Joe Wilson is “passionate” about illegal immigrants

…So much so in fact that the Republican congressman from South Carolina yelled “lie” when President Obama made the following statement earlier tonight:

“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” President Obama said. [Link]

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p>Yelling at the President during a joint session of congress is pretty much unheard of. What is this the British Parliament? Even McCain condemned the outburst.

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p>There is fiction and there is truth. Here is FactCheck.org’s take:

The bill is designed to exclude those immigrants, though some Republicans have called for more explicit bans on funding for illegal immigrants and have claimed the bill will funnel money to illegal immigrants.

FactCheck.org described those claims as “false” and noted that one version of the legislation already includes an explicit bar on federal funding for illegal immigrants’ health care. [Link]

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p>Joe Wilson should be a familiar name to Indian Americans. He is the former co-chair of the House India Caucus. Here is an excerpt from a 2003 interview:

Q. One of the criticisms of the Caucus over the years has been that all members like to proudly declare how large the Caucus is whenever they attend some Indian American function, but when it comes to real tangibles, there are not more than a handful of members who are really committed and involved. Is this something you hope to change during your tenure in terms of resurrecting or to be more charitable, rejuvenating the Caucus?

A. It will be. In fact, on my election I had a number of members of Congress tell me that they wanted to become more involved. Over and over, I have had topnotch and very enthusiastic members of Congress tell me they want to become involved. We will be more active and again a reason that we are going to become more active is not just because of a change in leadership but because the Indian American population of the U.S. has become more active and better organized itself.

Q. Another criticism often leveled at the Caucus is that it tends to be more focused on the India part and not on the Indian American part. That the Caucus puts more emphasis on India in terms of India-related foreign policy issues without getting focused on domestic issues of concern to Indian Americans. Is this something you are going to balance out?

A. I am confident I can. The two parts of what I am trying to do is work within the Indian American population and then work in regard to relations with India. But you need to realize that most caucuses which are of a particular country — and we have them with virtually every major country in the world — most of them, if not all of them really focus on a relationship say between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, between the U.S. And Germany, Korea, Japan with minimum emphasis on the domestic population. [Link]

52 thoughts on “Joe Wilson is “passionate” about illegal immigrants

  1. Whether or not the bill excludes THE ILLEGALS, I’m sure glad that we can all get together at the end of the day and agree, bipartisan like, that it sure would be horrendous if we were to insure them. Yeehaw.

    I mean, it’s not like they do an ounce of work while they’re here anyway, why do they deserve our compassion?

    What? Oh.

  2. I hope the first commenter gets deleted – what are these people doing, just googling the guy’s name after the speech and commenting on all blogs that mention his name ??

    Aaaaaanyway – this guy was a total classless troglodyte with his outburst – especially when anyone who can read the provisions themselves know that illegal immigrants are specifically not covered. I understand you get upset and are ‘passionate’ but imagine the outcry if a Democrat had done this during a Bush speech ? Scares me as part of the overall shift in tone and ‘anger’ over someone trying to change / fix a broken system. Where was this passion when there was a real Big Brother system which was wiretapping, torturing, renditioning, etc ?? But I digress.

    But I can’t get over the Repub’s choice for the rebuttal – a Dr. with multiple malpractice suits, a birther, and someone who tried to buy a Lordship and got scammed. Great choice.

  3. Abhi – by the way – since this interview was in 2003 – did he follow up on his commitments – if so, how ?

  4. i think the ban on illegal immigarnts is a ruse. there’s no verification mechanism and dems have rejected amendments to require one and i doubt many repubs even care since its good for big biz. thats probably why they’re making joe wilson apologize. anyway, the guys been kinda unhinged ever since cheney outed his wife.

  5. “Yelling at the President during a joint session of congress is pretty much unheard of.”

    …when the president has been white.

    and this isn’t Joe Wilson of Valerie Plame scandalousness, I think.

  6. and this isn’t Joe Wilson of Valerie Plame scandalousness, I think.

    Yes, Manju knows. He is just yellowcaking things up a bit.

  7. i think the ban on illegal immigarnts is a ruse. there’s no verification mechanism and dems have rejected amendments to require one and i doubt many repubs even care since its good for big biz.

    I certainly hope it’s a ruse! However, given that the Congress was nearly ready to build a wall on the border with Mexico a la Israel and this Congress is more liberal but still pretty centre-right with the exception of the Progressive caucus and a few others and that they seem to have very little sympathy for working class people in general, I seriously doubt that a large number of undocumented people are going to be able to gain access to health insurance through this. Which, as noted above by ptr_vivek, is very unfair.

