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October 30th, 2009
06:05 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnut' in desperate bid for attention

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.

Rep. Alan Grayson (left) and Michelle Malkin (right).

Rep. Alan Grayson (left) and Michelle Malkin (right).

A Democrat who seems determined to win the race to the bottom and Republican commentators who keep pushing their party further to the right in a hunt for heretics – its all in the "Wingnuts of the Week." Plus, a bonus round: a racist image posted on the RNC's Web site.

Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has made a name for himself quickly in the halls of Congress, and he's done it the new fashioned way: by kicking and screaming and slandering.

Grayson has earned the first repeat "Wingnut of the Week" since we began this segment in May. His wingnut move at the time was saying that the Republican plan for health care was for people to “die quickly.” But in the last few weeks he's hit two new lows: saying that Republicans are "the enemy of America" and "certainly the enemy of peace," and then calling one of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's advisors a "K Street whore" – on 9/11 Truther Alex Jones’ radio show. (And, seriously, what was Grayson doing on a radio show hosted by someone who sells information on “How to Survive Martial Law in America” and a DVD about Barack Obama called “The Fall of the Republic”?)

It sounds to me like Rep. Grayson is coming a bit unhinged in his quest for attention. He's putting up online advertisements asking people to give him money because he’s a "Democrat with Guts" – a similar move to the one pulled by Republican Joe Wilson after he shouted "you lie" at President Obama. And there are some Democrats who reflexively defend Grayson’s comments simply because he’s on their team. Being a professional polarizer does not make you an effective politician or even an effective communicator. Rep. Alan Grayson is again our "Wingnut of the Week" on the left.

On the right, our eyes turn toward a special election for the House seat in New York’s 23rd district that used to be filled by Republican John McHugh until President Obama named him Secretary of the Army. It’s become a test case for the center-right vs. far-right, pragmatic vs. pundit struggle for the GOP’s soul. The campaign is between pro-choice and pro-gay-rights Republican state legislator Dede Scozzafava, Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, and Democrat Bill Owens. The fact that the center-right vote is being split has pushed the Democratsinto pole position in the traditionally GOP seat, threatening to continue a trend that has reduced New York Congressional Republicans from 13 seats a decade ago to just two today.

Sarah Palin and other national conservatives have backed Hoffman, while Newt Gingrich has made a pragmatic big tent case for her election: “Dede Scozzafava is endorsed by the National Rifle Association for her 2nd Amendment position, has signed the no tax increase pledge, voted against the Democratic governor's big-spending budget, is against the cap-and-trade tax increase on energy, is against the Obama health plan, and will vote for John Boehner, rather than Nancy Pelosi, to be speaker.” At another point, Newt laid out the underlying principle: “This idea that we’re suddenly going to establish litmus tests and all across the country we’re going to purge the party of anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent; that guarantees Obama’s reelection” and even more sensibly “You know, you can have a very, very intense movement of 20 percent. You can’t govern. To govern, you got to get 50 percent plus one.”

For that bit of pragmatic math, the leader of the 1994 Republican Revolution was dubbed “King of the RINOS” by the wingnut netroots. Michelle Malkin has taken to a leadership role in playing Robespierre, firing off a missive titled “Yes, Newt, the GOP should be purged of Left-Wing saboteurs.” I’ve defended Malkin in the past when she was crudely targeted by Playboy Magazine, but this stream of posts has all the wingnut heraldry – calls for a purge, a description of a centrist Republican as a “radical leftist” and a “saboteur,” a violent internal traitor. And for that Michelle Malkin earns her place as "Wingnut of the Week."

Finally, the million dollar re-launch of GOP.com hit a snag when its Facebook fan page featured a rogue posting – by a person known only to date as Gee Dub – of a photo showing President Obama eating a chicken wing over the racist slogan “Miscegenation is a crime against American values: Repeal Loving v. Virginia” – the 1967 Supreme Court decision, which outlawed bans on interracial marriage. This fundamentally un-American slur remained up on the GOP's Web site for almost a week before being taken down. It’s a sign of the ugliness bubbling up from the wingnut grass-roots that must be confronted if the Republican Party wants to reclaim its mantle as the Party of Lincoln.

