President Barack Obama's State of the Union address is tomorrow night and there is growing support behind Senator Mark Udall's proposal for Democrats and Republicans to sit together as opposed to abiding by party lines. More than 50 congress members have already claimed their "state dates" but the question is, will one-time seating arrangements turn into long-lasting bipartisanship?
CNN Contributor John Avlon says that although sitting together is a great symbolic gesture towards unity it is going to take genuine "political courage" to reach across the aisle on some of the issues facing congress ahead. He explains to Kiran Chetry on American Morning.
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/05/22/terry.codepink.getty.art.jpg caption="Randall Terry (L) and Code Pink protestors at a Congressional hearing in March 2009 (R)."]
When President Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame earlier this week he called for a constructive pursuit of common ground, even on difficult social issues. It was a welcome attempt at forging a respectful ceasefire in the culture wars that have divided and bedeviled American politics since the late 1960s.
But wingnuts aren’t interested in finding common ground. Armed with ideological certainty, they come to protest and polarize. They are addicted to their drug of choice – a righteous indignation that makes them unable to see any perspective other than their own. Alternately strident and silly, callous and clueless, they become caricatures. They are unwittingly their own side’s worst enemy.
With this week’s wingnuts we’re shining a light on protestors from the right and left who were in the news this week – Notre Dame protestor Randall Terry and Code Pink.
Longtime anti-abortion protestor Randall Terry embodied the outer reaches of American politics this week with a series of stunts and accusations surrounding President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame. While many anti-abortion protesters were respectful and thoughtful, Randall Terry did not honor their common cause.
Camped out in South Bend, Indiana, Terry began with a particularly colorful protest that got him arrested on campus, pushing a baby stroller across the college with dolls covered in fake blood and bumper stickers that read: “Obama '09, one dead baby at a time.”
He escalated in an interview with CNN days before the President’s speech. The money-shot comparison in hyper-partisan politics is Hitler, with a close second being Pontius Pilate. Terry managed to do both in reference to our president. Take a look
In a few short minutes, Terry not only described President Obama as “the premier promoter of child-killing in the Western Hemisphere and perhaps the world" but described the invitation from Notre Dame as being “like inviting Pilate to speak after he ordered Jesus to be crucified.” Then came the inevitable Hitler reference: “If you and I agreed with [Obama] on every issue but he just wanted to kill Jews, would you say, 'Listen, he builds great roads, he has great economic policies; let's forget that Jewish thing for now'?"
Terry somehow managed to hit a new low soon after. With fake blood on his hands and an Obama mask on his face, he lurched forward to scare a group of children who'd been assembled in what was an ostensibly pro-child photo op. Captured by one vigilant video-blogger and posted on YouTube, you can watch a grinning Randall Terry redefine crazy-town callousness in American politics.
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/05/07/bachman.mckinney.art.jpg caption= "Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (L) and current Rep. Michele Bachmann (R)."]
I'm trying out a new segment on "American Morning" called “Wingnuts of the Week.” It builds on a simple premise – the far-right and the far-left are equally insane.
What’s a Wingnut? It’s someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of American politics – the professional partisans and the unhinged activists – the folks who always try to divide rather than unite. In our polarized two party system, they have disproportionate influence and too often define the terms of debate. With this segment, I'm going to try and take that power back.
In this first week, I'm naming two charter members of the Wingnut Hall of Fame who recently reared their heads in the news once again. I want to be an equal opportunity offender, punching both left and right, so both are members of Congress – one current and one former – and both are defended in their respective echo chambers on the far-right and far-left.
So drum roll, please: The Wingnuts of the Week for our inaugural edition are Michele Bachmann and Cynthia McKinney.
Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann first became nationally known in the late innings of campaign ’08, when she told Chris Matthews, “I am very concerned he [Barack Obama] may have anti-American views.” Undeterred by common sense or common decency, she followed that with a call to investigate all members of Congress for anti-American views. The media fallout made her, if anything, more beloved by conservatives. She was subsequently selected to be the master of ceremonies at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s Presidential Banquet. But the howlers have kept coming – recently put in a handy compendium by my colleagues at the Daily Beast.
This past week, in an interview with PJTV.com she took another leap too far, saying, “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter.”
Two things: First, the bemused reach for causality between pandemics and Democratic presidents is a great illustration of the Wingnut’s impulse to blame everything bad in the world on the opposite party. Second, she got her facts wrong. It was under the administration of Republican President Gerald Ford that swine flu last reared its porcine head.
John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and he 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/04/29/avlon.john.art.jpg caption= "John Avlon writes that Obamanomics is starting to look pretty good these days."]
By John Avlon
Special to CNN
Despite all the recent screaming about socialism, Barack Obama’s past month and a half has quietly been pretty good for capitalists.
Yesterday, the stock market picked up more than 200 points, capping weeks of rallies that have erased almost all of 2009’s losses to date. The market hit its low on Obama’s 50th day in office – March 9th – but since that early crisis of confidence, the Obama administration’s economic plans have started to solidify and begun to take hold. Perhaps the most important measure is polls that show the American people feel our country is moving in the right direction again.
The acid test of yesterday’s rally was the fact that it continued after President Obama announced plans to close corporate tax loopholes and offshore tax-havens. If the market was feeling myopic there might been an immediate negative impact – some Wall Street commentators still reflexively tried to paint it as anti-big business class warfare. But it was accompanied by a plan to make the research and development tax credit a permanent tax cut, incentivizing long-term economic competitiveness. And the plan was carefully framed with Main Street common sense (despite the odd intro of Treasury Secretary Geithner, castigating individuals who don’t pay all their taxes): “I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world,” said the president. “But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores.”
A bit of springtime optimism may be influencing this market rally. The absence of deepening crisis may be mistaken for good news. There will likely be additional bumps on the road to recovery – this week’s bank stress test might be one such bump. Some economists will argue that these closed loopholes should be accompanied by a reduction in the U.S. corporate tax rate, which is the second highest in the world. The long-term economic impact of the unprecedented stimulus spending still remains to be seen. Our deficit and debt have ballooned and, if unaddressed, represent a new degree of generational irresponsibility. Remember, reckless spending got us into this mess in the first place.
But if President Obama was blamed by some partisans for the market’s decline in his first 50 days, then its only fair that he receive some credit for the rebound now. We’re not out of the woods – there’s plenty of anger left for both big government and big business – but at least compared to Bushonomics, Obamanomics is starting to look pretty good these days. And that’s good news for everyone who’s invested in America’s success.