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September 9, 2009

Obama’s Health Care Address to Congress: Townhall Redux


As if August never ended…. While simultaneously reaching across the aisle and also challenged conservatives to act like grown-ups, Obama’s health care speech before Congress brought still more troubling visuals.

What Plan?.jpg

In line with Rep. Joe Wilson shouting out “liar” when Obama made assurances about illegal aliens and access to services, Congressmen carried town hall teabagging resistance tactics into the chamber by waving the Republican Healthcare Reform Plan in attention-seeking unison and sporting aberrant looks and the crudely hostile home-scribbled sign.

Update 8:26pm PST:


It might be overstated to liken Wilson’s action to domestic terrorism, but the U.S. Congress isn’t the House of Parliament and his shocking breach of decorum created not only a disturbing moment, but even a fearful one. And that’s what terrorism is about, isn’t it — instilling chaos and fear at an opportune moment against a high profile target?

As raised in the discussion thread, you could see Pelosi’s anxiety and worry until the moment clearly passed. I, too, felt a lingering anxiety until the end of the speech wondering if some other rupture was going to occur. Ultimately, Wilson apologized to the White House saying his emotion got the better of him. It’s that escalated right wing “emotion” (read: fanaticism), however, so nakedly showcased on a national stage, that’s getting the best of democracy.

(edited 9 and 11:30 pm pst)

(image 1 & 3: BNN screengrab via MSNBC. image 2: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. U.S. Capitol September 9, 2009. Washington, D.C.)

  • yg
  • AG

    They’re holding up what is allegedly the Republican Health Care Reform Plan. Would have been nice of them to actually show us what it is, or at least tell us it existed before the actual speech.
    And frankly, I’d like to know if Wilson can be censured by the House. What he did was reprehensible and absolutely uncalled for.

  • Karen H.

    By the look on Pelosi’s face when he shouted out, I’d say their office supply/doughnut budget is being reviewed as we speak. Maybe she’ll move him to a coat closet in the basement.

  • Nina Berman

    Didn’t his mama teach him any manners? Pelosi, gag that boy.

  • NS

    An AP shot of these guys…
    the angry old man in the top right corner (eyes cut off) really carries it.
    Wilson’s ejaculation… i’m stunned. call it the world’s loudest, most obvious dogwhistle.. there are some people in this country who can’t see Obama on tv without making negative, even violent comments or calling him a liar. to those folks, Wilson was just doing what you do when you see Obama. i can see it serving for them an affirmation of their violent instincts toward the man. kinda frightening stuff.
    the waving of these alleged health care plans, though? they couldn’t even get them all stapled or bound the same way… not terribly intimidating.

  • E., NY

    For a really good picture, get a shot of Joe Biden’s face at about that same moment.

  • gmoke

    I remember (and if someone could confirm my memory I’d appreciate it) the first speech Clinton made to a joint session of Congress after his first election. He said he was going to fix healthcare and the Republicans laughed in unison. I had never heard any response like that to a President before. Immediately, I thought, “Whoa, these guys are NOT going to let this guy govern. They will try to hound him out of office.”
    The stakes have been upped since then.
    Joe Wilson (wasn’t he married to Valerie Plame?) crossed a clear line that hasn’t been crossed in my lifetime and probably not since 1900. A Congressman just doesn’t heckle the President during a joint session of Congress. I wonder if any Congresscritter is wacked enough to come heeled to the chamber. That seems to be where this craziness is pointing.

  • thomas

    Absolutely astonishing. I too am unable to recall any similar disgrace in my lifetime. And I think the terroristic read is correct at least insofar as the intent is not to distract, defy or disagree but to destroy the conversation, vandalize it, erase it.
    If there ever was an argument for Hillary for president it was that she carried — and perhaps still does — a level of genuine and personal animosity for Republicans that I don’t think any of the other candidates matched. Obama has been through a lot since then and one can only hope that this further helps to spell things out for him: any movement on health care reform or foreign policy or anything else rests only on the continued, relentless and ruthless dismantling the Republican party. Wilson’s conduct spoke volumes and I hope Obama hears it, I hope he takes it personally.
    On the other hand, it could be that the GOP is feeling cornered and panicky and Wilson’s outburst is actually reason to cheer. I hope that is the case. Either way, it is still absolutely astonishing behaiour. And totally unacceptable.

