In September 2009, President Barack Obama delivered a speech on health care policy to a joint session of Congress. He was there to share his vision and present his plan, which included pushing back against some of the false attacks pushed by Republicans.
“There are ... those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants,” the then-president said. “This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
It was at this point that Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina thought it’d be a good idea to interrupt the speech and shout, “You lie!”
As a substantive matter, Obama was right and Wilson was wrong, but as a political matter, it was a breach in protocol that stunned much of the political world. Then-Sen. John McCain, among others, quickly condemned the congressman’s antics, and no GOP leaders defended Wilson’s heckling.
The Republican lawmaker quickly apologized, conceding that his outburst was “inappropriate and regrettable.” Just hours after the presidential speech, Wilson spoke directly to then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to express his regret.
The House nevertheless formally rebuked the South Carolinian less than a week after the presidential address — and seven GOP lawmakers voted with Democrats in support of the resolution.
In many ways, Rep. Lauren Boebert’s antics last night were considerably worse.
It was toward the end of his State of the Union address when President Joe Biden reflected on the dangers U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced. He explained:
“One being stationed at bases, breathing in toxic smoke from burn pits. Many of you have been there. I’ve been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan over 40 times. These burn pits that incinerate waste, the waste of war — medical and hazardous material, jet fuel and so much more. And they came home, many of the world’s fittest and best trained warriors in the world, never the same. Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin. I know. One of those soldiers was my son Maj. Beau Biden.”
The president’s point was obvious: Biden is concerned that American troops’ proximity to burn pits have created ongoing health risks.
It was at this point when the right-wing Colorado congresswoman thought it’d be a good idea to start heckling the president. In fact, as Biden referenced the cancer-stricken troops that ended up in flag-draped coffins, Boebert interjected, “You put them in, 13 of them.”
The Republican was obviously trying to refer to the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, just as Biden was commenting on the loss of his son.
But the radical lawmaker’s timing made the circumstances that much worse: Boebert didn’t just interrupt the president during a State of the Union address, and didn’t just falsely blame Biden for a terrorist attack in Afghanistan, she heckled the president while he honored fallen American troops.
Thirteen years ago, Wilson faced Republican pushback and quickly expressed regret. But GOP politics is even coarser and more toxic than it was in 2009. The likelihood that she’ll be denounced by party leaders is remote — and it’s far easier to believe Boebert will receive a fundraising boost from conservative donors eager to celebrate her antics.
It’s even more difficult to imagine the Coloradan calling the West Wing to apologize, propriety be damned.