When Did the “Mean” Start?

When Did the “Mean” Start?

With all the outcry this past week over Rep. Joe Wilson, the Republican from South Carolina who shouted “You lie” during President Obama’s health-care address to Congress, it evokes the question, “When did all this “mean” get started?”

I realize that here in America we haven’t even scratched the surface of “character assassination” when compared to the British Parliament or Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.  It is the reaction to these descriptive adjectives; mean, mean-spirited, malicious or nasty when used by one side of the congressional aisle or the other, which gives me pause to consider the origin.  Congressman Wilson personally called the White House and apologized to the President.  Even though President Obama graciously accepted, neither the Democrats nor the main-stream media could let it go.  There must be some hypocrisy hiding somewhere.

As a youngster I do not recall, during the Kennedy or Johnson administrations, this kind of reporting by the media.  Civility was in such vogue that none of Jack Kennedy’s tom-cat escapades were ever made public until many years later.  We all know what the Nixon “tapes” did for behind-closed-doors rhetoric, but when did the “mean” become so public?

July 1, 1987.  On this notable Tuesday, President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to replace Justice Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court of the United States.  Within 45 minutes, Ted Kennedy took to the floor of the U. S. Senate and christened the ship of “mean” on its maiden voyage:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

Teddy’s vitriolic tirade was so over the top that in March, 2002, the verb “Bork” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary; its definition extending beyond judicial nominees, stating that people who Bork others “usually [do so] with the aim of preventing [a person’s] appointment to public office.”

The good ship “mean” didn’t stop sailing after Bork’s confirmation was defeated in the Senate 58-42.  The senator sailor from Massachusetts plotted a course into both Bush administrations.  Before the “surge” had time to work in Iraq, Teddy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid steered into the wind:

He lied to me personally.” Kennedy said, “Week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.”

You have to make your own decisions about what the President knows, this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,” said Reid.

The entire Democrat side of the aisle audibly booed President Bush at the 2005 State of the Union Address when he cautioned that Social Security was going broke and that something had to be done.  Where was the outrage then?  Where is the recognition that President Bush was right and the financial stability of Social Security has only gotten worse?

Yes, Joe Wilson’s civility was overshadowed by his passion.  He apologized.  Hypocrites get over it!