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Washington Sketch: Republicans Are Mad, if Not Joe Wilson-Shouting-Mad

Dick Armey and John Boehner: Mad, if not shouting mad.
Dick Armey and John Boehner: Mad, if not shouting mad. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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Democrats contemplated a move to sanction Wilson for his explosion but then reconsidered, figuring Republicans were doing themselves enough damage without Democratic help. "It's time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson," a cheerful House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Still, she found time to announce that "the parliamentarian passed me a piece of paper that said what the options were" for punishing Wilson.

She also mentioned that it "was stunning to hear such a statement made on the floor of the House when the president of the United States is speaking."

Pelosi waved her hands dismissively. "But let's not spend time on that," she said. She waited until the cameras were off to give reporters a more candid view: "I think it shows the bankruptcy of their ideas," she said.

Wilson skipped a planned appearance at an afternoon rally across from the Capitol by the conservative group FreedomWorks, but he had already gained hero status among the attendees. "We agree with him -- Obama's a liar," said Carole Holland, from Florida, wearing paper ornaments over her ears that said "Obama [bovine excrement] Reflector."

Nearby, LaRouchies displayed a large poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache. Several GOP lawmakers, including Boehner, were on the stage. "Last night, we heard our president address our country," said Eric Cantor (Va.), the House Republican whip. There was a chorus of boos. A woman shouted out, "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), leader of House conservatives, invoked Samuel Adams: "It doesn't take a majority to prevail, but an irate and tireless minority keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men. Thank you so much for setting those brush fires."

Dick Armey, the former House leader who organized the rally, added his own patriot: "Patrick Henry said, 'Give me liberty or give me death.' Well, Barack Obama is trying to make good on that."

Approached by a reporter after the speeches, Armey said that what Wilson did was no worse than what Obama did in calling the death-panel myth "a lie, plain and simple." Wilson's fault, Armey said, was that "he should not have expressed himself so clearly and openly as he did."

"I mean, give ol' Joe Wilson a break here," Armey said. For an opposition party trying to harness public furor, it was the only option.

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