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January 8th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Avlon: Partisan politics ought to end at the water’s edge

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.

On the left, radio host Mike Malloy and on the right, Minnesota congressional candidate Allen Quist.

On the left, radio host Mike Malloy and on the right, Minnesota congressional candidate Allen Quist.

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

In the wake of the thwarted Christmas bombing we’re seeing an unwelcome return to hyper-partisans treating terror threats as a political football.

But wingnuts have their unique take on this ugly game and this week we’ve got two outer-limits analysis from the far-right and far-left.

On the right, conservative Minnesota congressional candidate Allen Quist announced that terrorism wasn’t in fact the biggest challenge facing freedom-loving Americans today. No, to him, the biggest challenge to freedom is coming from Democrats like President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, who are “destroying our country.” Here’s the full quote from a campaign stop.

“Our country is being destroyed. I mean, this is – every generation has had to fight the fight for freedom. This is our fight. And this is our time. This is it. Terrorism, yes – but that's not the big battle. The big battle is in D.C., with the radicals. They aren't liberals, they're radicals. Obama, Pelosi, Walz – they're not liberals, they're radicals. They are destroying our country.”

Quist is no political newcomer and this is no slip of the tongue. He’s served in the statehouse and been the GOP convention’s nominee for governor in the 1990s – and now he’s challenging incumbent Democratic congressmen Tim Walz for his seat. We should take Quist at his word: even while Americans are reminded of the non-optional war we are in against radical Islamic terrorism, he genuinely believes that Democrats in general and the president of the United States in particular represent a more clear and present danger to our freedom than terrorists.

FULL POST


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
December 18th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Avlon: Wingnut's fright-wing 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.

Ezra Klein and Chuck Norris (Photos: YouTube.com/Getty Images)

Ezra Klein and Chuck Norris (Photos: YouTube.com/Getty Images)

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

With health care on Capitol Hill, wingnuts have been busy trying to scare up support for their all-or-nothing vision of the bill.

On the left, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein went the mass murder metaphor route against the liberals’ least favorite senator this week, Senator Joe Lieberman. He’s an independent who’s acting too independent for them, refusing to reflexively sign on to the Democrats’ bill and therefore blocking their attempt to get a 60-seat, filibuster-proof vote count.

Lieberman says that he’s trying to make sure the bill is fiscally responsible and lowering the Medicaid buy-in age to 55 is unlikely to make a system that is already going broke more solvent.

Klein saw something more sinister: “At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

The hundred thousand deaths estimate is based on an Urban Institute report that lack of insurance contributed to 137,000 people in the first half of this decade, but trying to hang that report around Lieberman’s neck is absurd, unfair and more than a little unhinged. It’s a fear-smear that aims for the same emotions as the summer’s "death panel" claims, with the opposite intention.

On the right, action star turned conservative columnist Chuck Norris offered a Yule-tide take on the health care bill from a fright-wing perspective.

“As we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington's wise men and women! Will Obamacare morph into Herodcare for the unborn?”

That’s right, health care reform could kill Christmas.

And Chuck Norris fans won’t want to miss next week’s column, titled “Away with the Manger,” which he promises will show how “the feds are whitewashing America's Judeo-Christian heritage via a progressive, politically correct and pro-Muslim platform.”

The week’s news also provoked a bonus round of wingnut irony. Conservative protestors on Capitol Hill staging a “die-in” to illustrate the impact of what they call government-run health care. It’s the same street theater tactic that Code Pink used to protest war during the Bush administration. The right wing is reading “Rules for Radicals.”

Somehow the extremes always end up resembling each other and the result is always an assault on common sense.

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


Filed under: Politics • Wingnuts of the week
December 11th, 2009
06:29 AM ET

Avlon: Wingnut's Facebook rant is fear-smear

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.

Sen. Harry Reid and Mayor Russell Wiseman (Photos: Senate.gov / Townofarlington.org)

Sen. Harry Reid and Mayor Russell Wiseman (Photos: Senate.gov / Townofarlington.org)

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

Wingnut comments are often characterized by unhinged anger and a complete lack of historic perspective – and that’s what we saw this week from Arlington, Tennessee Mayor Russell Wiseman on the right, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the left.

Mayor Wiseman was sitting down to watch "The Charlie Brown Christmas Special" with his children when he found the program pre-empted by President Obama’s speech at West Point announcing the troop surge in Afghanistan.

