet, the
standards of behavior in this new country are terrible.

If Beaver and Wally were around today, they’d likely be writing
snarky, revealing blogs about June and Ward.Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl / Alt+Shift + B)Italic (Ctrl / Alt+Shift + I)Strikethrough (Alt+Shift+D)Unordered list (Alt+Shift+U)Ordered list (Alt+Shift+O)Blockquote (Alt+Shift+Q)Align Left (Alt+Shift+L)Align Center (Alt+Shift+C)Align Right (Alt+Shift+R)Insert/edit link (Alt+Shift+A)Unlink (Alt+Shift+S)Insert More Tag (Alt+Shift+T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt+Shift+N)▼
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Maureen Dowd’s NYT column about Joe Wilson…
In August, Clyburn picked up a newspaper to see that Wilson was
holding his first town hall meeting in Clyburn’s district, three
minutes from his house, at the high school Clyburn’s children went to
— an “in your face” breach of Congressional protocol.

“He was being confrontational and combative,” Clyburn said. “And
Wednesday night was just bringing his town hall meeting antics to the
floor of the House of Representatives.”

The black members of Congress were fed up, after a long, hot summer of
sulfurous attitudes toward the first black president. Clyburn
privately pressed Wilson three times last Thursday to apologize for
breaking the rules — Wilson’s own wife asked him who the “nut” was who
was hollering at the president — but the Republican was getting chesty
with his unlikely new role as king of the rowdies.

He was regarded as a hero at the anti-Obama rally in Washington last
weekend that featured such classy placards as, with a picture of a
lion, “The Zoo has an African and the White House has a Lyin’
African;” “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy;” “We came unarmed (this time)”
and “ ‘Cap’ Congress and ‘Trade’ Obama back to Kenya!”

A camera also caught Wilson in Washington signing for a fan a picture
of himself confronting the president, and he has raised $2 million in
the last week.

Former President Jimmy Carter weighed in with Brian Williams of NBC
News on Tuesday: “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.” He said he felt that was true in the
South and elsewhere.

Clyburn won the manners round, but Wilson was back Tuesday night
tweeting his rude new fans, people who, as the minority leader, John
Boehner, put it, are “scared to death that the country that they grew
up in is not going to be the country that their kids and grandkids
grew up in.”

It’s not. That country is gone. And in terms of biases that have
faded, that’s a good thing. But partly due to the Internet, the
standards of behavior in this new country are terrible.

If Beaver and Wally were around today, they’d likely be writing
snarky, revealing blogs about June and Ward.
Path:

  6 Responses to “Rapping Joe’s knuckles”

  1. Joanne Freeman, Professor of History at Yale, makes an outstanding case for why Rep. Wilson should apologize to congress specifically in an NYT Op piece. Here are excerpts:

    “Congressional insults — and apologies — had their heyday in the first half of the 19th century…Men pulled knives and guns on one another. There were shoving matches and canings…Occasionally there was a grand melee with dozens of congressmen pummeling one another, emerging after a few minutes of mayhem with torn clothing, assorted bumps and bruises, and toupees askew. Not surprisingly, accompanying all of this tumbling and punching was a slew of insults.

    Most powerful of them all was “the lie direct.” According to the formal code of honor then in play, a man who didn’t keep his word was no man at all, so there could be only one response to such a charge: a duel (or very careful negotiations to avoid one). For that very reason, “throwing the lie” was a handy strategy in Congressional debate. The gasp-inducing drama of the moment was precisely the point. Nothing called an audience to attention as quickly as the threat of gunplay. Whether one was trying to attract attention from the press, derail a debate or humiliate an opponent, the lie direct was a grand slam in the game of politicking.

    But untarnished victory required one final step: an immediate apology to the House or Senate — delivered on the floor. In part, this was the logic of the code of honor. The only way to offset a public insult was with a public apology; the audience that had witnessed the insult needed to witness the making of amends. And when a combatant voluntarily apologized as soon as a fight was reconciled, he prevented the opposition from milking his misbehavior for partisan gain.

    No one assumed that such apologies were heartfelt…Even so, these apologies meant something. By publicly apologizing to his colleagues, a congressman not only paid obeisance to the dignity and order of the House or Senate, but he also upheld the civility of Congressional proceedings as a whole.”