  • MeToo

    The MSNBC snap shot at the top looks more like the caution tape line- not sure if it’s a crime scene or a bunch of disorganized autograph seekers… The focus looks like it was shot with a vaseline lens. I always wonder how some poor shots are promoted over other, more balanced pieces.
    In the second photo still: The look and the significant, “That’s not true.” Which was spoken by President Obama not so much for the cameras as for himself was something to see. The related response by the three at the podium in concert is more telling than the heckle.
    Congressman Wilson(R- SC) will likely see this play out as his undoing. Better that he should have kept his mouth closed than opened it and removed all doubt. (And yes, this is usually said about stupid people, but in this case I make an exception for a vindictive person.)

  • MeToo

    And why is that white stripe to the left of Mrs Pelosi wider than the others?

  • Anonymous
    That’s the heckler moment.
    Biden doesn’t look, I guess terrified, in the way Pelosi does.
    I can’t quite place the look Biden has, it’s more like stern offense.

  • DennisQ

    You can see it in their faces … the Republicans don’t know what has happened to them. They were going along so well a few years ago that there was even talk of a permanent Republican majority. Now they’ve lost so much self-respect they don’t even know how to act in public any more.
    The ancient Greeks knew the kind of situation Republicans find themselves in. In the legend of Ulysses, he and his men come ashore in Sicily and confront Polyphemus, a monster one-eyed Cyclops. “Who are you?” he demands, and Ulysses responds, “I am called Nemo.” (Nemo means no one.)
    That night the Greeks poke Polyphemus in his one good eye, leaving him unable to retaliate or even to explain his situation. “No one has done this to me,” he roars.
    Throughout the Bush years, Republicans defined politics as entirely a belief system. Senior Republicans even encouraged this, with the result that there’s a whole generation of Republican politicians who can not see beyond a certain religious feeling. They’re as angry as Polyphemus waking up blind in their one good eye.

    The Blinding of Polyphemus located at the Villa of Tiberius in Sperlonga, Italy.
    Can the Republicans afford to appeal to cater to Low Information Voters? These people simply don’t know what’s going on. Like Polyphemus, all they can do is roar.

  • Banji Lawal

    That was a different Joe Wilson

  • Progressive Mom

    The congresswoman in the second shot has the expression and posture of my son when he was 4 years old and right after he said, “You’re not the boss of me!!”

  • nightbird

    4 year olds … Its like governing with a bunch of 4 year olds, where the world revolves around THEM and when they don’t get their way (power) they throw tantrums and hold their breath. Maybe its just a stage they are going through. I’m not holding MY breath however.

  • Zoey&Me

    Wilson’s crude yelling at the President is not surprising. It’s branding. It’s what is left of a grand old party. They are White Supremist now and it’s not surprising that anything a black man does for this country is wrong and totally unacceptable. Add to that he might succeed and you have chaos. They get violent. Wilson reflected this racism when he lost control. Please SC send us someone who can control themselves in 2010.

  • Wordsmith

    The angle of the shot.

  • jean

    Whoa! Wild eyed lib…. No I guess you’d have to say ‘wild eyed conservatives’. What have we come to when conservatives DESERVE that moniker far more than any Democrat. Wild eyed, indeed.
    I’m always surprised when staid old Britain has such a raucous Parliament, and we’ve got such a deadly boring bunch. I think the Brits have a lot more fun. And you know, I never knew that ‘parliament’ had that second ‘a’.
    And nightbird, that is probably 2 year olds we are speaking of: NO!

  • g

    Ultimately, Wilson apologized to the White House saying his emotion got the better of him.
    Except even that is a lie. Members of Congress were given copies of the speech in advance. He knew Obama was going to say that; he could not have been momentarily overcome with emotion. He planned the outburst, or at least, intended to bring attention to himself.

