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May 10th, 2009

Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (L) and current Rep. Michele Bachman (R).
Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney and current Rep. Michele Bachmann

American Morning — amFIX
May 8, 2009

Commentary: Wingnuts of the Week

CNN Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.

Note: Embedded videos have been added to the original CNN report.


By John Avlon
Special to CNN logo

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? Its 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 Bachman 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.

Bachmann Calls for Anti-American Investigation (Oct. 17, 2008)

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 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.”

Bachmann Comments on Swine Flu Outbreak (April 28, 2009)

Two things: First, the bemused reach for causality between pandemics and Democratic presidents is a great illustration of the Wingnuts’ 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.

But Bachmann’s had chronic trouble with facts, including a recent congressional floor speech in which she again confused a Republican for a Democrat, claiming that it was FDR who signed the “Hoot Smawley tariffs that helped propel the USA from a recession into the Great Depression.” The “Smoot-Hawley” Act was signed by Republican President Hoover.

Bachmann Blames FDR’s “Hoot-Smalley” Tariffs for Great Depression (April 27, 2009)

To round out her week’s trifecta, Bachmann reached for an awkward metaphor when describing the generational theft of today’s unprecedented deficits and debt, saying “its the mother of all ironies … that the kids who voted en masse for Barack Obama are the ones being fitted with shackles and chains.” The “irony” of slavery metaphors to describe the Obama generation? Really? Really.

Bachmann Says Obama Puts Young People in “Shackles and Chains” (May 4, 2009)

On the left, the Wingnut of the Week is the former six-term Democratic Congresswoman and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney. She’s a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who assaulted a Capitol Hill cop and whose father blamed “Jews” for her congressional defeat. Her exploits have been detailed in pages ranging from The Weekly Standard to Slate. Bottom line: Cynthia McKinney is what far-right conservatives imagine a far-left liberal sounds like.

McKinney’s been uncharacteristically quiet since the election, but she resurfaced in an April 30th radio interview for an internet station known as “the information underground,” which had previously featured such friendly topics as “Jewish Domination and the World as We Know It,” “The Holocaust Scam,” and “Jews, Israel, and 9/11” — to name just a very few.

The hour-long interview — brought to light via the blog was a veritable cattle call of McKinney’s greatest hits: 9/11 conspiracies, spies sabotaging her campaign, and the dominance of pro-Israel lobbies on all but one percent of the “535” members of congress as evidenced by vote totals for “anti-Sudan” legislation, by which she apparently means attempts to stop the genocide in Darfur.

When the host of the show confides that “DC is a Zionist occupied government,” there is not a hint of objection, nor when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is described as having “Jew nationality and Jew loyalties.” McKinney just continues on in even tones, thoughtfully finding time to compare herself to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and — my personal favorite — Rosa Parks. …

[W]hat’s most interesting about this resurfacing of McKinney is that it illustrates the way that the apparent opposites on the outer-reaches of politics tend to become mirror images of each other, circling back to the same swamp of intolerance, conspiracies, and a rigid definition-in-opposition understandable only to fellow true believers. …

John Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics.
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.

Related report

New Centrist CNN Segment Names McKinney and Bachmann “Wingnuts of the Week” 

By Joe Gandelman
The Moderate Voice
May 8, 2009

Centrist writer John Avlon — who has written one of the best books on centrist and independent voters and politics and who has worked for both Rudy Giuliani and Bill Clinton — will now be featured in a new CNN weekly “American Morning” segment called “Wingnuts of the Week.” …

8 Responses to “Bachmann ‘Wingnut of the Week’”
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    […] Sidebar: Bachmann ‘Wingnut of the Week’ […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Response to Pro-Bachmann LTE Says:

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  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bachmann Headlines British Press Says:

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  5. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bachmann Suckers St. Cloud Times Says:

    […] Bachmann ‘Wingnut of the Week’ (May 10, 2009) […]

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  7. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Rice’s Iraq War Revisionism Says:

    […] Bachmann ‘Wingnut of the Week’ […]

  8. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Michele Bachmann Set to Make Presidential Run Official Says:

    […] Michele Bachmann likes meeting voters, delivering a speech to a crowd, and getting them fired up. Of course, this has often led to some amusing off-the-cuff fumbles. She once told a conservative rally at the Capitol: “It’s the charge of the light brigade!” (The Light Brigade lost). She also misplaced the historic Revolutionary War towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, into New Hampshire. And in an infamous House speech, she blamed Franklin Roosevelt for something called the “Hoot-Smalley” tariffs. […]

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