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The Remark Heard Round the World September 11, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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“You lie!”

Two words. Two small words. A challenge to be sure. An insult.

And in uttering them  Joe Wilson, a  lawmaker from South Carolina may have unwittingly ensured that health care reform will happen.

The last few months have seen a real break down in civility in the American political process. Not that it’s ever been particularly civil, but since Obama took office we have seen a huge deterioration of political civility  unlike any we’ve seen before. From town hall meetings that look more like a barroom brawl to the lies and claims about senior citizen death panels, it’s enough to make you wonder if everyone remembers that we are actually all living in the indivisible United States.

What is impossible not to see is the fact that an incredible amount of antipathy and hatred has been focused against one man, Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and I am truly at a loss to explain why. After all, his detractors keep claiming it’s not because he is black, so it surely MUST be something else.

Obama  faced uncivility and rudeness long before he took office. When Obama visited a North Carolina barbecue joint in late October, a woman at the back of the restaurant yelled, “Socialist, socialist, socialist — get out of here!” Another woman actually refused to shake hands with him. Just stop and picture this for a moment. Picture walking into your local Tony Roma’s or Spring Creek Barbecue and as you do, a voice from the back yells, loudly enough for all to hear, “Socialist! Socialist! Get out of here!” Despite this you continue to walk into the restaurant. You go from table to table and stop to speak to the folks sitting there. As you extend your hand to one woman, you politely ask, “How are you ma-am?” and she pulls her hand away and refuses to shake yours.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine the guts it took to walk into that restaurant? Yet, Obama not only went into the restaurant, but he went around and spoke to each of the diners- at least the ones who WOULD talk to him. Blazing Saddles anyone?

Since Obama was elected, we’ve been treated to the harangues by the birthers, a group of nitwits who insist that Obama is not actually a US citizen and have actually tried to file lawsuits declaring his election invalid. Earlier this week we saw a protester greeting the presidential motorcade at a school where Obama had gone to speak. The protester held a sign saying, “Mr President, stay away from our kids.” And now we have a lawmaker who broke the decorum of an address to a joint session of Congress to directly challenge the President. “You lie!”

Can you imagine sitting in a meeting with your boss and the CEO with all of the stockholders of your company watching? Imagine your CEO talking, laying out proposals for the upcoming year and all of the sudden you just feel compelled to burst out with, “You lie!”

What on earth would ever make ANYONE think that this kind of behavior is permissible? Sadly, a lot of people not only seem to think it is okay, but they welcome it. GOP leaders have been quick to criticize Representative Joe Wilson, but Wilson’s SC constituency had some different opinions to offer:

“He’s the only one who has guts in that whole place. He’ll get re-elected in a landslide,” said John Roper, an insurance agent, as he sat among patrons at a diner near Columbia. ~ AP Yahoo News

However, the remark seems to have galvanized Democratic lawmakers who seem, finally, to have realized that enough is enough. Nobody likes a bully, and Wilson’s remark, combined with images of hysterical right-wingers demonizing the President for daring to tell kids to stay in school and study hard, makes it clear that Obama’s opponents are just, plain and simple, bullies.

Now the Dems have finally found their voice- and their spine. They’ve finally realized that they are in the same party with Obama and are vowing to pass health care reform with or without the GOP. The Dems are voicing their support for the president and speaking out against the rudeness. They are finally realizing that civil discourse does not mean that anything goes.

It’s about time.


Some People Need to Take a Giant Chill Pill September 7, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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I simply cannot get over the fuss and bother from right-wingers about President Obama’s proposed speech to the nation’s schoolchildren on Tuesday, September 8. The President… of the United States… wants to talk to kids about the importance of staying in school, and you have a bunch of nutters protesting because they are afraid their kids are being indoctrinated into some liberal cult.

I frequently tell people that you can’t fix stupidity and here is a prime example of it. For my first example, we have this mother who is so distraught about the prospect of Obama speaking to her children via television that she bursts into tears.

Then we have this highly confused mother, who can’t even remember the question,  explaining why she is keeping her kindergartner home from school on the day of Obama’s speech lest her child pick up cooties or something (it’s never exactly clear what she is afraid that her child is going to pick up, only that she doesn’t want her picking up whatever it is from Obama)

Finally we have some sanity from James Carville who has the audacity to say aloud what the rest of us have been thinking– these people are nutters.

Have we become so polarized in this country that we cannot let the President of the United States talk to our children because we didn’t vote for him? Well yes, it appears that as far as some people are concerned, we have. Where were these people when President Reagan addressed the nation’s schoolchildren– On November 14, 1988 he addressed and took questions from Washington area middle school students in a program taped and distributed by C-Span. During this program he [gasp] strayed from his “stay in school and stay off drugs” message into a message about the importance of low taxes.

Then in 1991 President George Bush (the first) gave a message to the nation’s school children, urging them to stay in school and stay off drugs. Democrats fussed about the expense of the speech, but I don’t recall parents pulling kids out of school and screaming about indoctrination.

A lot of the fuss now is centered around study guides that the Department of Education prepared to accompany Obama’s speech. Parents are outraged about a question in which students were asked what they could do to support Obama. That question has since been removed. Okay, so maybe maybe the question was ill advised, but does this really rise to the level of indoctrination?

Now you have these parents who are so concerned about their children that they don’t want them exposed to a 15 minute speech from the President of the united States. These parents, who are making a big fuss about how concerned they are about their children’s education, are keeping their kids out of school for an entire day lest they get cooties from hearing this 15 minute speech. How does that compute?

I’ve even seen some politicos suggest that Obama’s opponents should be given equal time with the schools. How stupid is that? Are you going to put someone in there to tell the kids they should drop out of school and turn to drugs to solve their problems?

When our kids were growing up, when they were exposed to things that Bill and I disagreed with, we used it as a teachable moment and discussed it with the kids.  I disagreed with just about everything George Dubya Bush did as president. I think he was the worst president in this country’s history, and hold him directly responsible for the economic problems we are experiencing today. However, if he had chosen to address the schools, I would have used it as a springboard for discussion with my kids.

I have always thought that lessons will have more of an impact on kids if they understand both sides and if they are free to ask questions and explore various options. Yet, there are people who clearly do NOT want their kids exposed to anything but their own beliefs.

However, the protests against Obama go beyond that. People are genuinely afraid of him and what he stands for. If you look at the right wing blogosphere, it is full of accusations about Obama’s purported ties to socialism, to Islam, to the Antichrist. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as the irrational musings of right wing nutjobs, but there are far too many politicians who are willing to capitalize on people’s fear for their own political gain. For example, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination, said Friday the classroom is no place to show a video address from Obama, while Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer released a statement this week accusing Obama of using taxpayer money to “indoctrinate” children.

Folks, the reaction to Obama’s speech is flat out stupid. Whether you like it or not, Barak Obama is the president of our country. A lot of the parents screeching about the speech make a big deal about how they want to be the ones to teach values to their children. Well fine; while they’re teaching your kids about values, maybe they ought to  spend some time having a discussion with them about respect. In fact, it’s a lesson they might want to learn for themselves since they seem to have missed it somewhere along the way.