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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

In Defense of Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson

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Much of the news today has been shock by the outburst of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), shouting "You lie!" at the President of the United States speaking to a joint session of Congress. People across America were stunned that the Republican congressman could be so rude, so thoughtless, so disrespectful, nasty, mean-spirited, and factually incorrect.

Not me.

I just figured he thought he was at a Democratic town hall meeting.

Honestly, there he was, listening to a Democrat explain the Obama health care plan, and he saw himself in a crowded room, surrounded by people of a like-mind as him, people holding up signs of protest and angrily waving them at the Democrat, people refusing to even listen to what the Democrat was saying but instead texting their BFFs on their BlackBerries, people acting as a massed group staunchly sitting arms-crossed at the Democrat. He saw guards all around him, called out on the Democratic speaker's behalf, no doubt concerned that there would be outbursts.

He certainly knew he was a Republican and that he was supposed to ignore whatever was said by the Democrat. After all, he's on Dick Armey's mailing list and had gotten his regular flyers from Armey's organization telling him how to act fake-spontaneously at town hall meetings. He'd watched all the news shows and seen his fellow conservative pals yelling at Democrats, refusing to let them speak. And it made him happy to know he was part of an grand, organized plan to use his First Amendment rights of free speech to prohibit others from using theirs.

And after being on vacation all summer, being rambunctious and having fun and not having any teacher in charge overseeing him and learning him anything, there he was back on the second day of school, still not settled in yet. Still frisky.

And there he was, too, attending this big political meeting on behalf of South Carolina, the cradle of the Confederacy, watching a black man in a suit talking some fine talk trying to learn him and his fellows something, and how dare he, who does he think he is, the President of the United States or something...??

And...and...there were cameras. And it was all so busy. And there was cheering on the other side of the room. And it was exciting. And so much was going on. And...and he knew what he was supposed to do because this was a town hall. And -

He just forgot where he was.

So, he shouted. "You lie!!!" Honestly, he probably didn't even hear what President Barack Obama had just said. It didn't matter. The moment got the better of him. It didn't matter that the president had told the truth, that it's written specifically in the bill. It didn't matter. Bill? Who reads bills? This isn't about reading bills or understanding. This was simply about shouting at others. He wasn't listening very closely, he may not have been listening at all. It just didn't matter. He just forgot where he was.

He forgot that he was sitting in the United States House of Representatives. He forgot that he was a Congressman. He forgot that that person talking was the President of the United States. He forgot that the two people behind the President were the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. He forgot that the guards were Sergeant-at-Arms. He forgot that he was a joint session of Congress. He just freaking forgot.

It can happen to almost anyone. I understand. Here, let me give you a hug.

What shocks me is that anyone else is shocked. This has been going on since since the Republican presidential campaign when crowds would yell, "Traitor!!" and "Kill him!!," about their opponents and were never rebuked for such things by either John McCain or Sarah Palin. So, if the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the Republican Party thought it was okay to yell these things in public crowds without rebuke, it must be.

This has been going on since Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) stood up in the House, swathed in her supposedly-protective red-white-and-blue scarf and called war hero John Murtha (D-PA) a cut-and-run coward. It's been going on since Republican Swiftboaters tried to paint three-time medal winner John Kerry as anti-American. So, if the Republican Party and its leaders thought it was okay to make such charges without rebuke, it must be.

And this has been going on at all the town hall meetings, even prodded by Republican Party leaders making jokes about lynching, passing along known-untruths to rile the crowds, and people were showing up with firearms. So, if the Republican Party is actively supporting and promoting actions just like this and thought it was okay, it must be.

And so, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) merely did what he thought he was supposed to do. Just did what all his friends did. Only did what his party was doing. And he simply got confused where he was. Not that that necessarily made any difference where he was, but still.

And people are shocked by how he acted??!

Not me. I expected it. Of course, he acted that way!

Me, I was pleased.

I was just happy he didn't have a gun.