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August 14th, 2009
06:10 AM ET

Avlon: Palin, LaRouche stirring the crazy pot

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="Lyndon LaRouche (L) and Sarah Palin (R). Photos: Images"]

It’s become the summer of the wingnut. Unhinged eruptions at town halls are becoming standard operating procedure, as forces from the right face off against forces deployed by the left. Politics, it turns out, follows the line of physics: every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.

This week’s wingnuts are stirring the crazy pot with accusations and associations – on the right, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin makes her debut appearance on the wingnut list with a fanatical Facebook rant and on the left all time wingnut Lyndon LaRouche resurfaces with an ugly new poster of the president as Adolf Hitler that is appearing at town halls.

It's hard to remember that Sarah Palin was unknown one year ago, before being nominated to serve as McCain’s VP in late August 08. Now no longer the Governor of Alaska, she remains a powerful political presence on the right and is considered a likely contender for president in 2012. There have been times when she’s been unfairly attacked in the past, but this past week she jumped the shark in my book, cementing her reputation as one of the most polarizing political figures in America with this fear-fueled outburst on Facebook to her friends and followers:

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

For sheer fear-mongering that aims at the heart of familial emotions this statement is perhaps unprecedented at the major league level of recent American politics. It should be needless to say that none of the various bills circulating through congress contains a "death panel." The outcry over her statements was so widespread that even partisan Republicans distanced themselves from her comments (in a refreshing bit of candor, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson said Palin’s statement was “nuts.”) Soon Sarah Palin followed suit offering an apology and calling for more civility in our politics, but that only added insult to this injury.

Just as you can’t retreat to move forward or quit to fight even harder, you can’t wade into a policy debate by saying the president is going to kill your baby at the hands of a death panel and then call for civility.

Yesterday, Palin doubled down on her comments and tried to save some face – though this time avoiding the words “evil” or “death camps” and pointing instead to provisions of a House bill that she says would ration care to what she calls “unproductive” members of society. Her sidestep of those terms is its own commentary, but for those who want additional back-up, you can refer to our friends at, who rated her comments the coveted “Pants-On-Fire” rating. Sarah Palin, you’ve earned your membership in the Wingnut Hall of Fame.

On the left, old-time crazytown conspiracy theorist and quasi-cult leader, Lyndon LaRouche, made a surprise reappearance on the national political scene, earning him entry into the Wingnut Hall of Fame.

Wingnuttery at this summer's town halls has hit epic proportions, with unhinged attacks on President Obama ranging from accusations that he is everything from a communist to a fascist. But when posters began appearing showing President Obama with a Hitler-mustache, bearing the slogan “I’ve Changed,” the outrage was obvious. The source of the posters was not.

Lyndon LaRouche, himself a former communist and several-time fringe presidential candidate exists far off the political grid, but he's been most routinely associated with the left. When his self-styled followers have run for office in the past they have generally run in Democratic primaries. (Although they're probably best known – if at all – as people handing out conspiracy theory pamphlets on street corners and airports.)

The recent uptick in comparisons of the President of the United States to either communist or fascist dictators is just unacceptable. This is not political theater; it demeans our country to associate our democratically elected president with dictators who murdered millions in their names. Lyndon LaRouche is a crank who manages to dupe a few lost individuals every decade. This newest hate-fueled "addition" to American politics is just the latest and hopefully last reason to name Lyndon LaRouche a wingnut: a certified card carrying member of crazy town.

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

Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (318 Responses)
  1. bruce

    My two cents! An equal amount of training should be placed on basketball defensive. Then, the drill will be complete

    December 14, 2009 at 9:15 pm |
  2. Mark

    Private insurance will make their decision for you. Where have you been. With another option private insurance will have to get better because you have another way to go if they rule against you to many times.
    Right now you don't have a choice and you have to go along with what they say. This will cut into some of the profits they make but they won't be so eager to put profit before you. Why is that so hard for some people to see?

    August 27, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  3. Mark

    They rubber stamped two wars we are fighting now. Once again its OK to kill our own people and people in other countries but no way can we take care of our own. The money we spend on these wars can insure the uninsured. What happened to these so call religious people, have they no compassion for anyone but themselves.

