Let me first say that I still have not seen President Obama’s speech to our nation tonight. We’re decided to make it a “homework night” around here, so the television is off.
However, I have already seen one clip from the speech, involving the unbecoming behavior of Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina.
Rep. Wilson heckled President Obama in the middle of his speech, and specifically at the moment when Obama was promising that healthcare reform will not cover illegal immigrants. He yelled out that President Obama is a liar.
Before I get into his behavior and the apology he still owes the nation, I am gong to pretend for a moment that the question his outburst begs is one that needs answering.
During the entire month of August, the blogosphere has been burning up with the allegation that President Obama does support covering illegal immigrants, despite his repeated denials on this point.
Some say they do not believe President Obama because they do not trust him.
Others say they do not believe President Obama because of a report from a committee related to Congress which has pointed out linquistic inconsistencies in one of the three bills working its way through the House.
Best I can tell, this linguistic inconsistency, in one of three possible House bills, is the only tangible evidence that anyone can point to for this claim that illegal immigrants will be “covered” under healthcare reform. What the committee actually found is that it *might* leave the door open to illegal immigrants to get healthcare.
But as you will see in a moment, it’s a moot point. Because after Rep. Wilson’s stunning breach of etiquette tonight, I used the miracle of “The Google,” and in about ten seconds was downloading a copy of HB 3200, the current bill from the House Ways and Means Committee.
You can download it too. Knock yourself out here.
Then after you’re done, scroll down to page 143. Or, alternatively, search the file for the word “alien.”
If you’re too hurried to do either of those, let me just cite Section 246, lines 3-7:
3 SEC. 246. NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.
“Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
So, before we go any further, I want to ask all those who might believe in Rep. Wilson’s claim this question:
Do you still believe there is any legitimate reason, beyond paranoia, to call President Obama a “liar” on this issue?
The facts are these:
1) There is no final bill yet. Everything (yes, including this language) is still being negotiated.
2) I have just provided proof that at least one of the three House bill explicitly rejects providing coverage to illegal immigrants.
3) President Barack Obama has repeatedly promised (including tonight) that the final bill will not allow coverage for illegal immigrants.
With those three facts before us, is there any credible reason to call President Obama a “liar” on this issue?
You see, even if one investigates the alleged “lie” behind Rep. Wilson’s outburst, we find there is no factual basis for claiming that President Obama has lied.
Which bring us to the outburst itself…
As just about everyone on the left and right have said tonight, this outburst was totally unacceptable from a member of Congress. Many thanks to Senator John McCain for courageously calling on him to apologize and to do so quickly. And, from all accounts, he did apologize to President Obama earlier tonight.
But his apology remains incomplete because his offense was not simply to President Obama, but to all Americans.
Rep. Wilson’s behavior might be acceptable at in the British Parliament. It might be acceptable on the Jerry Springer Show. We might even (and apparently do) tolerate it in “Town Hall” meetings. But that kind of outburst has no place during an address to Congress by the President of the United States.
Rep. Wilson owes us all an apology.
Not only does he appear to be wrong on the facts, he is most certainly wrong in his personal conduct, and should immediately revise and extend his apology to include the entire nation.
I decried the tone of rhetoric in our society right now sometime back in another blog entry.
In my wildest imagination, I never would have guessed we’d be decrying that same socially unacceptable behavior on the floor of Congress!!!
Rep. Wilson’s behavior in no way besmirches the reputation of the vast majority of good Republicans in government.
Instead, until he extends and broadens his apology, his behavior besmirches us all.