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March 5th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnuts' reinforce partisan stereotypes

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "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.

The RNC presentation, discovered by Politico.com, encourages fundraisers to stoke the fires of ''fear.''

The RNC presentation, discovered by Politico.com, encourages fundraisers to stoke the fires of ''fear.''

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

Washington’s partisan stereotypes got reinforced this week by a dean of the liberal House leadership and a stunningly cynical PowerPoint presentation to RNC fundraisers.

Congressman Charles Rangel has been a fixture on the Democratic scene for four decades, finally rising to the powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, overseeing U.S. tax policy. Nothing grates Americans more than hypocrisy from politicians. Months ago, Rangel came under scrutiny for failing to disclose income in excess of $500,000 and failing to pay taxes. Allegations included paying below market rate for four apartments in Harlem and not disclosing rental income off a cottage in the Dominican Republic.

This week, the Ethics Committee found that Rangel had accepted gifts of travel to the Caribbean for conferences without appropriate reimbursement and Rangel offered to temporarily step down from his chairmanship. It wasn’t just the ethical lapse that elevates this to wingnut levels, it’s the way it confirms the worst stereotypes of big city Democrats – Rangel’s predecessor in his congressional seat, the pioneering Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was laid low by a scandal involving misappropriation of funds.

This new round of charges also increased heat on Democratic congressional leaders – especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had previously stood by Rangel. After a series of Republican congressional scandals, she had famously promised to preside over “the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.” When even the man in charge of the tax code has trouble with its compliance, Rangel’s troubles reinforced the feeling that government is broken.

FULL POST


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
March 1st, 2010
12:00 PM ET

John Roberts, Kiran Chetry & John Avlon discuss 'Wingnuts'

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "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) – CNN independent analyst John Avlon is the author of a new book called, “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."

Avlon is no stranger to viewers of CNN’s “American Morning.” He joins the program on Fridays for his weekly “Wingnuts of the Week” segment.

What’s a wingnut?

According to Avlon, a wingnut is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of American politics. In a polarized two-party system, he says, wingnuts have a disproportionate influence and too often define the terms of debate.

On Monday March 15, Avlon will discuss “Wingnuts” at Strand bookstore in New York City. He will be joined by American Morning anchors John Roberts and Kiran Chetry. The event is free and open to the public.

Date: March 15, 2010
Time: 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Place: Strand bookstore
828 Broadway (at 12th St.)
New York, NY 10003-4805


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
February 26th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Avlon: Blame poisonous politics for broken government

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "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 independent analyst John Avlon says any hope of changing the partisan culture of Washington is a long way away.

CNN independent analyst John Avlon says any hope of changing the partisan culture of Washington is a long way away.

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

Government seems broken. Congress is more polarized than at any time in recent history. Patriotism is confused with partisanship.

How did we get here? It requires a look at the past year to see how wingnuts hijacked our politics.

“I hope he fails.” With those four words, Rush Limbaugh coined what would become Republican strategy. It’s a telling sign of the times when professional polarizers in talk radio give talking points to party leadership, instead of vice versa.

But of course, it takes two to have bipartisanship and neither party has a monopoly on virtue or vice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves her share of the blame. After President Obama delegated what would become the $787 billion stimulus bill, Republicans were shut out of the negotiating process, undercutting President Obama’s claims to represent bipartisanship. She ultimately gained no Republican votes and lost the support of eleven centrist Democrats.

As Blue Dog Congressman Jim Cooper from Tennessee said at the time, while summing up the perspective of the liberal House leadership aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying, “They don’t mind the partisan fighting ‘cause that’s what they are used to. In fact, they’re really good at it. And they’re a little bit worried about what a post-partisan future might look like.” The Progressive Change Campaign Committee started running attack ads against centrist Democrats who voted with their districts rather than with the party line.

FULL POST

February 12th, 2010
01:00 PM ET

Is the lunatic fringe hijacking America?

It happens almost every day of every week, people on the far-right and the far-left doing or saying something off of the wall. We've profiled many of them here on American Morning with a segment we call "Wingnuts of the Week."

Now, one of our favorite guests, John Avlon, has a new book all about the subject. It's called "Wingnuts: How the lunatic fringe is hijacking America." He joined us Friday on American Morning.

Don't miss: Wingnuts of the Week


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
January 22nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Avlon: Independents looking for alternative to angry politics

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "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.

On the left, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann; on the right, Rep. Steve King.

On the left, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann; on the right, Rep. Steve King.

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

In a week dominated by the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake and a seismic political shift in Massachusetts, the wingnuts couldn’t help but weigh in and drag the discourse down.

Keith Olbermann went on an epic rant, calling now U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown a racist and conservative Congressman Steve King managed to politicize the pain in Haiti with talk of refugee deportation.

It’s a cliché to say that some liberals reflexively reach for the race card when attacking political opponents. But in 2010 that’s just one of the weapons in the identity-politics arsenal. And this week, with the Massachusetts special election hours away, Keith Olbermann threw the entire kitchen sink at Republican Scott Brown. Here’s his summation:

"In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea bagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees."

I’m not sure which accusation is most offensive or absurd – “supporter of violence against women” might win that low-blow award. But the attempted call to arms apparently didn’t frighten Democrats to the polls and it might have helped alienate independent voters, who went for Brown in record numbers.

Olbermann is a smart, funny guy and his special commentaries are sometimes incisive, but this might have set a record for the most unhinged since he called President Bush a “fascist” and told him to “shut the hell up.”

FULL POST


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
January 15th, 2010
06:33 AM ET

Avlon: Two veteran wingnuts resurface

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of the forthcoming "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.

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

Filmmaker Oliver Stone and televangelist Pat Robertson.

Filmmaker Oliver Stone and televangelist Pat Robertson.

Two long-time luminaries of the wingnutsphere resurfaced this week: Pat Robertson on the right and Oliver Stone on the left.

Pat Robertson is no stranger to Biblical interpretations of massive disasters, but with the devastating earthquake in Haiti, he dove in yet again – saying that Haitians had made “a deal with the devil” long ago, implying that this led to the earthquake. Here’s the full quote:

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French...And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.” True story. And so the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.” They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.”

The Reverend Robertson is a repeat offender in this regard.  After Hurricane Katrina, he said that the devastation was related to America’s abortion laws and after the attacks of September 11th, he and Jerry Falwell lay blame at the feet of the ACLU and People for the American Way.

In the interest of balance, it’s worth pointing out that Robertson’s charity Operation Blessing International has donated over 1 billion pounds of food and relief supplies over the past twenty years – and they have reported sending a million dollars worth of medication to Haiti.  But Robertson, sadly, wasn’t the only one to try to spin the still unfolding disaster in ugly ways.  Wingnut King Rush Limbaugh declared that President Obama would use the earthquake to boost his credibility with “the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.”

On the left, Oliver Stone is a great director in my book but he's also a world-class Wingnut.  Fresh off the heels of lionizing Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez with a documentary debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, this week he announced that Hitler needs to be seen a more balanced light.

“We can't judge people as only bad or good,” Stone told a conference of television critics this week.  “Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it's been used cheaply. He's the product of a series of actions. It's cause and effect."

According to Stone, even Stalin sometimes gets an unfair rap.  These international monsters will presumably not be included in his upcoming Showtime series presenting an alternative (read left) history of America.

Wingnuts can’t resist callously projecting their politics on catastrophes both past and present.  Too often we wait for tragedies to unite us – but the devastation in Haiti should remind us of the wisdom that Wingnuts so often deny: what unites us is far greater than those things which divides us.

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


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
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