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August 28th, 2009
06:34 AM ET

Avlon: 'Porker of the month' honoree & civil war accusations

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="Rep. Neil Abercrombie-D (L) Jon Voight (R)"]

This Week’s Wingnuts include congresses’ biggest spender of your money on the left and questions about whether President Obama is provoking a civil war from a celebrity turned conservative commentator. It’s capped off by a Profile in Courage award for John McCain’s honorable defense of President Obama in front of an angry town hall crowd. Let’s begin.

Independent voters disapproval rate for Congress stands at 70% – that’s largely because of the out-of-control spending coming out of Washington. The latest numbers from the OMB estimate a cumulative $9 trillion deficit over the next decade. Of all the unhinged appropriators in the House of Representatives, one name stands out: Hawaii’s Neil Abercrombie, who just claimed the coveted "Porker of the Month" award from Citizens Against Government Waste

Last year, Abercrombie appropriated more taxpayer money than any other member of the House – earmarking a quarter of a billion dollars for 44 projects in fiscal year 2009 alone.

Abercombie’s latest caper was to insist on US prevailing wage for construction costs of a US base in Guam – rates that are 250% higher than local wages. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Abercrombie’s amendment would inflate the cost of the building project by $10 billion. And that’s not all – one of the primary construction companies on the project are among Abercrombie's top 5 donors.

Abercrombie is also a defender of developing an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – which has been opposed by both President Obama and the Pentagon. This year, the project has received appropriations in excess of $500 million in both the House and Senate and President Obama has threatened to veto any bill that contains its funding. For his part, Abercombie’s already aiming for higher office – the 71-year-old is running for governor of Hawaii.

Jon Voight is a great actor – his turns in Midnight Cowboy and Ali are legendary. He’s also a nice guy. Voight’s politics have evolved rightward since his days as a liberal in the 1960s – a gutsy move in Hollywood that usually makes for an interesting perspective. But in his recent role as a part-time conservative commentator, Voight has sounded increasingly extreme – referring to the President as a ‘false prophet” and expressing the desire to move us from “this Obama oppression.” As a result, he’s become an in-demand speaker on the conservative circuit. But recent comments have gone even farther into Wingnut territory, asking whether Obama is provoking a Civil War. Here’s a few quotes from his interview with the Washington Times:

"There's a real question at stake now. Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country…We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can't see this is probably hoping it isn't true. If we permit Mr. Obama to take over all our industries, if we permit him to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation."

"The real truth is that the Obama administration is professional at bullying, as we have witnessed with ACORN at work during the presidential campaign. It seems to me they are sending down their bullies to create fist fights among average American citizens who don't want a government-run health care plan forced upon them…. So I ask again. Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country?"

Now, like many Americans I’m seriously concerned about the deficit and national debt – it could ultimately limit our freedom with creditor nations. But saying that the President is creating a civil war in our own country is an extreme charge that isn’t just an actor’s colorful language. Southern secessionists accused Abraham Lincoln of creating a civil war by his very election. It was a real war, not a culture war, and it ultimately cost over 600,000 American lives.

When then-President George W. Bush was obsessively attacked by the Wingnut left – compared to Hitler and even Osama bin Laden – Jon Voight rightly stood up in protest, telling Bill O’Reilly in 2007: “When I hear people saying quite unthinkable things about our president, when I see our president defaced, which is defacing our country. He's the leader of our country. He's the leader of the free world. It — my heart is very heavy.” That’s a patriotic response – a call to decency and civility – and it should not be dependent on a president’s party-affiliation.

I’m going to add a bonus Profile in Courage award to this week’s list – and it goes to Senator John McCain for his honorable efforts to stand up to an angry anti-Obama crowd at an Arizona town hall on Monday. When a woman asked: “Doesn't he [Obama] know that we still live under a constitution?” to applause, McCain offered a reality check over protests.

"I'm sure that he does…I'm sure he respects the constitution… I just believe, my friends, that there is a fundamental difference in philosophy and about the role of government. That is why we have competition for public office and competition amongst parties, and competition about different ideas and vision for the future of America. I'm convinced the president is absolutely sincere in his beliefs…We just happen to disagree. And he is the president. And let's be respectful.”

McCain received only scattered applause for standing up to the ugly and paranoid hyper-partisanship that is proliferating around our nation. But he’s showing us how to disagree agreeably – as the founding fathers would have wanted – and for that he has earned a Profile in Courage award in a season of craziness.

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

Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Kelly

    All the jabs at liberals are funny. Al Qaeda, among other wacko terrorist groups, are conservatives to the bone. Which side of the ideology fence are you on?

    September 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Will

    I hope to almighty God that Mr. Voight and his other southern successionist buddies try to make the South rise again.

