I just got off the phone with Rep. Tom Price, the Georgia congressman who heads the Republican Study Committee. Price called the president's last night address to a joint session of Congress a “classic campaign speech” with little new to offer. “He was clearly trying to bolster his folks to vote for a plan that the American people don't support,” Price said. “I think he probably helped his cause. I think it will be temporary. But I think he also thumbed his nose at the American people in not recognizing or even acknowledging their sincere concerns and fears and anger that they articulated over the month of August. It really was remarkable in its arrogance and its dismissive attitude toward anybody who disagrees with the president.”
I asked Price about Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's “You lie!” outburst during Obama's speech. “It's remarkably unfortunate that it happened,” Price said. “My sense is that Joe was just caught up in the moment and felt like he was watching television and had yelled at the TV so often when the president came on that he just blurted it out. It was terribly unfortunate. Joe is one of the nicest guys in the world and one of the most honorable and hardworking individuals in the House of Representatives.” Price said that it was “absolutely appropriate” that Wilson apologized to the president.
I asked whether Wilson's words had damaged the Republican side in the debate. (One GOP aide told me earlier today that Wilson's shouted accusation was “sucking the air out” of the Republican argument today.) “What it has done has drawn attention to the fact that the president's statements so often are at variance with the truth,” Price said. “As Ronald Reagan famously said, it's not that our friends on the left are ignorant, it's just that so much of what they know just isn't so. And that's the case with this leadership right now, or lack of leadership, on the other side. They say things that just aren't so, and that's what angers the American people.”
Wilson's outburst came after Obama had said that Republican charges about end-of-life counseling in some of the Democratic health care bills are “a lie, plain and simple.” The phrase didn't sit well with Price. “The president had an opportunity to elevate the level of the debate, and he didn't take that opportunity,” Price said. “Instead, he got down in the gutter with the partisan campaign speech to his own folks and really threatened anybody who doesn't agree with him. It was a remarkably arrogant display.”