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Rancor Roundup

Spent the day on the Hill and typed up a story on the maelstrom of rancor.

Excerpt:

In the House chamber, Rep. Joe Wilson argued that he should not be reprimanded for shouting "You lie!" at the president. Democrats took turns hammering the South Carolina Republican for his indecorous behavior. Republicans defended him, some calling him a patriot and noting that he has a son serving in Iraq, or argued that Democrats were wasting time that would be better spent on more important issues. On a largely party-line vote, the House passed the "resolution of disapproval," the gentlest form of punishment for members.

Meanwhile, 45 conservative radio hosts gathered at the Phoenix Park Hotel to blast lawmakers for not doing more to stop illegal immigration. In response, advocates for immigrants held a prayer vigil and denounced what they consider racist and hateful rhetoric.

All of which indicated that the searing politics of summer are showing no sign of abating, and may be heading in the other direction as Congress struggles with a legislative agenda bristling with live-wire issues.

Some front-line culture warriors were just getting warmed up. At the Phoenix Park, radio and TV host Lou Dobbs took a break from his broadcast to applaud Wilson for helping the political establishment transition from constrained civility to what Dobbs calls "forthrightness."

"I think he's owed a great deal of gratitude for doing that," Dobbs said. "I applaud him."

Health-care reform remains the most pressing and complex item on Congress's docket, but even without that item, lawmakers would find themselves with an ambitious fall calendar. They are working on legislation that would re-engineer the health-care industry, sober up Wall Street, change the way energy is used and take a crack at ameliorating global warming.

Lou Dobbs made his point several times in our interview -- that Joe Wilson did us all a favor by being forthright and dispensing with all this constrained civility stuff.


By Joel Achenbach  |  September 15, 2009; 10:12 PM ET
 
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Comments

Because Lou Dobbs is the epitome of civilized discourse.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Good article, Joel. But I have one complaint-- the Mercedes-Benz ad to the right hand side has a flash player activated so the car keeps moving ALL the time.

It's annoying as hell, so I just disabled the flash player.

Might want to pass that tidbit on to the techno guys; once to get attention is fine, nonstop is not.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 15, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Lou Dobbs is such a tool. I used to watch his show occasionally, but since he latched onto the immigration issue several years ago, I stay away.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 15, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I am with seasea concerning Lou Dobbs, makes me very upset if I watch him.

Enjoyed the article Joel, I saw it on the front page about a half hour ago, but then I made the mistake of glacing at the few comments already posted to the article - when or when will I learn. Seems like the posters wanted to out rancor your article on rancor.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 15, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

The Mercedes isn't flashing at me. It must know that I own a much more modest vehicle.

Congress really does have a jumbo-sized agenda, on top of its heavy load of constituent services and symbolic/ceremonial stuff. Maybe the Senate should be reconstituted to concentrate on services and symbols, leaving the House to make legislative sausage.

New Scientist has a story on Japan's new heavy-lift rocket that's going to deliver a load of stuff to the International Space Station. Kind of impressive that Japan can engineer something like that.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 15, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

It's so cute when Joel refers to what he does as "typing."

I hear the nonsense about "illegal aliens" all the time. It's the scourge of our nation! It's what's destroying our economy!

As ever: the claimed 12 million undocumented immigrants are only 3.9% of our resident population of 307 million. They are the poorest of the poor -- sub-minimum wage. Their participation in our economy is, therefore, minimal and their deleterious (or positive) effects (if any) are economically negligible on a national scale. If every single undocumented alien were paid for a full-time job at minimum wage, that would be $181 billion/year. Woo! That's some money! However, according to the US Dept. of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP for the second quarter of this year was $14,143 billion. Scaling up to a full year and comparing numbers, we see that full-time minimum wage employment for undocumented immigrants amounts to 0.3% of GDP. Negligible impact. And, of course, a decent fraction of those "illegals" are children, and lots (if not most) of them are actually sub-minimum wage, so their actual economic impact is much smaller.

