Joe Wilson plans to shut up

The House Republican who shouted, "You lie!" at President Obama in September says there won't be an encore tonight

By Mike Madden
Published January 27, 2010 5:26PM (EST)

Joe Wilson says he won't be shouting at anyone tonight. But that isn't stopping Democrats from poking at the South Carolina Republican anyway.

Wilson was chastised (mildly) by the House last fall for yelling, "You lie!" at President Obama during his last speech to a joint session of Congress. Which, as it turned out, was about the best thing that ever happened to his political career. Wilson raised nearly $2 million in the weeks after the shout, became a superstar on the tea party circuit, started winning the undying love of the GOP faithful everywhere he went. Not bad for a back-bencher who still, months later, speaks in droning paragraphs, even when he's trying to rally crowds. (Like this bit of fiery rhetoric, from the premiere of a tea party documentary last month: "I can remember when the first meetings came up, I kept asking my staff, 'Who's in charge?' And they said, 'Well, we don't know.'")

The outburst was also good for Wilson's opponent, Rob Miller, who raised plenty of money on his own afterwards. And so Democrats have been sending reporters a steady stream of e-mails for the last week, wondering whether Wilson has plans for a repeat performance. "He has been all too happy to turn his disrespectful and offensive outburst into a ploy to raise himself more money and build his power in the conservative movement, so will the temptation be too great for him to control himself?" Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Jesse Ferguson asked in one. It's actually not just Democratic operatives wondering; Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., joked with a local editorial board that yelling seems to be good for fundraising, so you might see more of it.

Alas, though, Wilson says he's learned his lesson. "That was a one-time incident," Wilson told McClatchy Newspapers Tuesday. "I will continue, through my agreement with the White House, to discuss issues civilly."

But that doesn't mean he'll let the moment go by without comment. Wilson will host a live Facebook chat after the speech, and you can virtually shout right along with him here.

Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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