DEMOCRATS in the House of Representatives, with the support of only a handful of Republicans this week voted to formally rebuke Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) for shouting, "You lie!" during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9. Mr. Wilson's outburst came after the President said illegal immigrants were not included in his health-care plan.
This was a mistake.
Mr. Wilson was rude, as he said in his apology later that night: "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," he said. "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 President accepted Mr. Wilson's apology. If the House Democratic leadership had brains, they would have done the same. Pursuing this vendetta will hurt them for two reasons. First: The President was deceptive, as the White House all but admitted when it issued a "clarification" of what the President had said.
The House version of the Obamacare bill has language that would deny government-provided health insurance to illegal immigrants. But the same bill has language that forbids health-care providers from checking immigration status, rendering the ban unenforceable.
When Rep. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) offered an amendment to require this, Democrats defeated it. Democrats voted down another amendment that would have required verification of eligibility for expanded Medicaid. This suggests the illegal-immigrant language in the bill was camouflage.
In its clarification, the White House said the system would be used to check eligibility for Obamacare. Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said the enforcement language would be added to the bill's Senate version.
Associated Press fact-checkers Calvin Woodward and Erica Werner said the President misrepresented the situation when he said, "Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have."
The AP said that's true, but noted that "the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health-care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016, some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it."
And when Mr. Obama said making insurance firms pay for preventive care would save money?
The AP: "Studies have shown that much preventive care - particularly the tests like the ones Obama mentions - actually costs money instead of saving it. That's because detecting acute diseases like breast cancer involves testing many people who would never end up developing the disease."
The President's tearjerker tales were distorted too, according to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Scott Harrington, a professor of health-care management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
Mr. Obama said an Illinois man "lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy," and "died because of it." The man's sister said the coverage was reinstated, albeit after the Illinois attorney general intervened. But her brother had a transplant that extended his life by more than three years.
The reprimand of Mr. Wilson focuses more attention on what the President said and how it diverges from the truth. People are more likely to be upset that the President lied than that Mr. Wilson was rude in pointing that out.
The censure effort also highlights Democrats' hypocrisy. There was no effort to censure those Democratic members of Congress who booed and made catcalls during President Bush's state of the union speeches in 2004 and 2005.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org