John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Wilson Saga (Continued)

Posted on September 14, 2009

The Joe Wilson Story (Continued)


            It will be interesting to see how the Democrats play out the rest of the story with Joe Wilson.


            Apparently, the Majority Whip, James Clyburn, hates Mr. Wilson.  He is the one who is calling in all the chits to “punish” old Joe, for blurting out “You Lied” on the House Floor during President Obama’s speech last week.


            Clyburn hates Wilson for a variety of reasons, but apparently was outraged when his South Carolina colleague held a town-hall meeting on health care about three blocks from the Whip’s house.   Talk about in your face.


            Clyburn’s response is to make Wilson grovel in the Chamber of the House, although that seems very unlikely.  Wilson has rightly responded that one (or two) apologies are enough.


            Of course, there is a racial element to this incident, as there are in almost everything in American life.   That Wilson is from South Carolina and that Barack Obama is African-American, that Clyburn is a civil rights warrior and that Wilson is a former Strom Thurmond aide, makes it easy to turn this into another racial battle.


            Maureen Dowd tried to pour a little gasoline on that fire over the weekend.


            But the racial angle shouldn’t be overplayed here. 


            Wilson apologized and whether you believe his apology or not, he did it pretty quickly with a phone call to the President’s Chief of Staff.  Had Rahm let him do it, Wilson would have said sorry to Mr. Obama directly. 


            What is interesting to me is how the Democrats write up a censure of Wilson in a way that is consistent with the House Rules.  Usually, if a member breaks the House debating rules, he has to be held into account immediately.  You can’t punish a member for saying something on the House floor a week ago, or two weeks ago.  You have to do it then. 


            Otherwise, you could have countless censures of members for saying countless things over the years, stretching back decades.


            Kind of like in football, if an official misses a call during the game, you can’t go back and change the call a week later. 


            For a strategic standpoint, I don’t know what the Democrats get out of this ploy, other than making Mr. Clyburn happy.  The more that they make Wilson a martyr, the more the Democrats are not focusing on things that help them get their agenda enacted.


            You think this incident makes it easier for the Blue Dogs to vote for health care?  I doubt it.


            In any event, Joe Wilson is an unlikely media star and now an unlikely fundraising juggernaut.  

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