September 15th, 2009
05:30 AM ET
5 years ago

Wilson supporters to House Democrats: Bring it on

Wilson used a Web video last week to raise money after being criticized by Democrats.
Wilson used a Web video last week to raise money after being criticized by Democrats.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – As House Democrats march forward with plans to formally reprimand Republican Joe Wilson for calling President Obama a liar during last week's joint address to Congress, Wilson's supporters back home in South Carolina have a straightforward response: Bring it on.

"I hope they do it," said Rich Bolen, who chairs the Republican Party in Lexington County, where Wilson lives. "The longer this story stays alive, the better it is for the conservative point of view. It means the Democrats aren't talking about health care and moving the ball forward. They're giving Wilson a ton of traction."

After Wilson rejected calls from Democrats to apologize on the floor of the House for his outburst, House leadership moved ahead with plans to vote Tuesday on a "resolution of disapproval" against the congressman.

But Wilson's supporters in South Carolina are hardly running from the resolution - they're embracing it.

GOP campaign operatives in the state argue that the vote will give Wilson yet another chance to raise money and rally party activists ahead of next year's election in the conservative-leaning 2nd Congressional District, which hasn't voted for a Democrat in 46 years.

Other politicians in the state are already sensing a chance to appeal to the Republican base by coming to Wilson's defense. South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett, who is running for governor next year and faces a crowded Republican primary, sent a letter to President Obama late Monday asking him to prevent House Democrats from taking action on Wilson.

"If the national Democrats want to make Joe Wilson a focal point, I can't imagine them doing a bigger favor for Joe Wilson," noted Richard Quinn, Wilson's Columbia-based political consultant. Quinn said if Tuesday's vote is successful, it will turn Wilson into "a martyr."

Both Wilson and his Democratic challenger Rob Miller have raised more than $1 million since the normally reserved congressman shouted "You lie!" at the president last Wednesday - a cash bonanza that will have both candidates on the airwaves and in mailboxes late into next year's campaign.

But several South Carolina Republicans said Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic allies in Congress are keeping the issue alive at their own expense, and at the expense of Miller, who isn't likely to embrace the polarizing House Speaker next year while running for Congress in a Republican-leaning district.

According to an Associated Press poll released last week, approval of Congress remains abysmally low. Just 28 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, while 69 percent disapprove.

"If one of the most unpopular politicians in Washington and her record low approval-rating colleagues want to come out against Joe Wilson, Joe ought to smile warmly and say, 'Yes ma'am,'" said Robert Cahaly, an Atlanta-based GOP strategist who works frequently in South Carolina.

Katon Dawson, the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican party, said Democrats will "secure Wilson's seat for the next two years" if they approve Tuesday's resolution. He said Wilson should welcome the resolution as an opportunity to nationalize the race by running against the "arrogant" Democratic leadership in Congress and forcing Miller to take positions on unpopular national issues.

"I think it would be a tremendous asset to Joe Wilson's re-elect for the Congress to try to censure him or do something to him," Dawson said. "I find it hilarious that they're spending so much time on him."

Top Democrats in the state, however, warned Republicans against being so self-assured, especially since Wilson's outburst turned his little-known Democratic rival into a well-funded challenger in a matter of days.

Miller has raised more than $1.5 million dollars in just five days, a substantial improvement from his last campaign. In 2008, Miller raised roughly $400,000 and gave himself another $235,000, but still managed to come within eight points of Wilson.

Dick Harpootlian, the former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said "the crazy folks, the right wing folks" are already in Wilson's camp, House resolution or not. He said Wilson needs to worry about independent voters instead.

"It's another crazy piece of conduct from a Republican in this state," he said. "I think the independent voter out there is saying, 'What the hell? Why is this guy screaming at the President of the United States?'"

Still, Harpootlian said House Democrats need to be cautious during Tuesday's vote. Any effort to punish Wilson, he said, must be done "in a somber, respectful way, instead of a gleeful crucifixion."

Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, doubted that the resolution would have any sweeping impact on the 2010 race beyond rallying the party faithful. If House Democrats succeed in passing the resolution against Wilson, he said, the Republican would "wear that among his supporters as a badge of honor."

"If there’s any kind of censure vote, he will print that in his fundraising letters, mark my word," Huffmon said.


Filed under: Joe Wilson • Rob Miller • South Carolina
soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. T'SAH from Virginia

    YEP – Bring it On!! "The longer this story stays alive, the better it is for the conservative point of view. It means the Democrats aren't talking about health care and moving the ball forward."

    What makes you think Democrats cannot chew gum and walk at the same time!!!! Also, how can you be FOR Wilson apologizing when it first happened and NOW, against him apologizing on the floor??? His apology was FAKE in the first place so that proves that the REPUGS truly have no values!!

    Miller is going to BEAT Wilson because there are MORE people who find Wilson's outburst uncalled for then there are people who find his outburst was RIGHT!!

    September 15, 2009 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  2. victim of republican greed

    Why is it that South Carolina always fires the first shot in dividing our great country. They did it in 1861 and again in 2009.

    September 15, 2009 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  3. MJH

    Pelosi gets up on her high horse re Wilson ( who has already apologized to the President) but keeps a low profile on serial crooks like Charlie Rangel and her buddy John Murtha. What a double standard!

    September 15, 2009 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  4. BBB

    As much as I totally disapprove of Wilson's behavior. I think that there are more important things for the Congress to be focusing on then a resolution that is merely a reprimand. From what I understand from the news this morning, this resolution (or whatever they are calling it) does nothing but waste time and perpetuate the limelight of a man's total disregard for protocol and respect for the office.

    September 15, 2009 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  5. Ryan Wing

    Democrats need to stop playing victims and fix health care. Come on guys.

    September 15, 2009 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  6. ChubbJack

    Is this what the GOP has come to?

    The outburst by Sen. Wilson should be repremanded, plain and simple. As a matter of fact, the entire GOP should face civil repremand. It was the majority GOP White House, Senate, and House of Representatives that got America into the mess it faces today. Now after not funding two wars, not funding tax breaks for the rich and wealthy, and basically no financial discipline creating significant debt the GOP wants to cry overspending? Not only that, the GOP has been supporting tea party rallies and similar events. Then the GOP does not have enough guts to admit to their envolvement. The GOP is adding to the racial tention that we all are witnessing from governmental protestors. Repremand? Yes, absolutely.

    September 15, 2009 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  7. bill

    what planet are these wilson suppoters on most of the time.this guy needs impeached.NEVER HAS THERE BEEN SUCH A DISGRACEFUL OUTBURST AT A PRESIDENTAL SPEECH.

    September 15, 2009 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  8. Boycott FAUX NEWS!!!

    Republicans are disgusting! They care nothing for this country, can't stand the fact that we have an intelligent and wise black man as President and are for the rich only. You truly have to be lacking brain cells to call yourself a republican these days.

    September 15, 2009 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  9. Justen

    He called Obama a liar? OMG!!!

    big deal.

    September 15, 2009 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  10. victim of republican greed

    Rush said that two million would participate in the anti Obama rally in DC this past weekend. The 60,000 there is no where near the 2 million present at Obama's inauguration, or even those in the Million Man March. I am beginning to think that the Rushies, Beckerheads, and Hannity's Insanities are a small fringe of the right wing nuts.

    September 15, 2009 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  11. Vote out all republicans!

    I donated $50 to his opponent already, I see another $50 donation real soon.

    September 15, 2009 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  12. IndyVoter

    BOTTOM LINE: If you break the rules, you pay the penalty or whatever "plea bargain" is offered. You do not make up your own rules...."Oh, I'm sorry I stole from you. I apologize...but I don't want to go to jail or court. My apology should be enough." or "I'm sorry that I yelled at the CEO of the company. I know the policy is that I can be terminated for any or no reason at all, but my apology should be enough, I will fight any attempt to fire or discipline me."...We learn in kindergarten that saying sorry doesn't always erase the consequences that come with our actions. Therefore, THINK, before you speak, else deal with the consequences that come what you say. PERIOD!

