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You lie

September 21, 2009

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
By this time most people know that Joe Wilson, congressman from South Carolina, shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to congress on September 9.

And most people know that our president was, in fact, lying.

Neither of those facts is the subject of this column – I swear – but they are germane, and the ugly way that Joe Wilson and Barack Obama combined to sully the honor and dignity of the nation that Wednesday evening is why this column begins with a verse from T.S. Eliot's "Preludes."

It’s depressing to watch the utter lack of morality of our political leadership, and the “infinitely suffering thing” in my mind is our democratic republic.

Here’s what Obama said that raised Wilson’s ire:
“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
That’s when Wilson called him a liar. Obama was momentarily off stride, but the Teleprompter-in-Chief doesn’t stop for anybody so he quickly got back to reading his prepared script:
“And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
Notice how that next sentence is also a lie – the healthcare bill as written covers abortions just like it covers illegal immigrants.

This follow-up lie hasn’t received much media coverage. Maybe that’s because Joe Wilson was too busy trying to crawl under his seat and taking furious phone calls from his momma to give another shout out, I don’t know.

We don’t need to debate whether the president lied. He admitted it. Two days after the speech the White House announced backing for a change in the legislation that would prevent illegals from using the government insurance exchange.

You don’t have to be a mental giant to understand that recommending a restriction on Friday means the restriction wasn’t there on Wednesday.

Right? Who doesn’t get that?

Incredibly, there are still people who don’t think the president lied. If you’re one of those people, I don’t know what to say except, “Enjoy your Kool-Aid.”

The day after the speech, Senator Baucus announced that the senate “would put in a proof of citizenship requirement to participate in the new health exchange.”

Gee, that’s a great idea, Mr. Baucus, but I have an awkward question for you: why would we need such a clause if the legislation already excludes illegal immigrants?

Let’s just call this the Okay-We-Admit-The-President-Lied-Last-Night clause.

Meanwhile, one of the main reasons Democrats can’t muster enough votes to pass their healthcare legislation is because there is a group of forty right-to-life Democrats, led by Bart Stupak from Michigan, who object to the fact that it covers abortions and uses taxpayer money to pay for them.

That’s forty members of congress from the president’s own party who wanted Joe Wilson to get out from under his chair and shout “You lie!” again, after the very next sentence of the speech.

Because they couldn’t say it themselves. Not to a president from their own party. That would look bad.

There is absolutely no doubt that what Joe Wilson did last Wednesday was wrong. When a congressman takes his oath of office, he agrees to abide by the rules and the rules don’t allow people to shout “You lie!” during speeches.

Let’s be honest: since most of the speeches given in that place are full of lies, it’s a good rule. People would go hoarse if they tried to shout “You lie!” every time they heard a lie in congress. So we’re talking about a safety concern.

Furthermore, we don’t want our legislature looking like the British parliament, where members shout down the prime minister every time he tries to talk to them and the only rule seems to be “no throwing things.”

Joe Wilson deserves his “rebuke” or whatever they called the punishment they gave him. I don’t have a problem with his being punished by the House… what I have a problem with is his apology to Obama and his refusal to apologize to congress.

The president lied – no ifs, ands, or buts about it – and because he lied doesn’t deserve an apology. Being the president doesn’t make you exempt from the standards of right and wrong, and by coming into a joint session of congress and lying through his teeth Obama abrogated any respect due his office.

What Wilson did in calling him a liar was break the rules of congress, and that’s where he refused to apologize.

He got it completely backward!

To many people Wilson is a hero for speaking truth to power, but all I see is another morally confused politician who bases his ethical decisions on the latest opinion poll. He apologized to the president when he thought he was in trouble, right after the speech, and then he hardened his stance when public opinion swung his way.

That doesn’t sound like a man with principles. That sounds like a man who cares more about getting reelected than what his momma taught him.

Here’s what I say to Joe Wilson: if you want to take credit for speaking truth to power, then you should be man enough to admit when you’re wrong. You broke the rules you swore to follow, and you profoundly embarrassed many of your congressional colleagues.

They deserve your apology.



From Reno, Nevada, USA

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