With President Barack Obama set to deliver his first formal State of the Union address tonight, the political world turns its gaze to Rep. Joe Wilson (R-.S.C.), who unceremoniously shouted down Obama the last time he addressed a bicameral gathering of Congress.
The South Carolina Republican has pledged to act dignified during tonight's address, telling the Associated Press that his "natural inclination is to be on my best behavior... I have the highest respect for the president, and I certainly look forward to the speech."
Alas, Wilson may have already tossed presidential deference overboard. A Democratic source forwards over a radio interview Wilson did in late December in which he appears to fan the flames of birtherism, telling a caller that the issue of Obama's country of origin should have been litigated during the Democratic primary process.
"I was an election commissioner and so I always take seriously that when people file, that's where that should have been brought up," Wilson told the Kevin Cohen Show on December 21. "And it should have been brought up when he filed for president in the first state wherever it was and whichever had a primary where he should file. So that is a legal issue that should have been brought up at that time."
The congressman, whose political antics have landed him a Democratic challenger for his seat -- former Marine Rob Miller -- also insisted that the Republican Party would be better served by focusing on attacking Obama's domestic agenda.
But this doesn't really give him a pass. By stating that the issue of Obama's birthplace should have been raised, Wilson is implicitly acknowledging that there is uncertainty as to whether the president is constitutionally allowed to hold office. Saying that he now wants to focus on policy issues allows him some distance from the birther movement, but it also means he is not disputing the movement's fundamental claim.