Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe Wilson: Hero or Zero?

Everyone's talking about Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) today, because of this:

Was Wilson right to call Obama out as a liar? Yes, I definitely think so. Was it appropriate for him to do so in that context? Probably not. Hence, Wilson's apology afterwords.

This isn't the House of Commons. It was inappropriate for him to say what he said. Understandable? Absolutely. Appropriate? Probably not.

But was it fair for him to call Obama out as a liar? In a word, yes.

Obama had just called anyone who claims that "advisory" end-of-life commissions will lead to rationing end-of-life care liars. "This is a lie, plain and simple," were the President's words about that charge. Well, fair is fair. You're calling us liars when we speak the truth, Mr. President, we'll call you a liar when you speak untruths.

Take the claim that preceded Wilson's outburst, that the program Obama proposes won't insure illegal immigrants. It's literally true, but will become false in practice. Democrats have ensured this. Members of the House tried repeatedly to amend the health care reform bills in the House to require insurers to verify the citizenship of recipients of their aid. Those amendments were voted down on party-line votes every time. So, does any of the bills currently in Congress directly give health insurance to illegal immigrants? No. Will any of them end up giving health insurance to illegal immigrants? Almost certainly. Assuming the President isn't a moron, he has to know this. His assurances to the contrary in last night's speech were, then, lies.

So Rep. Wilson was right. Given the vituperatives the man was forced to endure from the President, his response was understandable. Given the President's penchant for pillorying his opponents and calling them liars, Wilson's response was fair. Given the setting, however, his remark was probably inappropriate.

So, is he a hero for calling the President out on his dishonesty, or a zero for trying to turn a Joint Session of Congress into the House of Commons?

To me, he's clearly a hero. I'd rather have a truth-teller who can't keep his mouth shut than a man who is so circumspect he becomes a milquetoast.

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