There was no smoke in the hallowed chamber of Congress where President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9, and no mirrors either. Just oak and marble; the sturdiest of those enduring elements that compose our greatest monuments to democracy. There were politicians too, of course. The chamber, in fact, was fraught with tension between the left and center where Democratic representatives sat and the increasingly small right where Republican representatives endured after weeks of lying to voters regarding the details of HR 3200, the House’s health reform legislation. So, you can imagine the chamber’s collective sigh of relief when Congressman Joe Wilson had the audacity to satire the uneasy situation as he poked fun at Republicans’ misinformation tactics by shouting “You lie!” to President Obama’s assertion that no illegal immigrant would be covered by HR 3200. Though it may have come off as boos on the radio and television because of poor chamber acoustics, the audience of Republican and Democratic senators and Republicans broke out in what could best be described as “bipartisan laughter.” Even Obama cooed at Wilson’s hilarity, sarcastically shooting him “the eye.” Wilson, in a self-deprecating wisecrack pretended he was actually unclear on Article 246 of the House Bill that reads: “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.” Now, Wilsons’ colleagues always knew him to be a prankster — he was renowned for making the most realistic sounding fart noises in Armed Services Committee meetings — but this was just too funny; he had outdone some of his most prolific Republican colleagues’ health care wisecracks in that most visible and well lit political arena.
In his overshadowed “rebuttal” (yes, the word tickled him, too) to Obama’s address, Senator John Thune regaled in a low alarmist tenor that Dems are insidiously trying to “force millions of Americans who currently enjoy their employer-based coverage into a new health care plan run by government bureaucrats.” Thune, of course, was poking fun at his own misled opposition to the American Recovery and Investment Act 2009 that reads, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Council to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.”
On July 23, jokers Rep. John Boehner, the House Minority Leader notable for roaring “Who yelled boner?” whenever his name is called for role call votes, and sidekick Thaddeus McCotter, Policy Committee Chairman, released a joint statement claiming that a bipartisan amendment to the House’s health care legislation that would give seniors more consultation regarding their living will, should they choose to accept it from their health care providers, “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law.”
There was a time when myths of “death panels” and “immigrant coverage” would originate from professional comedians and jesters on cheap news sources: fabricated behind plastic pundits’ desks, whispered into dusty microphones in claustrophobic radio stations or typed on dirty keyboard of geek bloggers in the Midwest. These dark corners of the country, designed to confuse and mislead, are where comedians like Joe Wilson and John Boehner belong. These are places with smoke and mirrors.