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Will the Honorable Gentleman please shut his yap?

Someone told me that one line of defense being trotted out for South Carolina Republican congressman Joe Wilson's ill-bred and uncouth shout of ''You lie!'' at President Obama is that that sort of thing is done all the time in Britain's House of Commons.

Would Rep. Wilson, the small-y yahoo (original meaning from Jonathan Swift's ''Gulliver's Travels''), indeed have fit right in in that ''Mother of Parliaments,'' where the cut and thrust of debate extends to a lot of raised voices?

Yes and no. Shouting and catcalls are part of the culture in the Commons, and an entertaining sight it can be, too. But rules that go back more than a century and a half enjoin members from making accusations about lying or being drunk. Winston Churchill, a tippler of note and an orator of the first water who may never have been called out under the ban on the latter, himself tiptoed around the former by referring to an opponent's ''terminological inexactitude.''

Rep. Wilson's rudeness was not only perhaps a disappointment to his mother and a violation of Section 370 of House rules, but saying that President Obama was lying about illegal immigrants and health care was factually insupportable, as many political fact-checking and news organizations scrambled to find out before the gasps in the House chamber had subsided.

So, would it be fine to behave like the British when it comes to an outburst in Congress, but not when it comes to British health care programs? Heck, give me a public option, and I'd let Congress holler its  collective heads off.

As for Rep. Wilson, he may have positioned himself to become the popular choice for standard bearer of a recrudescence of an old American political movement. Call it the Neo-Know Nothings.

-- Patt Morrison


Comments () | Archives (26)

The comments to this entry are closed.


You're half right -- it was wrong for the representative to interrupt the speech. The office of the President deserves a lot more respect than that.

But like President Obama, you're also suffering from "terminological inexactitude." It is perfectly clear that the plans in Congress WILL cover illegal immigrants -- the fact that Democrats have blocked attempts to check the status of those who apply is all you need to know. They will be covered because at best the only thing to stop them from being covered will be the question, "Hey, are you here illegally? If you say no, we'll cover you!"

Frankly, we'll be lucky to have THAT much enforcement. Eliminate waste...yeah, right.


Why dont you shut your yap?

He stood up for millions of americans that are sick of being lied to about a communist plan to waste our money. I for one am sending Joe Wilson some money.


Why is being polite to the crooks, liars, thieves and traitors in Washington suddenly important? There are much more important issues at hand. Our nation is bankrupt. The value of the dollar is dropping like a rock. Our military is stretched thin worldwide. Our nation is being invaded by millions of foreign nationals. Actual unemployment is approaching 20%. Millions of Americans have lost their homes. More than 35 million Americans go hungry daily. All of this facing our nation and you are concerned about Obama getting his feelings hurt? WHO CARES? When the verification of citizenship and immigration status is taken out of the healthcare reform bill, it's very apparent illegals will be covered. Americans are angry about our governments pandering to lobbyists and special interest groups. If you think things are getting rude now, just wait! We could see a return of tar and feathering politicians.


I just donated to Mr. Wilson, and I live in Rhode Island. Yeah he should not have yelled it out. Maybe held up a sign or something, that seemed to be ok.



Funny, how the truth hurts. Unfortunately our president has found it too easy to look into our eyes and lie to us. Scary how often he does this. When he's called on it, everyone on the left gets so upset. It may have been the wrong moment, but millions of regular people were thinking the exact same thing.


Patt: Perhaps when Obama stops lying, the need for such outbursts will end. His nonspecific, childish rant about some amorphous "reform," repeated for the umpteenth time, was riddled with what were, to give them the most liberal interpretation, "inaccuracies."

I'm well aware you can't -- or won't -- accept that. After all, you are a lockstep liberal, working for a newspaper that has hitched its rickety wagon to an incompetent donkey.


Wow, a lot of delusional right wingers read the LA Times!
Who knew...


I am ashamed to say that I come from the same state/country as some of these commentators.

Illegal aliens and universal health care are 2 separate issues, and the fact that these idiots can't see the difference says it all.

Regardless of whether there is a public option or universal health care, we will still have illegals. We will still foot the bill after they come through the emergency room. That's how it's been and will be unless someone decides to find a way to tag/identify/tax these people. It's like this in any country in the world- something lost on many of these commentators who have apparently never spent significant time in another country.