    August 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  4. Mark

    KILL GRANDMA, not true, it's grandma who is selling out on the grand kids. They sit there and say no to the public option except for themselves. They do not want to give up their plans but refuse to share it with their kids and grand kids. Disease, unemployment, politicians and insurance companies don't discriminate. One day they may need health care and not have it because you believed the lies and sold them down the river.
    Unless grandma has so much money she can afford all the medical bills for anyone of her kids and grand kids who get sick. I hope she won't have to sell everything she has and then have to move into subsidized housing paid for by the government.
    So I was at the Claire McCaskill Hillsboro meeting and she asked the seniors their if they wanted to give up their government plans. Out of the hundreds of seniors their less than six held up their hands. I don't think those six or so understood the question or thought it was a trick question.
    These people are apparently under the believe that it is cheaper to dig graves than to insure those who are not insured.

    August 27, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  5. Frank Frisillo

    Syracuse says in part: "Do you think that your relatives and loved ones will be safe if thousands of doctors are sent out to counsel millions of vulnerable and weak people about wills, attorneys and cutting their medical treatment down to a little treatment or no treatment. I smell a death rat."

    First, I have read the section and pages you site. Second, I still don't understand your leap to 'death squads', 'death panels', etc. This is information Doctor's already provide their patients when asked.
    If my parents (88 and 82) have questions concerning end of life issues, living wills, health proxies, etc, I hope to God Almighty that their doctor's would provide honest and detailed information to assist them and their family in deciding what is best for them.

    Your insistance in stating that these death squad doctors will be heading out on a mission to sign up old folks to voluntarily reduce their treatments and terminate their lives is the talk of someone with paranoia abounding within themself. Look, I don't look forward to my parents or myself dying anytime soon but I think it's fair to have doctors reimbursed for offering this valuable information so that I can prepare for that eventuality. If you don't want that information or would rather get it from a lawyer or some website, be my guest. DON'T decide for me and my parents that getting this info from their doctor is 'unconscionable'. You need to calm down and truly understand that doctor's provide this information today to their patients when asked, they just don't get reimbursed for it.
    Go speak with your doctor and clear your head of this conspiracy. THERE AIN'T ONE, Syracuse!! Start preparing yourself for SU's football and basketball seasons. Go Orange.....

    August 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  6. syracuse

    Do you think that your relatives and loved ones will be safe if thousands of doctors are sent out to counsel millions of vulnerable and weak people about wills, attorneys and cutting their medical treatment down to a little treatment or no treatment. I smell a death rat. IT seems they should be called death squads not death panels. God help us! Download section1233 ofHr3200 pages 424to 434 and read and think long and hard.This is an unconscionable plan. Forget ideology think about your own loved ones!!

    August 23, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  7. SYracuse

    KELLY, IF YOU COULD READ YOU WOULD DOWNLOAD SECTION1233OF HR3200 PAGES424to434 and if you were not lacking in basic understandig of human nature and if you were not brainwashed to the point of sounding like a parrot [speaking words with no understanding], you would see the inherent danger in this plan. The doctors will be paid by the US government not hospitals. Open your mind to the truth. Think. These groups of doctors should be called deathsquads not deathpanels. Millions of vulnerable people hounded by hordes of doctors to sign their own death warrants. Wake up and think. Some of your own loved ones are in danger. God help us!

    August 23, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  8. syracuse

    Kelly, if you were to read section1233of HR3200 pages 424to434 you would see and understand that these Doctors wil be paid by the government to cut healthcare by reducing the money spent on medical care. If the patients choose death instead of life, that choice saves MONEY!. It wil be the goverment savings money not hospitals stupid. Even the supporters of death counsels can see that ,Fool. In addition to counseling about wills and attorneys there wil be an aggressive effort to convince these vulnerable people to sign their own death warrants for the purpose ofsaving the U.S. GOVERNMENT much MONEY! ARE you blind or what? MAYBE YOU HATE SICK AND WEAK PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU ARE WILLING TO TRUST MILLIONS OF THEM TO THE DANGEROUS DEATH SQUADS KNOWN AS END OF LIFE CONSULTANTS. WATCH FOX NEWS SUNDAY AT 6PM. THE SUBJECT, deatbooks already in veterans hospitals under obama,s adminstration. READ and Think you are a brainwashed PARROT. MY GOD THIS PERSON IS LACKING BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF ENGLISH!!

    August 23, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  9. Dan the Man

    The U. S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but tests for irresponsibility apply. Dissent is a well-reasoned counter-argument, not an unfounded accusation or a hysterical outburst. Fear-mongering and provocation are not legitimate forms of free speech, and they are never protected by the Constitution.

    Calling the President a fascist is at best pathetically inaccurate. Railing about non-existent "death panels" in an effort to whip up political opposition is no more legitimate than instructing people to stand in the middle of the street in order to catch a bus.

