The big story today was supposed to be the speech that President Obama gave last night to a rare joint session of congress, outlining his vision of Health Care reform. And in fact, there was a great deal in that speech worth talking about today.
Talk radio and television pundits should be going on about how from a political standpoint, the Obama Administration called their critics out onto the carpet and , how from a policy standpoint tried to simultaneously embrace and back away from a public insurance option.
Bloggers and policy wonks should be opining at length about the economic risks of not reforming health care, and fact checking the President's claims that this all can be paid for without significant tax increases or adding to the deficit.
That SHOULD be the story today... But is it? Of course not! Instead, we are all talking about THIS moment...
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina apparently found the President's refuting of that cherished GOP talking point, a bit too much to take. So he blurted out; "You lie!" Much to the shock and embarrassment of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle. Including from his own party's 2008 Presidential Nominee:
Before I get into what happened next, it is worth taking a moment to answer the basic question in the room; Who was telling the truth? President Obama or Congressman Wilson? Does the Administration's health care proposal offer coverage to illegal immigrants? The Republican Party seems to think so, The GOP sent out an email earlier this month claiming that on "Page 50" of the Democratic proposal (bill HR:3200) supposedly says "All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services."
As with most things the Republicans claim these days, the problem is that’s simply not what the bill says at all.
The page in question includes "SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE," Which means you can't be denied care on the basis of your race, ethnicity, gender, age etc. So what page 50 does is prohibit discrimination it does NOT give health benefits to illegal immigrants any more than Voting Rights Act gives illegal immigrants the right to vote.
What the bill does explicitly say that illegal immigrants can’t get any government money to pay for health care. Page 143 states: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." And it is also worth pointing out, current law prohibits illegal immigrants from participating in government health care programs.
But as we have seen at recent "town hall" meetings across the country, facts and reality are not things the Republican Party likes to deal with. When the truth is clearly NOT on your side, it's much easier to just yell. Which brings us back to Congressman Wilson's verbal flatulence from last night.
It is interesting to see how even in 2009 seasoned politicians like Joe Wilson still have not figured out the power of the Internet. Within minutes of his outburst, Video, audio and still photos of the moment had gone viral. Bloggers and pundits (who really don't like talking about health care anyway, because it's boring and complicated), seized the moment like a lifeline to a drowning man. Bloggers instantly found out that Iraq War Vet Rob Miller is Wilson's likely 2010 election opponent. In minutes several national blogs had put up links to contribute to Miller's campaign. In less than 3 hours Rob Miller for congress took in over $100,000 dollars in individual contributions.
But the fun didn't stop there. Within 2 hours of his outburst, Congressmen Wilson's own website had crashed due to the massive amounts of negative emails being sent through his contact page there. I imagine it was at this point somebody finally got to the Congressman and said he needed to fix this and fix it NOW. Which resulted in the following statement released by Wilson through his office:
"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill," he said. "While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility."
To his credit, Wilson also called the White House to apologize. An apology which, this morning the President said he appreciated and accepted. Which is all fine and dandy, except for one thing. Joe Wilson didn't apologize for what he said, but rather how he said it. Wilson still isn't admitting that his assertion that the President of the United States was lying about coverage for illegal immigrants was in fact wrong. A point that MSNBC took on earlier today:
(I will now pause for the gasps of shock, horror and surprise that invariably follow that admission.... Feeling better? Ok, moving on...)
In that posting, I gave what was my primary reason for leaving the GOP, and what remains my main reason for staying away. For the Republican Party, truth, facts and reality are negotiable. If Republicans don't like the facts they simply ignore them. The party of emancipation, Eisenhower, Reagan and yes even George HW Bush, has been reduced to a mob of petulant children stomping their feet and shouting "Is Not!" to whatever fact doesn't suit their talking points.
Watching the Cirque du Stupid that is the Republican Party's response to our Health Care crisis, I am reminded of a scene from the movie "The American President". In the scene, the President calls out his critics for not wanting to solve any of the nation's problems, but rather just trying to make people afraid of change and tell them who they should blame for their problems. In 2009 life certainly is imitating art. For ten of the last twelve years, Joe Wilson's friends controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. During what was nearly a decade of Republican control of government the GOP did NOTHING about the Health Care crisis in the United States. Nada, Zip, Zilch.
Now having been sent packing to the electoral wilderness in 2008, the only thing Joe Wilson and his Party have to offer America are lessons in how to look reality in face and just yell at it.
I will give the last word on Congressman Joe Wilson (R-Stupid) to Keith Olbermann. His "Special Comment" tonight on MSNBC said it all...