Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


A note on honor, comity, and apology

Joanne B. Freeman thinks that Representative Joe Wilson should have apologized to the House, and, she writes, "his comment reminds us that Congress has a long and storied culture of apology, to go along with its long and storied culture of insult -- and that the two traditions are inextricably bound together."

Categories > History

Discussions - 2 Comments

Freeman's book on the founders and honor, called Affairs of Honor, I highly recommended. Good reading for whenever you begin to feel TOO inclined to reverence the founders.

This column of Freeman's, however, while informative about early 19th century congressional conduct, is not as clear as it ought to never directly explains the "lie direct," and it avoids mentioning the fact that Wilson's "lie direct" insult was in reponse to Obama's equivalent insult delivered, however, with indirection, in that it was aimed at a COLLECTIVE of nameless Republicans, and was unfairly delivered from behind the dignity of his office...sort of like a boy hiding behind a girl after punching his schoolyard nemesis. Wilson either had to "harm the innocent girl" (i.e., the dignity of the office) or take the insult. Wilson made the wrong choice, but shame also upon the man who presented him with such a choice between two dishonorable options. And, Obama was bearing false witness...he knew the Republican line about the lack of enforcement provisions, and simply refused to acknowledge that as he presented them as lying about the immigration charges. Dr. Freeman avoids mentioning that also. She seems even hostile to the idea that one could ever judge rightly about whether a dishonorable behavior had occurred, which yes, might depend a good deal on whether someone really was lying. In her book she is much better on that, but maybe she's now becoming convinced that the codes of honor represent customs and nothing more. In any case, too convenient for a NYT column.

Wilson can only wish to be half the man that Alan Grayson has shown himself to be lately.

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