Loss of Decorum

Though it’s old news now, I thought I’d mention it anyway. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina got himself into hot water last night by being a turd. His outburst was uncalled for, and totally based on falsehoods as far as I can tell. I have been getting more and more frustrated with the lack of respect for the office of the President as of late. More recently, with the decision of school districts to restrict or even ban students from seeing a benign speech by Pres. Obama, I’ve wondered what is the driving force behind this progressive decay of respect for the government, and especially the president. I’m sure it is a very complicated issue, but I think the two main causes lie in a total fractionation in ideology among the two parties. With the onset of the so-called ‘neo-conservative’, and I believe a very intentional effort by those like Karl Rove, we are a nation – and thus congress divided, at odds with each other on the most basic level. I also hate to think it, but I am wondering if this apparent change in respect has anything to do with race. Maybe all of these things were present in the last administration, but it seems less so then than now. This morning I found myself asking, where did it all go? I remember in school, we took our national image seriously, perhaps through indoctrination, but in some ways genuinely. We said the pledge of allegiance every morning. Do they still do that? We had mock elections, and even debates. We were actually excited to come to age and vote (at least I was). Now, as the current administration seriously tries and push a reform that requires the American citizen to care about our vulnerables and under-represented citizens – neighbors, to the point of actually committing resources, a lot of people are barking. Why? Aren’t the two purposes of government to provide security, and public order? Health coverage is security.

As you might have guessed, I was appalled last night, so much so that I wrote a letter to Rep. Wilson, and I encourage you to do the same. Here is mine if you want a little reading:

Hon. Representative Joe Wilson:

Your actions in last night’s presidential address to Congress about Health Care reform are unacceptable. You have disrespected the highest office in the land, disobeyed decorum in the House, and worst of all hurt our national image. You should be ashamed.

I sense a deepening trend amongst Pres. Obama’s opponents recently, of which you are an exemplary case study. The outward respect for the office of the president is dwindling amongst you all. It does not matter who is in the office, but that they are the president. The office deserves the highest respect, regardless of political stance or personal opinion. Your direct slander of the president in a formal setting such as last night indicates that you lack the civility to control your emotions and your tongue. Thus, if I were a resident of South Carolina, I would be forced to question whether or not you are capable of properly representing your constituency in a fair, ethical, and just manner. Perhaps you will discover this in the next election?

Regarding the content of your outburst, I do not see from where you are deriving these non-truths. Please enlighten me. A cursory search on my part as an ordinary citizen indicates the following regarding H.R. 3200 and providing care to illegal immigrants (quotes from H.R. 3200 http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h3200ih.txt.pdf):

  • SEC. 152, pp 50 does mention that, “health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.” This is a non-discrimination clause, and to my understanding says nothing explicit about illegal immigrants.
  • Furthermore, exclusion of illegal aliens is explicitly stated on pp. 143: “SEC 246. NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS. Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”

Thus, unless there is an undisclosed, secret section stating something to the contrary, I do not see how H.R. 3200 would give care to illegal immigrants. As far as I can discern, Rep. Wilson, you are the liar in this case. In my opinion, your strong desire to see this bill fail regardless of cost is the reason you are perpetrating these lies and misinformation.

In closing, I am personally disgusted by your actions last night, and by your intentional efforts to spread falsehoods and misinformation, in order that you might get your way. A truly honorable person would choose more appropriate means of ethical persuasion and debate. You sir, have tarnished your name, the image of your state, and our national image.


Frank L. Engel


11 responses to “Loss of Decorum

  1. I don’t know if I would have signed that “cordially.” πŸ™‚

    But bravo, Frank, you’re dead on. Phenomena like these make me question reality – really? A freaking *representative* heckled the President during a national address? Ha, ha, very funny, The Onion. I enjoy your wit.

    Anyways, yes, this is seventeen thousand kinds of unacceptable, demeaning, embarrassing behavior. I’m finding the entire debate profoundly disheartening. Kudos for calling the guy out; hopefully he’ll genuinely look at your letter (and thousands more, I’m sure) and truly respond.

