Friday, September 18, 2009

A tu quoque defense for Joe Wilson

Courtesy of Foreign Policy. Sure, Joe Wilson yelling "You lie!" during a speech by the President, an invited guest of the Congress, was uncivil. Maybe even a symptom of the derisively dichotomized discourse that is dangerously and detrimentally dividing the country.

But rather than get into our problems and how we can solve them, Foreign Policy lets us know that, "Hey, it's not as bad as other places," and thus we don't need to deal with it, I guess:
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson for yelling "You lie!" during President Obama's recent address to Congress. But in some parts of the world, outbursts like Wilson's would barely raise an eyebrow.
Anyway, here's page one of their tu quoque presentation, dealing with South Korea:
Source of tension: Korean democracy is a full-contact sport in which debates between the dominant Grand National Party (GNP) and its opponents over foreign policy and media freedom are frequently resolved with fists … or whatever heavy object is in the room.

Low points: South Korea’s first internationally noticed punch-up occurred in 2004 over the impeachment of then President Roh Moo-hyun. MPs loyal to Roh attempted to block what they saw as a coup by refusing to leave the assembly’s podium. Scuffles broke out as security tried to remove the unruly delegates, who began throwing punches and tossing furniture. (Meanwhile, an unidentified man crashed a car into the outside of the building.) The offending MPs later got down on their knees to apologize to the nation.

But the Roh impeachment battle was just a prelude to the December 2008 war over a controversial free trade agreement with the United States. After the GNP submitted the bill to a parliamentary committee on trade, attempting to rush it through before Barack Obama took office, opposition MPs attempted to break into the locked committee room with sledgehammers and an electric saw. The terrified lawmakers inside the room barricaded the door with furniture and fought the intruders with fire extinguishers. TV cameras broadcast the images, including one of a MP bleeding profusely from the face, to viewers around the world. A compromise was reached, but only after the opposition occupied the assembly building for 12 days.

The incident apparently didn’t satisfy the blood lust of Korean lawmakers, though. A debate over media privatization in July devolved into an all-out fistfight.
Ask yourself, FP, what is the point of comparing the US Congress to the ROK Assembly (or Taiwan's, or Ukraine's)? Maybe the case with Britain or Australia is a bit more apt, but should the US aspire to be like the other three?

They're worst case situations involving recent democracies where accommodation and cooperation between opposite parties has not set in due to life-and-death power struggles that predate voting rights, which came not all that long ago. Really, these are places where they truly need to clean up their act, providing Joe Wilsons of America with no cover whatsoever.


  1. The FP fails to point out that Korean and Taiwanese democracy is a lot younger than American's.

    You'd expect more maturity with age.

  2. Well, one hopes for more maturity with age.

    Some serious changes need to come down the pipeline for that to happen. Parties need to learn to share government, and the electorate needs to own their electoral decisions after they've been made.

  3. Divided country--remember a little thing called the "Civil War?"

    There was also something called the "Revolutionary War" that first lit the fuse down this road.

    In the very short blip of time that United States politics have existed (in regards to the barbaric past--and present--of human history), it has always been contentious and divisive. You might want to read up on the man “who would have rather been right than President!,”–Henry Clay—Lincoln and Kennedy both thought he was one of the greatest Senators of all time. If today’s morons in Congress and the Senate had to deal with him and the likes of John C. Calhoun and President Andrew Jackson at the same time the U.S. would be much stronger for it. I wouldn’t mind seeing dueling come back into vogue in the political arena—It would really give gravitas to the combatants and their personal stances on important issues.

    Also, take a gander at the miniseries, “John Adams.” I doubt you would want to have your child grow up to be President afterwards. Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc., are all big boys who realized that the office is the biggest pressure cooker in the world--well, at least since the U.S. was forced into the role whether they wanted it or not.

  4. I see you're recycling comments, John from Taejŏn. But that's okay if they're good. :)

    The US has gone through some nasty stuff, as has Korea (and in this case, I don't mean South Korea). The US has indeed needed time to mature as a democracy, and South Korea (and Taiwan) hasn't yet gone through some of these maturing events.

    It certainly doesn't help both countries that they are locked in a geopolitical struggle with a militarily powerful neighbor willing to destroy them if they had a chance.

  5. Actually, I'm slowly improving them (my hastily written comments). Plus, I like history because it shows that for all the talk about learning from it, people really don't seem to learn much from mistakes, and the horrors, made in the past.

    And the age of political institutions is relative when the planet is billions of years old.

    I'm just saying that politics and human nature have always been contentious like two dogs fighting over an old bone when a feast is waiting to be devoured nearby if only they could come up for air and notice the world around them.


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