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October 16th, 2009
06:10 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnuts' hit new low in health care debate

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.

Ed Schultz (L) and Floyd Brown (R).

Ed Schultz (L) and Floyd Brown (R).

Apocalyptic urgency and unhinged accusations are the stock in trade of the wingnut fringe. By pumping up fear and anger, they try to divide and conquer for political and personal gain. This week we’re taking a look at a new form of anti-Obama psychosis and a new low in the health care debate.

One of the worst in the political business is back peddling an entrepreneurial impeachment scheme. The culprit is Floyd Brown, a man memorably called “a slimy thug for hire” by George Stephanopoulos during the Clinton years.

You might have first become acquainted with his handiwork in the 1988 campaign, when he was the architect of the infamous Willie Horton commercial, which drew widespread accusations of race-baiting. He’s been disavowed by many sane Republicans, but also served as a delegate to past conventions and as an executive director of Young America’s Foundation.

Well, he’s trying to get back in the game with a noxious new Web site called Impeach Obama. Here’s a snapshot of the hysteria he’s peddling:

How long must we wait... how long should we sit back and permit Barack Hussein Obama to rip apart the fabric of this country before we take action?

Are you terrified at Barack Obama’s campaign to change our country into a third-world nation?

Are you willing to sit back and watch Obama bulldoze our great nation?

Are you willing to let him construct a totalitarian regime... fascism, socialism, Obamaism... take your pick?

It’s got all the telltale signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome – paranoia and pathological hate posing as patriotism. It riffs off race, totalitarianism and apocalyptic politics. In this case, Brown and Co. say they are trying to defend the Constitution by doing violence to it.

There were irresponsible calls for President Bush’s impeachment from the far-left during the last administration, continuing the ping-pong from Nixon to Clinton. Now it’s apparently a standard part of the hyper-partisan bag of tricks, trying to deny the legitimacy of the president from an opposing party by any means necessary. And what’s even worse is that there are folks trying to make a buck by pumping up the hate and hysteria of their fellow Americans.

One the many problems of these hyper-partisan attacks is that they inspire extremism on the other side as well. People look at the success of ranters on the other side of the aisle and say they can get into that game, profitably pushing their own equal and opposite hyper-partisan politics.

Take a listen to MSNBC host Ed Schultz in full political pugilist mode, talking about health care:

"The Republicans lie! They want to see you dead! They’d rather make money off your dead corpse! They kind of like it when that woman has cancer and they don’t have anything for her! My God, Democrats! What’s wrong with you?! You can’t deal with these people! At all!"

Couple of things here: Republicans and Democrats may have principled disagreements about the best way to reform health care, but I’m pretty sure partisan enjoyment of death isn’t in any of them. (For a reality check, look at Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s health care proposal – no death wishes anywhere).

Shultz’s on-air rant is the mirror image of Sarah Palin’s infamously unhinged "death panel" Facebook post from this past summer. Can’t condemn one and excuse the other. And what’s particularly interesting is the way that both attacks were designed to not only fire up their respective base but to attack any idea of bipartisanship as not just naïve but negotiation with evil. When our political opponents are considered evil enemies, it may be good for party Whips or talk show hosts, but the country as a whole suffers from this divide to conquer strategy.

Send in your suggestions for Wingnuts of the Week

What’s worst is the way that the wingnut extremes are almost always defended by their own side with the tacit acknowledgment that they may be crazy, but they’re our crazies. This is an impulse that takes the old "my country, right or wrong" riff and degrades it to "my party, right or wrong." It’s an assault on the oldest idea our founding fathers gave us – e pluribus unum: out of many, one.

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


Filed under: Commentary • Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Kevin Degidon

    Dear Mr. Avlon,

    We met at a couple of Young Republican meetings. I believe, as you've probably heard me say before, that the culture war lies at the heart of why the country is so bitterly divided. Of course there are other factors, professional partisans, bored bloggers, etc. But issues like abortion have have lead to bitter division because of how they have effected many people on such a deeply personal level. I have a plan that will go a long way towards narrowing the breach, an idea parts of which are already in motion, but connecting a few more dots could give it far more transformative power. Please email me if you are interested in hearing more, for the details of this idea are a little in-depth of this message. But parenthetically you are in a uniquely opportune position to help make it happen. Lets put America back together.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Degidon
    Founder: Youth USA

    February 17, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  2. Glenn

    The numbers of the vicious, unintelligent, repugnant, and outright disingenuous on the left are overwhelming. The right can't hold a candle to the idiotic crap those on the left can spew with nary a blush.

    "The Republicans lie! They want to see you dead! They’d rather make money off your dead corpse! They kind of like it when that woman has cancer and they don’t have anything for her! My God, Democrats! What’s wrong with you?! You can’t deal with these people! At all!"