Does it make sense from an economical perspective? To provide affordable care and preventive measures would lower costs for everyone. It would prevent bankruptcies.

Does it make sense from a moral perspective? Is health care a right or a privilege? As a wealthy country, should we provide it like we do for education and basic defense; both of which wealthy individuals could hire on their own.

Yes and yes. The only way it doesn't make sense is from the perspective of money-hungry Republicans that want to continue pocketing money from the insurance companies. Why would they want to bite the hand that feeds them?

The only other people for whom this would not make sense would be bumbling myopic conservatives who would rather see their neighbor die or go bankrupt from skyrocketing medical costs. That's some social Darwinism for you. I'm glad to see the Church & Jesus Christ has taught these people well.

For those continually crying "SOCIALIST" or "COMMUNIST" please do some research. Stop throwing the S word around like it's a bad thing. The way the US currently is and has been for 200 years, is partially Socialist. Every modern country has a Social element to it - meaning we TAKE CARE of each other.

If you don't like this, then leave. But the rest of us who care about fellow Americans and see a purpose and investment in spending our tax dollars to make us a better country will stay here and support the very people you conservatives chose to leave behind.

Tim Bowman

Pat: I tried, but I can not recall your column dressing down Democrats for booing and hissing during President Bush's speeches before Congress. Would you please refresh my memory on when you published that piece?


Joe spoke for millions of Americans who are sick of being shouted down by the media and their obsequious and blatant Obama-worship. Yes, he was rude, but guess what? When you are continually lied to and shouted down by people who are supposed to "represent" you, you do end to get a little testy.

For the record, we know full well that Obamacare will provide "free" healthcare to anyone who makes it over the border, because there is no citizenship enforcement mechanism in the Obamacare bill. The attempts of the La Raza Times (you should just go ahead and change your name now, nobody believes you speak for Americans) to obfuscate the issue are futile.

We already give them "free" public school education so why would healthcare be any different?


I can understand not wanting illegal immigrant to continually reap the benefits of health care program that is paid for with tax dollars but I am curious about one thing....When I was in England, I broke my ankle. Here I am, an American citizen, I go to the emergency room and had x-rays, brace, etc. and it was no charge. I was shocked. Not only was it free, it was an extremely nice facility and not at all what I expected. My question is will emergencies issues for foreign travelers be available to those visiting the states and if so, what will the red tape be like having to prove you are simply passing through and not pretending to be on vacation? Just curious.

Margret UK

Some of these comments are just plain looney! How are the issues of health care reform and illegal immigration connected?

Anna A

I'd say it was tit for tat. In the beginning of Obama's speech, he called everyone who is against HR3200 a liar. And he called us out. However, when Obama gave his 37 speeches about HR322 he was obfuscating, he never gave the particulars in the bill. When he finally named some of them, after reading the bill, you could tell he lied. Kudos to Wilson for setting the story straight.


If Obama really wants to deny illegals access to health care in the US, then he can authorize the DHS and ICE to have access to all the records and SSA's records, they can then look for fraud and illegals, and promptly deport those illegally using the system. Do that, and Rep Wilson is dead wrong.

If not, then Obama will hide behind the likes of the ACLU, claiming that any requirement for documents will hinder a few elderly people's access to care, and the real point is to insure everyone, illegal or citizen alike.

John Wilkins

As a citizen of one of those Westminster parliament countries (Australia) let me point out that heckling a fellow member of the parliament during a speech may be barely permissible (although calling them a liar would be Unparliamentary and might result in the member being ejected from the session by the presiding Speaker). However, your President is in the place of the head of state, which is notionally the Queen, and operationally the Governor General, in Westminster systems and nobody, under any circumstances, would heckle the monarch or GG. It simply is not done, and the member who did might be disqualified from even being a representative. At the very least they would be disciplined severley.


It needed to be said...and it worked out perfectly...This so called Universal Health Insurance is DOA....

Mike Havenar

Since the age of civilized barbarity seems not to have departed South Carolina, perhaps it would be appropriate for President Obama to challenge the honorable gentleman to a duel at dawn beneath the ramparts of Fort Sumpter. It might even raise the President's poll ratings in that state.


It appears, from the comments here, that some of the radical blogs have linked to this article.

