On Friday’s American Morning, CNN anchor Kiran Chetry used the liberal talking points about Wanda Sykes and Rush Limbaugh, the two “Wingnuts of the Week,” according to John Avlon of The Daily Beast, Tina Brown’s Huffington Post knock-off site. After playing clips from Sykes’ now-infamous routine which bashed the talk show host and wished him dead, Chetry replied, “So, some would say, wait, she’s just a comedian, and she was trying to get laughs at the correspondents’ dinner. So what’s the harm in her joke, and why do her comments qualify her for wingnut of the week?” Later, the anchor asked Avlon concerning Limbaugh, “He’s certainly really dominated the voice of the GOP for -- for the past several months, and, you know, the left has been saying he’s the new voice of the Republican Party. Why did you pick him as the wingnut of the week?” [audio excerpt available here]
The CNN program began the “Wingnut of the Week” last week with Avlon, as a proposed regular segment on Fridays targeting, in his words, “the professional polarizers, the unhinged activists, the folks who are trying to always hijack our debates and divide us.” His picks last week were Representative Michelle Bachmann, for her recent anti-Jimmy Carter remark, and former Representative Cynthia McKinney, for comparing herself to Rosa Parks and referring to Washington, DC as a “Zionist-occupied government.”
This week, at the end of the 6 am Eastern hour of American Morning, Chetry brought back Avlon, whom she introduced as an “independent analyst,” as well as “a columnist for TheDailyBeast.com, and the author of ‘Independent Nation,’” for his picks. Avlon who proclaims himself as a man of the center, took the easy route and picked Wanda Sykes as his “wingnut” on the left, and since Sykes attacked Limbaugh, he, of course, had to pick him as his “wingnut” on the right.
After the sound bite of Sykes’s Limbaugh-bashing route, Chetry asked her “she’s just a comedian” question. Avlon first hinted that there may have been a hint of truth in her outrageous joke, but continued by stating it was still appropriate:
AVLON: I think even with the generous discount for edu-comedy, Wanda Sykes went over the edge. It should always be too soon for a 9/11 joke, especially with the president an arm’s length away. And when a roomful of folks -- the White House correspondents, folks who are supposed to add to the civility of our debate, are laughing out loud to jokes about somebody’s kidneys failing or somebody -- somebody’s drug addiction, I think it’s a sign of the way that we start to dehumanize people who disagree with us in American politics.
Chetry then played a “sampling” from Limbaugh’s program from earlier this week. When she asked her “new voice of the Republican Party,” the “independent analyst” decided to not only bash the talk show host, but also get in a shot at Dick Cheney:
CHETRY: All right. There you have it. He’s certainly really dominated the voice of the GOP for -- for the past several months, and, you know, the left has been saying he’s the new voice of the Republican Party. Why did you pick him as the wingnut of the week?
AVLON: Well, because the man is a professional polarizer. That’s what he does, and he is the source of a lot of the GOP’s problems, even if they don’t fully get it. And it’s not just the left who are saying Limbaugh is the face of the Republican Party -- it’s the newest -- the newest dittohead Dick Cheney. So this is a real problem. This guy is adding to this hunt for heretics -- this obsessive social litmus test that’s going on in the Republican Party, that’s leading them to try to excommunicate any folks who differ -- screw with them, including members of the McCain family. So, you know, if they don’t make a bigger tent, all that’s going to be left is the circus, and they’re going to be wondering why they are a declining party, preaching to a shrinking base. It’s because they’re focused on the past, not the future.
CHETRY: The problem is that he’s not an elected official within the GOP. He’s just a radio talk show host.
AVLON: Yeah, and that’s a sign of the deep dysfunction of our politics right now, that he has such a disproportionate influence, that members of Congress are afraid of being attacked by Rush Limbaugh. That is a sign of a politics that’s gone completely off-center. And taking on Rush Limbaugh is going to be an important role for whoever’s going to lead the GOP to the next generation -- really building beyond the base, reaching back into the center, and really appeal to some independents, who they should be able to build bridges with. But not as long as deeply polarizing political figures are their face.
Speaking of the “obsessive social litmus test,” Avlon must be unaware of how the momentum on one social issue is shifting towards the typical Republican stance. Gallup released a poll on Friday which indicated that for the first time, “more Americans [are] “pro-life” than “pro-choice” on the issue of abortion. 51% of respondents considered themselves to be against abortion, while 42% considered themselves to be for “choice” on the issue. But that probably won’t discourage Avlon, the former deputy policy director for notoriously “pro-choice” Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign (not to mention his work for Clinton’s 1996 campaign), from continuing to press for the Republicans to become a “bigger tent.” That must be why Kathleen Parker is such a big fan of this “independent analyst.”