Presidential heckling should be ignored

By now you’ve heard all about Joe Wilson’s now infamous interruption of President Obama’s health care speech last week. With two words, Wilson stole the show, and he’s been featured in headlines ever since.

Others, including the Daily Nebraskan’s own Nick Pelster, whose column runs today (Sept. 16), have commented on Wilson’s words and what they tell us about American politics. Our own observation is rather short in comparison and more basic: As a nation, we are an extraordinarily petty people. And that reflects itself in our politicians.

Where there is opportunity for constructive dialogue, our pettiness reduces it to partisan name-calling.

Since Wilson’s interruption, we’ve heard endless talk about apologies and plenty of opportunistic politicking from the Democrats, but have we had an equally prominent discussion of Wilson’s accusation?

Though he could’ve expressed himself in a more civil tone, Wilson’s concern – that the health care bill in the House would provide care for illegal immigrants on the taxpayer’s dime – is on some level legitimate.

But have we talked about this point at all? No.

Rather, Republicans have been swept away in debates about whether, in what way and how often Wilson should apologize. Likewise, the Democrats have been busy trying to take every opportunity to drag the Republican brand even deeper into the mud.

And a week later, we’ve completely lost the substance of the debate, with only the theatrical shell remaining.

There’s a delicate line for all of us to tread as Americans doing political discourse. On the one hand, we can, as many already have, degenerate into incivility, pettiness and ad hominem attacks. This is a failed model for doing politics.

Yet, on the other hand, we can become a people so soft, so wrapped up in our politically correct niceties, that the faintest trace of a strongly phrased opinion will prove “offensive.”

We hope that as our nation moves forward, we can learn to navigate these treacherous waters, finding a way between theatrical partisanship and milquetoast gentility.

This editorial was originally published Sept. 16 by the University of Nebraska’s Daily Nebraskan. Content was made available by Uwire.