Newest Hero To Some: Rep. Joe Wilson Who Yelled “You Lie” At Obama

asdfasdf.jpgAn appointment in L.A. for non-blogging business meant that I’d miss part of President Obama’s speech on health care but I knew I could catch at least some of it on the radio. Switching the dial, I heard always-lively conservative talker Mark Levin talking over Obama’s speech, making sarcastic negative comments throughout. So I switched to trusted news radio KNX for the unfiltered speech — but only heard part of it.

Then, when my business was through, I turned on the radio again and heard one talk show host talk with admiration about a man named Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina.

Who was this man who this host seemed to hold in such awe and esteem? What did he do that caused the host to seem so close to openly praising him, but just falling a tad short? What did he say that seemingly overshadowed some of Obama’s speech? Just what had I missed??

Wilson, this host said, was saying what he himself and others wanted to say. And, then, finally I learned: Wilson had shouted “You lie!” to President Barack Obama during Obama’s speech. Finally, I arrived home to check the weblogs and discover that to some writers Wilson is now the man of the hour.

Move over Joe the Plumber, you now have Wilson who injected in the usually respectful setting of a Presidential address some of what Joe the Plumber usually toils to remove.

It is truly hard to find a parallel in our history for another time when some partisans have begun to substitute such sheer, unadulterated hatred, resentment and emotional rage into a political process that has been known — and respected — around the world for its vigorous, spirited, and often aggressive opposition that (traditionally) operated within certain norms.

It’s as if a whole segment of America now needs to take Valerian Root — or Valium. Think about it: some now consider it actually admirable that a sitting member of Congress shouted “You lie!” in the middle of a Presidential speech. So much for the norms of a Presidential address to Congress..

Ironically. some of the folks who now consider Wilson an apparent political role model — probably someone they’d love to have their kids watch if he delivered a televised speech into classrooms — are among those who only a few years ago talked about Bush derangement syndrome and slapped that label on not just those truly deranged about Bush but on those simply critical of Bush.

The reaction to Obama on the part of some of his partisan foes is now making Bush derangement syndrome look like a hot and heavy Dawson’s Creek romance.

Here are the bottom lines:

1. The House and Senate have always had a certain decorum and there has been an institutional respect for Presidents who speak before it. You will find few instances of Presidents being heckled so bluntly and directly by an opposition member. And there is probably no precedent in the history of Congress where a member of Congress shouted out “You lie!” One LA talk show host tried to justify and rationalize it by talking lovingly of Britain’s tradition of the PM being grilled by shouting opposition members. Pure spin: Americans Senators and House members have never behaved in this manner towards any Presidents of either party.

2. Every day it seems the bar is being lowered on how some Americans address those who see things differently. You have to demonize and detest them; you can’t just assertively debate or challenge them.

3. Ben Smith, of The Politico — an online publication that can hardly be called a hotbed of socialism, liberalism, Marxism or part of the Obama spin machine — says Wilson was flat out WRONG (we won’t use the “l” word since Wilson believes what he shouted and most likely won’t let facts get in the way of his beliefs):

A loud voice from the Republican side of the hall answered, “You lie!” — my colleague Glenn Thrush reports it was Rep. Joe Wilson (R – S.C.) — drawing a second “It’s not true,” from Obama and a shake of Nancy Pelosi’s head.

The bill is designed to exclude those immigrants, though some Republicans have called for more explicit bans on funding for illegal immigrants and have claimed the bill will funnel money to illegal immigrants.

FactCheck.org described those claims as “false” and noted that one version of the legislation already includes an explicit bar on federal funding for illegal immigrants’ health care.

And — the way American politics operates — I fully expect to get emails demonizing FactCheck.org and The Politico.

But that’s the way it is now in American politics: the norms of even rough traditional American political battle are being cast off by some now as easily as a reptile casts off old skin.

Wilson shouted “You lie.”But some Americans most assuredly felt like shouting to him: “You embarrass.”

Meanwhlie, Wilson has apologized to Obama — but he’s now a hero in some quarters.

So look for Wilson to be a highly sought after guest and talking head now on Fox News and on Rush, Sean and Glenn’s shows.

If his political career sours, he’ll probably get his own TV or radio show (why not? It worked for Mark Foley..)

But if he appears on Levin’s show, don’t expect Levin to talk over him.