I'm going to be signing off for a few weeks to get married and go on a honeymoon. I'll see you at the end of November and we'll continue with a new round of "Wingnuts of the Week."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Nicky

    William – what Constitution are you reading? Please tell me which Article of the US Constitution contains the directive to "completely replace the government every fifty years." Also what dictionary do you get your definition of "freedom" from? I was taught that freedom of religion means that we are all free to choose our own religious beliefs, I never realized that we in America are only free to worship your "one true god."

    December 20, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  2. LC

    Can the ignoramuses that use the word "socialism" actually look it up and see what it means before they parrot all of the pundits that take advantage of the people who don't think about what they read and hear on the "news?"

    Socialism as defined by wikipedia: "Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended."

    Merriam Webster defines it as: 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

    2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

    3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

    So until Obama's administration buys every company doing business in the United States and your paycheck says that the payor is the US Government, then you can call it Socialism (which he can't do without the Congress and Senate passing the bill).

    If you disagree with the current administration, please exercise your right to free speech using more intelligent and cogent points.

    But if you're going to regurgitate right-wing pundit stuff, save your oxygen and calories. We've heard the stuff before...

    December 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  3. Tim O.

    The lies we tell ourselves are the hardest ones to see and admit to. America is basically deep in denial here, and that is true on both sides of the political spectrum. You see it over and over again in the comments people leave on sites like this. It is sad, perhaps it is tragic. Grayson says those things that some element of a kind of truth mainly to frame the argument his way so he comes off morally superior. Sarah Palin doesn't bother to argue; she makes statements that have little to do with reality, but which she can apparently choose to believe on any given day in such a manner that she appears "authentic". It doesn't make what she says true. In fact, her ability to believe her spiel is exactly what makes her so very dangerous.

    A con man is a bad guy, but an ideologue is always worse because he believes his lies. At least Obama knows there is danger in that. Read his books and watch him try and play to the reasonable middle. I don't know if it is possible anymore. But we should be praying for him, not excoriating him. And you can thank George W. for being entirely too willing to believe what he wanted to believe for giving us this new depression (even though the MSM tries to paint it as not so bad). The average person is really just sick of the carnage of our political system. They are shutting down now. Hiding out.

    December 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Franny

    Amen Pam Crabtree! Great response, and so darn true! I really believe it's because those that voted for Bush not once, but twice are embarassed, and like Bush? they will never admit a mistake! Shame on you that don't support our President. What are you traitors? That's what the Bush administration would call you!

    November 27, 2009 at 9:01 am |
  5. Stortz

    William,

    “We are a country founded on Christian principles and freedom of worshiping the One True God and Our Savior Jesus Christ !!! We are not a religious country and we do not promote and accept other religious values and false Christian ideas !! We read and trust in the THE WORD of GOD, completely and wholey!!”

    You obviously skipped your history classes, and yet you want us to think you have read the US Constitution? LOL!

    This jokester must be an Okie... religious to the hilt, ignorant about the founding of our country, my way or the highway type, very similar to the Senators from Oklahoma. What an embarrassment for Oklahoma!

    November 13, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  6. Dawn

    I don't think Grayson is a wingnut. I think he is finally giving voice to what the rest of us feel. After the Bush administration and its attacks on the Constitution and their bad economics policies have seriously impacted our family, I have begun to look at Republicans as enemies. Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bauchmann, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity are not my countrymen. They do not share my values of freedom of speech, the right to live a life with access to affordable health care, education, and the expectation that employers and bankers treat me ethically and legally. When an entire party has joined together to stop 45 million Americans from having insurance and stop the rest of us from getting fair treatment from insurance companies, then what are they but enemies? When they allow corporations to destroy our jobs by making reckless investments, take our neighbors homes after predatory lending, send our young men and women to die for a lie in Iraq, what are they if not enemies? They are certainly not my friends.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  7. Lugnut

    Our media outlets (a.k.a., news organizations, politicians, preferred and not so preferred popular show hosts, columnists and political pundits) are only doing what we the american public want them to do. We/they seem hell bent on having a public divide with little middle ground and they're only spewing the fuel we're asking for....hmmm, there is this James Bond movie with some media mogul that tried to nuke China to control the ensuing war for ratings..... hmmm. If we didn't love it so much we wouldn't be here venting on our perceptions of what is right and wrong, as if it matters to anyone other than the media outlet that gets ad revenue from hosting it for our increasing hypertension and pleasure.

