This post is going to talk about South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during the joint session of Congress on September 9th. I'm not taking sides and I'm not going to debate who was right. I'm just looking at what happened and what the reaction was.
During Obama's speech before Congress on September 9th, Obama made a comment that Wilson did not agree with.
Obama: There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
Wilson: You lie!
The immediate response to Wilson's outburst was a brief pause by Obama, then a smile, and then back to the speech. On the side, Michelle Obama shook her head in disapproval. I'm not sure if Michelle was disapproving Obama's comment, or Wilson's comment, but it's safe to assume that it's the latter.
It's happened before
This speech was not intended to be an open conversation and Wilson's response was clearly unexpected. However, this isn't the first time a presidential speech has been interrupted. In 2005, during Bush's State of the Union address, Democrats boo'ed Bush while yelling "No!".
Four years later, when Wilson acts in the same manner, there's a big raucous.
Immediately after the speech, Wilson apologized to President Obama. According to Obama, Wilson's apology was made "quickly and without equivocation". Obama added that "we all make mistakes" and that he accepted Wilson's apology.
Nancy Pelosi has a similar reaction. Pelosi agreed that Obama was right to continue his speech and not to "give it any more attention than it deserved." Pelosi also said that, "It's time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson". I agree with Pelosi on her first statement. Wilson's comment shouldn't be getting any more attention. I'm sure that's what going to happen.
Pelosi later changed her mind after Wilson wouldn't make an additional apology to House leaders. Almost one week later, on September 15th, the House of Representatives formally admonished Wilson. With a vote of 240-179, mostly along party lines, the following resolution passed:
Whereas on September 9, 2009, during the joint session of Congress convened pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 179, the President of the United States, speaking at the invitation of the House and Senate, had his remarks interrupted by the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson; and
Whereas the conduct of the Representative from South Carolina was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on September 9, 2009.
Now Wilson must be aware that he was a bad boy. Rather than formally disapproving of Wilson, why not send him to the corner for 15 minutes to think about what he did. Wilson was obviously aware that the Democrats disapproved of what he said, and that the Republicans didn't. That's why the vote went along party lines. I don't see the point of formally disapproving. If the resolution was to make a point, then they should have made a point. Instead, Democrats chose to stick his nose in it and make him sleep in the backyard.