    This is "passionate"? This is hateful, bigoted, hysterical, and an out-and-out lie! And left-wing moonbats complain about Glenn Beck and Rush? How do you take guys like Ed seriously?

    The "nuts" at Fox News are certainly balanced out by the total moonbat loons at MSNBC.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  3. tom

    There seem to be more in numbers and certainly in vicousnes on the right than the left. There is no equivalent to the nuts at Faux on the left.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  4. Ruby

    There are wingnuts in both party. But what make angry with the people of the US is that everybody has somethng to say, but do not have a solution to the problems for the last eight years. It took eight year to get here, and we the American people are just as guilty as Bush and his merry men, for being in this mess.

    We spent money we didn't have, ran up credit cards, bought houses
    we could not afford, and now we want to blame someone, instead of looking into the mirror. We want a quick fix, and there is no quick fix.

    President Obama roll up his sleeves,and went to work for the American people.

    What have we done, nothing, but complain. It is time for us and mean us, to ask our President, what can we do to help this country, and stop looking for a quick fix and stop being so self-centered.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  5. Franny

    What angers me the most? Many of you being critical of President Obama's taking time to decide in deploying more Troops when Bush took nearly 8 months before making the "surge" decision. It's ironic that many of you Bush supporters had plenty of patience for a President who took us to two wars, crashed the economy because he failed to increase taxes for the wars, started the stimulus, and bailouts of AIG. Good grief I could go on, and on, but I'm afraid my fingers would fall off typing all the injustices the last Administration was responsible for.

    Give President Obama a chance. Look at what he has to put up with in the Senate, and Congress. At least he kept the Country from going into a full blown depression. I'm beginning to realize many that hate President Obama? Yes, I'm not afraid to say it. You are just angry that a bi-racial President is smarter than the last Administration, and I really believe Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Gonzales all need to be behind bars for lying to the American people about why we needed to invade Iraq. Also, in rewriting the Constitution to fit their agenda in creating the Patriot act! Jezz, why can't some get a clue?

    November 27, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  6. Pam

    Ed Shultz is passionate about healthcare for every American. That is hardly being a "wingnut".

    I don't think people would find cause to be so passionate about issues if discussion of an issue were debated on the FACTS. It is a fact that the GOP, republicans, and the conservative right, are such pathological LIARS that we spend all of our time countering their lies with facts.

    And quite frankly, that stirs the intense passion you see coming from the left, because for the life of us, we cannot see why otherwise normal people would believe a pack of outright LIES coming from the righties..."death panels" and crap like that. "Gov takeover of HC", it is ALL bull sh!t, and we are sick of the GOP–taxpayer paid congressional members lying to win support.

    What's even worse, is this writer attempting to "compare" the two sides in an attempt to show a path to moderation! How about showing the right-wing LIARS for what they are, LIARS.

    November 16, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  7. Brian

    "It’s got all the telltale signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome – paranoia and pathological hate posing as patriotism. It riffs off race, totalitarianism and apocalyptic politics"

    Funny how the "author" of this random accumulation of words and rants decries Obama's detractors as "riffing on race" when the very examples he provided do not have any examples of racism at all.

    Try another talking point, genius. Maybe a valid one, this time.

    November 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  8. John

    I can remember during the Bush years, that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid railed against Bush and the democrats fought almost everything that he and the republicans tried to do. It does not surprise me that the same is happening now that a democrat is in the White House. It is a sad day for America when our elected leaders cant work together for the common good of the country, but continue to fight among themselves for their own politcal gain.

    October 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  9. ALLAN

    Dear Mr. Avion...

    If you beliieve the calls for Bush's impeachment were "irresponsible" and only called for "by the far-left", you obviously were not paying attention.

    Speaking as a person who was once recognized as a fairly prominent REAL conservative Republican , with a friendly personal letter from Strom Thurmond framed above my desk... I can tell you that there were many "Constitutionalists" who were calling for Bush's impeachment.

    If Congress had any spine or common sense, they never would have allowed Bush to get away with all of his violations of the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions.

    Abraham Lincoln said: "The People are the rightful masters of both Congress & the courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow those who would pervert the Constitution."

    October 26, 2009 at 7:51 am |
  10. Bill

    Martha – at least get your facts right. Nobody watches Ed on his time slot on CNN because he's on MSNBC.

    October 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  11. Tim Sherlock

    How can CNN let a right-wing ideologue like Jon Avlon present a column that names the wing-nuts of the week when he is one himself? You know where his sympathies lie. He attacks the left and the right by naming a member from each side to ridicule. The trouble is 99% of these brain-dead and/or corrupt "wing-nuts" are on the right. He is only trying to make it appear they are on equal footing with their intolerance, bigotry and brainwashed herd mentality. They are not. Listen to the vehemence; do you hear what they are saying? These holy-roller jerks are still fighting Reconstruction, and CNN is helping them.