    As Ralph Patch below pitches from the ultra left for a divide, I agree, let's split it up. All the liberal, socialist, far left Grayson supporters who think he's politically correct move west of the Mississippi (that's left towards California for those who failed to pass 5th grade geography). The far right, democratic capitalists who believe in God and guns move to the East side of the Mississipi (that would be right, again for those who failed to pass 5th grade geography – no prejudice here, every country needs idiots). Or maybe we use the old North – South lines of old. Whatever. You all move as soon as possible and we'll send Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the do nothing House to you, with whatever illegal aliens we can find for the new socialist utopia. You can call it " The Socialist States of Obamica". The rest of us, including me if you haven't figured it out yet, that remain east will go about the business of "failing" the good socialist scorecard and being dowright arrogant to the rest of the world as we've done since the birth of this nation. May you all prosper in your new utopia. May the capitalists suffer the wrath of capitalism and democracy under the constitution, as we have since the brith of this country.

    November 2, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  8. Bill-O-Rights

    Grayson is a coward who tried to hide from a FOX news reporter asking about his comments. He even tried to have security officers remove this reporter from a PUBLIC BUILDING because he couldn't leave early and was sick of hiding in his office, and our president has the nerve to PRAISE him! Republicans want you to die early? Why doesn't he smack his head into his office door a few times. Maybe it'll knock some sense into him. He and his cronies are going to damage our country so much during their present reign we will struggle for years to recover. Also, their divisive policies and name calling sounds like spoiled children in the playground. The problem is this playground is in Washington. And as far as our "Saviour" goes, when he opened his mouth in the Lewis Gates issue he showed his true colors. Doesn't Obama know anything about history and how presidents should be "above the fray"? Remember Nixon and Manson? Nixons comments to the press almost caused a mistrial.
    And Mr. President, you only make your so called "enemies" stronger with your circumvention of our constitution and your lack of a vetting process. Dump the CZARS!!! You have the worst selection of people working for you I have EVER seen in my 58 years. Yes, we know who you are now by the socialists and Mao worshippers, tax cheats, NAMBLA members anti- 2nd ammendment clowns radicals, and who knows who else may crawl out from under the rocks . And just so the critics who read this know my stand, I constantly critisized Bush as well.
    It's finally time for true Americans to stand up and make noise. You polititians and YOU too Mr. President, work For US!!! Start showing it or get lost.

    November 1, 2009 at 8:11 am |
  9. andy

    The conservative repubs remind me of the Taliban. They don't care what anybody on earth thinks it's either their way or no way at all.
    Thank God everybody woke up and are now voting them out of power in every county in America. That's what happened in November at the federal level – out of town on a rail.
    The repubs hate that the people are ignoring them and getting nastier about it week by week. When Grayson stands up and yells at them he is called a wingnut? I call him a brave patriot. After all, they have blasted him from all sides as being Satan himself. When he swings back they whine like little babies.
    I'm on his side and I hope he continues to call them out for what they are some of the meanest people on earth. The other thing the repubs are is irrelevant and that is the best news of all.

    October 31, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  10. Robert

    When we watch 30 out 40 Republican Senators vote to support and promote gang rape by Halliburton KBR employees, The Republican Party has become the enemy of not only of all US citizens, but of all good and decent people, and honor and morality everywhere in the world.

    The Republican Party is a Cancer on America.

    October 31, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  11. Mitchell

    Hey guys....lets do everything we can to support Grayson and this administration. How else will we be ushered into a bankrupt and socolist future.

    October 30, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  12. Proud Pagan in VA

    William, you can't be serious. Wait..... you are? *sigh* Do you, by chance, live under high-tension power lines? This is a prime example of the Chicken Little rhetoric the floundering "right" can't seem to distance themselves from. That's why they're on their way out, thankfully.

    October 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  13. CF

    Avalon, a little out of touch, you are my dip @hit of the week.

    October 30, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  14. Jack

    All have forgotten that they are there to support and improve America. They scream what is wrong but offer no solutions or slander others who try to offer solutions. They have forgotten that America, the once called Great Experiment, is a work in progress and that it has been and will be as long as Americans regognize that we can make it better. It is a shame that we have allowed these people (of both parties) to be elected and to have allowed the to hijack a once great Nation in the name of their particular extreme views. I find it very sad.

    October 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Allen in Hartwell GA

    For William: you got the wrong section to show your...um, opinion. As for being in the military, I seriously doubt it. But then you are obviously just someone wanting space to rant and rave. Isn't there a TEA party for you to go to?

