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The idea that South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (R) created a firestorm about anything is amusing. Who, other than his buddies in the House and his constituents in the Palmetto State, has ever heard of the guy?
But the 2nd district Congressmans ill-advised, improper and inappropriate shout during President Barack Obamas speech to a joint session of Congress got Wilson more bad publicity than he ever could have imagined. Learn to control yourself, Congressman.
Having said that, most of the attention to and outrage about Wilsons behavior is pretty silly. The guy acted like a jerk. He apologized. Fine, lets move on. Personally, I think he should have quickly apologized from the House floor, since thats where he made his blunder. But its not that big a deal.
Still, we live in an era when much of politics is about tactics, not ideas, so, confronted by a conundrum about health care, uncertainty about what to do about climate change and energy, and unappealing alternatives regarding Afghanistan, Democrats and many in the media decided that the No. 1 topic of the day was Wilsons You lie! rebuke of Obama.
The Connecticut Democratic Party, for example, quickly issued a press release demanding that Republican Senate candidate Rob Simmons, a former House Member, return the $8,000 that Wilson had donated to Simmons years ago (before Wilson acted like a jerk last week). This is a standard tactic both parties do it even if its nonsense.
Less than 24 hours after Wilsons screw-up, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was out with a fundraising e-mail about the South Carolina Republicans behavior. Democratic fundraisers are no fools, and they wasted no time in trying to get angry Democratic contributors to dig deep.
Given how public opinion has changed regarding the president and Congress over the past six weeks, its hard to blame Congressional Democrats and their allies on MSNBC for trying to change the subject.
But lets get real: Wilson doesnt even rise to the importance of a footnote in history.
Wilson is getting credit for reviving a Democratic Party that seemed very much down in the dumps. Contributions to Wilsons likely 2010 Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, skyrocketed. The DCCC reported on Thursday afternoon that Miller had taken in more than $200,000 since Wilsons outburst from 5,000 new contributors. By Friday afternoon, the fundraising total was over $800,000.
Influential Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza concluded that Wilson re-energized the Democratic base and helped remind liberals that when compared to the alternative, the plan being put forward by Obama is far better.
My friends at the Cook Political Report quickly changed their rating of Wilsons re-election prospects, from safe Republican to likely Republican, though they didnt change their fundamental evaluation of the seat.
This conservative seat remains relatively secure, they wrote, adding that the controversy looks like little more than a distraction for the GOP.