  8. Let me be the dissenting voice here. I think the American President (whether democrat or republican) is given way to much “respect.” He should be treated like Prime ministers are treated in other democracies (i.e. heckled, made fun of in the parliament, condemned to his/her face etc.). I actually would have loved it if democrats had the balls to call out Bush publicly (rather call him a war criminal), and to his face. The irony is that Republicans will get away with these outbursts, while I don’t think democrats could. My point is that everyone should be able to heckle the president.

  9. The Republican hostility to coverage for illegal immigrants is hypocritical because the business interests in that party (and also the Dems) want them here. If they were serious about employer verification they would have told the libertarian faction to stuff it when they raised ruckus over Natl ID (which receives as much opposition from the Repubs as La Raza). If they work here it is with the implicit approval of the govt., they should be able to avail themselves of these services. I’m against open borders/unchecked immigration, but this is about what’s fair

  10. I agree with @12 to some extent. Realized during the ‘cheney’-administration that the president’s office receives too much respect. The current administration has hardly reached the ‘achievements’ of the last administration. But I wouldn’t want the congress to dissolve into the chaos that Brit parliament and other democracies often end up (to extremes of head and chair smashing and name calling).

    Joe Wilson was continuing the tradition of the ‘Fox-inspired’ hecklers seen at all the health insurance debates. Shame on him.

    Illegal immigration is a tough issue, with both sides having a valid point. But (say) once an illegal immigrant (who poses no threat to security) is inside and faces an accident or falls terminally ill, wouldn’t we care for another human, or would we just care about borders ? Probably ‘doctors without borders’ ought to think about ‘people without borders’ too.

  11. I think the American President (whether democrat or republican) is given way to much “respect.” He should be treated like Prime ministers are treated in other democracies (i.e. heckled, made fun of in the parliament, condemned to his/her face etc.).

    Prime Ministers are the heads of government. Presidents are heads of state. Nobody in Parliament would dare to disrespect the Queen, and the President has much of the same kind of ceremonial authority. The rules about not levying personal attacks against the President were written by none other than the Founding Fathers themselves.

    The reason Parliaments have a lot of heckling is because they were designed initially as a pressure valve to give the unwashed rabble a voice lest they become too restive and revolt against the monarchy. The Senate and House, on the other hand, were specifically designed to be deliberative bodies. To that end, we actually let the minority party have a say in how the government is run in a way that Parliamentary systems do not.

  12. Illegal immigration is a tough issue, with both sides having a valid point. But (say) once an illegal immigrant (who poses no threat to security) is inside and faces an accident or falls terminally ill, wouldn’t we care for another human, or would we just care about borders ? Probably ‘doctors without borders’ ought to think about ‘people without borders’ too.

    They may be people w/o borders, but they are people with with Citizenship, just not US Citizenship. Sure, treat them — send the bill to Mexico or any other country that they belong to. If the country does not pay, take over the assets of the country (starting with the ones in the US).

    This would be humane as well as responsible (countries have a responsibility to their Citizens and vice-versa) , and would also serve as an incentive for the source country to take an interest in controlling illegal immigration. Just as long as the US is not left holding the bag – and everyone realizes that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

  13. To that end, we actually let the minority party have a say in how the government is run in a way that Parliamentary systems do not.

    You have to be more clear. Most parliamentary systems (outside U.K.) have coalition governments and such coalitions are often unstable. In practice therefore, ruling parties are always careful not to irk too many minority parties (kinda like presidential pandering to “blue dogs,” or “moderate” republicans).

  14. The rules about not levying personal attacks…

    Yoga, while I haven’t checked that one out, the Speech and Debate clause of the US Constitution does protect members of the Congress from being questioned outside, for anything they say in the chamber. While calling anyone a liar (or worse) is forbidden in British Parliament (it is unparliamentary), I am not sure if it would be a breach of privilege. The Congress has seen worse, as in May 1856, when Sen. Sumner (R-MA) accused Sen.Butler (D-KS) of having “the harlot, Slavery,” as his “mistress” during a two-day long speech in the course of a debate on slavery, and Sen.Butler responded at a time and place of his choosing. He walked into his opponent’s chamber the a few days later and wielding a walking cane thrashed Sen.Sumner!

  15. He walked into his opponent’s chamber the a few days later and wielding a walking cane thrashed Sen.Sumner!

    But not before asking the ladies in the chamber to excuse themselves.

    Because he was classy like that. He also implied Sen. Sumner’s stroke-victim father was a drooling retard in the middle of the chamber. I’m pretty sure he was censured for that.

    Most of the Congressional procedures are lifted from British Parliamentary ones with the Prez getting a little more respect as Head of State than a mere Prime Minister would. Here is a link.

