My Take on the Joe Wilson Incident

In a nutshell, here is what I think about what Joe Wilson did and the aftermath of the incident:

(1) The propositional content of Wilson’s outburst is factually correct.  I do believe President Obama lies regularly.  With regard to this healthcare proposal, we all know what will happen if Congress fails (or, as has been the case so far, explicitly refuses) to insert language that prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving government-funded health insurance.  Government programs are like kudzu: if measures are not taken to contain them, they go all over the place.  I have difficulty believing that the President honestly believes otherwise, so all of his promises about illegals not being covered do appear to be misrepresentations of what he knows to be true.  Ergo, Joe Wilson was factually correct.

(2) Nevertheless, it is possible to be factually correct and still be in the wrong.  Joe Wilson is in the wrong.  There are times and places to criticize the President, but heckling him in the middle of a speech to Congress is unacceptable. 

(3) Wilson’s behavior since the incident offers me little encouragement about his own personal character.  On the one hand, he called the White House to apologize, but on the other hand, he is capitalizing on his new found fame as the voice of conservative anger.  He is trying to eat his cake and have it.  Mr. Wilson, a real apology entails an acknowledgement that you were in the wrong.  But if, after you have apologized to the President, you go around bowing to conservatives who are proud of your sinful incivility, then you obviously really don’t believe you were ever in the wrong.  You should either apologize or dig in your heels (and I would recommend the former).  It is a bit hypocritical to try to do both, depending on who is listening.

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