Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Forget Health Care and Afghanistan: Let’s All Talk About Joe Wilson

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 Congressman’s ill-advised, improper and inappropriate shout during President Barack Obama’s 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 Wilson’s behavior is pretty silly. The guy acted like a jerk. He apologized. Fine, let’s move on. Personally, I think he should have quickly apologized from the House floor, since that’s where he made his blunder. But it’s 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 Wilson’s “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 it’s nonsense.

Less than 24 hours after Wilson’s screw-up, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was out with a fundraising e-mail about the South Carolina Republican’s 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, it’s hard to blame Congressional Democrats and their allies on MSNBC for trying to change the subject.

But let’s get real: Wilson doesn’t 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 Wilson’s likely 2010 Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, skyrocketed. The DCCC reported on Thursday afternoon that Miller had taken in “more than $200,000 since Wilson’s 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 Wilson’s re-election prospects, from safe Republican to likely Republican, though they didn’t 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.”

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