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SPEAKING OUT:

Congressman Wilson's Un-American Activity

by Ward Morrow

I can forgive my misguided friends—they know not what they do. Congressman Wilson knows better.

America voted for change. Perhaps not everyone did, but in a democracy the ballot box is where we resolve our differences. If there are concerns, they can be taken to court. Many Americans believe, and not without ample evidence of election irregularities in Florida and Ohio, that George W. Bush was not legitimately elected President in 2000. The United States Supreme Court made a ruling, criticized by many, but George W. Bush then served as President. This how we do things in America.

As President of the United States, most patriotic Americans would agree that the office, if not the man or woman, is deserving of respect. When a President of the United States of America, regardless of what their party affiliation might be, wishes to address our schools to encourage education, it is difficult to understand how any rational person would oppose this. We all may recall that on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush was reading a book to school children when the tragic events occurred on that day. I recall no opposition, either before or after the horrible events of that day, to his having access to those children in his role as President . Even as angry as many Americans were that George W. Bush was serving as our President, we all came together as Americans during that time. It would have seemed Un-American to do any less.

It is the proper and Constitutional role of Congress to have oversight hearings and for the Justice Department to investigate possible wrongdoing. This is not a partisan activity. Having your performance as a law enforcement official judged in partisan terms by political actors in the White House has not been considered the American way. This type of politicized law enforcement we might have expected to see in North Korea; it has not been the American Way.

In this context, it was disconcerting to see Congressman Joe Wilson heckle the President of the United States while addressing the United States Congress. For weeks, many of us have been in receipt of blatantly false emails, similar in tone to those that had previously mis-represented the President's choice of religion. It's free speech, but it's dirty pool. I can forgive my misguided friends—they know not what they do. Congressman Wilson knows better. He can always send a press release or have a press conference, at taxpayers' expense, and retort whatever he disagrees about with the President. He can read and enter a statement into the record—again, at my and other taxpayers' expense. He has that right in our American democracy, due to his office.

As much as I might want to go into the United States Congress and shout my disagreement at Congressman Wilson while he performs his official duties, I would be properly removed. There is a time and place for free speech. No Member of Congress shouted "Liar" at George W. Bush during any of his addresses to Congress about the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Clapping or grumbling does occur, but disruptively loud shouts of "Liar" are not part of our American tradition of respecting the Office of the President. Such a disruptive and disrespectful outburst on the floor of Congress, during a televised address by the President of the United States, is simply not part of our American tradition.

Congressman Wilson should resign. He can then be free to write a book, appear on talk shows, collect lecture fees, and yell as loud as he wants from the designated free speech zone (remember how President Bush allowed for those in areas far from wherever he appeared?)

Congressman Wilson, not Citizen Wilson, was permitted to be present during the Presidential address to Congress. If Citizen Wilson wants to heckle at his living room television, as many Americans did during the previous 8 years, he is free to do so. Congressman Wilson has apologized, but his actions were far outside the bounds of our American tradition. In an effort to preserve our American tradition of respecting the Office of the President, Congressman Wilson should also agree that he must resign. He can then be free to write a book, appear on talk shows, collect lecture fees, and yell as loud as he wants from the designated free speech zone (remember how President Bush allowed for those in areas far from wherever he appeared?). If Congressman Wilson fails to take responsibility for his actions by resigning, then we know how insincere his apology really is.

Our President has been asking for bi-partisan support to provide health care to all Americans. This could be an opportunity, again, to join together as patriotic Americans, without regard to political party, to ensure health care for all Americans, regardless of their party affiliation. If Congressman Wilson can't support his President, or fellow Americans who are in need of affordable healthcare, at least he could take real responsibility for his actions and restore proper respect to the Office of the President by resigning.


Ward Morrow, an Assistant General Counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, writes from Essex, Md. He hosts the radio show "Inside Government with Ward Morrow" every Friday on 1500AM in the Washington, DC area from 10am to 11am or on Saturdays at 7 a.m. on KTKK 630 AM.



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This story was published on September 11, 2009.