    October 19, 2009 at 3:36 am |
  12. Allen

    As long as anyone describes the hysterical, theatrical, ridiculous posturing on the part of wingnuts like these two as anything other than pure (profit driven) propaganda, we'll have a hard time acomplishing anything of consequence. These guys and their ilk certainly don't speak for me and their shrill ranting is offensive and unproductive. They might be good for fundraising or ratings but to think of them as anything other than a lunatic fringe is a serious mistake.

    October 17, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  13. Wayne

    I believe the Democrats in Congress tried to be civil for a long time. It only made it worse. The Republicans just brought on more garbage. I can't even compare them to children because children aren't evil. But they act somewhat like children with the bickering and selfishness. The Republican party of no is pushing away statesman by the dozen. So given enough rope they will be a small and ineffective party before it is all over. Now it seems we have some Democrats like US Rep. Alan Grayson from Florida striking back in language Republicans can understand. As was said, America suffers with cheap shot politics. It is nothing but divide and conquer and Americans are letting them get away with it. Anyone that tells me to dislike one of my fellow countrymen because of his party should NOT be in Congress. If someone from any other country did that we would go to war. Yet it is going on here with a political party. Shameful.

    October 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  14. Mitchell

    I had never heard of The Daily Beast. I looked at it and thank you...what I read made a lot of sence. Also thank you for letting me know that if I do not agree with Obama that I am suffering from what you call "Obama Derangement Syndrome". I suspose having a mind of my own and thinking for myself proves that I have a mental illness. I guess being a mindless sheep and lookiing forward to living in a bankrupt and socolist country would cure me of the mental illness of "Obama Derangement syndrome". CNN shame on you.

    October 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  15. ALLAN

    I have to agree with Pauly... there were obvious Constitutional reasons for calling for the impeachment of Bush, where there are only paranoid fantasies as a basis for impeachment of Obama.

    I STILL favor prosecuting the people behind the violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution as the law calls for doing. For example, The "Joint Forces Regulation for the Treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees and Other Detainees" points out that the TOP of the chain of command is responsible for ensuring proper prisoner and detainee care, not the bottom of the chain of command.

    I also wish the Democrats would reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine" or create something similar. I spent many years in broadcasting and the only thing the "Fairness Doctrine" inhibited was the type of crap that spews from the mouths of Limbaugh and Beck... because a reasonable and sane person could follow them with facts and evidence and destroy their credibility with their own broadcast outlet.

    October 16, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  16. Bernice

    I swear the reflubs need to keep their faces out of the news..Just look at them.. they all look like retards..Honestly I never really noticed just how ignorant & dumb they are..They better pray that their supporters never decide to get a education..

    October 16, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  17. Marcus

    This is hilarious. None of these people spoke up against Bush as he lied about everything during his presidency. Yeah this guy is a nut, and he just pushes more and more people from the Republicans.

    October 16, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  18. Martha

    Ed is a certified crazy person. With so many talented people in our country out of work, it is incredible that a guy as shallow as Ed is given a show. Obviously he's a sacrificial lamb because nobody really watches CNN during his time slot, but still, the stuff he spews makes Michael Moore, James Carville, and Keith Olbermann sound intelligent and thoughtful.

    Ed, relax, buddy...eat a couple whole fried chickens and relax. I know you want to.

    October 16, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  19. Scott Stodden

    Even though Iam a Democrat who voted for President Obama and I don't agree with alot of what the President is doing I do not think these comments are appropiate or accurate. When former President George W Bush was ruining the country nobody said nothing so why impeach Obama. I believe the President thinks he's doing what's right for the United States but if George W Bush created the problems then I believe President Obama is making them worse. Go Mitt Romney for President 2012 is all I can say,

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

    October 16, 2009 at 8:22 am |
  20. R. Meade

    Before you run a "wingnut" segment, you might want to find someone who can distinguish a wingnut from a passionate proponent. To compare a passionate Ed Shultz from documented racists and hatemongers is disingenuous, dishonest and shows a true lack of professionalism.

    You know guys, somedays there is simply no valid leftwing wingnut available to quote, but in this day and age, there is ALWAYS a rightwing lunatic you can call upon.

    October 16, 2009 at 7:56 am |
  21. Pauly

    Calls were made for the impeachment of President Bush for lying to the people & Congress about going to war in Iraq, for the illegal torture of people & for a host of other reasons. As soon as President Obama was elected, the calls for impeachment began. By the same people who don't want any investigation of the last administration's crimes! I would like the right-wingnuts to name one impeachable offense committed by President Obama. There isn't one but sites like the one mentioned in the article do raise money from the fringe. The wingnuts don't realize they are being scammed by these people. A fool & his money are soon parted!

    October 16, 2009 at 7:13 am |