Sadly, there is yet one more thing to be said about Congressman Joe Wilson, the latest person to demonstrate that you can become rich and famous, not despite being an idiot, but because of it. This one more thing needs to be said because, as we continue to reduce the content of our national discourse while we increase its heat, we are all in danger of becoming idiots, and angry idiots as well, which is not only pointless but dangerous.
This thing that needs to be brought to mind is that this country is by design a republic. The president of a republic is its head of state, in addition to being its chief executive officer. Once sworn in, the president is no longer a candidate, he holds the office, and the office embodies the United States of America. It follows that showing disrespect for the president is as grave an offense against the Republic as, for example, burning its flag.
It would have been good to see President Obama, on being called a liar by Mr. Wilson during a joint session of Congress, say to him what President Truman said after being slighted by General Douglas MacArthur: you can think whatever you like of me personally, sir, but you will respect the office that I hold.
It would have been good to see the sunshine patriots and summer soldiers of the raucous right demonstrate a twinkle of awareness of the real traditions and values of the republic on whose behalf they so lavishly emote. They who get tears in their eyes at the thought that someone somewhere might one day burn a flag are happy to see the surly and vacuous Joe Wilson set fire to the country another, more destructive, way.