Here’s the You Tube of the incident:
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Here’s some more reaction:
Daphne Eviatar, The Washington Independent:

I guess Rep. “Joe” Wilson (R-S.C.) — actually, Addison Graves Wilson, Sr. — found out about that secret Democratic plot to provide all illegal immigrants with free health care.

What else could explain his outburst — “You Lie!” — during President

Obama’s speech on health care reform, responding to the president’s statement that “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally”?

Perhaps Wilson believes that illegal immigrants ought not get emergency medical treatment, which is the only medical benefit they might qualify for — when they show up in a hospital on the verge of death, for example.

Or maybe it’s just because Wilson’s last campaign was supported by the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC — a restrictionist group that supports deporting all illegal immigrants in the United States rather than offering any opportunities for legalization, or “amnesty.”

The New York Time’s Gail Collins:

Let me go out on a limb and say that it is not a good plan to heckle the president of the United States when he’s making a speech about replacing acrimony with civility….

Most of the Republicans listening to Barack Obama’s health care address Wednesday night followed the normal rule about sitting in stony silence while the president’s party leaps up and down in rapturous applause. But there were a few exceptions, notably Joe Wilson, a member of Congress from South Carolina who loudly called the president a liar.

This was when Obama said illegal immigrants would not be covered by health care reform. It seemed like a pretty tame remark for so much disrespect, given all the recent uproar over the president’s alleged ability to brainwash elementary school students.

You might have expected Wilson to hold his tongue and wait to see if Obama would yell “Marxism is a good thing!” and send the commerce committee racing off to give workers control over the means of production.

Newsweek’s The Gaggle blog:

No doubt emotions are often heated during these joint sessions with the president and members of Congress, but decorum typically rules—except for tonight, apparently. In an interview with CNN afterwards, Sen. John McCain trashed Wilson’s heckling and urged him to apologize. “Totally disrespectful,” McCain said. A little over an hour after the speech, Wilson did just that, issuing a statement of regret….

….Now’s he’s a trending topic on Twitter and Google and some critics are vowing to contribute money to his Democratic opponent in what already looks like a tough 2010 race. And for the record, Wilson was wrong: HR 3200, the health care bill under debate in the House, explicitly prohibits coverage for illegal immigrants.

One thing is for sure: Wilson’s outburst didn’t do the GOP any favors tonight, particularly against a backdrop of a speech in which Obama went after his critics to either put up or shut up on health care reform. It completely overshadowed the official Republican response to Obama’s speech.

The Nation:

The words “you lie” will live in infamy for Joe Wilson, the overheated Republican Congressman who shouted at President Obama during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Beyond criticism and a swift apology, the incident has already provided a fundraising bonanza for Wilson’s opponent, Rob Miller, a Democrat and Marine Corps veteran.

Miller raised over $50,000 in just a few hours after Wilson’s outburst, after activists and small donors flooded his page on ActBlue. Bloggers and readers at Daily Kos, a popular liberal blog, also used the site to instantly create a dedicated fundraising page highlighting the incident. The portal, titled “Defeating the man who yelled ‘liar’ at Obama: Goodbye Rep Joe Wilson,” has already raised $35,000 for Wilson from over 1,050 individual donors.

PREDICTION: In the way our politics now operates, expect some conservatives and talk show hosts to start raising money for Wilson now that progressives are raising money for his opponent.
A top Obama advisor responds with humor:

David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s chief advisors, responded to Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) outburst during the President’s address to Congress. Axelrod joked that he reluctantly accepted that Wilson will not be on board with the President’s plan

But perhaps the most perceptive commentary comes from Time Magazine — which says Wilson gave Obama an incredible gift. So we’ll quote that one here a bit more extensively:

Those words cut in politics. When directed at the President of the United States, during a prime time address to the nation no less, they cut deep.

So when Rep. Joe Wilson, a little known Republican and Army reserve veteran from South Carolina shouted them at the nation’s commander-in-chief on the night of Sept. 9, heads snapped. The House Chamber took a collective gasp. Nancy Pelosi, sitting behind Obama, tensed and scowled as if she had just witnessed a crime, her disgust unhidden.

Even Obama, who had just dismissed conservative claims that illegal immigrants would be able to take advantage of health-care reform, was taken aback. He looked to his left, adjusted his arm, part nervous twitch, part macho posturing, and shot back at Wilson, “That’s not true.” And there, for a moment, the nation watched two men, elected to lead, call each other the worst thing in politics — dishonorable deceivers.

