“We must stand strong! Now, please tell me what to do!”

I’ve gotten a few responses this morning to this Tweet:

It’s sad, embarrassing to see veteran Joe Wilson follow the lead of four know-nothing freshmen…

It’s pathetic, really. Here we have these immature ideologues running about, and a six-term congressman following their lead like a puppy.

Actually, he’s willing to follow any lead he can find, as you can see from this email he sent out before the vote yesterday:

Dear Subscriber,

Last week, I, along with the rest of the SC GOP delegation, voted “NO” for more reckless spending and bigger government.  I voted against the debt ceiling compromise because it is time for bold and decisive action.  It is clear to all involved that we cannot continue down the path we are on.  If we kick the can down the road, future generations will bear the burden of failing to act in this critical situation.

Yesterday, leadership from both parties came to an agreement on the framework for a debt deal, and I expect that the vote will happen later today.  Throughout the discussion of this issue, I have heard many people convey their wish for a compromise.  While I don’t believe that compromise is necessarily a bad thing, it should only be invoked if it means coming together to forge a solution to a problem.

So far the only solution I have seen that makes a significant proposal to solving our nation’s spending addiction is the bill titled, “Cut, Cap, and Balance”.  This is the only plan that addresses the need to stop America’s spending addiction and implements a long overdue Balanced Budget Amendment.

We must now demand the federal government live within its means just as the rest of the American people do everyday.  We have compromised on this issue for far too long now.

As the vote draws near I’m asking for your input.  Please go to my Facebook pageor visit my website on your mobile phone to voice your thoughts.  What is your opinion on the proposed debt agreement deal?


Joe Wilson
U.S. Congressman

That is a REALLY strange juxtaposition…  strutting about, going on about the need to be “bold” and “strong,” and then, instead of informing the world of the strong, bold thing you’re about to do, beg everyone to tell you what to do.

That’s our Joe, I guess. Nice guy. But not the bold or strong type.

46 thoughts on ““We must stand strong! Now, please tell me what to do!”

  1. Phil

    Hm, don’t agree. I think you’re overreacting a bit. I mean, why not ask what people think? He has to start a dialogue about what people believe so that he can interact and explain what he believes.

  2. Daniel

    Brad, it seems as if politicians are always in a no win position. If an elected official were to go their own way and not listen or ask for input from his or her constituency many people would say “look at that person that is so stubborn they won’t listen or ask for their voters opinion. They should remember THEY work for ME, not the other way around.”

    Yet here we are, a day after a big vote, and the article you chose to write about is how a veteran congressman and leader took the time before a major vote and decision to reach out to his constituents to let them know he values their opinions and input. Instead of supporting his willingness to interact and listen to his constituents he gets criticized for it.

    I say at least he had the leadership skills to communicate and listen to those that put their faith and trust to represent their voices in Congress.

  3. bud

    “Reckless spending”. “Bigger government”. “Kick the can down the road”. “Future generations will bear the burden”.

    Wilson and the others on the right seriously need to consider hiring a consultant to help them come up with some fresh, new phony talking points. These just don’t have the same punch that they once had. I understand what conservatives try to do. They repeat over and over and over again the same points, whether they have any basis in fact, to try and win the support of the public. Over time these slogans are accepted as “truth” regardless of the evidence.

    But seriously Joe, eventually Speedy Alka Seltzer, Josephine the Plumber and the Squeeze the Charmin Grocer were all retired because they simply didn’t reverberate with the masses any longer. Maybe I can suggest a few new one liners:

    We must stop this spending that is akin to Leeches eating at the body of nation.

    The bubonic plague of spending is destroying our free-market wonderworld.

    The locus invested body politic of spending threatens the very fabric of the nations being.

    Hey, I’m no Mark Twain so I’m sure others can do better. Joe, if you really want to properly scare the people you have just got to come up with some better scare terminology. These phrases just don’t cut the mustard any more.

  4. Brad

    Phil and Daniel,

    In the normal, calm course of things, getting input from the voters — to consider along with every other kind of information you are gathering — is a fine thing to do, or at the very least harmless.

