Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

A Heckler in the House

Barack Obama's political opponents have no trouble challenging the President — but they generally don't shout at him as he addresses Congress. Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, didn't let decorum get in his way on Sept. 9, when he called out "You lie!" as Obama delivered a speech about health care reform to a joint session of Congress. Wilson called the White House that night and apologized to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel for the outburst; he also released a statement conceding, "I let my emotions get the best of me." But the breach of protocol was neither forgiven nor forgotten by Democrats, who clamored for Wilson to apologize on the House floor, which he refused to do. In fact, Wilson refused to make any further apologies after the night of the outburst. Days later, colleagues voted mostly along party lines to formally reprimand Wilson; donations poured into his likely Democratic challenger, Rob Miller, who raised $1 million within 48 hours of the infamous heckle. However, demonstrating that even rudeness can be profitable in Washington, Wilson went on to raise $2.7 million in donations that quarter, more than anyone else running for the House.