    August 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Doug

    You know what I like most?
    You write a commentary piece about wingnuts, and then the wingnuts (mostly right wingnuts) go ballistic trying to prove they're not wingnuts.

    As for all the talk of "death panels" and how they aren't needed, I've got two words for all of you why end of life wishes need to be spelled out far in advance: Mary Schiavo!!

    August 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  11. Tom

    "AmericanWingnutPatriot" – you're making both LaRouche and Palin appear sane compared to you...

    August 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  12. Kelly

    The idiocy level runs high in these comments. The end-of-life consultations are not "death panels" determining who lives or dies. They are intended to let people know what a living will is, for God's sake. As the comments above show, many Americans are not smart. These consultations are intended let people know what types of legal options (e.g., living wills) are available to people who don't want to be sustained by unnatural medical means against their own wishes. Hate to break it to you, but hospitals (and doctors) make far more money off the sick than they do the deceased, so how do you "death panel" whacks figure that end-of-life consultations will reward those "motivated by money". End of story. Yikes.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  13. syrACUSE

    Patrick you should read and think. Section1233 of HR3200 authorizes end of life consultations[ DEATH PANELS]. Many people just do not think that the weak and sick and old among us should have absolute confidence in these doctors who will be motivared by money. Think about your own loved ones . Don't you have any concern at all for these easy targets for greedy doctors. think man think syracuse [a thinking democrat who cares more about life than ideology!]

    August 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm |

    Maybe patrick can read english but he sure does not .understand beyond his brainwashing limits. Let me explain it to you. Section1233of HR3200 authorizes end of life consultations better known as DEATH PANELS. Download HR3200 and print pages 424to434 then read and think about what it means. Don't waste your time looking for the words death panels the concept is there but the words are not. Thousands of doctors motivated by money counseling millions of vulnerable people about living wills,power of attorney and trying to convince them to sign those papers [an agreement for less or no treatement ]Can you garantee these patients tha all evil doctors are locked up and that doctor Jack kevorkian and his comarads wil not be among these vultures? I take back that last remark. These people motivated by money are lower than vultures. Vultures wait for death while these lowdown counselors will be out to hasten death. Do you really trust that your loved ones and friends and relatives that are in these institutions,would be in no danger. Read and think outside your ideology . IT may help you. God help us!

    August 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  15. vp

    As it stands right now, the Private Health Insurance companies are your 'death panels'. They ALREADY make their decisions about your parent's condition and they make their decision based on how expensive and how profitable their death will be.

    How many of you complainers are on Medicare?
    How many of you that cry "Socialism" drove to work this morning on government provided roads?
    Did you check your mail box for mail?
    Have you ever dialed 911?
    Do you know who paid to develop the Internet?
    Do your children go to the public library?
    Do the local police protect you from thieves?
    and if your house is on fire, who comes to the rescue?
    Did you take your pay for the government holidays?
    Are the subsidized farmers refusing the government money?
    Who is protecting the pharmaceutical companies from international competition?
    I didn't see Goldman Sachs refuse the TARP money...

    Like it or not, we are a hybrid of capitalism and socialism.
    We are not Russian Communists...
    and never will be.

    August 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  16. John (Beacon, New York)

    As a staunch Democrat and supporter of the Democratic Party, I sincerely, DEEPLY hope that the Republicans run Sarah Palin for President. Please, Lord ... let that happen. And in a real "dream come true" scenario, let her be the Republican nominee AND let the Republicans give her free reign to speak her "mind."

    August 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  17. Patrick

    I love all the people who are talking about Death Panels. Did any of these people read the draft bill?

    LaRouche is not even on the left/right spectrum anymore. He's gone off to another planet.

    I like the idea of exposing wingnuttedness, but try to keep it from being mere slander and please back up your points. This is journalism, or should be.

    August 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  18. Joel Miller

    LaRouche is no leftist. He was a leftist but flipped to the extreme right and then treads water sometimes as a democrat to make his weird hodge podge belief system defy categorization and thereby slip under the ideological radar.

    Palin is the current leader of the Christian right which is rapidly falling apart after the disgrace of the Bush years and the fact that except for social issues like abortion and gay rights, most Christians rightists are at bottom working and middle class Americans who need the basics, jobs, health care, education for their kids. Many of those Christian rightists voted for Obama and many will continue to gravitate to the center because it is in their interest.

    The best medicine for both these wingnuts is to ignore them and talk sense with Americans who want a better life for themselves and a better future for their kids.

    August 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
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