Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson

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You’d have thought that a California Assemblyman being caught on tape bragging about spanking and sexing not one but two lobbyists would have been the most embarrassing GOP gaffe of the day.

You would be wrong. Because South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson did him one better when he shouted “You Lie.” At the President.  During a nationally televised live speech. Before a joint session of Congress. The look of genuine horror that passes over Pelosi’s face pretty much says it all. A new low.

Folks in the Twittersphere are tageting Wilson (@congjoewilson ) with calls and petitions. Senator John McCain told Larry King Wilson should apologize immediately. And this conservative thinks Wilson should be censured, at least.

So it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays outside of the punditocracy. Have our politics gotten so nasty that calling the president a liar before congress is just so much small beer? Or is this a Rick Lazio moment (that is: able to upset center-right voters so much that they throw their weight behind the other guy. Or in Lazio’s case, gal.)

We’ll see. Meanwhile, Dana Goldstein of the American Prospect tweeted that while she finds Joe Wilson “unhinged,” she’s ok with him shouting out, if it means that Congress will start acting more like the UK’s rowdy Parliament, something that, wait for it, John McCain advocates! (h/t NPR’s David Folkenflick).

I love a good Parliamentary tussle, but to my mind the difference between that and Wilson’s eruption is a world of wit, and occasional wisdom, away. Furthermore, Slate’s June Thomas notes that you can’t use the L-word (different one) at PMQ (prime minister questions?). “If you do, speaker sternly asks the member to withdraw. Some euphemisms for lying OK.”

Fabling? Canarding?

Update: Wilson issued an apology. Also, he called Rahm Emanuel to personally apologize. Safe to say he got an earful.

Update II: Focus groups of armed with those dial things show a strong backlash against GOP tactics during speech, especially Wilson’s outburst. So you can be sure he’s getting an earful from the Rahm of the right, too.

Update III: Via Gawker’s fun Wilson wrap-up (turns out his real name is Addison), folks have used ActBlue to give Wilson’s opponent @ $40K and counting…Holy [deleted], that’s jumped to almost $80 K in under an hour…By morning it was @$140K. Now $200K+. Safe to say rate of about $10K an hour…

Update VI: Via @junethomas, more terms you can’t hurl in Parliment: “The specific terms to which the Speaker has objected over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, stoolpigeon, swine, and traitor.” 

Update V: joewilsonisyourpreexistingcondition.com (keep refreshing)

Clara Jeffery is Co-editor of Mother Jones. You can read more of her stories here and follow her on Twitter here. And don’t miss what David Corn, Kevin Drum, and Jim Ridgeway have to say about Obama’s speech.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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