His conclusion? The timing was a deliberate affront to Christians and the Constitution from a “Muslim president.” His next move was to post his feelings on Facebook.

“Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes'....”

In an extensive thread unearthed and excerpted by the Memphis Commercial Appeal this week, Mayor Wiseman went on to widen his attacks, writing: “...you obama people need to move to a muslim country...oh wait, that's America....pitiful.”

At another point he wrote, “you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different.”

FULL POST


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
October 30th, 2009
06:05 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnut' in desperate bid for attention

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.

Rep. Alan Grayson (left) and Michelle Malkin (right).

Rep. Alan Grayson (left) and Michelle Malkin (right).

A Democrat who seems determined to win the race to the bottom and Republican commentators who keep pushing their party further to the right in a hunt for heretics – its all in the "Wingnuts of the Week." Plus, a bonus round: a racist image posted on the RNC's Web site.

Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has made a name for himself quickly in the halls of Congress, and he's done it the new fashioned way: by kicking and screaming and slandering.

Grayson has earned the first repeat "Wingnut of the Week" since we began this segment in May. His wingnut move at the time was saying that the Republican plan for health care was for people to “die quickly.” But in the last few weeks he's hit two new lows: saying that Republicans are "the enemy of America" and "certainly the enemy of peace," and then calling one of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's advisors a "K Street whore" – on 9/11 Truther Alex Jones’ radio show. (And, seriously, what was Grayson doing on a radio show hosted by someone who sells information on “How to Survive Martial Law in America” and a DVD about Barack Obama called “The Fall of the Republic”?)

It sounds to me like Rep. Grayson is coming a bit unhinged in his quest for attention. He's putting up online advertisements asking people to give him money because he’s a "Democrat with Guts" – a similar move to the one pulled by Republican Joe Wilson after he shouted "you lie" at President Obama. And there are some Democrats who reflexively defend Grayson’s comments simply because he’s on their team. Being a professional polarizer does not make you an effective politician or even an effective communicator. Rep. Alan Grayson is again our "Wingnut of the Week" on the left.

FULL POST


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
October 23rd, 2009
06:15 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnut' literally locks out Republicans

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.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (left) and Justice Keith Bardwell (right).

Rep. Edolphus Towns (left) and Justice Keith Bardwell (right).

This week’s wingnuts feature a racist judge (as well as the home-state senator who refused to condemn him) and a Democratic congressman, who literally locked Republicans out of committee in an attempt to block a vote on a financial scandal. Plus, a bonus round Profile in Courage award for President Obama, who calmed a crowd heckling a Republican governor. Take a spin through the World of the Wingnuts from the Big Easy to the Beltway.

If you thought that any lingering sense of scandal about interracial marriage had been erased by the presence of a biracial president of the United States, you haven't visited Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell.

When Beth Humphrey and her boyfriend Terence McKay called to collect a marriage license they were told to take a hike because the judge didn’t approve of the colors of their skin.

When the media came knocking, Justice Bardwell was unrepentant. “It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong," he told CNN affiliate WAFB.

But in case you were wondering, he isn’t racist. He was doing it for the kids.

"I'm not a racist," Bardwell told his hometown Hammond Daily Star. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children."

Maybe he’s worried they might grow up to be president.

Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal was quick to call for Bardwell’s dismissal: "This is a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law. ... disciplinary action should be taken immediately - including the revoking of his license." Democratic Senator Mary Landreau called it “an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long."

But self-styled conservative Senator David Vitter – who’s best known for letting ‘les bon temps rouler’ with a DC Madam – decided to withhold both judgment and comment for five days. He dodged reporters’ questions on the subject and finally, on Wednesday, his office put out a statement saying “Sen. Vitter thinks that all judges should follow the law as written and not make it up as they go along.”

This is conservative boilerplate – the rubber-stamp equivalent of name, rank and serial number. It leaves open two options: either Vitter isn’t offended by Judge Bardwell’s stand or he’s pandering to the racist vote.
Here’s a Supreme Court decision both Vitter and Bardwell might want to dust off before hiding behind judicial philosophy or personal bias – 1967’s wonderfully named Loving v. Virginia, which states: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

FULL POST


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
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.

FULL POST


Filed under: Commentary • Wingnuts of the week
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