  2. Hey, well put on the dissin’ dude. I didn’t witness the outburst you speak of, so I can’t comment on it other than to say, you did a marvelous job of making your point! Again, well put.
    On the other hand, not that I am neccessarily an O’bama fan, but… the thing about the school address. It has been customary, for many years, I might add, that any speaches or narratives that are delivered to a school, are approved by the school board of any principality. This includes any speach from the president himself. If you research it, you might even find that this goes back even as far as our beloved Jimmy era. This is not really a fair knock against the school districts that rejected… they’ve just about always had the right to monitor what their students hear…. not all districts share the same views and all. This is just the first president that said “take it like it is or else” for a presentation. That steps on the rights of the individual school districts. think about how receptive say the schools of the Amish would be to some of the values and language that might be in that speach….. many things that you and I would never bat an eye at, would be utterly appalling to the good Amish folk. They, and others, have the right to edit what is thrown at them for content, and the Prez… didn’t want them to have that right.

    Just a thought.. Love, Mom

  3. Mom, I sort of agree with you, but not fully. I do think it is well within the prerogative of the school districts to review potential content from outside. However, the purpose of this would only be to ensure the message tone was appropriate for a school audience (e.g., no profanity, solicitation of sales, etc.). I don’t think that this is the case for the president’s speech. Obama isn’t the first to speak to US school children. Bush Sr., and Reagan both gave similar speeches, and G.W. Bush urged students to donate to a charity for Afgans. This isn’t new. Regarding the Amish, I doubt there would have been any issues with words in Obama’s speech. Regardless, I think that a public school should allow students the opportunity to hear the president. If there was legitimate concern, send a permission slip home. I mean, if they can offer sex ed. via a permission slip program, why completely shut out Obama. It makes no sense other than the school district making a political statement. I feel that is wrong.

    Here is one last thing to chew on, which make my point so excellently (and hits close to home): The Arlington ISD is one of the districts that refused to show the Obama speech, except at an outside location. Just DAYS from this speech, they are busing students (with signed permission slips) to hear former Pres. GW Bush speak at Cowboy Stadium http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32747095/from/ET. Why all the mess for seeing a 15 minute live speech from the current president? The district made it very apparent by actions that they did not sanction the speech. Meanwhile, they bus 28 5th grade classes to hear Bush live and unedited without anything more than a permission slip?! Hopefully you see the massive contradiction here.

    Thus, my opinion stands. There is an active effort to erode respect for the office of the President, and It is a very, very sad thing to see it happen to our school aged children.

  4. Well, you kinda missed my point. I think. The outside event you speak of was just that, an outside event that required parental permission to bus students. The internal event, ie..the speach, was just that, an internal event, and subject to the internal rules and requirements of the district on “Any” speach that the school is responsible for allowing the students to hear… WITHOUT parental slips, therefore under much more strict constriction. Again… my only point is that the school has in place a system to protect their students from any and all subject matter that the parents of those students MIGHT object to, and therefore MUST be checked for content. Again, the problem is that the speach was presented with NO CHOICE for editing for content… NEVER has a president before refused this simple approach. Again I point out that O’bama is the one who stepped out of line on this, but the schools are the ones getting the bad rap, simply because they are following well intentioned and long standing policies that have never been put before this kind of questioning before, simply because of O’bama’s “race”. They would do the same thing for ANY speaker, but because Mr. President is so different from every president before him, he must be “special” in that sense. Why should the schools be forced to break their policies just because it’s O’bama . Bill Clinton, Mr. bedroom playboy himself, was subject to the same restrictions, as was any former “white” president, while they were in office. O’bama is the first to a) force a speach down the school systems throats while demanding no editing, and b) the first to be held up as being deliberately dissed because of school policy. This whole thing stinks to me as a propaganda stunt, but because it’s such high office, it has to be a huge issue to go along with that.
    I hate having to argue with you on this point, but I feel I’m right, and I’m going to stick to my convictions on this one.

    But I still love you… πŸ˜€

    • Well mom, I disagree with you still. I won’t press my point any further after this last reply, because I doubt I’ll sway you (and I’m sorry, but you haven’t swayed me). I just want to make a couple of points, and I’ll let it go.

