Opposition/race edit - 09/18/09

Opposition isn't all about race

When it gets down to it, only God and Joe Wilson know what's in the South Carolina U.S. representative's heart.

But it is, to say the least, disingenuous to leap to the conclusion that Wilson's "You lie!" exclamation during President Barack Obama's health care reform speech last week before a joint session of Congress was based on the color of the president's skin as opposed to the president's health care reform plan.

Wilson had some basis for doubting Obama's assertion that no federal tax dollars would be spent on health care coverage for illegal immigrants. For one thing, House Democrats killed at least two attempts by Republicans to state clearly in the House Resolution 3200 that no federally funded health care benefits would be extended to those who are in the United States illegally. For another, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in its Aug. 25 report summary found that the Health Insurance Exchange in HR 3200 "does not contain any restrictions on noncitizens participating in the Exchange - whether the noncitizens are legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently. Nonetheless, only aliens who could be classified as resident aliens would be required under the bill to have health insurance."

Still, Wilson's outburst was uncalled for, absolutely disrespectful and an exhibition of embarrassingly poor taste. He did, however, promptly apologize to Obama for his rude action, and that should have been the end of it. This is especially true after Democrats collectively heckled President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in 2005 with loud boos and cat calls when he spoke about changes he wanted to see in the Social Security system, making the House vote Wednesday to rebuke Wilson for his action sanctimonious. The 240-179 vote was primarily along party lines, with seven Republicans voting for the resolution and a dozen Democrats voting against it. Five Democrats opted to vote "present," which means they didn't take a stand either way.

The time the House wasted on the rebuke was time that could have been better spent governing. For instance, House leadership could have spent that time checking into the abusive shenanigans going on with ACORN (the increasingly ironically named Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), where the latest scandal in the official national voter registration organization has been caught on tape. It involves advising people who they thought were engaged in prostitution to launder their money and hide that disqualifying situation so the undercover couple could illegally get federal housing benefits. The Census Bureau gained a great deal of credibility recently when it severed ties with ACORN, and the U.S. Senate was right to vote to ban the organization from HUD programs. As more and more illegal and unethical activity emerges from this group, it's clear there are too many questionable activities for ACORN to ever again be considered a legitimate organization worthy of public funding. A full-blown congressional investigation of ACORN is long overdue and the only conceivable reason why Congress hasn't already done this is political in nature - ACORN's strong pro-Democrat stance.

Obama, however, has taken a high road on the Wilson incident, accepting Wilson's apology and stating through his spokesman Wednesday that he doesn't believe race had anything to do with Wilson's outburst. Obama, while still young in political experience, has developed the political maturity that is lacking in even much more senior former presidents so that he can realize that disagreements can be had over his policies and decisions without race playing a role.

There are those white Americans who do not like Obama because he is African-American, just as there are many African Americans who did not like or vote for Obama's opponent last year, Sen. John McCain, simply because he was white.

But disagreeing with an elected official's decision or policy is a right all Americans should have. And expressing that disagreement - albeit we hope in a more civilized manner - should not earn you the label of racist.