Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
As a heated wingnut summer heads to a close, we look at a new GOP “socialist” attack on President Obama for speaking to school children, a ‘brain dead’ attack on Democratic centrists and, in a bonus round, a callous conspiracy theory just in time for the 8th anniversary of 9/11.
President Obama is slated to give a speech to America’s school children next Tuesday on the subject of taking personal responsibility for their success in school.
Last time I checked, personal responsibility and socialism were opposite concepts, but that didn’t stop Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer from firing off an unhinged press release. Here’s an excerpt:
“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology … I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda. The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates…Now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves."
Greer accused the president of using the speech to promote his political agenda – though the speech was never slated to cover policy. The Department of Education did change language in a lesson plan that suggested students write a letter about how they would help the president after hearing him speak. PolitiFact’s Truth-o-Meter did a rundown on the ‘controversy’ and published its results with a “Pants on Fire” ruling.
This knee-jerk name-calling and hyper-partisan hysteria is the latest sign that things have become completely unhinged inside the hotbox of the GOP. Accusing the president of having a “socialist ideology” and spreading “liberal lies” and “propaganda” don’t even raise common sense – or common decency – concerns.
Wingnuts live in a world without perspective, and those on the right are trying to turn the President of the United States into a fearful figure in order to score partisan points with their base. Only the far, far left fringe would have accused President Bush of having a ‘fascist ideology” – and they would have rightly been laughed off the stage. These statements are coming from GOP party officials – politicizing a talk to school kids by the President of the United States. Stay classy, GOP.
But liberals have showed plenty of their own wingnuttery in recent weeks, wrestling among themselves over the anger at town hall protests and asking whether compromise is courageous or cowardice. Liberal Democrat Rep. Pete Stark, who heads the health subcommittee on the Ways and Means Committee, took aim at the centrist Blue Dog Democrats on a conference call with reporters, saying they “just want to cause trouble” and that they are "brain dead.” Here’s the full quote:
"They're for the most part, I hate to say, brain dead, but they're just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process."
Lyndon Johnson once famously said that the difference between liberals and cannibals is that cannibals don’t eat their friends and family members. The idea that the Blue Dog Democrats – who have been trying to rein-in spending and fighting to preserve the possibility of a bipartisan bill – are promoting a "right-wing agenda" is evidence of a creeping intolerance on the part of liberal congressional leaders. They are starting to look like mirror images of the play-to-the-base partisanship they rightly decried during the Tom DeLay era.
Finally, in an off-the-grid bonus round that hits a new low, former CIA analyst and conspiracy theorist Michael Scheuer lobbed another offensive claim just in time for the 8th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th – asserting that the Obama administration wants America to be attacked by terrorists:
"Oh sure we're going to be attacked … and, you know, Rahm Emanuel wants an attack. He loves crisis, and crisis, the Democrats, he says, can get all of their programs through. These people simply do not care."
A few months ago, Scheuer hit on a variation of the same ugly theme, this time almost cheerleading for an attack: "The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States ... Because it's going to take a grassroots, bottom up pressure, because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans. It's an absurd situation, again. Only Osama can execute an attack that will force Americans to demand a government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary."
It’s hard to imagine an uglier or more offensive accusation, especially on the approaching anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in history. It’s shameless and a shameful new low in the wingnut ring of dishonor.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.