      1) I’m not so sure that this is the first time a president has “refused” as you put it, to allow districts to review/edit content. First, Obama’s speech was made available the day before (yes, after pressure, and with only a day, but still). Second, previous presidential speeches to school children at school were given, and (at least Reagan’s) were more politically charged than Obama’s. Here, I dug around for awhile and found transcripts, read for yourslelf:
      Bush in 1991: http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/research/public_papers.php?id=3394&year=1991&month=9
      Reagan in 1988: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1988/111488c.htm

      I remember watching Bush’s talk (it was a question and answer session). It was cheezy, but also fairly benign. I REALLY doubt any hard core resistance was made to airing the talk to school children in school. In fact, I remember we did a whole “space” unit that week(s) before the talk. If you doubt my memory, let me remind you I wanted nothing more than to be an aerospace engineer when I was a kid (remember that mom, the robot arm we made outta styrofoam, etc.? good times) – I was pretty interested in space. I thought it was cool to see/hear the astronauts during the talk.

      I don’t remember Reagan’s speech- but to read it now is amazing. He pushed his political view pretty hard. He even answers a question about taxes directly – espousing tax cuts. Yikes! Now that is contentious don’t you think? Somehow I still doubt there was a huge push from districts to ban or limit, or edit (it was broadcast live btw) Reagan’s words. I tried to dig up news stories about any controversy regarding these speeches with no success. I’m sure there was a lot of “after the fact” type stories from the various pundits and media, but I don’t agree with your assertion(implication) that school districts would have actively banned/limited these previous talks.

      2) If this is a propaganda stunt, I it is more from the Conservative opponents than from the Whitehouse. I’m not saying Obama is the best thing since sliced bread here – I’m arguing that through some mechanisms, the respect that was automatically given (and due) to the office of the president, regardless of who sits in the big chair, has eroded away. Furthermore, this recent action on the part of districts is a good example of my point. Yes, districts have every right to be concerned about content of the speech. No, they don’t have right (or precedent) to edit someone else’s words, especially the president’s. I still feel this way, and I think I have made a fair, and persuasive argument towards this case.

      Lastly, If school districts were truly just looking out for the kids, and worried about upset parents concerned about having their kids listen to Obama’s speech, why wouldn’t permission slips suffice? This seems like the fair and balanced approach towards addressing the parents’ concerns. Complete banning, or making if very difficult to participate in the event is heavy handed, and smacks (to me) of political agenda and loss of respect.

      So, I’ve defended my case as best I can. It’s fine if you still don’t agree with me, I don’t mind. I want to be able to share my thoughts with you like this, and I’m glad you have voiced your opinions on the matter. And yes, I still love you too πŸ™‚

  5. We’re in Nashville for a reunion right now, but I have a few things to add to this column, and will get to it as soon as I can. Although I agree with you on a few points, I disagree on many more. This might get interesting.

