Here in the South, there’s not much to brag about, but one thing we generally have a lock on: good manners. Southern hospitality. That’s not to say we can’t turn a nasty phrase, but we’ll do it with a smile and a Bless Your Heart.
But last night, bless his heart, Congressman Joe Wilson apparently lost his breedin’. As President Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress, Congressman Wilson shouted out “You lie!” (for video, go here), heckling the President of the United States on the floor of Congress. It was an outburst which revealed Congressman Wilson’s lack of respect, decorum, or decency. It’s perfectly within his *rights* to express himself, but it should be beneath his office to express himself in such a way. The president gave a speech, the GOP had another Howdy Doody fellow rebut it (why do they keep choosing Louisianans?), and surely the next day members of Congress would be free to issue statements, appear on news programs, write op eds and otherwise express any disagreements they had with things the president said in his address. All are appropriate ways of participating in political dialog about this often contentious issue. Yelling in the middle of a speech in what should be one of the most respected houses of government in the world is NOT an appropriate means of expression.
This brings me to what Wilson was responding to. Was it a lie? According to Politifact.com, a non-partisan fact-checking organization, Wilson was responding to this statement by President Obama:
“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants,” Obama said. “This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
According to Politifact, it is WILSON who is the liar, as Obama’s statement, that health care reforms would not apply to illegal immigrants, was true. Politifact writes:
We read all 1,000-plus pages of the health care bill and were struck by the fact that it is largely silent on health care for illegal immigrants. Keep in mind that experts estimated there were 6.8 million uninsured illegal immigrants in the United States in 2007, out of a total of 11.9 million illegal immigrants. Right now, most states have laws on the books that require hospitals to treat severely ill people who arrive at the hospital, regardless of immigration status, and we didn’t see anything that would change those laws, either.
Most illegal immigrants are also now excluded from Medicaid, the government-run health care for the poor. We didn’t see anything that would change that.
One place where the bill does mention immigration status is for “affordability credits.” These are tax credits for people of modest means need to buy health insurance. The credits would help them buy insurance on a national health insurance exchange. The bill specifically says that people in the United States illegally are not eligible for tax credits, on page 132, section 242….
The best argument that we find that health reform would help illegal immigrants is that some might be able to purchase the public option — if it passes, and it might not — on the new health insurance exchange. They would purchase that at full cost. Obama’s said “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” which Wilson said was a “lie.” Actually, Obama can make a pretty thorough case that reform doesn’t apply to those here illegally. We don’t find the public option argument enough to make the case that Obama “lied.” We rate Wilson’s statement False.
Perhaps a Member of Congress could be bothered to do some research before getting so fired up about health reform’s effect on illegal immigrants that he completely loses his mind on the floor of Congress with the entire nation watching.
And yet, Wilson has STILL not done his research, because, while he apologized for the outburst, he still says he disagrees with the president over the issue of illegal immigrants and health reform. So he clearly still misunderstands the bill. I would also note that Wilson apologized to the president, but I feel he should also apologize to the people of South Carolina for embarrassing us in this way on the national stage. He should also apologize to the other members of Congress for dishonoring the office.
I have a feeling this outburst is going to hurt Congressman Wilson quite a bit, and in the 12ish hours since his eruption, his 2010 Democratic challenger, a former US Marine named Rob Miller, has raised over $100k from more than 3,000 donors, and of course, suddenly most of the state, not to mention the nation, knows his name.
And as for health reform, Obama’s speech seems to have won over many independents and undecideds, whereas Wilson’s heckling decidedly turned them off. The only people who liked his shouting are the kind of folks who were already doing the same kind of thing at town hall meetings. Final verdict: JOEWILSONFAIL.
As for me, I’m hoping someone in say, Mississippi can do something lame and take the focus off South Carolina for a while. I’ve had enough of the embarrassments for a while.