    But this debt ceiling vote, with its extremely complex deal thrown together at the last possible moment, is a perfect example of when a representative is supposed to exercise the responsibility delegated to him by the people to MAKE A DECISION. He’s there. He’s participating in the debates (to the extent that there are debates anymore). It’s his job to fully understand the situation, to keep up with the rapid turns and twists, and decide. Later, he can fully debrief the voters and explain what he did and why he did it, and see if he can do so to their satisfaction. If he can’t, they can and should replace him with someone who makes better decisions.

    But you see, that’s a risk Joe isn’t willing to take.

    Here he is, getting out of his comfort zone and running with the wild and crazy freshmen, and he thinks that makes the old guy one of the cool kids, but he’s not sure. What if it isn’t? His usual guide to everything, the talking points of the Republican Party, aren’t guiding him, because the GOP is tearing itself apart over this. There is no safe, approved, Republican way, and Joe doesn’t know what to do. Apparently, he wasn’t sufficiently reassured by that prayer session to whatever strange god they were praying to — one who a) cares how they vote on this and b) agrees with their approach.

    No one’s giving him the answers, except for maybe these freshmen who are in rebellion against the powers that have always guided him! Joe’s never had to come up with the answers on his own before.

    So we see the cry for help. Asking the people who are paying HIM to figure it out to instead tell him what to do. But if he can’t figure it out as our delegate, what do we need him for?

  5. Doug Ross

    Don’t blame Joe Wilson. Blame the people who voted for him.

    If we had term limits, at least you’d have a shot at replacing him with someone else. But, nope, can’t lose experienced people like Joe. Takes a long time to hone that mind.

  6. Doug Ross

    I would suggest that the Republican Party is not tearing itself apart over this – it is pushing aside the career politicians who say one thing and do another. The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of fiscal conservatism. The Tea Party is attempting to get it back to that principle.

  7. Brad

    Also, folks, I’m reacting to this message from Joe not just on its own merits, but within the context of his other recent actions.

    I presented it to you just as I was thinking about it. I read this shortly after sending the Tweet expressing my frustration at his toddling about wherever the freshmen go.

    I’m also thinking about such things as this release the other night, which was AFTER a key vote, in which he seems too afraid to actually tell us how he voted.

    Joe’s just being risk-averse even for HIM in this situation.

  8. Brad

    By the way, do you like that header image on my main page? That was taken at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004. Note how, if you take away the white beard, I looked younger back then…

  9. Susanna K.

    I can tell you with confidence that Jeff Duncan, my rep, isn’t leading anyone. He was put forward by the party for election because he’s a follower, a reliable yes-man. A basically nice guy but not especially bright and definitely not one to rock the boat. I suspect Scott was the leader on this vote.

  10. Brad

    Oh, and to be clear — that earlier comment I linked to above quotes the Wilson release in its entirety. That’s all he said. He had voted, and he felt the urge to say something justify his vote to us, but he apparently didn’t want to take the risk of telling how he actually voted, just in case that was going to make us mad or something…

  11. j

    Brad, your observations are right on. That same behavior was prevalent when he was a state senator. A respected elected official I know calls him a “political hack” based on his demonstrated actions. Patterns of behavior and lack of leadership don’t change without motivation and/or therapy.

  12. Brad

    And yes, I know that use of “quotidian” is a bit off. I was doing that for comic effect. Like the girl in “Clueless” saying, “I hope not sporadically!”

    Sort of right, but a bit off…

  13. Brad

    As for Doug’s comment: “The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of fiscal conservatism. The Tea Party is attempting to get it back to that principle.”

    … it always gets me when anyone refers to the Tea Party as “conservative.” Have you ever been to one of their rallies? Have you seen the snake flags that say “Don’t Tread on Me”? Tories don’t carry flags like that. Only would-be, highly derivative revolutionaries do.

  14. Ralph Hightower

    I would offer Joe some suggestions. However, the only correspondence accepted now, post antrax period, is via fax or email.

    I offer a word of caution to those contacting Joe via email using his House web form: be prepared for a barrage of campaign related emails and pleas for money. He will take your email address, and use it for his campaign; he will give your email to political hacks, “political campaign consultants”, in general, to any Republican person or organization.

    My words to Joe: “Give it up! Go home! You are clearly out of your league!”

