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=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/28/wingnuts.voight.abercrombie.art.jpg 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.