    Until the 109th Congress, it was not in order to make certain references to the Senate or individual senators. However, at the beginning of that Congress, the House removed the prohibition on making references to the Senate, leaving only the requirement that debate be confined to the question under debate and avoid “personality.” The precedents of the House allow a wide latitude in criticism of the President, other executive officials, and the government itself. However, it is not permissible to use language that is personally offensive to the President, such as referring to him as a “hypocrite” or a “liar.” Similarly, it is not in order to refer to the President as “intellectually dishonest” or an action taken by the President as “cowardly.” References to the Vice President, in spite of his role as President of the Senate, are measured against the standard used for the President rather than prior standards used to govern the Senate.
  16. Jyotsana, Rudimentary googling — or actual knowledge — would improve your comments a great deal.

    1) Charles Sumner was a member of the House of Representatives, not a Senator, in 1856

    2) Andrew Butler was the Senator from South Carolina, not Kansas.

    2) Sumner insulted Butler, and others in his speech, but Butler hasd nothing to do with the assault. Representative Preston Brooks ambushed Sumner two days later in Congress, and nearly beat him to death. His pro-slavery buddy, Rep. Keitt, physically prevented other Congressman from helping Sumner.

    3) It wasn’t just a “thrashing”, Brooks beat Sumner nearly to death. It took Sumner 3 years to recover from the head injuries.

    As an aside, Brooks was hailed as a hero in the south. But he didn’t much like fair fights. He challenged Massachuesetts Congressman Anson Burlingame to a duel a few months later, but chickened out when Burlingame, an expert marksman, accepted.

  17. I wanted to add one more thing, re. respecting the queen etc. The same respect is accorded to presidents in india, precisely because figures such as these have almost nothing to do with electoral politics or public policy. But I still maintain that it is a bit anachronistic that a political figure like the president of the united states should be accorded the same level of “respect” reserved for ostensibly apolitical figures like the queen of england, the president of india, or monarchs in europe.

  18. But I still maintain that it is a bit anachronistic that a political figure like the president of the united states should be accorded the same level of “respect” reserved for ostensibly apolitical figures like the queen of england, the president of india, or monarchs in europe.

    How is it anachronistic? Just because other countries are okay with disrespecting their statesmen and public servants doesn’t mean we should go down the same path just to fit in.

  19. Why the hate? The Chicagoans have waited for 90 long years for Joe to say it ain’t so. It finally happens, and he has to apologize???

  20. Just because other countries are okay with disrespecting their statesmen and public servants doesn’t mean we should go down the same path just to fit in.

    I don’t see why the president deserves respect just because he is the president. It’s a separate matter that it is not productive for the people if politicians shout over each other rather than discuss civilly, but that is true for pretty much any debate. Many of the clowns in the House and the Senate certainly do not command respect by virtue of their actions.

  21. Can you imagine if one of the Democrats did this to Bush when he was actually lying about the iraq war? Hannity and Co. would be screaming at how traitorous the Democrat was. This is why the Democrats need to grow a pair and not just think that compromising with the repubs just for the sake of compromise will earn them courtesy points. I would only compromise if the Republicans can raise good points on a certain issue. Otherwise, ask them to go to hell.

  22. Ikram says, 1) Charles Sumner was a member of the House of Representatives, not a Senator, in 1856

    Sumner served in the Senate from 1851-74.

  23. I don’t see why the president deserves respect just because he is the president.

    We’ve been over this already.

    His or her role generally includes personifying the continuity and legitimacy of the state and exercising the political powers, functions and duties granted to the head of state in the country’s constitution and laws. In nation states the head of state is often thought of as the official “leader” of the nation.

    Irrespective of your feelings towards the man who holds the office, disrespecting the office disrespects the country.

  24. Joe should be invited for a few brewskis at the White House. All problems get will get sorted out.

  25. In Boston, we have a wonderful tunnel named after Mr. Sumner. He was a great man, and emblematic of the open-minded, egalitarian, and smart views of Boston.

    Regarding Obama and the Republicans: I truly feel that the Republicans are using coded-language and fear to try and cause harm to our president and other Democrats.

  26. This isn’t the first time Wilson has behaved intemperately:

    He objected vociferously when “Essie Mae Washington-Williams came forward with the bombshell that she was the illegitimate daughter of the recently-deceased patriarch of South Carolina politics, Sen. Strom Thurmond” saying “It’s a smear on the image that [Thurmond] has as a person of high integrity who has been so loyal to the people of South Carolina,” and also that nobody should say that Jefforson had sex with his slaves because that diminished a great American hero [link]

    And here he is flipping out at a democratic congressman and repeatedly calling him anti-American when the dem “suggested that in the 1980s, when U.S. officials sided with Iraq in its war against Iran, Saddam Hussein obtained biological and chemical weapons technology from the United States. “We gave it to him,” Filner asserted.” [link] [video]

    At this point Wilson’s democratic opponent has raised over $500,000 since the incident, so it seems that Wilson will bear some cost for his behavior.

  27. Why the hate? The Chicagoans have waited for 90 long years for Joe to say it ain’t so. It finally happens, and he has to apologize???