  6. Okay, I’m back.
    Before I start, I want to say that Rep. Wilson was completely in the wrong in shouting out, “You Lie”. On the other hand, President Obama knows that there is a federal law on the books that prohibits hospitals from turning ER patients away without necessary treatment. In the section you quoted, it says, “No federal funds will be paid…..”. Which means the hospital will have to absorb the cost. Which, in turn, means those who do have insurance of one kind or another will have to pay higher premiums because the hospital has to charge someone to remain in business. President Obama knows all of this, and therefore is just a bit misleading, and that is what angered Rep. Wilson so much. Also, President Obama contiuously states that Medicare is working like a charm. He knows that the numbers of doctors who will accept Medicare patients is dropping at an alarming rate. And he knows that the Medicare system is dropping the amounts they will pay the doctors even more, which means more doctors will drop out of the system.
    Canada has a national health program, and yet, Canadians are coming across the border by the thousands to get medical treatment in the states. They can’t get in to see a doctor for months. We will have the same problem. President Obama admitted in one of his presentations that we will need at least 16,000 more primary physicians. It takes a minimum of 8 years to get a medical doctor’s degree. He wants to implement his plan fully in 4 years. Who gets to see the doctor first? The guy who’s paying taxes? Or the druggie who’s been strung out all his life, and never paid a dime in taxes? Germany has a national health plan, and they also pay about 52 percent income taxes. They also have free college, so that might take a little bitterness out of the pill. A German friend of your dad, Margret Dittmann, had her knee replaced last year. The artificial knee came lose from her leg bone not too long after she got it. She had to get permission from the government to have the replacement replaced.
    Sweden almost went bankrupt as a nation not too long ago because of the costs of their national health program.
    Health care is a serious problem, I admit, but it is serious enough that really have to determine just how we want to go about providing it, and if we want to put it at the national government level.
    President Obama is correct in saying that we are the only civilized industrial nation that doesn’t have national health care. I wonder why we have so many applications for immegration from all of these other nations. I’ll be honest with you – the rate of applications has fallen recently, but I seriously doubt if our lack of a health program is the reason.
    Did you see the Tea Party march on Washington today? Did you see the age of those marchers? It looked to me like most of them were on Medicare. They’re covered, so why are they marching? The cost, Frank. The cost.
    Those marchers, and Barbara and I won’t live long enough to worry about paying for all of this national health care. They’re worried about the lives their grandchildren will have with such a monstrous debt on their shoulders. It is going to get so large that you will never be able to pay it off. Even with Jordan’s help. (Just a little humor there.) What do you think will happen when the country with one fourth of the world’s population calls in our IOU’s, and we say we can’t pay? It’s already big, and now we want to add a national health plan. (And President Obama said he wouldn’t have to raise taxes.)
    It’s nice to be altruistic, but only if you aren’t using someone else’s money to do it. If you really think it will work, there is a reality test available. Take yourself, and three or four friends, and go down on skid row and find a homeless person. Make an appointment with a doctor, and take the person to the doctor. Tell the doctor to fix him/her up, and then pay the doctor’s fee, and any medicines the doctor might prescribe for the rest of that person’s life. If you’re not willing to do that on your own, I don’t see how you can posssibly want to commit yourself to such a program for the rest of your life by supporting such a program.
    I spent all day partying, so I’m not sure I made much sense, but it really bothers me that you are so willing to buy this program so readily.

  7. Well, there ya go then. Don just proved that it is indeed a propoganda stunt, used to distract the nation onto something trivial (the school thing) whilst the REAL issue is buffeted about behind closed doors, and could be really reaching deep into our pocket books in the years to come. Eeeek!
    I guess that means I’m getting old… I’m with the marchers.

  8. You are using the word “security” in a very loose way, when you are talking about the government.
    The most basic purpose of any government is to provide security from without. That is, to prevent any other nation or government from imposing their will on our country.
    The second purpose of any government is to provide security from within. That is, to protect from thieves, murderers, etc.. And the third purpose of government is to provide justice.
    Those three securities have been in place for over 2,500 years. No where in that time has health security been mentioned. If we want to make the government responsible for our health security, then we will have to vote it in, and that is what the current debate is all about. You can’t expect the populace to just role over and accept any idea this big without some sort of discussion. And it isn’t whether Obama is black or white, it is the money involved.
    I don’t think you want to turn your web site into a political blog, so I will make any further opinions on this subject by e-mail.

  9. I agree, this just might be turning into a political blog, and should likely be nipped a bit. Also… yeah, I know, I just said quit this, I think the entire nation is in a tail spin on ethics right now. Perhaps it has something to do with outright fear. We as a nation are enduring something very close in sentiment to the great depression. At the same time, there is an ongoing movement to be ” politically correct” in our public statements due to what I believe to be, the policies and activities of the NAACP organization. Currently, you can’t publicly announce any opinion without hyper scrutinizing for anything even remotely damning to anyone else without pretty severe retribution. Add that to an undercurrent of pure fear about the economy, education, crime, politics, health care, and any other major subject, and you have chaos. This argument raging about O’bama and his speech, and the Senator’s bad language, is just a symptom.

  10. Not sure if I dare enter the fray. I came to catch up on your blog after a long absence and was caught by surprise. I think we as a country need a whole lot of calming down.

    I heard the Arlington students’ trip to hear George W. and Laura was cancelled due to the uproar over the banned Obama speech. So count that a double loss for students.

    Back in the 90’s, soon after Clinton took office, George Sr. came to my school to give a speech. No permission slips required. Quite a day for the school. He chose to use that day with elementary children as his audience to openly criticize Bill. While there was some discomfort among some staff, the world didn’t end and no one uttered the word “indoctrination”. His autographed picture hung in the school for years after.

    Let’s stop the extremism and learn to disagree calmly so something productive can get done. This shouting is nonsense.

    So, Frank, written any more letters lately?

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