And what is the plan for "refusing to provide health insurance for illegal aliens." Sounds cost-effective. Are we planning to check immigration status at the door, when they show up sick at hospitals? How do we know who to check -- everyone? I know that I, for one, would be hard-pressed to prove my citizenship on a moment's notice. Carrying your passport could become a life-or-death issue. I can just imagine the guard at the door of the hospital: "papers, please." Or will we just check those with dark skin, or with an accent, or who "look Mexican" or Canadian or whatever?

Current law requires that hospitals at least stabilize every patient who presents himself for treatment (where "stabilize" may sometimes be interpreted extremely loosely),regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. Will we treat them, but arrest every patient who can't prove citizenship on the spot, or provide proof of ability to pay? Will we reinstitute debtors' prisons? Or will we just "sacrifice" them and harvest their organs? I realize that last one is an insane and horrific notion. OK, fine -- so how do opponents of funding health care for the indigent plan to fulfill their desire to avoid spending public money on health care for the poor and undocumented? I'm waiting for their very reasonable, fair, and well-considered proposals.

Joel, feel free to ask your interview subjects some of these trivially obvious questions. Economics is about numbers, so I'd be pleased to hear their numerically-relevant responses. You can put me down as "freelance researcher."

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Hello, Boodle. I have Googled. It's not helping. I wasn't even aware that it was the Mercedes slowing down my computer until you all mentioned it. When I click Tools, Options, Applications I get an alphabetical list of applications, most of which are QuickTime. Nowhere do I see anything that says "Flash." Which one do I pick to disable? I'm in Mozilla Firefox.

Thanks.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | September 15, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

ironic musical interlude.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwHXOwk3xNo

Freeborn Man. originally done by The Outlaws. Bluegrass cover by Tony Rice. Enjoyed the ukelele (sp?) links, rt. I knew that Gibson and martin made ukes, and was surprised to see an Ovation.

Posted by: -jack- | September 15, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Too much fun at the hockey game, even though my boys lost. It doesn't count!

zzzzzzzzz.....

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Wheezy, I don't know. The ads don't seem to affect my PC, or me. I'm using Firefox with pop-ups blocked. I have noticed the ad placement on the WaPo is getting more annoying, but I can still zone them out.

Sandra Day O'Connor was in town - this is an interesting article about her thoughts on the lack of civics in school:
http://www.seattlepi.com/connelly/410191_joel15.html

Posted by: seasea1 | September 16, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

I don’t have a Mercedes ad. I think they know I don’t have Mercedes in mind for my next car. What I’ve got is an ad that says “Russia Now” “Russians vote for their own Barack Obama.” Wonder why they direct that at me since I’m not Russian.

I was at the supermarket the other day. Saw a pot that has 4 orange red, ready to bloom, hippeastrums in it. Not a single leave. Cost : B$180. They were pretty, not extraordinary, just pretty. Wonder who would want to spend B$180 for 4 hippeastrums.

Posted by: rainforest1 | September 16, 2009 2:13 AM | Report abuse

rainforest! You are so witty, it fells me.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2009 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Anybody see the scrum between the Yanks and the blue jays? Baseball fights are so "what is the word I am looking for"?

Why doesn't the batter just run out there with the bat and whoop up on the pitcher.I always had a very high respect for Mike Piazza,that is till Roger Clemons plunked him with a pitch and threw the bat back at him.That would have made the subway series so much better had Piazza chased down Clemons and whacked him a few times.

I just sure hope someone can beat the Evil Empire in the playoffs.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | September 16, 2009 4:54 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

Coffee is ready, we grind our own Staubuck's beans (purchased under the Costco brand) so this pot is fresh, for sure, for sure.

Casandra, we are all missing you.

Missing martooni, too.

Joel, that was a very interesting article.

This sentence:

"Throughout the day, the "House triangle" -- the spot where lawmakers speak to the cameras, the Capitol angling away in the background -- was a scene of heavy traffic. First there was a health-care news conference at 10 a.m. with parents of disabled children".

Was especially interesting to me. I did not know about the House triangle, I did know about the 10 am conference, I hope they had a good turnout, both of advocates and house members. As a parent of a 43 year old disabled son, I applaud the parents for the efforts that they make on behalf of their children.