    The first one probably got less money to rig the game ;)

  28. The only two good things about Obama’s speech yesterday: 1) Obama’s call for malpractice reform 2) Obama’s support for a ban on public health care benefits for illegals.

    However, I wonder if the Pelosi-led Dem faction will allow these to be introduced into the final health bill.

    In reality, I think Obama was simply trying to garner support from the Republicans and yellow dogs

  29. Congressman Barney Frank has a different take on the issue, and with gentle contempt brushes aside the insult,

    On Rachel Maddow last night, Congressman Frank said

    I don‘t think it‘s a big deal. Look, I think free speech—you know, heckling is a tradition, obviously, in the British parliament. They even have mikes that come down to hear the heckles.

    And then goes for the money,

    I think what we should take it as—it is unusual—it‘s a sign of how effective the president was. These guys just couldn‘t handle it.

    And then comes the sixer

    So I would say what Wilson did was a mark of their frustration. And Barack Obama is a big boy. I think, I must say, to any Republicans particularly like Joe Wilson who want to get into a debate with Barack Obama is tugging on Superman‘s cape and pulling the Lone Ranger‘s mask. But if that‘s what he wants to do, free country.
  30. Joe Wilson is my senator, and boy does he love brown folk. It’s too bad he thinks we are all wealthy, religious, uber-conservative, profiteering individuals…

    BTW, he says hello to my middle class parents every year at the annual Irmo Okra Strut (national okra festival just outside of Columbia, SC)

  31. 1) Obama’s call for malpractice reform 2) Obama’s support for a ban on public health care benefits for illegals.

    this kind of innumeracy in terms of understanding actual contributions to the costs of healthcare in this country is why any meaningful reform has no hope of passing, and all we will get is a mishmash which will most likely make things worse for the middle class once employers start dropping coverage, and premiums go up in a manner that will not activate the deliberately poorly worded trigger for the public plan.

  32. Heck – the guy apologized after being told to by his party while still sticking to his side of the story – and then the next day Hannity and everyone is saying – “Way to go buddy!”

    Reminds me of when Cheney told a Democrat to go f*ck himself ON the Senate floor ! While it made a little news, he was never called out on it, or seriously apologized.

  33. Oh GOD. I couldn’t believe this. How does a yell or just a word comment during president speech is seen so low here in United States. I am really unable to believe this uproar throughout various communities (Media, blogs etc…). We poor mortals here in India have a very long way to go before we reach that position. I am really amazed to see how Joe Wilson had apologized immediately and how the president Obama had reacted to it. Very inspiring and truly applaudable.

    After seeing this, I really couldn’t believe that I am still living with the fact that we (me) are ruled by a bunch of crook Indian politicians. At least after the cash-for-votes scandal I really started hating and felt very miserable for our condition. Any comments by SM is welcome. Dharmachakra,Hyderabad

  34. First sentence of last post should say he ONLY apologized after being told to by his party – not on his own – nothing he should be patted on the back for.

  35. A couple of points:

    1) Heckling is allowed in the British House of Commons, but there are still lines that members may not cross. Specifically, one MP may not call another (including the PM) a “liar.” What Wilson did would have been outside the bounds of parliamentary behavior even in the UK.

    2) The problem with including enforcement provisions in the bill, pertaining to providing health services to illegal immigrants, is that those provisions often affect the wrong people. I was listening to NPR yesterday, and they mentioned the following case. Back in the 80s, when we as a country went through one of our periodic bouts of xenophobia, Congress passed a law requiring that Medicaid beneficiaries prove their citizenship in order to continue receiving benefits. Across the entire country, just a handful of ineligible people were kicked off the rolls — it turned out that not that many undocumented aliens were using Medicaid. On the other hand thousands of eligible citizens lost their benefits because they couldn’t provide adequate proof of citizenship. The law was scrapped just a few years later.

  36. …this kind of innumeracy in terms of understanding actual contributions to the costs of healthcare in this country

    Worse still is the belief that it is OK to have the world’s most expensive system that delivers the worst outcomes among the rich countries, and even worse outcomes than one poor country – Cuba.

  37. What Wilson did was vile, crude and disrespectful, but I have a question about the immigration debate. I am a legal immigrant (and generally a left-leaning liberal in most cases), but I don’t undertsand the view that illegal immigrants should get benefits of citizenship. They are here by subverting/defying the immigration/residency/citizenship laws, why should they not accept the consequences?

  38. At this point Wilson’s democratic opponent has raised over $500,000 since the incident, so it seems that Wilson will bear some cost for his behavior.

    Wilson hasn’t fared too badly

    With a political arms race in full force, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) has raised almost $750,000 in less than 48 hours since his shout of “You lie!” to President Obama during the Wednesday address to Congress, almost matching the Internet-fueled haul of his likely Democratic opponent.