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December 11th, 2009
06:29 AM ET

Avlon: Wingnut's Facebook rant is fear-smear

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.

Sen. Harry Reid and Mayor Russell Wiseman (Photos: Senate.gov / Townofarlington.org)

Sen. Harry Reid and Mayor Russell Wiseman (Photos: Senate.gov / Townofarlington.org)

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

Wingnut comments are often characterized by unhinged anger and a complete lack of historic perspective – and that’s what we saw this week from Arlington, Tennessee Mayor Russell Wiseman on the right, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the left.

Mayor Wiseman was sitting down to watch "The Charlie Brown Christmas Special" with his children when he found the program pre-empted by President Obama’s speech at West Point announcing the troop surge in Afghanistan.

His conclusion? The timing was a deliberate affront to Christians and the Constitution from a “Muslim president.” His next move was to post his feelings on Facebook.

“Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes'....”

In an extensive thread unearthed and excerpted by the Memphis Commercial Appeal this week, Mayor Wiseman went on to widen his attacks, writing: “...you obama people need to move to a muslim country...oh wait, that's America....pitiful.”

At another point he wrote, “you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different.”

Social media pulls the curtain back from the public face, and the incongruously named Mayor Wiseman’s rants covered broad territory, not only reiterating the “Obama is Muslim” fear-smear, but wading into paranoid politics as well as religion. His last riff on the Constitution is worth some analysis: Wiseman is apparently saying that what he sees as America’s decline is rooted in the expansion of democracy itself, from wealthy landed (and, at the time, white and male) elite to the principle of one person, one vote. That’s quite a prescription for what ails us, a strange nostalgia for a pre-civil rights and pre-Civil War era. That’s wingnut stuff.

Send in your suggestions for the next "Wingnuts of the Week"

Those historic struggles were apparently on the mind of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when he compared Republican opposition to Democrat’s health care legislation to defenders of slavery and segregation in a speech on the floor of the Senate. That’s wingnut stuff as well. Here’s what Harry Reid said:

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough.'"

"When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right.

"When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."

Historic perspective is too rarely used in politics but this is malpractice.

First, current debates over health care are centered on taxpayer cost and unintended consequences. It is big legislation, but not as big as basic questions of human freedom.

Second, implying that Republicans were to blame for attempts to block the emancipation of slaves and the end of segregation is just wrong: it was conservative Democrats, not Republicans, who resorted to filibuster and other attempts to derail civil rights legislation. And it was Republicans like Lincoln who led the fight to end slavery in the 19th century.

Finally, Reid resorted to the left-wingnut sin of reflexively playing the race card. It’s a tactic that reduces credibility while trying to claim moral authority.

Reid’s comments quickly drew condemnation from GOP senators like John McCain and RNC Chair Michael Steele, but Reid’s office has refused to apologize. Some things are bigger than politics, and comparing your opponents to slavery’s defenders clearly crosses the line.

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


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. hdoc

    Sorry John, but this time you are the one who got it wrong. An attentive reading of Reid's remarks reveals no accusation that Republicans opposed emancipation of the slaves. The text you printed clearly states "there were those who . . ." The other parallels drawn by Sen Reid follow suit. Perhaps you might consider reading things a bit more carefully next time. Frankly, how you can put Mayor Wiseman's comments in the same piece as Sen Reid's is beyond me. When you do you come across as "wingnut" as those you chastise with your writing. One guy is saying that there are always those would are deliberately and unapologetically on the wrong side of history, and the other lamenting the loss of the "good old days" when full citizenship was restricted to white, wealthy, land-owning men. Yeah, that's the same.

    January 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  2. James

    I kind of like the idea that only land owners can vote. That would change things for the better and probably cut spending by 90%.

    December 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  3. Janmk

    Wiseman is just another example of the "it's all about me" mentality that holds our society back. Looks like he wants to pass that baton to his kids as well. Nice Utopian dream, well over half of the American population would be denied the right to vote.

    I also was unaware that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was Christian- religious in nature.

    Reid's comments do not qualify as wing-nut stuff, and I have to agree with mike-sey. It's much easier to find wingnuts on the right than on the left these days.

    December 20, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  4. Ric Hartung

    I think the “wingnuts” are most of those that commented on this article. I see where the morons are! lol

    December 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  5. Alexis Farmington

    To equate Reid's comments to the Tennessee wingnut's is just as wingnutty.

