Joe Wilson: not there yet

Joe Wilson, the Congressman who shouted "You Lie!" at Obama (even though Obama was stating the truth), still has ways to go if he's going to catch up to Preston Brooks.

Preston Brooks was the South Carolina senator who took offense at Charles Sumner, a fellow senator who'd criticized President Franklin Pearce and other Southerners for their sympathy with pro-slavery violence in Kansas. So, he walked up to Sumner as he was writing at his desk in a mostly empty senate and hit him repeatedly with his cane. It took 3 years before Sumner recovered enough to return to the Senate.

And South Carolinans? What did they do? They did what they are now doing for Joe Wilson -- rally around him. The Richmond Enquirer said: "We consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences. These vulgar abolitionists in the Senate must be lashed into submission."

The story gets better. Anson Burlingame, a senator from New England, called Brooks a coward and so Brooks challenged him to a duel which was accepted. Brooks backed out of the challenge though. Wikipedia drily observes: "Burlingame's reputation as a deer hunter and a deadly shot with a rifle could also have been a factor." As could the fact that the reason Brooks walked with a cane was that he had been shot in the leg in an earlier duel.

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