WASHINGTON - House Democrats plan to formally reprimand Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, today for his outburst last week in which he accused President Obama of lying about proposed health care legislation.
The vote will resolve the issue in the House, but behind the incident some see a broader question: Is racism a factor in the way the president is being judged?
With two simple words - “You lie!’’ - shouted during Obama’s speech to Congress, Wilson helped escalate an issue that has been on a slow burn for weeks, especially among African Americans. Many suspect that some of the rancor at last month’s town hall meetings was fueled by the fact that a black man sits in the Oval Office.
Led by their most senior black lawmakers, House Democrats decided yesterday to hold the vote. A vote would reverse the initial sentiment voiced by the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, that it was time to “move on’’ to the policy debate on health-care. But the White House and Pelosi yielded to senior black Democrats, who argued that Wilson’s remark was a breach of conduct that must not be tolerated.
Wilson has refused to offer any apology beyond the private phone call he made Wednesday night to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In a show of defiance yesterday, the legislator was the first Republican to speak when the chamber opened for a round of brief speeches. Rather than apologizing, Wilson hailed the “patriots’’ who attended his August town halls and who opposed a “government takeover’’ of health care. -- WASHINGTON POST
But when Caroline Kennedy took the stage, suddenly the audience snapped to rapt attention. She said that her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who died last month and whose memoir “True Compass’’ hit bookstores yesterday, had asked her months earlier to speak at the convention.
She received huge applause as the surrogate of the Massachusetts Democrat, who was long a venerated favorite of the labor movement. A video showing excerpts of the late senator speaking to various labor groups drew a two-minute standing ovation.
“He believed every worker deserved to be treated fairly,’’ she said. “Day after day, Uncle Teddy stood with labor because it was the right thing to do.’’
She also drew huge applause in noting that her uncle’s favorite labor leader had long been John J. Sweeney, who is stepping down from the presidency of the organization after 14 years.
Sweeney made his own tribute to Kennedy, saying, “As long as there is a union movement in this country that cherishes a big heart and a generous spirit, that fights for what is just and compassionate and fair, Ted Kennedy will always be our senator.’’
President Obama is scheduled to speak to the labor group today. -- NEW YORK TIMES
“This was Teddy’s wish and desire,’’ Senator Christopher Dodd, Kennedy’s closest friend, said last week. John Kerry also sponsored the resolution.
John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy are the only three brothers to have served in the Senate. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS
After a week of speeches and rallies, the appearance Sunday on “60 Minutes,’’ the speech on Wall Street yesterday, and a rally in Maryland on Thursday, Obama is looking to do what would be a presidential first: sitting down for interviews on at least three of the Sunday morning news shows.
White House officials said that while nothing is certain, Obama may appear on “This Week’’ on ABC, “Meet the Press’’ on NBC, and “Face the Nation’’ on CBS.
The appearances would come at the end of a week in which the Senate Finance Committee will presumably have proposed its long-awaited version of a health care bill; the White House’s consideration of this idea suggests just how pivotal a time this is in the health care negotiations.
As of his seven-month in office mark in August, Obama had done 114 interviews, compared to 37 by George W. Bush and 41 by Bill Clinton at a similar point in their administrations, according to Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University in Maryland. -- NEW YORK TIMES