Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of the new book "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." 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/07/13/john.avlon.art.jpg caption="CNN Independent analyst John Avlon says the arrest of the Hutaree militia group raises new questions about the fear-fueled fringes of the political landscape."]
By John Avlon, Special to CNN
We’ve seen a ratcheting up of violent rhetoric and even violent plots in recent weeks. This edition of Wingnuts of the Week takes a look at a new Code Pink “citizen’s arrest” of Karl Rove and the real arrest of the Hutaree militia.
Militia movements exist well off the grid when it comes to conventional domestic politics. But the arrest of the Michigan-based Hutaree anti-government militia group raised new questions about the increasingly ugly and fear-fueled fringes of the political landscape.
The small, self-style Christian militia group (members say “Hutaree” means “Christian warrior”), led by father David Stone, was arrested by the FBI early this week on charges that they plotted to murder a local law enforcement officer and then bomb his funeral procession to up the body count in an attempt to spur a civil war in the United States.
This is the latest sign of the estimated 300% increase in militia groups – as detailed by the Southern Poverty Law Center – that we’ve seen in America during the first year of the Obama administration. Not all militia groups can be classified as violent extremists, but this rapid growth indicates an unwelcome return to the heated atmosphere of the mid-1990s, when militia movements proliferated in the wake of Bill Clinton’s election and incidents at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. The era ended after Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing more than 160 innocent men, women and children.
The Hutaree’s legal defense seems to be based in free speech. That’s about all they have in common with Code Pink – a notorious liberal activist organization that specializes in street theater demonstrations and the politics of confrontation.
This week they squared off against their old nemesis, Karl Rove, who was attending a book signing in Beverly Hills. Code Pink was accompanied by members of a wingnut reinforcing 9/11 Truth brigade in screaming denouncements of Rove, with co-founder Jodie Evans shouting “You took us to war. You should be arrested. I am here to make a citizen’s arrest,” and then attempted to place handcuffs on the man some called “The Architect” and President Bush called “Turd Blossom.” Other well wishes included calls for Rove to “rot in hell” and plenty of cursing at the assembled would-be book buyers.
Rove got off the best line of the night, in my book, saying by way of parting remarks: “This goes to show the totalitarianism of the left. They don’t believe in dialogue. They don’t believe in courtesy. They don’t believe in 1st Amendment rights for anybody but themselves.”
A bonus round of wingnuttery goes to the group Organizing for America, which maintains the apparatus left over from President Obama’s 2008 campaign. After a week in which death threats were logged against more than a dozen members of Congress, including Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, this organization shamelessly sent out a fund raising e-mail attempting to capitalize off the death threats. It is a ghoulish new low in the era of the permanent campaign, where even death threats are plumbed for partisan advantage.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.