By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
On Tuesday, Rep. Alan Grayson decided to make some news.
As a backbench freshman Democratic member of Congress, representing Florida's 8th District, an Orlando-based swing district, Grayson's role is like that of most freshmen—to soak up experience, don't make waves, take care of his district and raise money for reelection. Instead, he went to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives and give a speech in which he charged, "The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick."
Anyone who has ever worked on Capitol Hill or a political campaign can tell you of a moment (or moments) when their boss has made an unfortunate, off-the-cuff remark they later had to apologize for or clarify. It's a bipartisan problem.
Grayson, however, made no errant comment. He meant what he said. It was the big finish of a speech to castigate Republicans on heathcare, complete with a sign that read "The Republican Health Care Plan: Die Quickly."
In other words, his remarks were written, they were thought-through and, on some level, they were vetted.
Coming so quickly after House Democrats demanded an apology on the House floor from South Carolina GOP Rep. Joe Wilson for yelling "You lie!" to President Barack Obama, Grayson's timing could not be worse.
But that wasn't the end of it.
Taking to the House floor yesterday, Grayson, again demonstrating the sarcastic comedic panache of a dramatic actor telling jokes on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (i.e., not much), told his colleagues, "I would like to apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."
After Wilson yelled, "You lie!" to President Barack Obama on the same House floor, the Democrats drew a line in the sand over what kind of rhetoric is acceptable there. Yet there seem to be two lines, or at least two standards; one for a Republican questioning the president's honesty and one for Alan Grayson. Indeed, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings on MSNBC's Morning Joe program yesterday declined to criticize Grayson's choice of words. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi, proving that a speaker need not be a leader, has thus far remained silent.
Grayson has yet to offer a sincere apology. Perhaps that's because he really believes the GOP wants Americans—that means you—to die, to do so on an expedited timetable and that our current healthcare system is reminiscent of the Holocaust.
If that's the case, stick to your guns, Congressman Grayson—and enjoy the rest of your first and last term in Congress before your constituents send you back home.