  2. Looks like Pat nailed it. Here’s what Pres. Obama said to the Joint Session:

    “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

    Here’s what he actually said during the speech referred to by the Washington Times:

    “Now, as you know, there’s been a little controversy about who exactly will be covered under reform. I want to be clear: If someone is here illegally, they won’t be covered under this plan. That’s a commitment I’ve made. But I also want to make this clear: Even though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don’t simply believe we can simply ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken. (Applause.) That’s why I strongly support making sure folks who are here legally have access to affordable, quality health insurance under this plan, just like everybody else. (Applause.) And we certainly should not let this debate on health care — one so essential to Hispanic Americans and all Americans — get sidetracked by those looking to exploit divisions and kill reform at any cost. That’s what they always try to do.

    If anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all. That’s what I’ve said from the start. That’s what I say tonight. (Applause.)”

    Pat’s right, bad on the Washington Times for the misleading headline.

  3. Actually, I think Obama was probably referring to the sporadic attempts that many have made–including
    McCain–to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship as part of immigration reform. With citizenship,
    so that thinking would go, should come some form of health insurance. I really doubt he was suggesting
    all illegals should be legalized en masse as a means of obtaining health care.

    I don’t want to think about Joe Wilson. There are other things about him besides those infamous two words
    that bother me, but I was not aware of his existence before and don’t want to start tracking him now.
    What I do find dismally depressing is the avid media insistence of taking two or three examples of any
    sort of conflict or lurid sexual indiscretion and calling it a trend. So if Joe Wilson and Kanye West (whoever
    that is) are rude and boorish, that must mean civility is dead in the country as a whole. Please! Aren’t
    there better things to think about and better ways to think about them?

  4. Epilogue

    Obama: Legalize illegals to get them health care

    “President Obama said this week that his health care plan won’t cover illegal immigrants, but argued that’s all the more reason to legalize them and ensure they eventually do get coverage.” ( http://tinyurl.com/r8pgy2 )

    Now that’s just funny!

    “Whatever their other contributions to our society, lawyers could be an important source of protein.” -Unknown

  5. Everett…thanks for your comments. As always thoughtful and
    balanced. And as you read history, it is repeated over and over
    again. It’s just that in 2007 and in living color do we see how ugly
    people of substance (?) and be…and it’s depressing. I’ve just
    finished a book called THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan. It’s about
    the dust storms of the ’30s and how people ignored the history of the
    Great Plains and riped up the Buffalo grass to plant wheat etc. They
    banished the Indians (who had lived there for centuries) killed off
    most of the buffalo and turned the grass upside down – leaving the
    winds to send the dust as far as New York City. No one had a clue to
    what they were doing, as many don’t today regarding global warming. Oh
    my…..

  6. There always so much more to think about…

    Just to be clear, Rep. Wilson’s behavior was completely wrong. He admitted so the next morning when he apologized personally to Pres. Obama and to his contituents. The House rebuked him for not apologizing to the House. We can all have our own view of exactly to whom and in what forms he should execute his apologies, but when Dowd suggests the House is striking a blow against uncivil behavior gone wild, she needs a history lesson. She can start here… http://tinyurl.com/qjg3rk

    Much more important is her dignifying of the Hon. Sen. Clyburn, who says he likes to call Congress “America’s classroom”. Here’s what else he’s teaching:

    “Last week, I asked South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, where in the Constitution it authorizes the federal government to regulate the delivery of health care. He replied: “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do.” Then he shot back: “How about [you] show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this?”

    Rep. Clyburn, like many of his colleagues, seems to have conveniently forgotten that the federal government has only specific enumerated powers. He also seems to have overlooked the Ninth and 10th Amendments, which limit Congress’s powers only to those granted in the Constitution.” (full article here http://tinyurl.com/jxfev )

    That quote was published just yesterday, surprised Dowd missed it. To my view, Clyburn’s tossing aside of the Constitution is much more important than Clyburn’s opinion of Wilson’s addition to the history of congressional bad manners.

    And lastly, I don’t think this is a partisan issue at all. Republicans and Democrats are equally prone to both ignoring the constitution (how about that Patriot Act? Or torture?) and rude behavior.

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