    I'm sure that we have plenty of folks up here who will be more than willing to play the role of General Sherman, and it'll give us ALL the reason we need to drag their backwards carcasses into the 21st century, just like we had to in the 19th with the original Civil War, and into the 20th with the civil rights movement.

    These ignorant bible thumpers only understand force, so we northerners who actually care about ALL people - not just those who look and talk like us, and worship the same god - shouldn't shy away from it if push comes to shove.

    September 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  3. Armando

    I am stunned by CNN's "Wingnut" of the week new section!?!? There is a huge upsurge in racism and right wing threats and CNN responds by making us all laugh and slap our knee about it? And act like crazy rhetoric is on both sides??? ! This isn't funny. These are the type of people who take shots at black men.. that cracker Wilson and his other racist friend Jim DeMint are not talking issues...they want to destroy the President. While this is now sadly a normal GOP tactic, like they did to's taken on a new uglier tone because Pres. Obama is black. I was here in DC during the "tea party" demonstrations...and I have seen thousands of protests...but this one was the first lynch mob. I don't think our Republican friends realize the monster they have let out of the box....

    September 18, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  4. Jeff Mitchell

    Remember, this is God's world. It does not belong to the Democrats or the Republicans. If we keep to that understanding, and work to advance His kingdom through his direction, things will work out in the end. No civil war needed.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  5. Charles

    After reading some of the hate filled posts,..most done by what is not the "Saran-klan" AKA "I am not predijuced but".. crowd, a ill informed hate filled bunch as ever burned a cross. i worry about USA future.
    We can only guess what world thinks when Saran';s "keep my kid out of school to not hear presidents speech" gets posed on www.
    Some strut about like bantam chickens at Obama town halls flanting theri "gun rights", as to be manly men etc while responsible gun owners do all they can to not be associated with such nuts.
    . We hear howls of "deficet spending by folks that cannot even compute annual interest costs on their maxed credit cards or car payments.
    "We see a bunch of gray hairs howling "I want government out of my life, yet none burn their cards fr SS, medicare and government retirement checks..
    Now we have those these nuts worship telling them it is honorable to "Keep you kids home, call in sick for them" to avoid Obama speech that you should do best you can and stay in school.
    So I guess now days no hate is to great, no lie to big or small, no rumor or panic need be confirmed, no fear be challenged and no coward like Rush et al, be called out for their lies, hate and fears.
    Seems the greatest nation on Earth will not go down fighting, but teeter and fumble about, from all the rot within.. dumbed down to, defeat. Franklin said something about those timid souls whom never enter the arena.. and with a more dumbed down USA where all to manyh now let someone else think for them, rather obvious the Saran Klan numbers grows hourly..

    September 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  6. JoAnn Hansen

    Lincoln owned Slaves??? Not in my history book. Back that one up, please. True, he did not believe a black man to be the equal of a white man, and his solution to the race problem was to send blacks back to Africa or Caribbean islands, assuming that the blacks would want to go–not remain in a country where they would be treated as 2nd class citizens–actually not citizens at all. But owning slaves himself NUH-UH, No Way. Produce some proof for that big whopper. RJ.

    August 31, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  7. Lyle

    Congressman Abercrombie – A typical politician doing what politicians do, bringing home dollars for his district.
    Mr. Voight – A typical right wing "the sky is falling" extremist, but a great actor whom I have admired in the movies.....that's where he should stay.
    Senator McCain – A great American Patriot who has shown over and over his love and respect for his country and democracy.

    August 31, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  8. Laura

    Most of the folks who commented here deserve a wing nut award of their own, calling people "real americans" or "liberal bleeding hearts". Making up names for elected officials, spreading rumors that republicans will be denied health care if democrats win. You people are f***ing NUTS!

    Why can't you examine the ACTUAL legislation and comment on what is written?

    Do you make this stuff up because reading is beyond your mental capacity. I guess so because ...YOU'RE NUTS!

    August 31, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  9. mike-sey

    Truth is there has been a continuation of the civil war going on since Abe Lincoln's day. Its interesting that theConservative resistence to Health Care and so-called socialism is centred in the secessionist states and seems to exist on a continuum of outbreaks from the KKK through the civil rights movement and embraces a yearning for a way of life where Da man was Da man. If Obama weren't president people like Voight would have to invent him in order to keep thar guns oiled and at the ready.

    August 31, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  10. Jack, Montauk, NY

    The RNC is hinting that Republicans mey be denied health care if the Dems win ... I saw this in Newsday, Saturday, Aug 29, page 8, by the Associated Press!

    August 29, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  11. joseph cecil smith

    THANK YOU for recognizing John McCain for honoring Obama's sincerity during the recent town hall.. Profile in Courage award, you gave, right?
    thank you for trying to elevate the debate, and for honoring McCain for doing that also.

    we need to talk about the issues, not waste time arguing about 'death squads' in the health care debate.

