Okay, I admit it. Instead of watching most of the Obama speech, I took in the new and troubling documentary about the death of GM's Moraine plant. Certainly we need more persistent questions about corporate management and responsibility. Watch "The Last Truck" when you get a chance.
So I tuned into the joint session just as Obama was saying (to a roar of approval) that every effort would be made to rein in the costs of health care. For the most part, I thought what I heard of his speech to be a lot better and more effective than I'd expected -- in fact, damn good.
Digby points out that South Carolina's Joe Wilson's ($94,000)outburst is a sign that democracy has returned to Congress and that the authoritarianism (okay, fascism) we saw in the Bush era is present only in the hearts of many Republicans. After all, Joe Wilson($94,ooo) wasn't frog-marched out of the chamber.
It's rude and stupid, but Obama isn't a king and it isn't wrong to yell at the president. However, I can't help but recall what happened to these women during a Bush junior speech to a joint session of congress.
The women were ejected for wearing t-shirts with political slogans.
No one needs Joe Wilson($94,000) to show that the Republicans seemed to be completely out of touch with the old base of their party: genuine conservatives. No, I mean real conservatives, not the cheap plastic radicals and reactionaries (made in China?) who now call themselves conservatives.
My overall reaction was almost identical to Steve Benen's.
... My initial response to tonight's address is extremely positive. It's inherently difficult to discuss policy details without being dull, but tonight's speech walked the line -- a substantive call to action. I feared, going into tonight, that the president might be more cautious and understated in his pitch. He wasn't. Obama went big, sold the plan, and actually explained how this would work. It was as strong as I've seen him on health care -- which means he came through with the right speech at the right time (Biggest Speech Of His Career, Part VII).
As for reactions to Republican behaviors, Dana Milbank saw stuff this listener, not watcher, missed.
As millions of Americans watched from home, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted at the president from his fifth-row seat: "You lie!" Murmurs of "ooh" filled the stunned chamber. Nancy Pelosi's chin dropped.
It's been a horrible summer for politics. Wilson's outburst was only the tip of the iceberg.
Guns were brought to Obama appearances. A pastor in Arizona said he was praying for Obama to die. But even by that standard, there was something appalling about the display on the House floor for what was supposed to be a sacred ritual of American democracy: the nation watching while Cabinet members, lawmakers from both chambers and the diplomatic corps assembled. Wilson was only the most flagrant.
I think the Republicans may have buggered themselves last night. Milbank seems to think so, too.
Wilson? I got used to the British democracy -- a healthier democracy than ours, it seems. There, the outbursts of members are taken as a sign of that health. They save their party manners for their moribund royalty. After more than two centuries, it seems we still aren't quite sure whether our president is kind of royal or kind of not. But we do expect members of our Congress to behave themselves when it's the other side's turn to speak. In what is a ceremonial moment for Americans, this Republican opposition's behavior was unforgivable.
Still, one royal pain in the ass, American-style, was more than a match for Joe Wilson ($94,000). Please don't ask me to respect, much less like, Rahm Emanuel. Dana Milbank ends his description of the doings last night with this:
An incensed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel went up to GOP Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) to complain about the outburst. "No president has ever had that happen," Emanuel said. "My advice is he apologize immediately. You know my number."
Rahm, a lot of us have had your number for years.
Haven't seen any reactions yet to Michelle Obama's costume. Not going to look for 'em. Will reserve my sour comments. It's still a young presidency. I'll just note that, if you coupled your teevee viewing of the Obama speech with "The Last Truck," the first lady's pale salmon silk confection seemed de trop.