    Why didn’t Joe offer “Cut! Cap! Balance!” when Bush was President?

    Oh, Bush was a Republican. Why embarrass a Republican? Makes sense.

    Joe is a suck-up when there’s a Republican President and confrontational when there’s a Democratic President.

    Joe, grow up to be an adult and learn the art of compromise. You can have it all your way all the time!

  15. Doug Ross

    I said “fiscal conservatism” didn’t I?

    You are talking about public displays by a small segment of a group versus the state policy principles of that group.

    Tea Party members want politicians in office who stick to the basic principles: smaller government based on sticking to the primary functions enumerated in the Constitution, a significantly less complex tax system, less intrusion into personal privacy issues, and a foreign policy that starts with defense against attacks on our country.

  16. Stephen

    “Apparently, he wasn’t sufficiently reassured by that prayer session to whatever strange god they were praying to — one who a) cares how they vote on this and b) agrees with their approach.”

    That “strange god” is apparently the same one that a majority of South Carolinians believe in… just FYI.

  17. Steven Davis

    “Steven not understanding one of my words. How, uh, quotidian…”

    If it was “one” word, it’d be one thing… I just don’t walk around with a dictionary to try and figure out what you’re saying. Not everyone was an English major in college. Some of us got degrees that actually helped us get a job.

  18. tired old man

    Thanks to Joe’s insipid participation, the Dow has tanked.

    Whatever religion or “strange god” he bows to has exacted a tithe from the American economy.

    Sad thing, Joe now has all of hard-core Aiken to merge with Lexington in his newly reapportioned district.

    Look for more of this subservience to Grover Norquist — after all, Jim DeMint is an excellent role model in how to advance a toxic ideology to the detriment of his voters.

    Hey new term, Jim Detriment! What a team, Jim Detriment and Joe — You lie, I pray, you’re screwed– Wilson.

    If this post sounds bitter it is. Normally you have to have a tornado or a divorce to lose this much money.

  19. Karen McLeod

    I just got one of those idiot emails back from Sen. Demint that makes it clear that he either did not read my email or did not care. Why am I down to 1 senator (and 1 about whom I’m having more doubts?)

  20. Lauren

    Brad you need to do a post on what a conservative is, how it is different than the tea party, why McMaster is more conservative than Haley, etc. Try to be specific this time in your writing.

  21. Doug Ross

    It’s really amusing, Brad, how you can never seem to attach the same disgust to Lindsey Graham when he does EXACTLY the same thing as any of your favorite targets. Graham and DeMint have been joined at the hip on this issue… or should I say Lindsey has been riding on DeMint’s coattails?

    If Wilson is pathetic, Graham is shameless. Nothing new as far as I’m concerned.

    I know, I know… Lindsey’s just playing along so he can win and do all those important things he’s going to get done any decade now.

  22. Brad

    I just don’t see the same things you do, Doug. We’ve had this discussion so many times.

    I don’t know what the barrier is. You are someone with fairly eclectic views. You don’t fit in a box. I don’t know why you expect other people to, and denigrate their characters when they don’t stay in said box.

    As I said recently, Graham has a range of views. Most are to the “conservative” end of the spectrum, as the term is popularly understood. Other views are less so. For some reason, you always want to trash him, and give me a hard time for NOT trashing him, when he emphasizes the areas where he agrees with the right.

    Because it is politically advantageous for him to do so — at least, it may quieten some of the motions to censure him by his own party — you consider it dishonorable for him to stress such things. I do not. I want him to stay in office — as Karen says, I’m sort of down to one senator — and this seems to me one perfectly legitimate way of trying to accomplish that.

    With John Spratt gone, there is just one member of the SC delegation whose presence in Washington I believe to be a true positive good, as opposed to just OK, or awful. And that’s Graham.

    I don’t ever expect him or any other member of Congress to agree with me all of the time. My own political views are more spread out than his. With the dominance of the two parties (for the moment), and those parties becoming more extreme (at least, SC Republicans are becoming more extreme, and national Democrats remain so), I’m going to have to settle for the best I can get. And that’s Lindsey Graham.

    And I appreciate how difficult it is for him to BE the guy I can at least sometimes rely on. You don’t, but I do.

