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. Big Jilm

    Now we get to the crux of it – it was planned all along to divert attention away from the really important matters. Typical of what the Republicans have become; total obstructionists, hellbent on making this country fail no matter what the cost.

    September 15, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. Florida Joe

    It is amazing that these folks were SO AFRAID of what the President would tell their children during a speech......Yet the condone this type of behavior? They are truely pathetic............When Bush was President if you said anything against him you were accused of being "UnAmerican" yet now it's OK to scream LIAR to our President.........Unreal

    September 15, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  3. R in Maine

    They are all scum, disrespectful of the president, unworthy to be called citizens or patriots. The party is getting smaller and more irrelevant every day. Hate should not be the basis for running our country, but they are doing their best to remove respect, intelligence, and dignity from this country.

    September 15, 2009 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  4. ItIsMe

    "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."

    That's not true at all. Grown ups can actually do two things at once (though maybe not in Kentucky...)

    September 15, 2009 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. Rightsaid

    Who cares? So the guy is a bit of a jerk.

    The point we should be talking about is health care. We spend more and get less in this country. I guess the republicans just want to say WE CAN'T do what the French (and nearly all other industrialized nations) can do. Let's find a way to provide cheaper health care for all in this great nation.

    Why do the birthers, and 9-12 crowd, hate this country so much. They lost the election and now all they do is cry. There are more of us, and we like the fact that the current administration is trying to solve some huge problems.

    September 15, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  6. Just the facts

    You can take the boy out of South Carolina, but you can't take the redneck out of the boy.

    These bufoons seem to be incapable of accepting the the fact that there is someone in the White House whose appearance is a bit different than theirs.

    September 15, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  7. Barbara Independent in NY

    This man should be an embarrassment to the GOP, instead they support his inappropriate behavior. It's comforting to know that bigotry and racism is alive and well in the Republican party.

    September 15, 2009 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  8. Jack

    Just forget this Idiot and carry on the Healthcare agenda.Gopers don't have any thing to offer other than distruction to draw attentation from un education Americans.

    September 15, 2009 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  9. Kelly

    Forget this guy and the people that continue to support the outburst that he did. While I do not agree with some of his republican ideas, I would never disrespect the office that he holds in a public setting such as in the Chambers of Congress. When we start disrespecting people in various leadership roles, I think that we have lost all sense of civility.

    I may not agree with everything that the president of my company stand for but I still respect the position that he holds. The same goes for any elected official or people in leadership roles throughout our daily lives. There is a time and place for me to voice my opposition if I disagree with their beliefs. There are too many people shouting on the far left or far right and not enough people being heard from the center.

    September 15, 2009 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  10. Tim in NC

    The other side of that coin is that this also gives his Democratic opponent more time and traction to raise his own funds and let Wilson look more like the pompous, idiot he's already demonstrated himself to be.

    This story going away serves the Republicans far more than it serves the Democrats.

    September 15, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  11. Tony

    The Dems do not want to go down this road. He said he was sorry immediately. The President accepted it and now the Dems want to make a mockery of him. THEY WILL FAIL!!!

    September 15, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  12. Truth Hurts

    I never thought the GOP can get lower then low. Not only was Wilson disrespectful and ignorant but he was wrong. There is nothing in the bill that suggest illegal immigrants to get healthcare. This was a fact check, not a freaking theory!! This is not about issues. This is not about right or wrong. It is about the GOP taking the President down at any cost or disrespect!! People better be careful about what they say or do!!

    September 15, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. MOE CANALES

    Rep. Joe Wilson should apologized to Congress and not listen to Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing fanatics. Apologize and get it over with.

    September 15, 2009 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. lila

    the house Bill already had a clause stating that illegal immigrant would not have access to health care reform, but that was not good enough for Joe Wilson and the republicans, Joe Wilson is so repulsed by the idea of a sick or dieing illegal immigrant getting reformed health care that he breaks a well known and respected sacred rule of congress to shout at Obama calling him a lier, because the house bill did not have a Spanish inquisition enforcement that combed through the Hispanic community like if they were lice.
    You bet. Bring it on.

