Count me on the side of people who don't think Congressman Wilson's "You lie" outburst is a particularly big deal. I tend to think the pomp and circumstance of joint sessions is always a bit over-the-top. Once a year is acceptable to parade the
royalty cabinet into the House chambers, have the President make his State of the Union and lay out his agenda for the year, but last night was not a State of the Union speech.
It was an orchestrated political attack by the White House, Pelosi and Reid in the greater policy battle over government-controlled health care. The previous 30 health care speeches by the President didn't do the trick so they had to raise the volume and use a bigger stage -- and a setting that expects the audience to sit down and shut up regardless of what rhetoric, lies or unfounded accusations are hurled.
It may be arguable that Wilson's outburst will help the Democrats unite and thus was ill-advised, but this is a political battle against government control of 1/7th of the nation's economy. The Democrats' vision is very different than the Republicans'. Who wins this battle will have major consequences on our country's health care system. It won't always be a cotillion ball.
So pardon me if I don't join in the condemnation of Congressman Wilson.
Being lost on the media is the fact that less than twenty seconds before Congressman Wilson's outburst -- "appalling", "unacceptable", "egregious" and "embarrassing" according to an hour's worth of MSNBC -- the President called Sarah Palin a liar.
"Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. "
More enjoyable and odd is the inclusion of Joe Wilson's statement in the official transcript on the White House site.
[THE PRESIDENT:] There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)THE PRESIDENT: It's not true. 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. (Applause.)
According to the transcript, the President received 54 applauses and 1 boo.
I guess I shouldn't expect the White House transcript to include the gasps, eye-rolling, "what bill?" signs.