05/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

GOP's Heckling Future Uncertain


Republican public conduct stands at a crossroads

WASHINGTON - One day after anti-abortion stalwart Rep. Bart Stupak was called a "baby killer" and several months after Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" at President Obama, the GOP is looking at hard choices in its heckling agenda for the rest of 2010.

"How do we not be seen in the public eye as the party of boorish, disruptive assholes," said a Republican Party spokesman, "while still maintaining our status as the party of boorish, disruptive assholes?"

He added that the challenge for the party in the months ahead would be learning how to heckle, insult and piss off in a way that pleases its base without alienating Democrats or independents in November.

After Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) stepped forward to explain that he said, "It's a baby killer," referring to the health care bill, and not just "baby killer," referring to Stupak, the damage was already done, according to one heckling expert.

"You can't parse a heckle," said the expert. "Even if he said 'it's a' no one would hear it, because the words 'baby' and 'killer' actually have more resonance than 'it's' or 'a.'"

The expert recommended that the GOP adopt established roast techniques, created by the Friars Club and popularized on Comedy Central. "Neugebauer should have shouted something like, 'Hey, Roe v. Wade called, it wants its central arguments back' or 'Stupak? More like StuPID,'" said the expert. "Or 'Your whole BILL is an abortion."

He added that if the GOP does use such roast techniques, Democrats may respond with comebacks like, "Do I go down to where you work and knock the dogma out of YOUR mouth?"

Still, according to the expert, a sense of humor and a willingness to be flexible could add lightness and humanity not just to heckles, but to Congressional debate in general.

Rather than become more flexible, however, the Republican Party is considering making heckling an official part of its mission statement. "It doesn't add to the legislative process," said the spokesman, "but we haven't been a part of that for a while now."