Immediately following the incident, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wasn't interested in sanctioning Wilson, for fear that such a move would distract us all even further from actually discussing healthcare reform. But members of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with "a broad cross section of Democrats" that included Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, pushed for a resolution, decrying the breach of decorum in general but also pointing out the obvious: A southern good ol' boy yelling at the first African-American president during a speech to Congress is not so very "post-racial."
According to the Washington Post, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga) has come right out and said it: "I think he was caught up in a moment. The issue is: Would he have done that if the president were white? We've got to realize racism is playing a role here. I'm hopeful that this will be a wake-up call for us to get it off the table." Not surprisingly, Scott received hate mail over the August break. Some people will go to any lengths to avoid acknowledging racism — like, for instance, Joe Wilson.
Greg Sargent writes that Wilson "praised an avowed segregationist with a history of Confederate Flag worship as a 'patriot' in 2001." Said segregationist, Maurice Bessinger, flew Confederate flags over his nine South Carolina restaurants in 2000, and wrote in a 2001 book, Defending My Heritage, that "blacks prefer the company of blacks while whites prefer the company of whites." He also noted that Jewish customers were, "quite stingy and difficult to serve." (Yeah, I know when I was busing tables, I had a terrible problem with accidentally cutting my arms on the horns.) In the '50s and '60s, Bessinger headed up the National Association for the Preservation of White People, and he's distributed tracts with titles like "The Biblical View of Slavery." (God says: A-OK!) Wilson not only invited this guy to the Statehouse, but told the AP in 2001, "I think a false impression was generated. He's never mentioned anything racial to me…I know him well enough not to be cautious."
Hey, Joe, you think maybe the reason he's "never mentioned anything racial" to you is that you're white? And that maybe we should weigh the screamingly racist bullshit he's committed to print more heavily than your opinion that he's a helluva guy? Oh, who am I kidding? If a white person says there's no racism, there's no racism!
And plenty of white people are saying that about Wilson's outburst, of course, which puts those voting on whether to sanction him in a sticky position. Despite the pro-reprimand leadership of Scott, Hoyer and the House Majority Whip James Clyburn, among others, Politico reports that "There is also some uneasiness among rank-and-file Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, that by singling out Wilson, party leaders will make him a martyr or cause célèbre for the right." Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) says, "We ought to think strategically about what there is to gain... I would not want to vote to humiliate him, rubbing it in." But then, an anonymous Democratic aide counters, "We can't make him a martyr. He already is one. We just don't want there to be any more Joe Wilsons."
I think we can all agree on that. Even, perhaps, Wilson's wife, Roxanne, who now says she asked her husband after the speech, "'Joe, who's the nut who hollered out, 'You lie'?"
'You Lie!' Shout Brings Vote on Sanction [Washington Post]
Dems to vote on Wilson sanction [Politico]
Wilson Called Avowed Segregationist and Confederate Flag Lover a "Patriot" [The Plum Line]
Wilson's wife: "I said 'Joe, who's the nut who hollered out, "You lie"?" [Politico]
The "You Lie" Heard Around the World