    October 30, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  16. Steven

    William, where do you come from, this kind of religious fanaticism is what the terrorists from the middle east preach!!!!! You, sir, are a clear and present danger to this Nation and I, for one, will fight in EVERY way your kind of totalitarian, fascist idea of Amerika. Name the time and place buddy, let's get the 2nd civil war going. You are the kind of hate filled religious racist that is a true enemy of America.

    October 30, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  17. Columbus Guy

    Alan Grayson may be a "wing nut" in your corporate media world that has shifted so far to the right over the past 40 years in response to the 60s that anything short of Limbaugh is branded communist,...

    However in the real world and in the lives of many Americans Grayson speaks volumes about the real disconnect that exists in this country...

    But Right Wing Propaganda Can't Hide This Fact Forever:
    If The Truths That Alan Grayson and Others Like Him Speak Is Wing Nut ? Better Include Me And Most Of The Average People I Know or Meet On A Daily Basis On That List.....

    Maybe Grayson Is The Sort Of "Wing Nut" Kept Silent Too Long...

    Sad Too That YOUR corporate media was silent while a string of "Criminals Elements" like: Liddy and North became "heros"... Or Media Criminals like The Savage's, Limbaugh's, Malkin's, Gingrich, and the rest of that Right Wing Nut media crew hijacked the national soap box on the way to taking this country to "THE EDGE" of destruction with 9/11, 2 wars, and "The Greed" of the current economic meltdown and beyond...

    All That Cost A Lot Of Lives and A National Damage Beyond Repair...
    All Veterans and Their Families Know That 1st Hand...

    October 30, 2009 at 10:15 am |
  18. Ralph Patch

    Rep. Grayson's comments are a little over the top perhaps, but I think he is basically right. The Republicans seem to be doing everything in their power to sabotage this administration. That is borderline treason and unamerican. I think we should split the country into two seperate regions. One part for those who are Democrats and the other for those who are wrong!

    October 30, 2009 at 8:53 am |
  19. William

    Are you kidding me !!!! You always distrust the govt and thats why you so closely scrutinize everything they do, the people should completely and absolutely control their government and that includes replacing it when necessary. Our Constitution says that our govt should be replace every 50 years....Completely replaced !!!!! Read the constitution people....dont be so stupid and ignorant!! Its time for a Revolution...just like in 1776 and replace the government completely they ...and their liberal cronies are destroying our country and our values!! We are a country founded on Christian principles and freedom of worshiping the One True God and Our Savior Jesus Christ !!! We are not a religious country and we do not promote and accept other religious values and false Christian ideas !! We read and trust in the THE WORD of GOD, completely and wholey!! We now have a socialist ...community activist President who wants to destroy America as it was founded and destroy our constitution...and he may have not even been born here in America but yet we let this go unvetted !! Whats wrong with us??? I am in the military and I took an oath to support and defend the American Constitution...not an American false President !! Cash for clunkers didnt work...didnt do a thing....stimulus...didnt do a thing....Govt run health care.....give me a break ...what a joke !! Bring back Pres Bush and hold the Liberal Dems....Dodd and Frank for their gross abuse of power and corruption and for causing this financial and economic mess that we are now in with their forcing of banks to make loans to low income families that could not afford it!! Where is the media about this !!!

    October 30, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  20. Diane Hall

    In his Wingnuts of the Week segment this morning Avion said about Rep Grayson's emotional readings of letters from people with health care problems that "crying is the new black" implying that Grayson's emotions were not real. Just what does Avion mean by "crying is the new black."

    October 30, 2009 at 8:10 am |
  21. ronvan

    Remember when a hand shake was a persons word & bond? That you COULD trust what someone told you. Today, you cannot trust anyone. Even if you have a legal contract you had better read the fine print, or hope your attorney is on top of his game to catch and decipher the legalese BS!

    October 30, 2009 at 7:07 am |
  22. Pam Crabtree

    I find it disingenuous that a member of the conservative Cato Institute is now so concerned about the growth of government spending. George W. Bush began his administration with a budget surplus. Two wars and two huge tax cuts later, we now have a serious deficit. Where were these deficit hawks during the Bush administration? And let's remember that anyone who expressed skepticism about the Iraq War was branded as soft on terrorism. Look at what the right did to Max Cleland.

    The message I received from you commentary is that it is fine to be skeptical of government now that Obama is president. Why didn't you say the same thing 8 years ago?

    October 30, 2009 at 6:37 am |