Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “you lie” during an address by President Obama when he recently spoke to a joint session of congress. Such an outburst challenges our standards of appropriate decorum and civility. Following the address Wilson called and offered an apology, it was accepted. That didn’t end the matter. House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) then updated the House Rules “primer”. The primer is not the rules; rather it provides guidelines as to what is appropriate and inappropriate to say in the House chamber. The primer now states members cannot call the president a liar, hypocrite, describe a presidential veto as cowardly, the president is intellectually dishonest, is giving aid and comfort to the enemy or refer to sexual misconduct on the president’s part. The primer suggests it is not in order in debate to engage in personality attacks. “Who would argue? Under the guidelines, you can call the president a “disgrace” and a “nitwit” but not a “liar” or allude to “sexual misconduct”. Wilson’s comment came when the President said illegal immigrants would not be eligible for federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under his plan. Those pushing healthcare “reform” claim their proposals prohibit illegals from getting assistance. The only bill we’d seen at the time of the President’s address was HB 3200. President Obama aggressively lobbied Congress to pass it and urged the American people to pressure their representatives to vote it into law. No language in HB 3200 prohibits illegals from receiving coverage. Title II, Section 202(a) of HB 3200 states, “all individuals are eligible to obtain coverage”. Such language does not appear to exclude anyone. If illegals were not intended to be covered why were amendments specifically worded to prohibit coverage for illegals voted down? Clean minded thinking makes the answer obvious. Is it any wonder the American public has so little respect, trust confidence in elected officials? The Supreme Court declared “political speech” does not have to be truthful and “political” lies are not legally actionable when spoken or written by elected officials or candidates for elected office. House guidelines prohibit pointing out lies, hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty and sexual misconduct in that chamber. The American public may be better served were House Rules to encourage members of Congress and all elected officials be chastised instead of protected when lies, hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty and sexual misconduct are at issue. To play the devil’s advocate, saying “you lie” is not the same as calling a person a liar. While this may sound Clintonesque in the case of Representative Wilson challenged a specific claim of the President, it was not a personal attack. While the timing may have been poor the President’s statement was factually incorrect and needed to be challenged. We should hold our political representatives to standards of factual truth. By contrast it is proper and appropriate to disagree on policy and philosophy differences and do so aggressively. However, pointing out when someone makes inaccurate statements, intentional or not, should be the hallmark of a free and vibrant political system. Attempting to stifle holding elected officials responsible for factually incorrect and misleading statements is the road to chaos and eventually the loss of liberty and freedom. Today our political class does not have the confidence of the American people. To a considerable degree it is because we no longer trust what they tell us. Regardless of political persuasion I would hope there is agreement that misleading, inaccurate and outright false claims should never be protected, tolerated or left uncorrected. Representative Wilson’s comment, as improper as its timing may have been, should have been a wake-up call. Instead of reworking House rules to protect misleading and inaccurate statements from being called out on the floor of the House it should have called our elected officials attention to the importance of accuracy, intellectual honesty and appropriate conduct. Robust political debate is healthy. Inaccurate and misleading statements should be pointed out as they are made and not let stand – even for a minute. How that is accomplished may be challenging. However, protecting inaccurate and misleading statements, intentional or not, challenges true liberty and freedom. It’s time we demand elected officials be truthful. It’s time, as citizens, we clearly distinguish between discussion of factual issues related to proposed laws and debates on policy and political philosophy. Until we do we can expect our political class to continue degenerating further into bickering and braying voices. One wonders where all the statesmen have gone.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS