The raucous, ribald peanut gallery at Obama's address to Congress.
Do the ups and downs matter? Yes—for about five minutes. (Or, if you're Joe Wilson, until the next election day.) But for those five minutes, the outbursts, calculated or not, provide a brief glimpse into the opposition's psyche.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photograph of Joe Wilson by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.