What has Joe Wilson done lately (or, for that matter, EVER)?

Mark Huguley introduces the candidate at the Jewish Community Center last night.

Mark Huguley introduces the candidate at the Jewish Community Center last night.

Several days back, I got an invitation to a political event from Mark Huguley, mayor of Arcadia Lakes and former top official at SLED. And I set it aside to read later, thinking maybe it would be something I’d go to. Then I received the same message again, forwarded to me by his wife Sally, my longtime colleague and friend, and decided I’d best pay attention.

So it was that I ended up last night at a gathering for Adair Ford Boroughs, a Democrat who is seeking to unseat Congressman-for-Life Joe Wilson in the 2nd District.

I’ve mentioned her here before, favorably, and I heard nothing last night to change my mind. How could Brad possibly support someone for Congress who has never held elected office before? Simple: I’ve been watching Joe for more than three decades, and I haven’t seen any indication that his time in office has made him a better legislator. And I’m impressed by this young woman’s intelligence and good intentions. I could be wrong, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that she’d do a better job.

I’d show you video, but, well… I sat up on the front row and started to shoot some. But a) I realized that while this wasn’t overtly a fund-raiser, it was a similar sort of event, and I was probably making her staff guy in the back uncomfortable because they hate to see video shot at such events, b) I was shooting up at her from below (as with Obama here, only more so) as she stood above me, and I have back in 2018 that one always shoots ladies from above, and c) I was getting tired of holding it up, so I stopped.

But I recommend her campaign video, which I’ve shown here before. In it, you will learn that in his 18 years in Congress, Joe Wilson has gotten one bill passed — to rename a post office. That’s where my headline comes from.

Of course, this is not necessarily a reflection on Joe’s effectiveness as a legislator, because I’ve always assumed his do-nothing approach was completely intentional. He’s following in the footsteps of 2nd-District predecessor Floyd Spence, who in turn followed the Strom Thurmond approach: Don’t legislate; it might bother people. Concentrate on constituent service, and you can hold the office for the rest of your life.

You've noticed these, right?

You’ve noticed these, right?

(In Memphis back on Thanksgiving, I mentioned to a brother-in-law the fact that to my memory, Strom only got one law passed during the years I was responsible for covering him: the one putting health warnings on bottles and cans of alcohol. My brother-in-law said he had never noticed such labels. I pulled a beer out of the bin of ice out on the patio and showed him. I don’t think he was impressed, but hey, it’s bigger than renaming a post office.)

I only got a chance to ask one question of the candidate before the speaking started, and it was to ask whether we were still in the congressional district, way out northeast at the Jewish Community Center. And she and her staff guy assured me we were. Those GOP gerrymanders just went all over the place to draw white people into Joe’s district, and black people into Jim Clyburn’s.

But am I ever going to report on anything that was said last night beyond that? Yes, and it’s a partial answer to the one big question that matters: Does she have a chance? I’ve been watching Democrats dash themselves to pieces on the mathematical impossibility of this district ever since I saw Jim Leventis win all the early counties on election night in 1988, only to be sunk by Lexington when it came in.

So, is she viable? Well, y’all know I don’t normally pay much attention to fund-raising, but I think it’s relevant that she has far outraised expectations and set new records.

I hate talking about money, but in this case, I’d say that’s a good sign for her candidacy.

I hope so, because I believe she’d be an improvement.

Adair 2

7 thoughts on “What has Joe Wilson done lately (or, for that matter, EVER)?

  1. Sally

    Do nothing. Lay low. Never speak up, except the infamous legacy “You lie.” Have call-in town halls with no constituent questions. Media photo ops only. That’s basically Wilson’s approach to being a congressman. Maybe he only goes to events in Lexington County precincts where his most reliable voters live. In fairness, I once saw him speak to a Lexington high school government group, but he even evaded their questions. After 28 years with his do nothing record, why is Wilson still collecting his pay check from the taxpayers? Sounds like a congressional welfare recipient, but don’t Republicans want welfare recipients to work for their checks?

    There are numerous stories about no response from Joe’s offices, here and in Washington. After the 2015 flood, my husband, who is mayor of Arcadia Lakes, got no help from Wilson’s office, although his local liaison Butch Wallace denies that vehemently. Said he never heard from Mark or saw him, although Mark was on the county’s blue ribbon committee assessing the flood’s damage, causes and solutions. Mark’s given up calling Wilson’s office on town business because he never gets a response.

    My experience was when I called Wilson’s office to find out if he was one of the Republican congressmen lobbying to keep student loan deductions in the 2018 federal tax reform bill. Called his Lexington office, told they knew nothing about this, but Wallace said he’d check and call me. No call back. Called the Midlands office again, was told they had no information and to call Washington. Called the Washington office and was told Wilson’s education staffer would call. No call back. I finally contacted the Washington office of the Texas congressman, who had gathered a large group of his Republican colleagues to lobby the tax reform committee to restore the student loan deduction. I told his staff upfront that I was not constituent. Nevertheless, the Texas congressman’s office called me back within 15 minutes and read the list of the GOP congressmen who were in his pro-student loan deduction group. Wilson was not on the list. No surprise there, but the real question is why did I have to call a Texas congressman to get the information, but got absolutely no response from my own congressman?

    This underscores the comment from last night’s meet and greet that veterans have complained about Wilson’s people not acting on constituent calls. If Adair Boroughs could round up a few vets, that might generate some interesting media coverage. Or maybe even a TV ad.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      With regard to that strategy, “Do nothing. Lay low. Never speak up…”

      Floyd Spence was a master at it.

      And you have to wonder, what is so great about being a member of Congress that that’s all you want — to BE a member of Congress, not to legislative for the good of the country?

      I don’t know, but I got a glimpse into it once in the late 80s when I went to visit Lee Bandy up in Washington, and he took me around to meet the delegation. Forgive me if I’ve told this before, which I almost certainly had.

      Floyd had just moved up in the seniority and gotten a new office, and he was immensely proud of it. He had to make sure we checked out the view from his window by his desk.

      And then I noticed the pictures: This whole wall was covered with grip-and-grin pictures of Floyd posing with celebrities and the powerful. In other words, he wasn’t there to DO anything, but look: He got his picture taken with other people who did things.

      And that, together with the nicer view you get as you move up in seniority, seemed to be the point for Floyd…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        That mentality was one we hammered on a lot during the campaign. James kept saying that, unlike Henry, James wanted to DO the job of governor, not just KEEP the job of governor.

        I thought it was one of our better lines, because it truly expressed a fundamental difference between the two men…

  2. Barry

    My wife and I ran into JOe and his wife at Disney World. when Joe found out I was from South Carolina, he talked to me and was very friendly.

    He gave me his card and told me if he could ever help me to let him know. He never asked where I lived.

    I was impressed at the time but after thinkking about it I knew it was just his style and habit. He was friendly and I did appreciate it.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Joe LOVES being a congressman. I believe he’s sincere in his delight upon meeting a constituent. He’s always been gracious to me. I think he’s a very nice man, and I hate to take away something that matters so much to him.

      But it’s time to give someone else a shot…


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