A congressman I knew almost nothing about just a few days ago, is the focus of a national firestorm. Why? Because during President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress on health care last week, after the president said that illegal aliens would not be covered, Rep. Joe Wilson said two words: "You lie."
For his part, Wilson apologized. The president accepted. Aren't those the two parties who were directly involved? Like two grown ups, they solved the problem.
So, why are we still talking about it?
As I said last week, I understand Wilson's frustration, but I didn't agree with the way in which he expressed it. And you know what? Neither did he — that's why he apologized. But now, even after the apology, the charges are not that Wilson was out of line, the charges are that he's a racist.
It's so ridiculous in America in 2009, in fact, that we a former president, who says if you are opposed to the president's health care you're a racist.
What's worse: liar, hypocrite or racist? We should ask Joe Wilson — who is now, by some bizarre definition, a bigot. But before we ask him, maybe we should ask ourselves: When did an accusation of someone telling a lie, have anything to do with the color of your skin?
The president himself denied that. So, again, why are we wasting time with this? Because, white people are stirring this up. People like Maureen Dowd and Jimmy Carter want to make this about black and white.
To give you an idea of some truly vicious and nasty accusations from American history, let's revisit the 1800 election presidential campaign between former best friends: Thomas Jefferson and the incumbent John Adams.
Of Jefferson it was said that he wanted to murder his opponents and burn churches. He was a "robber"; he "hated the Constitution" and always had and had pledged to subvert it. He was accused of "whoring" and many other truly ugly things.
Adams was called a "tyrant"; unpatriotic; a "repulsive pedant"; "gross hypocrite" in his private life; one of the most "egregious fools upon the continent." John Adams was also called a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."
Now, these were Founding Fathers — two of the greatest men this country has ever known. And we're getting this worked up over: "you lie"? By the way, Jefferson and Adams later moved past their differences and for the final 10 years of their lives, renewed their friendship, before dying an hour apart on the 50th anniversary of the nation they helped found.
In a country as large as America, it would be a miracle if there weren't individuals that see life and politics through the prism of color — and of course there is real prejudice. But the vast majority of Americans don't judge people by the color their skin. They are too busy working hard, raising a family, worried about their jobs and their future and the future of their country.
Let's remember what happened here: Barack Obama said there were myths surrounding his health care bill and everyone needed to know that no illegals would receive health care:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would ensure illegal immigrants. This too is false. The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Obama wasn't necessarily lying when he said this — apparently the health care bill will prevent illegal aliens from receiving federal money for subsidies. But we do know that the official research arm for Congress, the Congressional Research Service, also said: "H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on non-citzens — whether legally or illegally present or in the United States temporarily or permanently."
It's not like Wilson is saying he doesn't know the facts about the bill and making rash judgments. He's looked at it closely and he believes the effects are clear — as does the CRS.
So, is it more likely that Joe Wilson believed the president was misrepresenting the health care facts on illegal aliens or is it more logical to believe that Joe Wilson just doesn't like African-Americans?
If Joe Wilson would have surrounded himself with blatant racists, if he went to a church with a racist minister, if his policies were based on race and racial justice — maybe you could make that case being made.
It's like someone yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. If there's a fire, then we must know about it. When there isn't one, we should know about that too.
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So let's look at the person yelling "fire." It's not President Obama. After this incident Wilson apologized, Obama accepted and they moved on. But there are clearly people trying to make two rights into a wrong.
We must ask if there's an attempt to distract us from the issues, because too often the false accusations stop us from looking for real answers and from having an honest debate. They prevent us from focusing on the corruption and what really is happening in government.
Even Barney Frank admitted that he and his colleagues should focus on other more pressing matters. Well, Barney Frank and I finally agree: Mr. Frank, how about you focus on you and your colleagues and the surrounding political corruption.
It's something that all Republicans and Democrats, white and black, have in common: focus on corruption. I don't care about the color of your skin, I want to look at the content of your character.
So let's take a look. We could start with Charlie Rangel: How does someone who spends most of his life in public service amass such wealth that he can forget about $2.4 million and not declare it on his taxes; am I a racist for asking this question?
How do you do a full investigation into a mortgage scandal on Chris Dodd when you don't even subpoena the mortgage records involving the sweetheart deal from the bank? Chris Dodd says he didn't know about receiving any sweetheart deal — would I be a racist if I said to white guy Chris Dodd, "you lie"?
This is ridiculous. There's no credibility. It's almost like saying if a Harvard professor was arrested and the president said he didn't have all the facts but publicly proclaimed that the police acted stupidly.
I'm sorry, we have bigger fish to fry: Steroids in baseball, the NFL Patriots cheating scandal. Congress should spend its time looking into those treasonous sports scandals. Why isn't lacrosse bigger in America? Is it because the Huron Indians first introduced it to North Americans? Clear-cut racism.
Instead of looking at the race-based reasons for why Joe Wilson shouted "you lie" (because it would be crazy to think that a politician would actually lie to you), let's try looking at what these politicians are actually doing. It's not supposed to be about what sound-bite you can work to your advantage to save your dying health care bill.
It's supposed to be about the truth.
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