Thursday, September 17, 2009

Polls Find Wilson's Outburst Against Obama Backfires -- President's Ratings Edge Up


CBS and Bloomberg Polls Show Obama's Health-Care Speech Halted Weeks-Long Slide in His Job-Approval Ratings, With Most Americans Praising President's Handling of Issue, But Remaining Sharply Divided on Whether His Plans Will Succeed; Gallup Poll Finds Sharp Disapproval of Wilson's 'You Lie!' Outburst -- Even Among Republicans -- But the Race Issue Won't Go Away

Obama wants you to bailout your neighbor

"Take that, Joe!" is what President Obama appears to be saying to Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) in this photo montage after a fresh round of opinion polls were released this week showing that the president's speech last week to a joint session of Congress on health-care reform earned him high marks from the public, halting a weeks-long slide in his job-approval ratings. At the same time, a solid two-thirds majority of Americans -- including 52 percent of Republicans -- strongly disapproved of Wilson's outburst during the president's speech in which he accused Obama of lying about his promise that illegal immigrants would not be covered by his reform plan. (Photos courtesy Google Images)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, September 17, 2009)

By SKEETER SANDERS


President Obama's attempt to explain his plans for health care reform to the American public in an address before a joint session of Congress last week appears to have paid off — with some unexpected help by the conservative Republican congressman who heckled him during his speech.

Two new polls released this week -- one by CBS News and the other by the business-oriented Bloomberg News -- show that Americans now give the president the "thumbs-up" for his handling of the health care issue, halting a weeks-long slide in Obama's overall job-approval ratings. But the public remains sharply divided over whether the president clearly explained his plan and whether it would succeed.

Meanwhile, a third poll released by the Gallup Organization showed strong disapproval of Representative Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during the president's address, with a solid two-thirds majority opposing the South Carolina Republican's actions.

The Gallup Poll results came on the eve of the House vote Tuesday to rebuke Wilson for his heckling of the president, an incident unprecedented by a sitting member of Congress. The House voted 240-179 in favor of a "resolution of disapproval" -- the least severe form of disciplinary action against one of its members.

OBAMA'S POLL NUMBERS STOP FALLING, BUT DOUBTS ABOUT PLAN'S COST REMAIN

Before his address, the president's handling of the health-care reform issue was more negative than positive, with a CBS News poll taken from August 27 to August 31 showing 47 percent disapproved while only 40 percent approved. In a Gallup survey taken August 6 to August 9, 49 percent disapproved of Obama's handling of the health-care issue, while only 43 percent approved.

Obama's speech appears to have stopped his slide particularly with independent voters in the CBS poll, with his approval rating among this important voting bloc having risen as a result. But they remain sharply divided. Among Democrats, the president's support solidified at 85 percent. Even among Republicans, Obama's approval ratings rose slightly after his speech, but only 17 percent of Republicans back his health-care proposals.

Respondents in the Bloomberg survey, conducted Thursday through Monday, were slightly more approving of the president's efforts after the speech as well, with 48 percent of respondents in favor and 42 percent opposed.

Nonetheless, at least half of respondents expressed doubts that Obama can fulfill his promises to veto legislation that adds to the federal budget deficit; to preserve the Medicare trust fund, particularly as the eldest of the 76 million Baby Boomers -- those born in 1946 -- approach their 65th birthdays in 2011; and to produce savings to help pay for prescriptions for Medicare patients.

“The debate seems to be about money, not about the need for reform,” Bloomberg News quoted Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Company, as saying. “When you look at specific planks, respondents like all of them.”

Selzer & Company, based in Des Moines, Iowa, conducted the poll for Bloomberg.

“I do think everyone should have health care, somehow,” said Judy Shaffer, a Bloomberg poll respondent in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, “[But] the deficit is going to go up so much higher. I think it’s really bad where it’s at right now.”

The 63-year-old Shaffer said the president's address failed to allay her concerns about the impact that his plan will have on the deficit, and thus she remains opposed to it.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT WILSON'S OUTBURST: SOLID MAJORITY SAYS IT WAS WRONG

But while Americans remain divided over the success or failure of the president's health-care reform plan, there is one thing they do agree on: That Wilson's outburst against Obama during the president's address was out of line, according to Gallup.

