The Toxic Thinking of the Right Infects the Body Politic

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

Yesterday, I wrote about how the mainstream media have completely internalized the framing and messages of the lunatic fringe now in control of the Republican Party, and offered a series of the latest examples.

Like clockwork, as soon as I published that post, yet more evidence arrived in my in box -- word that Tony Snow, late of Fox News, and more recently of the White House, where he earned high marks as a gifted purveyor of Bush/Cheney propaganda, would be joining CNN (the self-anointed "Most Trusted Name in News") as a commentator. I guess Karl Rove was too busy with his Newsweek gig, and Bill Kristol with his New York Times gig, hence the opening for Snow. What next, Scooter Libby and David Addington signing up at NPR?

But it isn't just the media that have been infected by the toxic thinking of the Right. It has also been absorbed into the bloodstream of the body politic. The political class has allowed the Neanderthal wing of the GOP to drag the political debate so far to the right, that even Democrats find themselves getting cozy with ideas that not so long ago would have been the exclusive domain of arch-conservatives.

For example, I was in New York last Thursday giving a speech at the famously progressive New School. In the green room before I spoke, I was talking (in the presence of a CNBC camera crew) about the previous night's ABC debate with New School president and former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey. He seemed genuinely surprised with my negative review, telling me that Gibson and Stephanopoulos were only asking the questions the American people wanted asked. It took everything I had to stop myself from asking him when his spaceship had landed, bringing him back from whatever universe he'd been living in.

Something tells me that lapel pins, 60s radicals, and ugly innuendos about patriotism are not the issues that caused 83 percent of the public to say that America is heading in the wrong direction in the latest Gallup survey.

Then I saw that dreadful new ad featuring Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, sitting side by side on a couch in front of the Capitol Building, robotically espousing the need for bipartisan agreement on global warming. What was Pelosi thinking? Yes, global warming is a crisis that needs to be addressed. And yes, it is an issue that gives lie to the media-promoted notion that all issues should be viewed through a left vs right prism.

As it happened, I first saw the Pelosi-Gingrich ad on the same night that I caught Gingrich telling Sean Hannity that "the left wing of the Democratic Party, frankly, kind of admires American terrorists." A more outrageous statement would be hard to find. But instead of consigning Gingrich to the slagheap reserved for the likes of Rep. Steve "al Qaeda Will Be Dancing in the Streets if Obama Wins" King, Pelosi -- who according to Gingrich is enamored of home-grown terrorists -- scooches in next to him, smiles for the camera, and enhances his legitimacy as a statesman and champion of reasoned compromise.

And what exactly are we to make of Gingrich's sign off line in the ad: "If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need"? Who exactly are "our leaders"? Aren't they, to paraphrase Pogo, them?

Can't wait to tune into CNN to see what Tony Snow thinks of Nancy and Newt.