WELL, IF WE'RE GOING TO SINK TO THE LEVEL OF TIT FOR TAT ...
A righty blogger responds to the Joe Wilson controversy by pointing out that Democrats booed during the Social Security portion of George W. Bush's 2005 State of the Union address. (Wow, he even has video!)
Yup -- and there was this in response to some of Clinton's other State of the Union speeches:
* "Clinton's proposal to expand Medicare to allow Americans as young as 55 to buy into the system drew shouts of "no" and some boos from Republicans during his speech." [Chicago Tribune, 1/28/98]
* "Only once did they unmistakably and collectively show their disapproval -- when Clinton spoke disparagingly of a GOP-sponsored constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Many Republicans hissed and some booed." [Los Angeles Times, 2/5/97]
"The upheaval wrought by the Republican election landslide was visible throughout the president's State of the Union address -- from the moment Speaker Newt Gingrich took the gavel to the striking silence that often greeted Clinton from the GOP. At one point, Republicans even booed. About 20 of them left as Clinton went on and on for an hour and 20 minutes." [Associated Press, 1/24/95]
And in 1993 (during Clinton's alleged "honeymoon"):
President Clinton was rattling off figures about future budgets, "using the independent numbers of the Congressional Budget Office."
The Republicans began to snicker and jeer. The CBO, source of numbers they love to hate, is a favorite villain. Clinton paused and then, unexpectedly, miraculously, replied: "Well, you can laugh, my fellow Republicans [sic], but I'll point out that the Congressional Budget Office was normally more conservative in what was going to happen and closer to right than previous presidents have been."
I suspect this goes way back. I imagine Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss will regale us soon enough with fascinating anecdotes from the Polk and Harding administrations.
Wilson did apologize, and that should be the end of it. I don't see the point in punishing him further.
But unlike booing and hissing, which seem (just) within the usual bounds of acceptable discourse at these events, heckling strikes me as over the line, unless joint sessions of Congress now have a two-drink minimum I haven't been told about.