Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Joe Wilson's 15 Minutes

Paris Hilton is widely seen as a celebrity famous for nothing in particular.

She's the heiress to the Hilton hotel empire and done a mediocre reality show. But she's probably more known for less flattering incidents, like run-ins with the law and a tawdry and much-publicized sex tape.

In essence, in Hollywood, Hilton is the prime example of famous for being infamous.

In the political world, you could make the same case about Congressman Joe Wilson, who has been whipping around the country riding a new wave of fame based on behavior that would make most good mothers cringe.

On Saturday, Wilson was in Springfield speaking in a packed room to a conservative group that proudly touts itself as "The Republican wing of the Republican Party."

He's repeatedly acknowledged he should not have interrupted the President of the United States with an outburst that would have gotten most any other subordinate fired. He seemed genuinely regretful about his action.

Yet the sheer irony of it all is that Wilson would not be crisscrossing the country as the new hero of the right without that singular moment. We would've never heard of him. He'd just be one more of the mostly anonymous 435.

Instead, from Virginia to Michigan to Missouri, Wilson has been asked to attend fundraising events across the country and bask in the glow. He's also received a pile of fresh campaign donations to boost his own political prospects.

In line during the meet and greet photo shoot, conservative after conservative greeted Wilson with a hearty handshake, a pat on the back and an 'Atta boy' wink.

"Thanks so much for standing up to him," said one attendee.

A full standing ovation from the University Plaza audience greeted him.

Yet, when asked if anything good has come of his "You Lie" remark, Wilson wouldn't go there, dodging the question.

There was something odd about Saturday's gathering of Greene County area conservatives. They had gathered mostly to hear a man who had done nothing more than rudely speak out of turn on a national stage. (Not to mention a former Democratic consultant who got in trouble with a prostitute).

It's not to say his apology isn't real or that he's not a man of substance on some level. (His Southern, slow-walking twang seemed almost calming on some levels.)

It's to point out that by his own admission, Congressman Wilson did something wrong, something unseemly, something he said he wouldn't do again -- and yet, he's being rewarded for it, many times over with money, fame and oddly enough, credibility.

Sort of like the heiress with the sex tape.

Except she's honest enough to say she doesn't regret it.

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