Though Americans are not known for meekness, rarely have our elected officials and our talking heads (not to mention anonymous activists) unleashed such fury as during the prolonged health-care debate. Here, five of the most notably rancorous moments—some recent, some not-so:
1. John Boehner delivers his 'hell no' incantation
Sunday, March 21: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave an "Oscar-worthy" response to the health-care bill, says Dr. Jim Taylor in SF Gate, a slow burn that climaxes with a chorus of "hell no's." "I half expected to see his head do a 360-degree swivel à la The Exorcist." Still, says Maggie Thornton at her blog, his "excellent speech" was worth watching, even if it failed to defeat the bill that night.
2. A "lady" and a "gentleman" clash on the House floor
Sunday, March 21: Reps David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) confront each other on the House floor as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., presiding over the debate, ineffectually pounds away on his gavel. "No, you don't! You don't know that!" yells Slaughter in what Crooks and Liars calls "one of the [debate's] more lively moments."
3. Karl Rove "melts down"
Sunday, March 21: When Karl Rove accuses Obama aide David Plouffe of spouting "Bernie Madoff economics" on ABC's This Week, notes Crooks and Liars, Plouffe gets in a dig at Rove's old boss, President Bush, prompting Rove to fulminate. This assault evidently "landed on the sorest of Rovian toes," says NPR's Ron Elving.
4. Ratigan's fiery interrogation
December 2009: MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan loses his cool while questioning Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) on the health-care bill's implications for the stock market. "Dylan, there's not much point in having me on if you won't let me respond," says a clearly rattled Schultz. "This has got to be one of the most unprofessional, egomaniacal rants by a news anchor I’ve ever seen," tuts Matthew Spieler at The Faster Times. Ratigan later apologizes.
5. Price objects. And objects. And objects.
November 2009: Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) takes a leaf out of the toddler playbook during a House debate, and simply repeats his objection to health care again and again as Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) tries to speak. Price sounded like "Ned Flanders on The Simpsons," says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. But the Dems provoked him to it. "Nobody looked their best" that day.