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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outside Voices: A poster boy for incivility

Kansas City Star, Sept. 11: South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie” outburst during President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday night makes him the new poster boy for the death of decorum in American politics.

Civility in American politics appears to be on life support. It’s hardly a problem limited to Wilson or other Republicans. Think back to booing by Democrats during a State of the Union Address by President George W. Bush. It’s all rather rude.

At the recent town hall meetings across America, opponents of health care reform decided to make their points by blurting out angry phrases.

Wilson’s lack of civility captures what is wrong with today’s debates in our nation’s capital, on America’s streets and on the airwaves.

We, the people, have apparently decided that those who disagree with us cannot honestly disagree, but do so because they’re evil, stupid or working a nefarious angle, or a combination of the options.

The problem with this approach is simple: The United States is a representative democracy, and to work well, it needs a variety of opinions. People can disagree politely; they can even do so vigorously. But the shouting has to stop.

Miami Herald, Sept. 11: In an extraordinary breach of the decorum expected in Congress when a president comes to speak, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled out, “You lie!” when Obama made clear that undocumented immigrants would not qualify for any health care subsidy.

Truth is, all bills before Congress already make that distinction, and Obama was right.

Truth also is that anyone who comes in sick to a hospital today – American or not, here legally or not – must be, at the very least, stabilized. That’s the law now, and only true immigration reform that would lead to legalizing the status of an estimated 12 million people would fix the problem.

The South Carolina Republican’s outburst served as a reminder of the petulance and pettiness that have surrounded the health care debate. To their credit, several Republicans stepped forward to denounce Wilson’s disrespect for the office of the presidency.

Obama was stern in his “that’s not true” response to Wilson and went on to talk about the substance of his plan. The president took the high road while Wilson engaged in political guerrilla tactics unbecoming a member of Congress.

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