  • bigbalagan

    I don’t think Pelosi’s reaction was one of fear or terror—she was quite surprised, even shocked by the outburst. Remember she’s the speaker, and it’s “her” house in which the President is a guest. My immediate thought was that Wilson would find his office moved to a broomcloset nearest the lavatories before the doors opened this morning.
    I don’t see it as a big deal from the point of view of decorum—but perhaps I’ve listened to Question Hour too much. What it indicates is a Republican sense of fear at their own impotence and marginalization. They can’t stop saying the things they say because they’re codependent with their wingnut base (remember when Republicans had a significant centrist/Rockefeller element?). But they are not stupid and they clearly understand that they were out campaigned, out polled and are currently being out maneuvered by the likes of Obama and Rahm Emmanuel. The fact that their chief political nemeses are either black or urban jewish is salt in the wound….

  • Joan Fisher Whitaker

    Maybe he was just voicing his opinion. This is a free country (what do we boast of in America and every country in the world wants it? Oh, yes, freedom of speech). You better hope we never lose it.
    I’m sure at one time or the other, everyone has had an overload of politics and obviously, last night was one of the overloads.

  • Books Alive

    And you know, I never knew that ‘parliament’ had that second ‘a’.
    Having lived in Britain for six years, I recall how I stumbled with pronunciation, raising eyebrows as I mangled some place names that end in “chester” or “bury” and are all run together. I never asked anyone how names came to be “shortened” that way. I assume that it just evolved over time.

  • MeToo

    Freedom of speech and of the Press, etc.. Yes, we want these, we protect these freedoms. However, the President’s speech was available from the day before and any Congressperson worth their salt would have done a quick read through before attending. In fact it appears that Rep Illinois (R) Shimkus had done his homework and decided on the precise moment to remove himself from the “performance” of free speech. Sorry, but this was orchestrated as a protest- but it clearly wasn’t the time or the place. Robert Miller (D), who is running opposite Joe Wilson (R) clearly is the winner here- with unexpected campaign contributions of hundreds of thousands of spontaneous dollars- $400,000 dollars that he didn’t have yesterday. People don’t just talk about political overload- they do something- they send money and attend meetings. In the communications age being honest and true to your principles is what matters because moments like these can seal your future. Again, freedom to act, but there are consequences, as noted in the universal reaction to the incidents.

  • yg

    it’s probably a bunch of tax cuts pretending to be healthcare reform.
    how much impact does a 5 page pamphlet carry?
    during the afl-cio speech, obama mocked the right for not having any solutions to the problem.

  • thomas


  • DennisQ

    Both Obama and Rahm Emanuel are Chicago politicians, which implies that they know how to fight with knives. Obama often acts like a professor, but it’s a mistake to think he’s above it all.
    Obama accomplishes a lot with head feints that keep his opponents off balance. Just when they think they’ve got him trapped, he surprises them. The center picture shows how demoralized they’ve become. It was supposed to be easy to bring him down, but he makes them look awkward.

  • yg

    Wilson apologized to the White House saying his emotion racism got the better of him.

  • yg

    “You’re not the boss of me!!”
    ha ha!

  • gryphon

    third picture is great. obama the teacher pelosi the principal and an obstreperous spoiled child off camera. they were even nice and both word red fer chrissakes…
    it’s probably nearly impossible to get under obamas’ skin and make him derail, especially while he’s speechifying. he’s a sleek smart political animal which drives them crazier every day. I just wish he happened to be a progressive as well..
    that statue of Polyphemus looks awesome, imagine it new at the grand unveiling ceremony..

  • Robin Moore

    Click on the link “shouting out liar,” above. Notice the men sitting and calmly smirking around Joe Wilson. This tells me that the incident was not spontaneous or springing from uncontrolable emotion. It tells me that Wilson was the lucky GOP who drew high card and got the media spotlight.

  • redX

    The winner is R’s – since rather than talk about the speech and plan (and perhaps even Obama having a good argument for a public option) – all the talk was about this congressman liar.

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