Bad behavior pays off. Just ask Joe Wilson, whose rude outburst during Obama's Health Care Reform Speech before a joint session of Congress catapulted the South Carolina Republican from back bencher to star buffoon.
Shouting, "You lie!" as the President noted that illegal aliens would not be given insurance under the proposed plan, gave Wilson headlines in papers across the country and sound bites on radio, while making him topic A on cable TV round tables and late night comedy's favorite punchline. He also scored spots on national cable shows and right wing webcasts. Not bad for a guy who before the blurt was so below the media radar, I doubt he was frequently featured on the local news in South Carolina.
Wilson's rash rudeness was so stunning, even GOP leaders called for an immediate apology. And later Wednesday evening he did so, calling the President. On camera, he publicly called his action regrettable and conceded, "emotions got the better of me."
For some, the tepid telephone apology is not enough. House Majority Whip James Clyburn ( also from South Carolina) has demanded an official apology on the floor of the House. Otherwise, Democrats are set to vote on a resolution of disapproval later this week. On Fox News Sunday Wilson categorically stated no such apology is forthcoming. " I have apologized to the President, " he said. " I believe that is sufficient." Obama, on 60 Minutes said he didn't want the Wilson issue to become " a big circus" and detract from the real work of reform.
The jury is still out on the political fallout. Some analysts say his seat is now "in play." But they said that about Michelle Bachmann's seat, too, after the wackadoodle Minnesota rep called for an investigation into the patriotism of all members of Congress. Her opponent did get an influx of cash, and probably more votes than he could have hoped for, but Bachmann's still in office and still spewing nonsense.
In the days since the incident, Wilson's Democratic opponent, Rob Miller has received $875,000. But Wilson's coffers, too, have been bloated to the tune of $700,000. A small poll found that 66 people are more likely to vote for Wilson since the outburtsm 59 less likely, while 20 remain indifferent. At Saturday's 9/12 protest rally in D.C., some folks were spotted waving signs and wearing t-shirts proclaiming, "Joe Wilson is my Hero."
Many liberal commentators and columnists can't circumvent the racist elephant in the middle of the room. On Fridays' Real Time, Bill Maher said, "I don't think he would have done that if a white man were president." He added that while it drives Repubs nuts, "I see subliminal signs of racism."
Former Bush advisor, Richard Clarke, concurred. "There are a lot of people and they're not just the 'Birthers,' there are people who used to be 'Birchers' and members of the KKK who want to delegitimize this president."
New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd and others have pointed out that Wilson, who once belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the controversial Confederate flag flying atop South Carolina's statehouse, and he shot down as a " smear" a black woman's true claim that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, stating the woman should have kept her identify secret(even after Thurmond's family publicly acknowledged her).
No one knows what's in Joe Wilson's heart. And to suggest everyone who disagrees with Obama's ideology and policies is racist is flat-out wrong and insulting. But the "Birthers" are riddled with racists; the "Deathers," too ( though some of these folks may just be ill-informed and/or unhinged). And the longer the GOP allows the shrill fringe to do their bidding, the less sincere their vows to seek tricky compromise and do the People's business seem.
Lost in all the talk about decorum, racism and political divide are the facts. Wilson was lying about Obama lying. Either that or he was misinformed. In the proposed plan it clearly states: " No one in the United States illegally will be eligible for insurance coverage." What part of that statement is so hard to decipher, Mr. Wilson? I'm not sure what's more egregious, a congressman who deliberately misuses the facts or one who is ignorant of them.
For now, the biggest loser in this latest cultural commotion might be that other guy whose name really isn't Joe. Move over Joe the Plumber. Meet the Fright Wing's new hero: the "gentleman" from South Carolina. Joe the Liar.
Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.