    September 15, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  15. Nothing 'Stand Up' about Sen John Ensign (R-NV)

    Gallop is reporting that "Two in Three Americans Oppose Rep. Joe Wilson’s Outburst"

    According to Gallop, "twenty-three percent are outraged, while 6% are thrilled. By a 68% to 21% margin, Americans oppose rather than support South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst."

    Talking tough when you're talking nonsense (and obviously desperate and worried out of your minds) isn't courage.

    It's stupidity.

    I kind of feel bad for the guy. He broke his oars and threw them in the ocean last week. And now he’s watching as his little boat fills up with water and slowly sinks. He’s trying to talk tough, but he knows he’s going down. It’s sad.

    September 15, 2009 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. Sharon

    Yes, South Carolina, please let the world know how racist the Republican Party really is and help lead the way down the inevitable road to destruction. Just because you are raising money based on the senator's misconduct, don't ever forget that along with this outrage and the Republicans embracing the tea party racist rhetoric this weekend, all AMERICAN citizens of the U.S. will see how really intolerant and dangerous the Republican Party has become. So bring it on indeed!

    September 15, 2009 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  17. Thomas

    A scumbag like Wilson is not worth the time and effort to censure.

    Let him slink back under his rock. He is an unimportant minor player in the Senate and he deserves to be ignored.

    September 15, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  18. Chuck, Tennessee

    I'm a Repub who disagrees with what Wilson did, but give me a break. The Democratice leadership met about this matter last night and now will spend an hour debating it on the House floor. Don't they have anything more important to do with their time?

    September 15, 2009 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  19. Kevin in Ohio

    This is just another ploy by the dems to paint any opposition whatsowever with a racist brush. Americans are getting sick of the race card being played at every turn.

    September 15, 2009 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  20. Cando

    If it had been a Democrat that had done the same thing to President Bush he would have already been tarred and feathered but Republicans think their rudeness is just fine. Look even Chaney got by with telling a Sen. on the senate floor to go F himself and that to was just fine with the party of family values. They have no shame and all the people of this country are seeing who they really are.

    September 15, 2009 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  21. Justin -NC

    "The longer this story stays alive...better...for the conservative point of view. It means the Democrats aren't talking about health care and moving the ball forward."

    If this statement doesn't prove that Republicans are trying to kill reform at all costs just as President Obama said which led to Wilson's erroneous outburst when he was in fact telling the truth, then what does? Republicans like their good health care at the expense of millions of uninsured Americans and apparently they also love foreclosures, credit crisis, and bank failures because medical bills are the cause of the majority of these financial ills.

    Republicans, Not for the middle class, Not for the poor, Not for a majority of Americans. Is this why they are the minority party?

    September 15, 2009 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  22. ran

    Given the back ward mentality of those in SC who would vote for and continue to vote for this kind of person; it does not matter if the Democrats continue their pursuit of this person.

    Another reason for me to say out of SC.

    Guys the civil war is over and you lost and yes we have a black President. Get over it already.

    September 15, 2009 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  23. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Although, I believe that Wilson's comments were uncalled for, I also recognize that he has apologized to the president, and that he was not totally wrong in his assertion. Something the president and the libs should also acknowledge. Also, look at any of Barbara Boxers's inane, stupid, lying and disrespectfulcomments on Bush and find an apology. Also, I think the we should consider when Harry Reid called Bush "a loser" as he was visiting our troops in Iraq. I love Harpootlians remarks, so typical of the arrogant liberals, so out of touch with American taxpayers. Can't hardly wait unitl 2010 (hopefully Obama. ACORN and the SEIU will let America have free elections.

    September 15, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. Deb (long island)

    This is what is wrong with Washington. The fact that republicans are looking for the democrats "to bring it on" when one of theirs was so wrong in his actions. Congressman Wilson demeaned the President, the House, his constituents and himself with his outburst last Wednesday. How this can be condoned is beyond me. But, that is the disrespectful world we live in.

    September 15, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  25. M Pollard

    Praise God, someone have the guts to stand up and be counted. Take a stand and stand. We need more people to take a stand against the lies and radical ties in our government. This is America and not a third world country. It's going to be if the American people don't take a stand for what is right for our country.

    September 15, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
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