    December 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm |
  6. MRTexas

    Sarah...what was the Bush doctrine? We all learned somthing from George W. Bush...he could not find his @ss with both hands!

    December 11, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  7. John Frum

    Reids comments on health care ring as true as if he were talking about gay marriage. Fifty years from now everyone will see both these struggles in the frame work of America's proud history of recognizing inalienable human rights.

    December 11, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  8. Ralph Patch

    McCain and Steele are idiots. Who cares what they "think". The debate from these retard Republicans is not centered on cost. It is based on defeating anything Democrats put forth to help solve our problems. Lies such as death panels and forcing people on to government health care is what the republicans are all about. The fact is, they have been on the wrong side of history in most cases. They were against Social security, Medicare, equal rights for all and on and on.
    Harry Reid is basically right and has no reason to apologize.

    December 11, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  9. Anthony H.

    Are you completely historically inept? "Southern Democrats" at the time of the civil war are the same force that split from the Democratic party "Dixiecrats" in 1948 at the democratic convention over Truman's stance on desegragation, ever heard of Strom Thurmond? Since finding a new home in the republican party they've opposed civil rights legislation in the 60's, medicare and any socially progressive initiative you can think of.

    You failed to mention Reid did NOT apologize because access to affordable quality health care is a MORAL issue, not unlike ending slavery.

    You also failed to refer to Wisman as the racist he is even while he invokes white male voting hegemony as a utopian memory. The "wingnut" moniker being a convenient euphamism does not make these two utterances at all comparable or hide the bigotry inherent in the republican party despite your best efforts.

    December 11, 2009 at 9:46 am |
  10. hongli

    The wing- nut of the week should be Sarah Palin who said that President Obama could learn a few things from George W Bush. What a JOKE and what a MORON!!!!!

    December 11, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  11. Houston Mom

    You can have the right-wing hate-based christians on their crowing about environmental issues but NEVER, NEVER once can you people do or say not even one positive thing about the huge gay population in this nation. Are the owners of CNN that strong a bunch of homophobes or is it just the producers and staff of AMFIX??

    December 11, 2009 at 8:54 am |
  12. ronvan

    You can see why this country is so screwed up. That people would elect someone like this to ANY POSITION of responsibility is dumbfounding and disgusting! Will the "people" who elected wiseman now stand up to have him thrown out of office and if not then one would have to assume that they ALL have the same train of thought!

    December 11, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  13. mary

    The Mayor is right; Obama is a jerk, probably a closet muslim, and easily the WORST President this country has ever had.

    December 11, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  14. mike-sey

    Sorry John, your choice of Senator Reid as a 'wingnut' is a stretch and involves a distortion of your own.

    Senator Reid was right when he pointed out that the same delaying tactics and arguments were used in the past to block progress on other big issues including slavery and civil rights.

    Secondly Mr. Reid did not say Republicans were on the wrong side of the emancipation debate. He said "there were those who...", a general non-partisan phrase which equally applies to Conservative Democrats and could to today's Blue Dog Democrats.

    To call Mr. Reid a wingnut is a stretch and is probably occasioned by an excessive desire to find balance. Unfortunately, its harder these days to find wing nuts on the left than the right so you engage in a bit of wing-nuttery fabrication of your own..

    December 11, 2009 at 7:18 am |
  15. Chris

    Looks like Wiseman has issues bigtime, probably he's the reason why Reid made his statement.

    However, to be more accurate, Reid should have said the Republican masses are like poor southern farmers rallying to the cry of the plantation owners to support slavery. That parable would have the GOP law makers in the role of slave owners and the Republican Registry being the mindless drones following the BS offerred by the platation owners to die in order to keep money in the pockets of the slavers.

    December 11, 2009 at 7:11 am |
  16. Jeff

    You miss the "historical perspective" that the conservative Democrats who resisted civil rights are today's Republicans (a result of Nixon's "southern strategy"). So, while all comparisons are open to criticism, it isn't wrong to suggest that the same political forces that resisted civil rights in the 60's are the forces resisting nearly every Democratic-proposed reform now including, but not limited to, health care reform. Just because the label is the same (i.e., Republican of 1860's, 1960's and 2009), doesn't mean those represented by that label are of the same persuasion.

    December 11, 2009 at 6:52 am |