American Morning

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May 8th, 2009
06:42 AM ET

Commentary: Wingnuts of the week

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.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (L) and current Rep. Michele Bachmann (R)."]

I'm trying out a new segment on "American Morning" called “Wingnuts of the Week.” It builds on a simple premise – the far-right and the far-left are equally insane.

What’s a Wingnut? It’s someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of American politics – the professional partisans and the unhinged activists – the folks who always try to divide rather than unite. In our polarized two party system, they have disproportionate influence and too often define the terms of debate. With this segment, I'm going to try and take that power back.

In this first week, I'm naming two charter members of the Wingnut Hall of Fame who recently reared their heads in the news once again. I want to be an equal opportunity offender, punching both left and right, so both are members of Congress – one current and one former – and both are defended in their respective echo chambers on the far-right and far-left.

So drum roll, please: The Wingnuts of the Week for our inaugural edition are Michele Bachmann and Cynthia McKinney.

Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann first became nationally known in the late innings of campaign ’08, when she told Chris Matthews, “I am very concerned he [Barack Obama] may have anti-American views.” Undeterred by common sense or common decency, she followed that with a call to investigate all members of Congress for anti-American views. The media fallout made her, if anything, more beloved by conservatives. She was subsequently selected to be the master of ceremonies at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s Presidential Banquet. But the howlers have kept coming – recently put in a handy compendium by my colleagues at the Daily Beast.

This past week, in an interview with she took another leap too far, saying, “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter.”

Two things: First, the bemused reach for causality between pandemics and Democratic presidents is a great illustration of the Wingnut’s impulse to blame everything bad in the world on the opposite party. Second, she got her facts wrong. It was under the administration of Republican President Gerald Ford that swine flu last reared its porcine head.


Filed under: John Avlon • Wingnuts of the week
May 8th, 2009
06:27 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Friday May 8th, 2009

Here are the big stories on the agenda today.

A major turning point in a case that dominated the headlines for months.  Drew Peterson has been indicted for the death of his third wife.  It's a murder that was uncovered after his fourth wife Stacy vanished 18 months ago.

A key test of whether we've really turned that corner.  The monthly jobs report for April is due out this morning.  Some reports suggest we could hit a 25-year high – but there are sings the pace could be slowing.  The CNN Money Team has the good and bad and what it all means for you.

Dozens of Marines setting foot in Afghanistan,  the first of President Obama's surge of 21,000.  Much larger waves are expected in the coming weeks, but troops on the ground say supply lines are running too slow.  They weren't afraid to tell the defense secretary that on his trip to the war zone.  Chris Lawrence has the latest from Afghanistan.

More than 30,000 residents in Santa Barbara told to get out – as a California wildfire burns out of control.  The fire was only ten-percent contained as the winds picked up again last night.  Emergency officials say at least 75 homes have been destroyed, but more than 12,000 could be in danger.

Discharged for being gay.  Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and officer in the Army National Guard, who is fluent in Arabic and who returned recently from Iraq, received word Thursday that the military is discharging him because he admitted he was gay.  That’s been the law in this land since 1993 – and is still today under the Obama administration.

Filed under: What's On Tap
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