A greater-than-two-thirds majority of 68 percent disapproved of Wilson's actions -- with 23 percent expressing outrage at the South Carolina Republican calling Obama a liar after the president himself denounced as "false" accusations that his health-care plan would cover illegal immigrants.

Even a majority of Republicans -- 52 percent -- opposed Wilson's outburst, while 39 percent of Republicans supported him, the Gallup survey found. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming 86 percent of Democrats disapproved of what Wilson did, while only three percent supported his actions. Among independents, a near-two-thirds majority of 64 percent disapproved, while 17 percent approved.

There was no demographic breakdown in the Gallup survey on Wilson's conduct, but it did note that 45 percent of Democrats expressed deep outrage at Wilson, perhaps reflecting the views of many Democrats who see a racial element not only in Wilson's actions, but in the venomous sentiment expressed by many of the president's opponents -- particularly the so-called "birthers" who steadfastly claim that Obama is a foreigner constitutionally ineligible to be president, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

WILSON REPRIMAND POURS MORE FUEL ON PARTISAN DIVIDE

The House resolution rebuking Wilson only added more fuel to the already bitter partisan divide in Congress.

Democrats insisted that "This is not about partisan politics or inappropriate comments," in the words of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), who introduced it. "To the contrary, this is about the rules of this House and reprehensible conduct." While some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), would have preferred that the matter be laid to rest, Clyburn, declaring that "Silence gives consent," insisted, "We cannot be silent because we cannot consent to this conduct."

Republicans, while shying away from defending Wilson's outburst, nonetheless insisted that the vote to rebuke him was a distraction. "Our economy is struggling, our families are hurting, and Congress is poised to demand an apology from a man who has already apologized," said Representative Mike Pence (R-Indiana), chairman of the Republican Conference. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the resolution a "partisan stunt."

Wilson did apologize to the president for calling him a liar, but he's refused to bow to majority Democrats' demands that he issue a public apology on the House floor to his colleagues for breaching the chamber's decorum.

On Tuesday, Wilson again refused to apologize to his colleagues in the debate leading to the vote on the resolution. "I think it is clear there are far more important issues than what we are doing right now," he said. "It is time we move on."

MUCH TO OBAMA'S CHAGRIN, RACE ISSUE COMES FRONT AND CENTER

House Democrats, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus, felt compelled to act as the issue of racial bias against the president suddenly surged front and center in the past week, partly due to revelations that Wilson is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- a 113-year-old "Southern heritage" group that, according to an anti-racism watchdog, has been taken over in the past decade by avowed white supremacists -- and partly due to remarks made by former President Jimmy Carter.

The SCV, according to a 2006 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, had undergone a purge of its longtime moderate members -- including several present and former U.S. senators -- who were replaced by "racial extremists." That, in turn, led to a bitter severing of relations between the SCV and other Southern heritage groups, including the Military Order of Stars & Bars and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The report noted that some 300 moderate SCV members were expelled, accused by the radical racialists of disloyalty for criticizing racism in the organization.

And in a 2008 expose, The St. Petersburg Times revealed that since the 1990s, clusters of SCV members "have aligned themselves with 'heritage groups' like the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens" -- both considered racist hate groups by the SPLC, with the CCC essentially a revival of the white citizens' councils that sprung up in the 1950s and 1960s to resist the civil rights movement.

Carter, in an interview Tuesday with "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams and in remarks Wednesday during a town hall meeting in Atlanta, said that Wilson's outburst was an act "based on racism" and rooted in fears of a black president.

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African-American," the former president said.

But one of Wilson's sons disputed that.

"There is not a racist bone in my dad's body," said Alan Wilson, an Iraq War veteran who is seeking the GOP nomination for state attorney general in South Carolina. "He doesn't even laugh at distasteful jokes. I won't comment on former President Carter, because I don't know President Carter. But I know my dad, and it's just not in him."

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele also denied race being a factor in the opposition to Obama's domestic agenda, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that Carter was "dead wrong" and "out of line."

But when confronted by TV images during the president's address showing Republican members of Congress almost exclusively white males and Democratic members of Congress a very diverse group in terms of race and gender, Steele admitted that the Republican Party needed to take a new line to connect with nonwhite voters. "Our party has for over a generation employed a strategy that right now many of us wish we never had," he said.