Sounds like the House's docket was diverse and full. I sincerely hope our legislators will move away from idle chit chat regarding Wilson, as they have all had their day before the cameras and now "have "rap on the knuckles" resolution.

Sliced bananas and blueberries on cheerios, with skim milk for the seniors reading this, country ham on open faced biscuits with gravy and cracked pepper for those who prefer a little zip and danger for their second course.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 16, 2009 5:48 AM | Report abuse

Lox and creamed cheese on bagels are still one of my favorites, it's just too early in the morn, maybe a better brunch item.

Re-reading Steinbeck. Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row from the library at my left elbow stack. Early in the summer, we watched Grapes of Wrath, also from the library small movie collection. Henry Fonda as a very young man, good actors, good plot, depressingly dreary, tho. Need to get hold of the movie East of Eden. Not nearly as long as the book, as I recall. James Dean's first flick. Raymond Massey was the other lead.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 16, 2009 6:01 AM | Report abuse

gwe.
lame, silly, ridiculous. Pick one of those.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 16, 2009 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! Cassandra! Please check in, the shop steward is worried about you!

Ms. Lady, you do put on a lovely breakfast, thanks so much!

I remember seeing East of Eden in high school. The movie only covers a portion of the book, IIRC. To adapt the whole book would have been a series, although having James Dean and Raymond Massey would have been well worth the effort.

Onward into the day! Another with much to be done. Today and next week, then my Bible study group will be done with II Kings. What a depressing book, so violent and full of evil.

Posted by: slyness | September 16, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Tim, I thought you were one who contemplated things out there.

I type mechanical instructions.

I am wondering who types faster, Joel or me?

I used to be able to type backwards pretty fast on an IBM Selectric with the correction tape.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 16, 2009 7:13 AM | Report abuse

rt,
Another lost art made obsolete by technology. Explaint to some young punk correction tape. Or a mimeograph machine.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 16, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Joel got dead trees front page with the byline above the fold. Nice work.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 16, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse


I have been having trouble loading Achenblog most of the afternoon. Either someone's playing with the server all afternoon....or...me and my big mouth about the Mercedes...

Posted by: rainforest1 | September 16, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

A black cat got out of MY way on the trek to the Dawn Patrol hangar this morning...

Now if a ladder refuses to let me walk under it, I'm gonna get worried...

I think a dose of Cassandra would do wonders. :-)

*front-page-above-the-fold-gold-star-to-Joel Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 16, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Yes, yes but what does being forthright have to do with being uncivil?

Posted by: --dr-- | September 16, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

jkt, warped minds, man. I was asked by a Post writer as 2000 approached what I thought was the most amazing technological invention of the century and I responded "the card saw."

... only a few people might remember that item.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 16, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Morning everyone, first cool night here in a while, wind came up last night, clear skies and the temperature dropped to about 50F. Had to sleep with the duvet on the bed, (window open), such a great sleep.

Looking at the forecast we are moving into more typical September weather, warm days, cool nights - swimming season may be coming to an end - too hard to keep the pool at a reasonable temp with single digit celcius or close to it night time temps.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 16, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

rainforest, no wonder your pages are taking for ever to load, if you are waiting for the afternoon boodle to load, we haven't entered it yet.

Let's vote to see if we should just start the afternoon boodle now, or continue with the morning boodle.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 16, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Wonderful article Joel, and certainly worthy of the front page. More so than any specific problem, I am concerned with the system breaking down into nothing but an escalating shouting match.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 16, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

rt, you're funny...

Posted by: rainforest1 | September 16, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah... Lou who? *RME*

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 16, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

And unfortunately, it's not just WaPo.com that needs copy editors -- from Boston.com:

"Obama's blasts Kanye, stirs debate"

*SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 16, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

And of course, the article itself is rather depressing... Terry Moran eavesdrops on pre-interview chatter before CNBC interviews the president, and then Tweets about it. Oh yeah, that's news.

*head in hands*

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 16, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Snuke, it's just blog quality writing.

Or, the story changed from the point the writer started the headline and the time that he/she finished.

You may be questioning the editors, but this news thing is up to the second and not everyone understands it.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 16, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

That is exactly it, RDP. This system of laws is built on respect for the law, for the position, for the rulesthe rules. The rules include the rules of order. And traditions of order too.

