Rep. Alan Grayson is being criticized for comments he made about the Republican Party’s stance on health care reform. Given the context, however, his statements are no real cause for controversy.
Grayson, a Florida Democrat, was thrust into the spotlight during a televised speech in the House of Representatives Tuesday when he said the Republican’s approach to health care was, “‘Don’t get sick’ but if you do, ‘die quickly.'”
Republicans compared his comments to when R-S.C. Joe Wilson’s, who shouted “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s address to Congress. They called for Grayson’s apology Wednesday and prepared a resolution identical to the one passed against Wilson.
However, there is a clear distinction between the actions of Grayson and Wilson. While both were inflammatory, Grayson delivered his during his own speech – a prepared and scheduled presentation.
Wilson, however, interrupted Obama’s speech in an outburst similar to those in health care town hall meetings. While the content may be similar, the context makes the difference.
Wilson’s accusation violated both the basic level of respect that should be given to the president and the restraint that should be shown by a congressman.
Grayson did not cave in response to Republican criticism, and made more inflammatory comments Wednesday during another House speech. Grayson said thousands die each year because they lack health care and called upon Republicans and Democrats to pass reform.
“I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America,” he said.
In a letter to Andrew Rosenkranz, Florida regional director of the Jewish organization Anti-Defamation League, Grayson apologized for using the word “holocaust,” which sparked further criticism.
Grayson, who is Jewish, likely meant to use the word under a broader definition. He has not apologized for his “die quickly” comment, though.
While Grayson’s comments and refusal to apologize may be unusual for a Democrat, they are no more controversial than Republican rhetoric concerning health care, such as claims that the government will organize “death panels.”
North Carolina Rep. Virginia Fox has said to the House that the Democrats’ health care bill “will have seniors put to death at the hands of their own government.”
Grayson’s comments have more basis than that. While Republicans certainly don’t want people to die, they are opposing any health care reform, which could stop thousands of uninsured from dying.
Republican leaders have no basis for calling for Grayson’s apology. If anything, he is just beating them at their own game.