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Rep. Joe Wilson Apologizes for Outburst Update: Obama Accepts, Pelosi Says 'Move On'

12:27 PM, Sep 10, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson got plenty of press for an outburst during Obama's speech that came just as the president was assuring the audience that all the scary stuff they'd heard about the bill were lies.

Wilson got caught yelling "you lie" at the tail end of an applause burst, in response to Obama's assurances that illegal immigrants would not be covered by his health care reform plan. He apologized shortly after, releasing this statement:

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility."

The yell was inappropriate and rude, and Republicans would have been right to object to similar Democrat behavior (kind of like when Democrats booed Bush's SOTU in 2005). But it wasn't the end of the world, and didn't warrant nearly the wailing and gnashing of teeth one saw on the cable networks in post-speech coverage. As an unintended consequence, the media's excitement about bashing a Republican congressman may have stepped all over the message of the end of Obama's speech, which was him at his emotional, lofty, speechifying best.

Today, as Mark Hemingway notes, the media is obsessing about the political consequences of Joe Wilson's shout (and unfairly labeling him the Sheehan of the party) while not actually dealing with whether his accusation was true on substance.

The fact is, Wilson should have apologized for the outburst, but not necessarily for the sentiment. While the health care bill, as it's written, doesn't allow for money and services to go to illegal aliens, it also doesn't provide for a verification method for citizenship.

Gee, why would conservatives be concerned that a huge government entitlement program with no verification method might serve illegal immigrants? Perhaps because the Democratic president and party writing the plan have been using a figure of 47 million uninsured "Americans" to justify their giant new entitlement. That number mysteriously dropped to 30 million in Obama's speech last night. The consensus in the chattering classes was that many of the missing 17 million were likely illegal immigrants who have recently become problematic for use in pitching the plan.

Meanwhile leading liberal light Joe Klein wonders, "Hey, why shouldn't illegals be covered?" And, the HuffPo expert on Latino issues offers us the assurance that the bills "as I understand them" won't be serving illegals. Convinced?

Without an enforcement procedure, there is no prohibition on services for illegal immigrants. Much like when the administration's "end-of-life" counseling came to light, which Sarah Palin famously referred to as "death panels," the media and Left will denigrate the critic and ignore the underlying validity of the criticism (albeit indelicately made). But Palin's "death panels" column made the issue a national issue, and forced the Senate Finance Committee to remove the language from its version of the bill, shining light on the real issue, which is rationed care. Wilson's outburst may similarly shine light on the lack of enforcement in the health-care bill, ironically thanks to the copious media coverage and liberal high dudgeon meant to destroy him.

In the meantime, enjoy the richness of the spectacle of folks who spent the summer calling conservatives "political terrorists" for showing up at town halls, ostentatiously cherishing civility.