Point of debate and decorum


by Jeff Fecke | September 10, 2009 • Remarks in debate (which may include references to the Senate or its Members) shall be confined to the question under debate, avoiding personality.

–Rules of the House of Representatives, One Hundred Eleventh Congress
Rule XVII, Section b

If you want to see the decline of American political civility, it exists in the person of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. Wilson, unwilling to deal with the President of the United States stating the fact that the current health care proposals will not aid illegal immigrants*, Wilson shouted out, “You lie!” on the floor of the House of Representatives, interrupting the speech in the fashion of a Code Pink protester or teabagger.

This is, to be blunt, completely outrageous, and unbecoming of a U.S. Representatives. And I would have said the exact same thing if a Democrat had done this to George W. Bush, even as Bush did lie, repeatedly. The simple fact is that there are rules of decorum, ways you are supposed to comport yourself on the floor of the United States Congress. These rules are in place to smooth out the partisan rancor, to force representatives to disagree without being disagreeable. You can think someone’s an ass; that’s fine. But you don’t say it on the floor, because that’s not the way you conduct yourself.

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, is now available.

I doubt Wilson will face a penalty for this, but he should. Indeed, the Rules of the House allow him to be censured for making a personal remark in debate; calling someone a liar would certainly rise to that level. Calling someone a liar when they’re telling the truth, however, remains standard operating procedure for the GOP.

UPDATE: This is the least he should do, but at least he did it:

“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies [sic] to the President for this lack of civility.”

*As for me, I’d be fine if it did. I don’t see how being in America illegally should earn you the death penalty. But what do I know? I’m just a crazy liberal.