    THE POINT: the right is talking up violence and socialism, now turning to civil war talk.. they are getting so angry someone may try violence, at least they talk like they want obama gone.. it's really scary and unless the media confronts it, we're going to have the right being whipped up into rage or frenzy and fringe elements may get violent.

    Obama is spending too much, but we need to deal with it rationally, not by calling him socialist – most of the crisis happened before he came to office.. though the dems have double the debt with their fooooooolish spending bills. pork and waste.. not much of that stimulus helped the economy i think.. but let's deal with it factually rather than with hyperbole and violence.
    joseph cecil smith

    August 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  12. Mark Boberick

    Knowing little more than what Mr. Avlon has reported on this subject, I hope for his sake his job isn't someday transfered to Guam and his salary reduced by 250%. Whereas, the standard minimum wage in the U.S. is currently $7.25, that would, by Mr. Avlon's calculation, put Guam's minimum rate at a miserly $2.90 per hour. Actually, according to DOL, Guam's current rate is $6.55 per hour, a mere 8.5% lower than the U.S., not the 250% as reported. Possible conflict of interest aside, has what Mr. Abercrombie done really so egregious when current U.S. law has mandated that the minimum wage in other U.S. possessions be increased to match that of the continental U.S. by May of this year.
    Mr. Avlon, when you point a finger at a "wingnut," look at where your other 3 fingers are pointing.

    August 28, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  13. jay m

    As Obama stated those who don't want public insurance, stay with your private insurer. I for one is tired of being rob by private insurance and their outrageous premiums and deductibles, I would love to have other options.

    August 28, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  14. Jim Quist

    Avlon's post merely points out the "ridiculous or extremes" with the hope that even-keeled minds will bring rational thought back to the table.

    As for some of the postings I once found it amusing that we as a people could just simply point a finger at someone and make them out to be the root cause of all the evil's we face. Now I find it disturbing that so many people actually believe it. Let us stop deluding ourselves.

    Begin accepting responsibility for the ill's we now face and then look for solutions. If we can't bring a reasonable discussion to the table and be willing to listen to other ideas then we truly are the problem.

    August 28, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  15. Mike Armstrong TX.

    When I hear a statement like this comming from CNN it scares me if it was FOX with Hannity I woudnt have thought nothing of it.

    August 28, 2009 at 8:33 am |
  16. Mike Armstrong TX.

    After reading that article it makes me feel as if the world is comming to an end and my reply is over the Americans dead bodys we will give up the freedoms we faught to keep and if Obama thinks he will turn America into a socialist republic we have only begain to fight this statement up above is fighting words.

    August 28, 2009 at 8:11 am |
  17. RJ

    Yes Obama is turning us against each other. We live in the land of the free the home of opportunity, we do not live in the land of handouts and where we lay around wainting for Obama to give us something! People for the first time in a long while have a President thats willing to help out the people who do not help out themselkves! Obama needs to quit worrying about all these people and worry about the guy who supports this country with the taxes he pays so these people can keep sitting around and do nothing! Enough of free giveaways to the people who have earned it the least!

    August 28, 2009 at 8:00 am |
  18. RJ

    Lincoln owned slaves, Lincoln when faced with the real possibility of losing the South and all their cotton and food did Lincoln pull out the race card called the Gettysburg Address. The Norths stance was it was not worth fighting a war over negros and thats a fact! Lets educate the American people instead of blowing crap up their butts. Lincolns original plan was to send all negros back to Africa. Lets now glorify people for false reasons!

    August 28, 2009 at 7:53 am |
  19. Barb Pernaris

    I agree with John Voit!

    This is not the way to reform anything, and in a Capitalist system, the only way to reform anything is to start at the top.
    CONTROL THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY FIRST, and then trickle down to the rest. I want to know how Obama plans to explain to a Brain Surgeon or any other genius, that they can't make the $$ they want in a free country?
    So when you reform cost, acceptance and commitment to the citizens, maybe and I say "maybe" the people will be more open to listen.

    August 28, 2009 at 7:13 am |
  20. jim vicalvi

    While I agree with you about Abercrombie's staus, he is just your average, everyday liberal Democrat. Right in the mold of LaLa land's Nasty Pelosi who is, and always has been, the ultimate wingnut. In the matter of Voight I can't agree with you. He may be onto something. And not in a black and white way. That is your media types schtick. He is causing a divide between the real Americans and the liberal bleeding hearts. Obummer's socialist buddies. I love to watch the Pied Piper's approval ratings drop. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to begin with but he is living down to the most extreme doubts that I ever had about him. Faster than I ever thought possible.

    August 28, 2009 at 7:04 am |