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Here at TPM, we definitely have an eye for the weird — and speaking for myself, I particularly enjoy the crazy stuff that right-wingers often say.
The American right often uses the rhetoric of a persecuted minority, even when they’re actually in power. So having a Democrat in the White House, let alone a progressive black Democrat from Chicago named Barack Hussein Obama, has driven them to whole new heights (or lows, depending on how you count it) of rhetoric.
So let’s take a look at some real stars of our current political rhetorical wars. The list is mostly Republican — and you betchya that it was an obvious choice for the top spot — plus one Democratic “Congressman With Guts” who gives the opposition a taste of their own medicine. We’ve got politicians, talk show hosts, and people who seem to be both at the same time. So sit back, and enjoy the crazy.
I’m certainly thankful to them — for making my job a lot more interesting. If they weren’t around, what would there be for me to write about?
1. Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK)
The former 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee simply hasn’t gone away — if anything, defeat has only made her more outspoken as a self-proclaimed voice of the average American. After she resigned as governor of Alaska, she became an outspoken champion of the activist right, from her denunciation of Barack Obama’s “death panels” that would kill her Down syndrome baby, to her attacks on the McCain campaign in her new book, Going Rogue. Sarah Palin, we salute you, and look forward to hearing even more from you in the months and years to come.
2. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
The first-term Congresswoman from Minnesota nearly lost her seat after she got up on Hardball in October 2008, and called for a media exposÃ© of Barack Obama and other Democrats for being anti-America. But she won in her deep-red seat anyway — and since then, she’s been a big star of the activist right herself. The self-proclaimed “foreign correspondent on enemy lines” has organized the Capitol Tea Party, called for revolution, said conservatives need to slit their wrists and become blood-brothers against the Democrats’ health care plans, and warned against the use of Census information in setting up internment camps. Who knows what she’ll say next?
3. Rush Limbaugh
The king of right-wing talk radio, Rush Limbaugh has been driven to all sorts of rhetorical lengths by the presence of Barack Obama in the White House. He’s openly hoped for Obama to fail; he’s hoped for the economic stimulus to fail; he cheered when Chicago lost out on the 2016 Olympics; and he’s now jokingly (we think) calling for a military coup. The best part about Limbaugh, though, is his sheer untouchableness. If any Republican dares criticize him, the pressure then builds for a very quick apology or some kind of back-track — it’s happened several times, and will probably happen again in the future.
4. Glenn Beck
This conservative talker has become the kind of the Tea Party movement, organizing the massive 9/12 rally in Washington. His overriding theme is that America is in the grips of a leftist totalitarian effort to destroy all freedom. He’s called President Obama an anti-white racist, compared Democrats to child-molester Roman Polanski — but interestingly, he’s said America would be even worse off under John McCain. His name has even been dropped as a possible running mate for Sarah Palin in 2012. Oh, if only if it were so!
5. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)
This little-known Congressman from South Carolina became a national sensation after he shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to Congress, the first time in known history that such a catcall ever happened. He immediately apologized — but then quickly began raising money off of it, and insisting he was right on the substance. He’s become a hit on the campaign trail, even traveling to a Tea Party in New Jersey in order to campaign against Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.
6. RNC Chairman Michael Steele
The former Maryland Lt. Governor and unsuccessful 2006 Senate candidate has become a source of comic relief since he took over the national party in January. His main bad habit is then when an interview criticizes the GOP on some point, Steele agrees, and then talks about what he’s doing to fix the problem and how we can all come together — and the first part is all that anybody notices. The single greatest example was when he dismissed the influence of Rush Limbaugh — then quickly apologized. He later claimed this was “all strategic,” to figure out who is on his side and who is not.
7. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)
The freshman Congressman is the only Democrat on this list, and he’s here for a very special reason: He dishes out the same inflammatory rhetoric that Republicans routinely apply against the Democrats — and for this, the GOP calls him crazy. His classic zinger is that the Republican plan for people who get sick is that they “die quickly.” Beyond that, he’s called Dick Cheney a blood-dripping vampire, quoted the late Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew in order to ridicule the GOP, and declared that Republican inaction on health care has created a “holocaust” in America. He may have gone too far, though — and did make a public apology — after he referred to a female lobbyist as a “K Street Whore.”
8. Unsuccessful NY-23 candidate Doug Hoffman (Conservative Party)
This upstate New York accountant, conservative activist and first-time political candidate emerged as the voice of right-wing protest against a moderate Republican nominee in the NY-23 special election. His campaign caught fire, and eventually even forced the official Republican out of the race — only to lose the election to the Democrat, in a seat that the GOP had held since the party’s founding in the 1850’s. He briefly un-conceded the race when late results made the margin a bit closer, and charged that ACORN was stealing the election: “ACORN, the unions and Democratic Party were scared, and that’s why they tampered with the ballots of voters in NY-23.” But ultimately, he did concede defeat again. Don’t be surprised if he’s back in 2010.
9. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA)
The Georgia Congressman came out of nowhere to win a 2007 special election, defeating the establishment GOP candidate in a huge upset. In the Obama era, he’s now emerged as a solid voice of right-wing doomsaying. He’s warned that “mama” will die in agony in bed under Obama health care, said that Obama has everything he needs to establish an authoritarian government, and denounced the “rotten stinking fish that is — Pelosi health care!”
10. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Don’t let the sweet grandmother exterior fool you. This third-term Congresswoman is able to dish out anti-Dem paranoia with the best of them — especially on health care. She warned that senior citizens will “put to death by their government” under the Democrat’s health care proposals. And she also warned: “I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.”