Elaine Williamson

Reading the previous comments, I am compelled to ask: When did it become the wrong thing to provide basic medical and other care to other humans when they are sick, just because they are not here "legally"? If I remember correctly, this country was founded by "illegal aliens", in that they asked permission of no one to come here and live here and steal the land they found. So if we start down that road, we're all going to receive a big fat bill. And God forbid that we, as a nation, should provide basic medical care to individuals who cannot afford it. Let me remind all, disease and communicable disease, like a spreading wildfire, know not if you are here legally or illegally, or if you are Republican or Democrat. Disease kills indiscriminately. As the old saying goes, if your neighbor's house is on fire, you had better put it out before your house catches fire. And frankly, I call out Cong. Wilson and his ilk as being racists, pure and simple. If a white man had said these words, there would not have been the hysteria and fear-baiting that we are now seeing. Shame on all of us - those who shout without thinking and those who stand by silently.


interesting the scumbag liar Joe Wilson, sat through at 5 years of George W. Bush lying in his State of the Union speeach and saying everything is going fine in Iraq, but couldn't sit through Obama's speech on health care without screaming out like a sore loser idiot.


Joe Wilson is a moron who evidently has many fans.

America is a dumbed down country Patt, get used to it. We're not going to have health insurance reform because we are incapable of getting it done. Other countries can do it, but not today's America - there are too many idiots and know-nothings like Wilson out there, and all they want to do is bring the country down.

Ken Koonce

Hey, Patt, where was your outrage when Democrats showed their bad manners by booing President Bush during his 2005 State of the Union address to Congress? Isn't that a show of disrespect for the office of President? Or are only Republicans supposed to keep their mouths shut?

Craig Wilson

We have 12 million or 50 million or 100 million illegal aliens in the USA now. No one knows the approx number BECAUSE ILLEGALS DO NOT GIVE A NAME OR SSN OR ID OR FINGERPRINTS AS THEY POLE VAULT OVER THE 5 FT "FENCE" we have now. These 12 or 50 million get food stamps, sec 8 housing, and 100s of other benefits, "entitlements" etc. This is one of the many reasons Joe Wilson yelled "You Lie".
The 2 million Americans who went to Wash DC on Sat Sep 12 2009 did so for the above reasons and 100 similar reasons, such as high taxes, too-big govt etc. Witnesses said the crowd was like Lava oozing out of a volcano, no just X number in a photo and then go home, rather 2 million in total coming and going all day long. There were 300,000 just in front of the Capitol Bldg at any given moment, snapshot in time. Speaking of time, I feel like the Time Traveller in HG Wells' "The Time Machine". I travelled from 1951 to 2009. We do have Eloi and Morlocks. The Morlocks are the gang members who kill innocent victims just for fun. Who rob the tamale vendor, extort their neighbors etc. The Eloi are the rest of us, who allow it to happen. News Flash! The Morlocks were all killed, led by a brave man from 1899. We need such a man. Craig Wilson Los Angeles


Oh, Please! Has this paper already forgotten that it was lefty, looney liberals and their fellow travellers who started publicly harassing LBJ and then Nixon and Reagan at formal outings and other events? The President is just getting a taste of what Republican Presidents have had to put up with for years. Is he hands off just because he's black? Apparently, that is what the Black Congressional Caucus is suggesting because according to House Speaker Nancy that is why the vote took place today. Get real folks. This wasn't racially inspired. Its another symptom that The People are feeling frustrated about representatives that are not listening. That includes you folks in Sacramento.


Bravo, bravo, bravo. It was rude in that setting (but he has apologized), but it was so refreshing to have someone call out the president like that. Call a spade a spade, a liar a liar. It made the people who were watching wonder, IS he lying? They will have to check it out for themselves. The media isn't doing it's job as the watchdog. I support Joe Wilson and his FACTS.


I'm astonished at the utterly defamatory and ignorant tone of the majority of these comments. No-Nothings, indeed. Have ANY of these negative-niks traveled abroad and needed emergency health care, which would, of course, have been provided for free, if the need arose, in a comparable first-world country? I would guess not. The level of unpatriotic slander against the President has pretty much risen to the level of sedition, in part fanned by the right wing-nut morons on talk radio. People, people--Barack Obama is our President till the next election, so either grow up and respectfully live with it, or, if the USA is becoming so rotten, go find another country to whine in. Those of us who have served, who still believe deeply in this country, and appreciate the value of civil discourse, won't miss your treasonous venom and ignorance in the least.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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