At the moment Wilson exploded, the outburst seemed like an assault on the President. Soon afterwards, it was clear that it had been a gift. Wilson had, in an emotional expression, proven Obama’s point: the summer of town halls had been less a discussion than a circus, a forum where misinformation was vindicated by passion, where disrespect was elevated as a virtue. Now the circus had come inside Congress.

May I use a word I seldom use?

“DITTO.”

UPDATE: The Washington Post’s Dana Milibank says Wilson was not the only Republican who behaved badly — that it was not the party’s finest hour. Read it in full. He has this tidbit at the end

An incensed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel went up to GOP Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) to complain about the outburst. “No president has ever had that happen,” Emanuel said. “My advice is he apologize immediately. You know my number.”

Wilson did as Emanuel advised. After all that shouting, it’s a wonder he wasn’t too hoarse to place the call.

Fourth Bottom Line: This will play well with the GOP’s talk radio political culture base (which the LA Times Tim Rutten now also expands to talk radio and Internet) but it won’t play well with many Americans, including many thoughtful Republicans who are not part of the talk radio political culture GOP wing.

         

114 Comments

  1. It's probably just better to read the bill itself. What SteveK said about what's in the bill is true, and it's easily looked up, but I don't know that everything OBAMA said was true.

    The best, most detailed write up I've seen that's in plain language and easiest to understand was on FactCheck.org and addressed several points of a chain email that were incorrect. And they were able to do so line by line in the legislation:
    http://wordpress.asc.upenn.edu/2009/08/twenty-s

    I'll warn you that it's VERY long.

  2. To be honest, what he's describing and what's in the bill is actually a miniature version of the plan that he and Congress currently uses. If you go onto the FEHBP website, you can see a very visual representation of what he's talking about.

  3. According to what I'm reading, it gradually takes effect over the course of four years and will be fully available at that time. The first year will allow individuals and small businesses with fewer than 10 employees to opt in. The limit goes up from there.

  4. “You said that they would be able to purchase an inexpensive plan and I was wondering how you thought that was going to happen.”

    I’m scratching my head about that one too. If private insurers will salivate at the opportunity to compete for millions of new customers, why aren’t they competing for them already? Are there regulations in place preventing them from doing so which Mr. Obama is proposing to drop? I would have welcomed more specifics from him here.

    Or if a government-run insurer is going to offer them a sweeter deal than the private sector, how can it do so? Surely the president isn’t prevaricating about the public option being self supporting. Even imagining it can operate without the 5% profit and 10% overhead of the private sector, that’s still only a 15% savings. My impression is the uninsured are not priced out of the market by only 15%; surely in many cases it’s more like 100% or 300%.

    I’m disappointed we heard more vision-of-a-plan than actual-plan last night. It leaves us still trying to debate these possibilities and speculations about what the actual plan is. And it’s disappointing from the former presidential candidate who was prepared to take on the corporate lobbyists and the unions and the other special interest groups hamstringing the government.

  5. Steve, I was simply responding to something you wrote earlier in the thread. I'm not claiming that this situation would be any worse for the people in that situation under the proposed plan, but you said that they would be able to purchase an inexpensive plan and I was wondering how you thought that was going to happen. It goes against everything that is being argued for why we need this plan to begin with, since the proponents of it keep saying that only the public option will force insurers to start lowering their prices and 'keep them honest'. You seemed to now be arguing that as soon as this bill passes, low cost plans will be available, and I challenged you to show why you would think that would happen.

    And yes, I do realize what Obama said about anyone who criticizes the plans- and that his supporters will now use that line to avoid any real debate about whether or not the plans will be effective.

  6. comment read

  7. “You said that they would be able to purchase an inexpensive plan and I was wondering how you thought that was going to happen.”

    I'm scratching my head about that one too. If private insurers will salivate at the opportunity to compete for millions of new customers, why aren't they competing for them already? Are there regulations in place preventing them from doing so which Mr. Obama is proposing to drop? I would have welcomed more specifics from him here.

    Or if a government-run insurer is going to offer them a sweeter deal than the private sector, how can it do so? Surely the president isn't prevaricating about the public option being self supporting. Even imagining it can operate without the 5% profit and 10% overhead of the private sector, that's still only a 15% savings. My impression is the uninsured are not priced out of the market by only 15%; surely in many cases it's more like 100% or 300%.

    I'm disappointed we heard more vision-of-a-plan than actual-plan last night. It leaves us still trying to debate these possibilities and speculations about what the actual plan is. And it's disappointing from the former presidential candidate who was prepared to take on the corporate lobbyists and the unions and the other special interest groups hamstringing the government and make the hard choices.

