Appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said a Republican congressman's outburst during President Barack Obama's health care speech Wednesday night "demeaned the institution."
South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" during Mr. Obama's remarks.
After the speech, Rep. Wilson apologized for the incident. "This evening I let my emotions get the best of me," 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."
President Obama accepted the apology.
Rep. Wilson's outburst came after Obama said his nationalized health care plan would not cover illegal immigrants.
In fact, Nevada Rep. Dean Heller proposed an amendment this summer that specifically would have blocked illegal immigrants from receiving coverage. Democrats voted down that amendment. Why would they do that if they really intended illegal immigrants to be turned away from any so-called "public option"?
Some Democrats seemed reluctant to accept the apology and move on. "There'll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., when asked about possible punishment for Rep. Wilson.
Presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress are supposed to be dignified affairs, true enough. But did the Democrats now trying to stretch Rep. Wilson's momentary loss of restraint into a condemnation of his entire party sit respectful and silent during Mr. Obama's speech? They did not.
"Treating a joint session of Congress as a pep rally, with incessant, distracting, and plainly scripted ritual standing ovations, is also inappropriate," notes law professor Frederick Scauer of the University of Virginia.
"We're debating whether the GOP has a civility problem ... because one GOP congressman said 'You lie!' when the president spoke about a provision he himself had just removed from the bill Congress had last seen?" asks Roger Pilon, vice president of legal affairs for the Cato Institute. "Have we failed to notice that the president himself had just called the words of 'prominent politicians ... a lie, plain and simple'? Have we ... forgotten that Senator Harry Reid said 'President Bush is a liar' - and never apologized for it? Have we forgotten the vicious, unrelenting Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush throughout his presidency, or on Sarah Palin, extending even to her children?"
Yes, a return to some level of civility and decorum would be welcome. As would a return to telling the truth.