Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just Ask Sen. Sumner

Bill Handel, an LA radio talk show host with a reasonable center-left perspective, could only scare up one caller this afternoon who was willing to criticize Rep. Joe Wilson for calling the President a liar during a joint session of Congress. Everybody praised Wilson because they agree with him on health care reform, don't like President Obama, or some other combination of thoroughly utilitarian arguments. I wonder what Wilson's boosters think about the support Muntather al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who lobbed his loafers at President Bush last year, is still enjoying in the Arab world. Exactly the same argument: The means justified the moccasins. Al-Zaidi will be freed on Monday. Maybe he should run for Wilson's seat.

I can be as partisan as the next person, but a cogent defense of Wilson is impossible, even on the substance of his remarks. I believe the critique of the health care bill's provision denying government-funded coverage to illegal aliens is that it lacks enforcement teeth. What a surprise! How many times have legislatures, no matter which party holds sway, passed spending caps or no-deficit measures they have no means or intention of enforcing? I'll bet Wilson even voted for some of them. Basically, at one time or another, they're all liars (please forgive the fleeting misanthropic indulgence).

Second, unless we want to look foolish to our own people and the world, civility must reign during a joint session of Congress. The American head of state deserves the respect we afford to his or her office. Throw out Congress's carefully tended rules of procedure and civil discourse because you happen to disagree with what the President says, and you help ruin democracy.

Third, Wilson just gave permission to the still-to-be-self-appointed buffoon who will insult the next GOP President. On Handel's show today, I actually heard a guy justify what Wilson did because some of President Bush's critics may have secretly enjoyed the shoe incident. What are we, in kindergarten?

A Facebook reader of this post tells me that Bill Handel, having voted twice for George W. Bush, is center right, not center left. Since I don't listen to him very often, I shouldn't have tried to pigeonhole him. Sept. 12: I just realized that an alliterative flourish of which I was so proud, "the means justified the moccasins," makes no sense. "The purposes justified the pumps" would've been better. Or not. One thing about having almost no readers is that one can err in peace.

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