  23. Brad

    Doug, take a look at Graham’s release explaining why he voted against the deal. No, I don’t agree with all that he says, or even the overall decision to vote “no.”

    But see if you can look at this, and compare it to Joe’s releases, and see why I have greater respect for Graham as a guy who studied the issues, made up his own mind, and then in an articulate manner explained it to his constituents:

    “I cannot in good conscience support this deal. Simply stated, it locks us into more debt, bigger government and most devastating of all, a weakened Defense infrastructure at a time when threats to our nation are increasing, not decreasing.

    “This agreement still adds over $7 trillion in new debt over the next decade and only makes small reductions in future spending. We hardly address the future growth of entitlements, a major contributor of future budgetary problems.

    “I fear we will see that this agreement does not really move the needle when it comes to reducing government spending. Instead of our nation running toward bankruptcy we will be walking toward bankruptcy.

    “The only part of our nation’s budget which is really exposed to serious consequences is the Department of Defense. Their budget could be reduced by nearly $1 trillion under this plan. And if these proposed cuts ever become reality, the biggest loser will be our men and women in uniform.

    “I firmly believe defense spending should be placed under a microscope and we can find savings. However, this agreement places Defense on the chopping block and slowly moves the Republican Party away from the Reagan model of a strong national defense. I fear it legitimizes the concept that Defense spending is not only equal to other areas of federal spending, but is of lesser importance.

    “I always believed we have to raise our nation’s debt-ceiling but should do so in a responsible manner. I strongly supported Cut, Cap and Balance and will continue to work for passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. I thought we could have raised the debt-ceiling for a period of nine months, the historical average since 1940, accompanied by a dollar-to-dollar spending cut to debt-ceiling increase while we work to enact these important structural changes to the way the government operates.

    “The debt-limit debate offered us a prime opportunity to finally stop kicking the can down the road and bring discipline to the way Congress spends. Because of our $14.5 trillion and growing national debt, we are in jeopardy of losing the American Dream where children are able to do better than their parents.”

  24. Brad

    Yep, he used the same “kick the can” metaphor that has been painfully overused in politics. But look past that to the fact that he made up his mind, and took a stand, and explained it.

    The contrast to what Joe did was startling.

  25. Jake

    I don’t need to read any statement from any of our DC reps anymore. All need to do is listen to Grover Norquist and I will know what they will do.

  26. Doug Ross

    My “eclectic” views are pretty simple. I listen to/read what people say and then compare that to what they do. Joe Wilson is a tool. Lindsey Graham is a grandstanding, self-serving politician who slides in whatever direction will get him elected. I’d have greater respect for him if he for once would pick a side and stay with. I guarantee you that if he gets re-elected, the day after we will see the compromising Lindsey Graham putting on his makeup to appear on Meet The Press to explain why he is the best person to “work with” the Democrats.

  27. Mark Stewart


    The only problem with your analysis of Graham is that wrong is still wrong. He choked as badly as did the SC5; its only that he was able to explain his error – and that’s really not much of a consolation.

    I wish he would go back to being the leader you still imagine him to be; but I see what looks like a sea-change in his outlook. Sadly Graham seems afraid of the party’s fringe elements – who are not the masses who voted for him.

    The last think we need as representatives are either more Joe Wilson’s or Jim DeMint’s. Graham should take that to heart.

  28. Steve Gordy

    Brad, give it up with regard to Lindsay. He’s demonstrated that he will shamelessly kowtow to whatever faction in the SC Republican party shouts the loudest. Of course, I still chuckle when I recall the bumper stickers from 3 years back advising folks to vote against him, because “he’s too liberal for South Carolina.” I used to respect the man. No longer.

  29. Wesley Donehue

    Brad – Obviously I’m a little bias because my company handles Congressman Wilson’s web activity…but come on. You are going to criticize a Congressman for asking his voters for their opinions. He serves in the House of REPRESENTATIVES. As a Representative, he is representing the opinions of his constituency. I just do not understand this criticism, but then again, you do criticize every email he sends. So I’m not too surprised.