He who breaks that order, breaks more than he knows.

Posted by: --dr-- | September 16, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

rt,
This is the only relevant hit on the first page of results for a "card saw":

http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102665925

Literally, a museum piece.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 16, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I will admit to be a little slow in the morning before I have had sufficient quantities of coffee. I saw this headline this morning and had to shake my head.

First thought, gee why would news of a PM sending a former PM a video of an icebreaker be news, it dawned on my later.

Headline:
Harper to send Mulroney ice-breaker by video

You have to admire our PM's touchy, feeling style :-)

Those of you in DC can see for yourself while he is in town today and tomorrow.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 16, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Kathleen Parker is succeeding in her ongoing role of convincing me that not every conservative is a pinheaded twit who thinks "media bias" is when an article is not a press release for his/her own side. That is, she's reasonably objective: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091502979.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

She also gets a shout out on the front page from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/brad_hirschfield/2009/09/why_joe_wilson_cant_and_wont_apologize.html?hpid=talkbox1

Unlike the two of them, I would not declare too much parallelism between recent poor behavior by Kanye West and Serena Williams, and Mr. Wilson's behavior in the House. West and Williams behaved boorishly, but they are in arenas that are all about elevating and adoring the individual for individual performance. Their behavior was consistent with their context, albeit extreme -- makes you appreciate what good sportsmanship and courtesy look like, in comparison. Wilson, on the other hand, acted in a way that undermines the operating principles of the body to which he belongs, a body whose functioning is not optional. The country can do without the MTV Video Music Awards, but we need the House of Representatives.

It's pretty clear that the Resolution to Make Fun of His Name, or whatever it was, was a poor tactic. Perhaps if a bunch of sober-but-saddened Democrats had gotten up there, resisted the urge to thunder, and expressed sorrow that their colleagues across the aisle should sully themselves by associating with and supporting behavior that shames the body and interferes with serious political debate. You know, not actually mention Wilson himself at any point. That might have accomplished something.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 16, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

WaPo had a bulk review of three books on grammar and usage today:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091503162.html

And then on the way to work I listened to this little ditty:

http://www.thefump.com/fump.php?id=1205

Posted by: yellojkt | September 16, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Card Saw

http://ripsaw.cac.psu.edu/~mloewen/Oldtech/Media/Cardsaw-L.jpg

Posted by: VintageLady | September 16, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Before I head off to work, a list of the world's most unruly parliaments, we did not make the list but Britain and Australia did.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/09/15/the_worlds_most_unruly_parliaments?page=0,0

Posted by: dmd3 | September 16, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

Yes, VL and slyness, the movie "East of Eden" is basically only the second half of the novel, and misses a good deal of all the set-up that goes into (not a criticism of it, merely stating a fact). Both the novel and the movie are a bit tricky, not because it is a kind of retelling of the Cain and Abel story, but because the novel (and to a lesser extent the movie) uses each mythical figure not once but twice: there are two Cains, two Abels, two Adams, two Eves, etc., and each is kind of only a part of the namesake figure (a "good" Eve in Abra and a "bad" Eve in Cathy/Kate, etc.). Caleb/"Cal" (James Dean) is Cain, but so is Charles Trask, etc., the brother of Adam Trask (who isn't *that* Adam although he is named Adam but is rather one of the two Abels). See? Kinda confusing, although I think it is best to *not* try to figure out who is who, and just let the story run on its own terms. As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

VL, lox and bagels are my alltime no. 1 fav breakfast.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 16, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

NEW KIT!

Posted by: yellojkt | September 16, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

New Kit. I think JA's trying to lure Cassandra into commenting.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | September 16, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Also, upon much reflection, I have decided to take a somewhat contrarian view (what a surprise, I know) and have decided that a good deal of the commentary about boorish behavior and the refusal to apologize in the Wilson, Williams and West cases is substantially incorrect or off the mark. And so far no one has cited what I believe to be a major factor in all three cases: the age of instant communication.

