“… names will never hurt me.”

September 16, 2009



Well, the least that can be said of Joe Wilson is that he didn’t know what he would be unleashing when he pulled the cork out of that bottle — the bottle being his indiscreet mouth.

Not only has he been accused of racism for his heckling of President Obama from the floor of the House of Representatives, but he has been branded as a symbol of a latent racism far bigger than he. As though Congress weren’t already in a state of self-paralyzing partisanship, it was divided even more deeply by the vote to reprimand Wilson. Meanwhile the latter-day No-Nothings have adopted him as their hero. Can a Wilson-Palen ticket be far behind?

The mind races back to the first quarter of the 19th century — well, mine does, at least.



William H. Crawford of Georgia, the secretary of the treasury, is at the White House demanding to know what President James Monroe intends to do about a list of political appointments Crawford has recommended.

“That,” Monroe — perhaps injudiciously — tells Crawford, “is none of your damned business.” To which provocation Crawford responds by lunging at Monroe with a cane, calling him “you infernal scoundrel.” Monroe goes to the fireplace and grabs a poker to defend himself, and the secretary of the treasury is forcibly removed from the executive mansion, apologizing on the way out.

“You lie!” “You infernal scoundrel.”

At least Crawford had some style.


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