    – Wesley

  30. bud

    He uses the word defense no less than five times (which is a misnomer, it really doesn’t actually defend us against much of anything). Right there he’s lost me. That is perhaps the only area that needs a serious reduction. And that’s probably why Brad is such a fan. Then he goes on to use the standard scare tactics like “kick the can down the road” and “jeopordizing our children’s future”. This is really nothing but a somewhat better written version of what Joe Wilson said. Lindsey Graham just makes my skin crawl. I dislike him more with each passing day.

  31. Herb Brasher

    Interesting. I get Sojourners’ mailings, and occasionally find that Jim Wallis or one of his associates word things pretty well. So I used their letter to send to Demint, Wilson, and Graham, about the deficit ceiling bill.

    Demint didn’t reply. Wilson sent the automatic response that Brad has already quoted. Only Graham sent me first a form reply, with the promise of a personal one later. He usually does respond personally (or–what I assume is the case, one of his staff does it for him–but at least you can tell they read what I wrote).

    So kudos to Lindsey Graham for actually taking his constituents seriously. I don’t like to harp on politicians’ faults too much. I find that I have too many of my own. But I do tend to have more respect for people like Graham, even when I disagree with their decisions.

  32. Brad

    And very fine emails they are, too, Wesley — in a technical, aesthetic and professional sense.

    Next time I’m on the show (if there is a next time), I’ll talk about our differences over the proper role of a representative in a republic.

  33. Tim

    someone I know actually went to Wilsons office.

    She said his chief of staff Eric told her that Wilson couldn’t support any of the cuts to tax cuts for the rich because Wilson represented the rich in SC and we had lots of them in Hilton Head and Greenville.

  34. Karen McLeod

    How nice; basic class warfare. Basically he implies that his constituancy is saying, “go ahead, take the country into full depression; I’ve got mine, and I’m gonna keep it.” He’s also implying that he has more rich people in his area than poor. Somehow I doubt it. Maybe he counts the rich twice, or even three times.

  35. Lauren

    Wow, so it looks like you can’t do a post actually laying out where you are on what a conservative is, how the tea party is different, why Haley is or isn’t a conservative compared with others in the SCGOP, etc. That’s b/c you are all over the place on this issue from what I can tell.

  36. Brad

    Gee, Lauren, I didn’t know I had an assignment here. Mind if I get some time to do some posts before I write an essay in response to you?

    Briefly, “conservative” can mean one or all of the following (and probably more, given time to think, but you’re in a hurry):

    — Preferring the established, the existing, the traditional — opposing change.
    — Tending toward caution, being resistant toward grand plans or risky endeavors (say, going into Iraq… I consider my support for the Iraq invasion one of my more liberal positions — and one of W.’s, too)
    — This is somewhat repetitive with the first rule, but I particularly think having a respect for the established order, for society’s core institutions (the family, the church, the courts, the police, law and order, the military, our political institutions and processes) is key.

    Here’s a link to one column-length definition of conservatism that I wrote in 2008 in defense of John McCain against the alleged “conservatives” who were out to get him. You’ll see hints or indications of all of the above in it, probably. The headline was “Give me that old-time conservatism,” which is a definition and argument in itself, since to me, anything that is a new fad or suddenly popular is by definition, or at least by implication, not conservative.

    Back then, I was paid to write column-length elaborations on things. Not anymore. Now I write what I want when I want, if I can possibly find the time (which I usually can’t).

    Any questions?

  37. Mark Stewart

    I believe your third point ought to be the definition of “conservative”.

    If we don’t change, we rot. So it’s not opposing change so much as it is the desire to go forward rationally (and responsibly), with purpose/commitment and with a plan to achieve the articulated goals. In the same way saying a conservative is resistant to toward grand plans or risky endeavors similarly misses the point a bit – sometimes the right move is the bold step. I did like the third point best – but would highlight the “progressive” goal of good governance as a key part of the establishment.

    Given my second sentence of what is a conservative it would be easy to see that neither the Tea Party nor Nikki Haley would qualify. Unfortunately Joe Wilson would; but as I said if we don’t change we rot and leadership is the process of defining and promoting change. Joe’s not so good at that, unfortunately.

    Conservative, by its very definition is not radical. A conservative would never support “cut, cap and balance”, defunding education, or the imposition of religion on public institutions – as examples of the kinds of issues that seem to confuse many southern pseudo-conservatives.

    That’s my at bat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *