Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's the "liar," Mr. Wilson?

An overnight poll suggests that after President Barack Obama's speech to the US Congress last night about health care reform, about ⅔ of Americans now support at least the broad outlines of his proposals. As to the idea of a so-called government takeover, Obama suggested that at most 5% of Americans would be eligible for the "fall back" government plan -- that is, if there is even one at all.

In general, a principled and well thought out presentation. The result: Obama is proposing something that is not quite "pay or play" as in Massachusetts or Hawai'i, nor HMO "Plus" as in Minnesota -- somewhere in between. However, there was a very low moment when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC 2) yelled out, "You lie!" to Obama when the President made it clear that illegal immigrants would not qualify under his plan. And very interestingly, this interjection came just before Obama's next point in his script, that the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding of abortions (a law dating back to the Ford Administration and maintained under every President, Republican and Democrat, since then) would remain the law of the land.
Wilson later apologized to Obama, but that's not the point. When anyone has the floor, he or she has the floor and is entitled to be listened to. The time for argument comes when the arguer has his or her turn. Besides which, calling someone a liar is completely unparliamentary in any democracy even if it is the truth that it is a lie.
Needless to say, Wilson got rebuked by both sides of the aisle as he so deserved to be. Even Sen. John McCain, Obama's opponent last year (and some of whose ideas have now been incorporated into the Obama plan) said it was uncalled for. And Wilson's Democratic opponent in next year's election, Rob Miller, has already raised $100,000 in new contributions just the last twelve hours.
Personally, I would have waited for the speech to end then posted a rebuttal on my web page or YouTube -- then pointed to chapter and verse as to where the inconsistency was. In fact, by so interjecting, he may have given Obama the boost he needs to push the legislation through.
One last point: Obama noted that there is agreement on 80% of the principles. Why not pass legislation dealing with where the agreement is now, then hammer out a compromise on the rest by the end of the year? It would be far better than doing nothing at all. Every President since TR has tried something, anything, to have a greater public role for the government in terms of health care -- even if it's just a matter of regulating insurance premiums. Isn't 101 years long enough?

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Anonymous said...

I watched Obama's speech last evening and was so pleased he actually brought up the fear mongering by the Repugs and the extreme right wing thugs such as Beck, Hannity and Rush. I also noted the reactions of most of the Repugs. They, like our cons here, are not willing to compromise.

Obama is a such a fabulous & inspirational orator. I wish him much luck in finally changing their health care system. It likely will be far less than in other western democracies, but at least its a start.


PS, I always enjoy reading your blog

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I reckon the "You lie!" thing may well be a watershed moment in the uncivil healthcare debate. Sorta like when Joe McCarthy got the "Have you no decency?" slapdown. The OTT rhetoric just might get ratcheted down; especially, when the backlash to Wilson is so strong.

Of course, our own House o' Comments is hardly a model of decorum. Callin' another MP a liar is about the only thing that's off limits. Shouting down the one who legitimately has the floor is the norm for us "polite" Canajuns, eh?