Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I think the speech tonight rescued Obama's presidency. Health care reform? I'd say not so much.

I don't blame Obama -- Republicans are so dug in that I'm betting not much could have been changed, even by the greatest speech of all time. (This one was a bit baggy -- it could have been a lot tighter -- but it was frequently very, very powerful, particularly Obama's righteous indignation.) The key thing is that the August image of Obama-as-monster has been replaced once again in the public mind by the Obama who won the election -- a grown-up, a decent human being, a guy who's trying to get something done.

He'll gain in the polls. But I don't see how it changes the GOP's intransigence, or the split on the public option between liberal House Democrats who demand it and Senate non-liberals who won't tolerate it. I think we're still where we were.

But Obama, at least, looks a hell of a lot more respectable than rude, BlackBerrying Eric Cantor, than the GOP members of Congress who waved bills as Obama spoke, and than (of course) South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson, who must have thought he was in the audience at audition night at the Laff Shack when heckled the president ("You lie!").


Congressman Wilson, by the way, is former staffer for Senator Strom Thurmond and also former state senator; in the latter job, he was one of only seven senators to vote in 2000 against removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol dome. (The compromise bill, which moved the flag to a Confederate monument on the state house grounds, won bipartisan support and passed 36-7, but Wilson and six others held firm.)

As a congressman, in 2005, Wilson declared that a Democratic call for an investigation of conditions at Guantanamo was "simply another example of some Democrat leaders trusting the words of terrorists over the proven decency of U.S. troops." He also accused Democratic leaders of "conducting guerrilla warfare on American troops."

Oh, and he told an interviewer in 2007 that "we have the world's best healthcare system" because we have "the best access."


UPDATE: Wilson apologizes.


UPDATE: Talking Points Memo notes that Wilson once attacked the illegitimate daughter of his ex-boss Strom Thurmond.

Flashback to mid-December 2003, when Essie Mae Washington-Williams came forward with the bombshell that she was the illegitimate daughter of the recently-deceased patriarch of South Carolina politics, Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Rep. Wilson, a former page of Thurmond's, immediately told The State newspaper that he didn't believe Williams. He deemed the revelation "unseemly." And he added that even if she was telling the truth, she should have kept the inconvenient facts to herself:

"It's a smear on the image that [Thurmond] has as a person of high integrity who has been so loyal to the people of South Carolina," Wilson said.

Of course, Williams' story was entirely true -- and never really in doubt. Thurmond was 22 and Williams' mother, a black maid working in his family home, was 16 when Williams was born in 1925. Thurmond supported Williams financially for decades.

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