EVEN OBAMA DENIES RACE A FACTOR -- BUT ISSUE WON'T GO AWAY

Even the White House disagreed with Carter's assessment on Wednesday, with press secretary Robert Gibbs telling reporters that Obama "does not believe" that criticism of his policies is "based on the color of his skin."

Gibbs said the president understands that "people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we've made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by this administration and previous administration to stabilize our financial system, to ensure viability of our domestic auto industry.

"[But] the president does not believe that it's based on the color of his skin," he continued.

Asked why this is not a "teachable moment" on race similar to the one that the president seized upon after the racially-charged arrest of Dr. Louis Gates, a prominent African-American scholar by police at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home, Gibbs replied, "Obviously, the president has, and has always had, great concerns about race relations in this country.

"He's talked about them in speeches. He's talked about them throughout his career in politics; he believes we've made great strides, and obviously we've got work to do. But I'm not sure I see this -- this large national conversation going on right now."

The president has gone to great lengths to avoid making race an issue. But given the involvement of white supremacists in the "birther" movement to remove Obama from office; warnings of neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists girding for a campaign of domestic terrorism and the unprecedented spike in death threats against him -- all of it exposed by The 'Skeeter Bites Report and elsewhere over the past eight months -- it is an issue that will not likely go away any time soon.

# # #

Volume IV, Number 70
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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Monday, September 14, 2009

GOP Congressman Who Heckled Obama Has a Shady Past -- and Shadier Connections


Representative Joe Wilson Is Reportedly a Member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a 'Southern Heritage' Group Taken Over in the Last Decade By Radical White Supremacists Who Defend Slavery As 'A Benign Institution;' He Also Denounced as a 'Smear' the True Claim of Biracial Daughter of Late Senator and Ex-Segregationist Strom Thurmond

Congressman Joe Wilson

A firm believer in the Old (white-supremacist) South? It now appears that Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina), pictured here with constituents, may have been motivated by more than annoyance with President Obama's promise that his health-care reform proposals would not cover illegal immigrants. According to a candidate biography of Wilson on a nonpartisan Web site, the congressman is reportedly a member of a radical neo-Confederate organization that defends slavery. Wilson shouted out "You lie!" at the president in an unprecedented breach of decorum by a sitting member of Congress during Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last week. (Photo courtesy ThePalmettoScoop.com)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Monday, September 14, 2009)

By SKEETER SANDERS


Until last week, Joe Wilson was virtually unknown outside of his South Carolina congressional district. Now, the entire country is learning who he is.

The conservative Republican stunned and outraged many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and was loudly booed when he shouted "You lie!" at President Obama as he was delivering an address to a joint session of Congress on health-care reform.

Wilson accused the president of lying about a promise he made that his health-care reform proposals would not provide coverage for the nation's estimated 13 million illegal immigrants. The congressman apologized to the president within an hour after his speech and Obama accepted Wilson's apology.

Two days after his apology, however, Wilson recorded a YouTube video defending his opposition to Obama's health care plan – as well as requesting donations to the congressman's re-election campaign. As of late Sunday, Wilson raised $1 million.

Wilson's outburst against the president may have been motivated by more than annoyance over illegal immigrants.

It turns out that Wilson is, according to a candidate biography on the nonpartisan Web site OurCampaigns.com, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a longtime Southern-heritage organization that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been taken over in the past decade by radical white supremacists, who advocate secession from the Union and defend slavery as a "benign institution."

Nor is the nation's first African-American president the first person Wilson has publicly called a liar. The congressman did the same thing to the biracial daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, to whom Wilson was a former congressional page.

Wilson called Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a retired teacher, a liar when she came forward in 2003 that she is the eldest daughter of Thurmond and a black woman who worked for Thurmond's family as a maid in the 1920s -- despite the fact that the Thurmond family acknowledged her as a long-hidden relative.

DEFIANT WILSON WON'T APOLOGIZE TO CONGRESS, FACES REPRIMAND

Meanwhile, Wilson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said emphatically Sunday that he won't apologize to his colleagues in Congress for his outburst -- increasing the likelihood that the House will reprimand him as early as today (Monday).

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Wilson made it clear that he would not bow to House Democrats' demands that he stand on the floor and issue an apology to his fellow lawmakers. "I'm not going to apologize again," a defiant Wilson Fox News' Chris Wallace. "I believe the American people know I'm a civil person. I respect the institution of the House. I have apologized to the president. I believe that should be enough."

