He yells the truth

By now, everyone should be familiar with Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R, SC) infamous exclamation during President Barack Obama’s address to the House of Representatives.  In case you missed it, here’s the gist: Obama said that the health care reform he supports would not cover illegal aliens living in the United States. Wilson apparently disagreed and thought the middle of Obama’s speech was the perfect time to say so. “You lie!” Wilson exclaimed, momentarily stunning the president and ruffling more than a few feathers in the House.Now everyone has been talking about the outburst — whether it was appropriate, professional and so on. But before we get into that discussion, I think we ought to ask: was Wilson right?  Is the health care bill actually going to provide coverage to illegal aliens in the United States?According to CNN.com, “the bill does not specify a citizenship verification system” in order to receive federal subsidies for health care.   This creates a possible loophole through which illegal immigrants could conceivably obtain federal health care.        So while the bill does not specifically state that it covers illegal aliens, there is certainly a possibility that it could do so unknowingly. That said, the question that remains is that of the timing and nature of Wilson’s criticism. Many members of Congress and the national media called for strict sanctions against Wilson, who had already apologized to the president.  Vice President Joe Biden said that the outburst “demeaned the institution (Congress).” Really, Joe?  I seem to remember an awful lot of booing and hissing coming from the democrats’ side of the room during former President George W. Bush’s speeches.  Wasn’t that demeaning to the institution?  People calling for Wilson’s head need to relax.  He yelled during a speech.  No big deal.  Obama’s a grown man, I’m sure he’s not losing any sleep.Not only was it just a two word exclamatory sentence, it was hardly the most demeaning act in the long history of the House or the Senate.  In 1856, during a heated debate over the expansion of slavery, southern Congressman Preston Brooks beat northern Congressman Charles Sumner to a pulp with a cane!    A little too far off in history?  How about 1922 when Sen. Porter McCumber (R, ND) grappled with Sen. Robinson (D, AR) over a tariff bill?  Luckily neither man possessed a cane, and they were both restrained before punches were thrown.  1922 not recent enough for you?  Just this year, members of Congress were tweeting during Obama’s State of the Union address.  Surely tweeting is far more demeaning than yelling, “You lie!”  At least Joe Wilson was listening.So let’s lay off Joe Wilson.  He may be a radical southerner who still wants the Confederate flag to fly high and proud over the South Carolina capitol, but the First Amendment still applies to him.      While his timing was imperfect, his statement wasn’t exactly wrong and it was hardly the most demeaning act ever perpetrated in the House of Representatives.