October 30, 2009 CNN American Morning:
CHETRY: John, thanks. So how low can one Democrat go? Far enough to make him one of this week's wingnut. In fact, he's a repeat offender.
Each Friday, John Avlon calls out someone on the far left and the far right for taking politics to the extreme. John is our independent analyst, and he joins us now.
Good to see you this morning, John?
JOHN AVLON, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.
CHETRY: All right. So who are you calling out for this week's wingnut on the left?
AVLON: As you said, a repeat offender, Allan Grayson of Florida Democrat. Just one month ago, he exploded on the scene by saying the Republicans health care plan was for people to die quickly, and somehow in the intervening weeks, he's managed to double down on the unhingedness. Let's hear two quotes of what he said recently that have given him this week's wingnut of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN GRAYSON, ALEX JONES RADIO SHOW: Fox News and the Republican collaborators are the enemy of America.
"She was saying, 'Oh, they don't know the difference between monetarism and fiscal policy,' and this and this and the other thing, and here I am, the only member of Congress who actually worked as an economist."
"And she said, 'This lobbyist, this K Street whore, is trying to teach me about economics.'"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Who was he talking about when he said that?
AVLON: He's talking about one of Ben Bernanke's aides. Who, yes -- who dropped the "K Street whore" bomb, and the Republicans are the enemy of America. That is a race to the bottom. That is serious wingnut stuff.
CHETRY: And then on top of that, I mean, he's very passionate about health care. He actually started this Web site and he's reading letters, people have written to him saying their loved ones died because they couldn't get access to health care. So let's look a little bit about what he's saying when he was reading some of this. He got a little choked up on the House floor, Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAYSON: By the time she was diagnosed, she had lung, brain and ovarian cancer. She only lived about three months after that. To see terror in her eyes as she dealt with this is something no civilized person could match.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: All right. There you see it. I mean, where do you cross the line between passion, because clearly he's passionate about this and wingnuttery.
AVLON: Well, look, you want to reward compassion and sincerity in politicians, but crying seems to be sort of the new black among Wingnuts. It's a sign to say, I care so much that I must hate the political opposition." And there's something manipulative in it. There is something that playing the victim card while trying to get the upper hand. So I don't know. Beware of politicians bringing tears.
CHETRY: All right. Now let's talk about this week's wingnut on the right. And there are some friction that's going on right now in the Republican Party, especially if you've been following the special election that's taking place. It's New York's 23rd Congressional District. And there was a third party conservative candidate, and some big GOP members are supporting and endorsing people like Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson.
Newt Gingrich, though, is instead backing the more moderate Republican, and he says that purging the party of anyone who doesn't agree with Republicans 100 percent will just guarantee an Obama re- election. And he's taking some heat for these comments including the person you named wingnut on the right.
AVLON: That's right. Michelle Molken has taken a leadership role in turning Newt Gingrich into a bit of a pundit pinata on this one. The lead title of her blog, very illustrative, kind of the debates going inside the GOP. It was titled and response to Newt. He said, yes, Newt. The GOP should be purged of left-wing saboteurs.
So that really sums up a lot of the divides that are going on here. There's an intolerance for more centrist members of the party. The candidate in this case is somebody who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, but endorsed by the NRA, representing it up, state district to New York, in a state where Republican congressional seats have gone from 13 ten years ago to just two today. So this is a fight with serious consequences, and there is an attitude right now that not only the candidate but her defenders should be drummed out of the party.
CHETRY: Right. And the interesting thing is that Newt Gingrich is sort of taking a stand that you have to be a little bit practical here, Republicans, if you want to be viable, and some of the other conservatives are saying, no, no, no, we got to get back to true ideology. We have to get back to the people who really believe the core, core principles of conservatism.
Is that sort of shaping up to be how this race is going to be framed come 2012 in terms of who leads the Republican Party?
AVLON: Well, there is a fascinating debate going on. What does it mean to be a conservative. There's no consensus on that.
Does it focus on -- include social issues? Is it 100 percent litmus test? These are things that are all being debated out. But right now what we're seeing in this seat is really the battle lines drawn between the Senate right and the far right, between the pundits and the pragmatist. And there's real stakes here. This is a Republican majority sit. But right now, the Democrats leading because the conservative and the Republican candidate are splitting the center right vote. That is just a real problem for the Republican Party. They're going to have to figure this out.
National conservatives weighing in against local conservatives. All sorts of questions here, but when Newt Gingrich is taking the heat for being a pragmatist, you got some real problems in the party.
CHETRY: Well, they got a couple years to sort it out.
By the way, Wingnut is going to be on hiatus for a little while.
CHETRY: Because we'd like to offer you congratulations. John Avlon is getting married. And he's off to his honeymoon. So congratulations to you.
AVLON: Thank you.
CHETRY: We will miss you, but have a blast.