    September 15, 2009 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  13. ER

    Look out Dems – You are going to be getting a dose of your own medicine that you're going to find very tough to swallow in the years to come. Keep setting these crybaby precedents and you will be scoured for every negative word you say from here to eternity. You can dish it out but you can't take it!

    September 15, 2009 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  14. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    The party of NO is still as ignorant and arrogant as ever!

    September 15, 2009 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  15. John Des Plaines IL

    No matter what is thought of this President or any future President you simply CANNOT yell at the President in this setting. It is unacceptable for any reason to disgrace the office of President, either by the sitting President themself or anyone surrounding same. If the Republican Party leaders cannot see this simple truth than I will never be able to support the Republican Party ever again. If you don't see that this is wrong than you are simply blind to reality. Try yelling "you lie" at your CEO during a meeting and see what happens to you. I will not support the win at all cost attitude the Republican Party has adopted and this may be our parting for good.

    September 15, 2009 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  16. Michael I Hastings Minnesota

    The current so called conservitives are doing any thing in there power to divide the country and to stir up anger based on lies – you can truly see the GOP agenda is nothing more then to NOT show respect to the president of the United States

    September 15, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  17. I support the President!

    I dream of a world where there are no more fringe right wing conservative republican lunatics. A man can dream.

    September 15, 2009 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  18. victim of republican greed

    If Boehner was a real congressional leader, he would make the difficult call, and support the resolution against Wilson for violating house rules. Being a leader means you do the right thing, even if its not easy. I guess Boehner will never be a true leader.

    September 15, 2009 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  19. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    This guy doesn't seem to understand that he made a major mistake. He called the president a liar. Bush was never called that during his address of Congress - ever! He has made Congress look worse becuase of the lack of decorum.

    September 15, 2009 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  20. Issano in Florida

    Listen, jerk Wilson's comments has also rallied the Democrats, who will come out in force to defeat any and all Republicons, next year. The country is sick and tired of the party of NOOOOOO. The conservatives are trying their best to bring down the President, that all it is. They will not succeed! The conservatives do not have the votes nationally to win anymore. Take note, the Republicon Party is a diminishing Party in the south....

    September 15, 2009 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  21. NVa Native

    Sadly at the expense of the rest of the citizens and the Congress of the US – Wilson is getting exactly what he wants – notoriety for his "jerk" behavior that appeals to his "jerk" base of constituents. A disgusting display of selfish behavior from some one who would be considered a "grown man", but SC is full of ignorance and arrogance, especially in the demographic this clown represents.

    September 15, 2009 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  22. Fedup

    Are you kidding me? How about proceeding with the hearing to remove rangel for his tax evasion. It was only 3 million he failed to report.

    Ohhh the hypocrysy is so thick.

    September 15, 2009 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  23. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    ""I hope they do it," said Rich Bolen, who chairs the Republican Party in Lexington County, where Wilson lives. "The longer this story stays alive, the better it is for the conservative point of view...."

    Is Joe Wilson in the lead of GOP now? Is this what GOP stands for?
    Will he run for president in 2012 so he can be heckled in Congress by an opposing rep?

    Yes, bring it on GOP. This comes from an Independent who fully supports the Public Option. How can Wilson lead anybody with a tunnel vision?

    September 15, 2009 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  24. Marie Laveaux

    Giving this guy any more attention is a waste of time and effort by Democrats in the House. It's pretty obvious he's proud of what he did, and giving him any more attention is only reinforcing his childish behavior. As a retired teacher, often the best way to handle immature students was to simply ignore their attention- getting behavior, thus removing the reinforcement that student is looking for. Wrangling with the kid usually resulted in time lost for instruction in class. I say treat this guy just like the immature brat that he appears to be. Ignore him!

    September 15, 2009 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  25. Deb (long island)

    The party of NO; the party of disrespect threatens again. Wow, glad there is only a small percentage of people who think like you people. Yes, it is a different type of people.

    September 15, 2009 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
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