Rep. Joe Wilson has garnered headlines for shouting “You Lie!” when President Obama said last night that health care legislation would not cover illegal immigrants. A few scattered thoughts:
1) I understand Wilson’s temptation. I’ve been known to shout similar things at my television when Obama speaks, especially when the subject is health care.
2) On the merits, Obama is right that current legislation says that government benefits won’t be available to illegal immigrants, but since it doesn’t specify enforcement mechanisms, there is concern that people who managed to get into this country illegally and stay in this country illegally would figure out a way to collect benefits illegally.
3) If this were Britain, heckling the chief executive during remarks to the legislature is standard operating procedure.
4) This isn’t Britain, and in American politics the expectation is that the president gets to deliver his spiel to Congress while the opposition party sit on its hands.
5) With that said, in 2005, the Democrats loudly booed and hissed President Bush when he delivered his State of the Union address, prompting CBS White House Correspondent John Roberts to remark, “I’ve never heard the minority party shout at the president during the State of the Union address.” At the time, liberal Media Matters called out the media for suggesting it was unprecedented, noting that Republicans had done to the same thing to Clinton.
6) Whatever the case, two wrongs don’t make a right. By shouting as he did, Wilson made the undecided viewier more likely to side with Obama, it portrayed Republicans as being childish, and distracted from legitimate criticism of the speech.
7) All the media focus on the two-word shout of a little known Congressman on a night when the President gave a 50 minute address suggests to me that Obama didn’t make any news or deliver all that good of a speech.
UPDATE: Note change to “chief executive” from “head of state,” per comments.