In an interview broadcast yesterday, President Barack Obama called for an end to the "circus" atmosphere surrounding the healthcare debate, and said that he expected "a good healthcare bill" to pass through congress. Obama also indicated – for the second time – that he was ready to look past Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during a policy speech last week.
"Congressman Wilson shouting out during my joint sessions speech was a surprise not just to me, but I think a lot of his Republican colleagues who, you know, said that it wasn't appropriate," Obama said in a conversation with Steve Kroft of the CBS news program "60 Minutes." "He apologized afterwards, which I think I appreciated, and I've said so."
At the same time, Congressman Wilson – he of the "You Lie!" rejoinder – said that he will not apologize on the floor of the House of Representatives, which is contemplating a resolution admonishing Wilson. "I believe the American people know I’m a civil person," Wilson said to "Fox News Sunday" Chris Wallace. "I respect the institution of the House. I have apologized to the president. I believe that should be enough."
In recent days, Wilson has straddled a tenuous line: he's stood by his apology to Obama, while seeking to benefit from a wave of support from the Republican base.
“The supporters of the government takeover of healthcare and the liberals who want to give healthcare to illegals are using my opposition as an excuse to distract from the critical questions being raised about this poorly conceived plan,” Wilson said in a recent fundraising video. (Several journalistic fact-checking organizations, including factcheck.org and PolitiFact, have dismissed these claims.)
In his "60 Minutes" interview, Obama remarked on a general "coarsening of our political dialogue":
I mean, I still remember in the speech that I gave announcing that I was running for President. I said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable." And I think that the vast majority of the American people, that's exactly what they want. You know, they want people to be polite; they want people to listen to each other. They want people to engage in serious, vigorous debate, and passionate debate. But they want to make sure that it doesn't get personal.
Wilson won't apologize to Congress. Why should he?
Democrats in the House are demanding that Wilson apologize to the members of the chamber or face disciplinary action – something he said Sunday that he will not do. For a nation obsessed with apologies, his is but the latest example.
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