  8. “Reproductive services covered, yes; however you seem to overlook that the same exact amendment also 'prohibits …'”

    Did you read the entire amendment? It's an abortion loophole. This (hot political) issue is far from dead.

    In addition to the link I provided originally (several days ago), you can look here, too. It's a live issue…

    http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Med

  9. “I'm disappointed we heard more vision-of-a-plan than actual-plan last night.”

    Are you surprised, though, that (as usual) crucial details and the truth were omitted in favor of appeals to the emotions of those susceptible to such an overt approach?

  10. Some updated Polling data, looked like Obama helped his cause, at least temporarily with his speech.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/09/11/politic

    Last week, just 40 percent of these adults approved of how the president was handling health care. More, 47 percent, disapproved. After the speech, 52 percent said they approved and only 38 percent said they disapproved. Those are the best assessments for Mr. Obama's handling of health care shown all year by CBS News Polls.

    President Obama's speech was particularly successful in unifying Democrats. Now, 85 percent of them approve of his handling of health care.

    Approval rates also rose among independents and Republicans, but independents are still divided and only 17 percent of Republicans approve of the president's health care actions.

    However, a majority of all adults still aren't sure he has met one important goal; clarifying what reforms would mean — although there has been major improvement. Before the speech, just 33 percent said Mr. Obama had clearly explained his plans for reform. That rose to 42 percent afterward, but 43 percent still said he had not clearly explained his plans.

    All of the improvement on this question came from those who watched the speech. A majority of those who watched the speech, 58 percent, said the president had explained his plans, up from 40 percent before the speech. But among those who didn't watch, only one in four now say he has explained his plans — the same percentage as before the speech.

    Still, most Americans remain skeptical about how reforms currently under consideration in Congress would affect them personally. Just 22 percent of Americans think the reforms under consideration in Congress would help them personally. Twenty-seven percent think the new plans would hurt them. Those numbers have hardly changed at all since last week.

    So in short he raised his support but it doesn't appear very strong, since only 22 percent of those polled thing they themselves will be better off. Still he got above the 50% mark as far as approval of how he was handling things and that has to be a plus. I think that number may well come down again when he puts his plan on paper and folks get to look at the actual proposal behind the speech, the devil is in the details.

  11. I missed this earlier

    Three words… It was redundant.

    Actually it isn't.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/stateme

    So let's recap. There is explicit language in the House bill that says illegal immigrants should not receive the subsidized benefits. But we find the Republican conference is right that the legislation does not directly mention verification procedures and, for that reason, it's possible that illegal immigrants who are determined to beat the system might be able to get around the ban. But it's likely that the IRS would, at least indirectly, help to police that. And, the health choices commissioner would have the authority to set up a verification system. On balance, we rate the Republican claim Half True.

    So you see its possible for illegals to beat the system and this amendment would have helped to defeat that, but the Democrats stopped the amendment.

    Anyhow thanks for replying, and sorry i didn't notice it earlier. Its a long reply list.

  12. Certainly… Here's a link to “Full Text: Obama's Health Reform Speech” the link also has a “listen” link on the page.

    The speech should be a must read/must hear for everyone on every side of this debate… It's kind of hard arguing about something you don't know

    Agreed everyone should have read or listened to the speech.

    One interesting thing about it is it killed HR. 3200 pretty much. By publically promising that any plan needed to be deficit neutral and with the CBOs report on 3200 it fails to meet the criteria Obama laid out. There is no way he can support that legislation and not be a liar. Unless he pulls another FISA/warrantless wiretapping or no lobbyist style switcheroo, there is no way he can support it, or at least no way he can support it and have any credibility left at all.

  13. “One interesting thing about it is it killed HR. 3200 pretty much.”

    He gave support again to 3200 in the address. He supports the public option, the core of that bill, as well as wanting prompt federal expansion of another kind, too (the high-risk pool).

    “By publically promising that any plan needed to be deficit neutral “

    How many believe, or should have been expected to believe, this and other misstatements, especially in the context of record deficits and debts (and other misstatements before this address)?

  14. “he raised his support but it doesn't appear very strong”

    He did okay with the speech. There was a handful of useful items in it, if you filtered through the BS. He clarified and put the health care effort in better shape than it was in before the address(!). Now it's up to what his team and the Congressional Dems do (the deeds matter to many of us more than words).

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