12 September 2009

Juan Cole's Tale of Two (Not So Regular) Joes

All graphics courtesy >Befunky.com.

A Tale of Two Joe Wilsons, a Tale of Two Americas
By Juan Cole / September 11, 2009

This is the story of two Joe Wilsons, and two Americas. Both challenged a president, the most powerful man in the free world. One is a liar and the other is a courageous truth-teller. One enjoys impunity for his falsehood and epochal rudeness, bespeaking an America ruled with civility and tolerance. The other was subjected to a ruthless campaign of smears, and the career of his wife was ruined, bespeaking an America controlled by heartless men bent on achieving their nefarious ends by running roughshod over others.

On September 9, 2009, a man named Joe Wilson, a congressman from South Carolina, yelled "You lie!" at the president as he was defending his universal health coverage proposals from nutty rightwing smears.

Joe Wilson, whom the Health Industry lobby has given $244,196 in campaign contributions, was of course himself lying when he implied that President Obama's plan will cover illegal immigrants. It will not.

President Obama graciously accepted Wilson's subsequent apology, even though no modern president has been yelled at that way by a minor rural politician.

On July 6, 2003 another Joe Wilson called a president a liar, in an opinion essay for the New York Times. This Joe Wilson had bravely stared down Saddam Hussein in fall, 1990 as acting ambassador in Baghdad and been commended for his courage by George H. W. Bush.

George W. Bush had falsely alleged in his State of the Union Speech that Iraq had recently bought yellowcake uranium from the West African country of Niger. The allegation was based on a clumsily forged document that had been discounted by the CIA and was proven false within 24 hours when finally shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wilson's complaint that the assertion had been false and that he had shown it false before the war was deeply embarrassing to the Bush administration. It responded by smearing Wilson and then attempting to out his wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA operative working against Iran's nuclear program. Plame's career was destroyed and all her known agents and contacts around the world were burned; some of them may have quietly been killed (we have no way of knowing). Ultimately, the truth of the anti-Wilson, anti-Plame campaign came out and Richard Bruce Cheney's chief of staff, was found guilty of an attempted cover-up. Cheney had ordered the outing of Plame; it happened via another route, but Cheney was conniving at it. Cheney is a traitor and should be rotting in jail.

Note that the first Joe Wilson was dead wrong, but that the Obama administration responded in a gentlemanly way to his charge.

The Bush-Cheney administration, in contrast, attempted to besmirch the reputation and the life of a dedicated lifetime civil servant because he spoke the truth to the president.

The story of the two Joe Wilsons and how they were treated is the story of two visions of America. The Bush-Cheney vision is a nightmarish landscape of blighted lives and cruel indifference to basic human decency. The Obama vision is just the Golden Rule, with which the people who vote for the evil Joe Wilson typically profess acquaintance.

The evil Joe Wilson (R-SC) is the remnant of Cheneyism in this new America, painfully being born from the rubble made by the old. He needn't remain in office, defiling the halls of the Congress of the United States of America. He has an opponent in the next election, Rob Miller, an Iraq War veteran. An honorable man. Here is his campaign site.

We only need the one kind of Joe Wilson, the one who shouts "truth" to lies; not the one who shouts "lies" to the truth.

Source / Informed Comment

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