Wilson took an even harder line after his TV appearance, issuing a statement declaring, "The American people are fed up with the political games in Washington. I refuse to participate in an effort to divert our attention away from the task at hand of reforming health insurance and creating new jobs.

"Having apologized on Wednesday to the White House, we agreed that we must move forward in a civil manner to do the work the American people have sent us here to do," the Wilson statement continued.

Wilson denied a suggestion by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that his outburst against the president was racially motivated. In a column published Sunday, Dowd wrote that what she heard Wilson shout in the House chamber was, "You lie, boy!" -- a highly racially-charged epithet that is deeply offensive to African-Americans.

"Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t," Dowd wrote. "But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

"Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber," Dowd wrote.

Asked by Wallace whether race underlay his outburst, Wilson responded, "No, no, I respect the president." the 62-year-old Wilson added that his ancestors lived near those of first lady Michelle Obama in Georgetown County, South Carolina.

WILSON'S REPUTED MEMBERSHIP IN RACIST-CONTROLLED GROUP RAISES QUESTIONS

But revelations of Wilson's reputed membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans are likely to raise more questions about the motive for his outburst against the president.

The 113-year-old SCV, according to a 2006 SPLC report, had undergone a purge of its longtime moderate members -- including several present and former U.S. senators -- who were replaced by "racial extremists." That, in turn, led to a bitter severing of relations between the SCV and other Southern heritage groups, including the Military Order of Stars & Bars and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The report noted that some 300 moderate SCV members were expelled, accused by the radical racialists of disloyalty for criticizing racism in the organization.

And in a 2008 expose, The St. Petersburg Times revealed that since the 1990s, clusters of SCV members "have aligned themselves with 'heritage groups' like the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens" -- both considered racist hate groups by the SPLC, with the CCC essentially a revival of the white citizens' councils that sprung up in the 1950s and 1960s to resist the civil rights movement.

The question arises: If it turns out that Wilson is indeed a member of the SCV, how credible then, in the face of its takeover by white supremacists, are his denials of Obama's race being a factor in motivating his outburst against the president?

WILSON ATTACKED OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRACIAL DAUGHTER OF STROM THURMOND

In 2003, Wilson called Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a retired teacher, a liar when she came forward in 2003 that she is the the out-of-wedlock, biracial daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond and a black woman who worked for Thurmond's family as a maid in the 1920s -- only to apologize after the Thurmond family acknowledged her as their long-hidden relative.

Thurmond, a former arch-segregationist who became notorious for his fierce opposition to civil rights legislation -- leading the longest filibuster in Senate history against the civil rights bill of 1957 -- had a sexual liaison with the then-16-year-old Carrie Butler in 1925. Thurmond was 22 at the time.

Within days after Washington-Williams' revelation, Wilson told The State newspaper of Charleston, South Carolina that he didn't believe Williams. He deemed the revelation "unseemly" and "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."

But after the Thurmond family acknowledged that Washington-Williams was indeed the late senator's eldest daughter born out of wedlock, Wilson apologized but insisted that Washington-Williams should have kept the fact that Thurmond was her father private.

Washington-Williams, who now lives in Los Angeles and will turn 85 on October 12, did not learn of Thurmond being her father until she turned 16 and met the senator in person for the first time in 1941.

WILSON A RECIPIENT OF 'GOVERNMENT-RUN' HEALTH CARE HE OPPOSES FOR OTHERS

Wilson's strident opposition to what he sees as "government-run heath care" in the president's reform package is inconsistent with his being a recipient of government-run health care. Wilson is a retired colonel of the Army National Guard. As such, he receives full health-care coverage under the military's TRICARE program and will retain such coverage for the rest of his life, according to Newsweek magazine.

In fact, Wilson's family -- he has four sons now serving in the military -- has been a beneficiary of such "government-run health care" for several generations, according to the magazine.

Yet Wilson voted 11 times against expanding health-care coverage for veterans, according to the liberal-leaning South Carolina political site IndigoJournal.com, citing a blistering campaign ad by Rob Miller, Wilson's Democratic opponent in last year's election.

Miller, an Iraq War veteran and former Marine Corps captain who lost to Wilson by eight percentage points last year, is running against Wilson again in 2010 -- and has raised more than $1 million in the days since Wilson's outburst.

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Volume IV, Number 69
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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