As follows:

I agree with all the major commentary about Wilson's original outburst, and I follow Dowd, Dionne and Robinson, etc., on the background tenor of racism underlying it. But here's where I start to differ about the apolgy business: within about 24 hours of the incident, it became obvious to Wilson and his allies that his inexcusable gaffe was rauising him tens of thousands (it came hundreds of thousands) of dollars. You remember that first day? Even here on the Boodle we were tracking and commenting on how much money *Miller,* his opponent was raising: $30,000, $50,000, $70,000, the cash was just pouring in. Last I heard it was up to nearly a million bucks, right?

Lagging by only a few hours, it soon became apparent that Wilson was *also* riding a cash cow, as his (lunatic) supporters also started sending in cash for him. He's now up over a million point three or something like that.

My point is that within 24 hours, it became *impossible* for Wilson to apologize, because it would have thrown cold water on his fundraising. Yes, it might have slowed Miller's fundraising if Wilson had humbled himself, but probably not appreciably. But an abject apology and admission of wrongdoing to the House, blah, blah blah, would have turned down, if not off, the big money faucet that was suddenly coming in. Never mind that Wilson had made himself a hero and a martyr; that's almost irrelevant. What IS relevant is that Wilson's boorishness suddenly made him a $1.3-million windfall. So all the discussion about behavior and "should have" done this or that needs to take a back seat to a million bucks.

more

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 16, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

jkt, I most enjoy telling a joke that only a few people get and they think it is pretty funny. There must be a weirdness factor that has a name for that.

I tell a joke where the punchline is in Polish. One word and it is the only Polish in the joke. Usually Polish speaking scientist types are bent over in laughter and everyone else is just giving blank stares.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 16, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

2

Now, here's the other point: had this happened 20 or 30 years ago, the event would have been fundamentally different, because there was no Internet. Yes, had a Wilson-like figure called, say, Jimmy Carter a liar, it would certainly have been reported on the nightly TV news and made all the papers, and there would have been a big ruckus and discussion, just as now. But the incident (1) would not have gone viral, because there *was* no viral Internet upon which to go viral, and (2) any surge in support and fundraising that may have occurred would have been invisible. Yes, if the Yahoos had suddenly decided to come oput of the woodwork and support Wilsonmanque in 1979, the would have had to stuff their five-dollar bills into envelopes, lick the stamp, and send it snailmail to Washington. This process would have been invisble: virtually no one would have known, and it would have taken a week or two (maybe more) to have happened. And then Wilson's office would have had to voluntarily announce what had come it (which of course they most likely would never have done). So the massive fundraising would have been both invisible in 1979, but also likely wouldn't have been nearly as large in 1979, precisely because of lack of instant communication.

All this is one major way Wilson's boorish behavior is sustantively difference from Williams or West's. Neither Williams nor West has nor will likely receive so much as one thin dime's benefit from their behavior. Wilson is being handsomely rewarded for his behavior and has become a marty and hero, albeit to a tiny corps of rightwing wingnuts and various kinds of racists and crypto-racists. Obviously not so for Serena or Kanye.

Somebody-- was it Parker? -- was making a big deal out of all three cases being examples of "It's all about me!" behavior, but I'm not buying this from the git-go. First, Wilson's "You're a liar!" outburst was basically that of a cat-call, the anonymous insult of some jerk in the crowd who hoped to remain anonymous and unknown. It wasn't much different from any other yahoo who shouts out "You sick!" in any other similar kind of venue, whether a nightclub or a sports arena. The shouter at the moment has no identity and no great ego involvement. He hides behind being a memeber of a mob. (Which is why I think Wilson's remark was spontaneous and not some planned incident.)

more

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 16, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

LOU DOBBS SHOULD SWITCH OVER TO FOX "NOISE". AT THE LEAST, CNN SHOULD FIRE HIM.

FIRST HE RANTS ABOUT IMMIGRANTS; THEN HE SUPPORTS THAT FREAK GLENN BECK WHEN BECK SAYS PRESIDENT OBAMA IS A RACIST.

THIS GUY IS A DISGRACE TO CNN BUT HE WOULD FIT IN VERY WELL AT "FAUX NEWS"

Posted by: JaneDoe4 | September 16, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Dobbs is not rational.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 17, 2009 5:09 AM | Report abuse

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