Joe Lapointe has worked as a sports reporter with the New York Times and a segment producer for "Countdown With Keith Olbermann'' on Current TV
One of my first Ted Nugent experiences came at Detroit’s Eastown Theater more than 40 years ago when his concert encore assaulted the hearing of his rock audience.
Instead of playing his guitar, Nugent placed it on a chair near the amplifiers and turned everything up so that feedback shrieked throughout the building, driving customers to the lobby and awakening even his overdosed fans who were passed out in front of the stage. He used his musical instrument as a weapon.
My most recent Nugent experience came in Dallas two years ago when I covered a Cowboys’ football game. Nugent played the national anthem in a lame version of the Jimi Hendrix style, surrounded by a military color guard with rifles and oh-so-many American flags.
Nugent – musician, patriot and right-wing icon -- is making more noise these days with his mouth, verbally assaulting President Obama last week at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis. If Democrats had enough nerve, they would turn Nugent’s recent rants into a "Sister Souljah" moment.
Why, they might ask, is Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoying the support of this gun-loving crackpot? Why is a vitriolic gun nut like this so welcome in the modern Republican Party?
“If Barack Obama becomes the President in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year,” Nugent said at the NRA event. Perhaps he was being hyperbolic; maybe liberals would settle for that deal. But Nugent went on.
The “Motor City Madman” also told radio host Dana Loesch of "the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration and the Communist czars he’s appointed.” In the past, Nugent has called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a "bitch,” a “cunt” and a “whore.” He also said the President should "suck on my machine gun."
In 1992, when Bill Clinton ran for President, he signaled his centrism by finding fault with Sister Souljah, who had suggested black people should kill white people. Clinton compared her to David Duke, the racist ex-Klansman and right-wing politician.
But Romney, given the chance to denounce Nugent’s words, offered only a tepid statement urging “civil” dialogue. Romney also spoke to the NRA gathering and his campaign is counting on conservative gun lovers to vote for him in November.
It doesn’t matter that police shootings are increasing and that gun rampages in schools, workplaces and shopping centers have become commonplace. Nugent, Republicans and the NRA remain firmly behind laws like “Stand Your Ground" which allow vigilantes to kill people (often minorities) by claiming only that they feared for their own lives.
It would seem that all this would make Nugent a likely target (pardon the expression) for attack ads. His inflammatory statements – against gay people, against Muslims and for the Confederate flag – could be used in ads against Romney and could paint the right wing as extremist and dangerous. They could run photos of them side by side.
But Democrats and liberals will probably avoid Nugent and the gun issue. Thanks to NRA money and lobbyists, the gun-danger message is absent from the speeches and ads of most progressive candidates. They fear it energizes the gun-loving opposition base to vote against them.
So Nugent’s violent, radical speech will probably continue. It creates an atmosphere of anger and danger. Consider this joke that made the rounds of the NRA convention, as reported by Alexander Zaitchik of “Media Matters for America.”
He wrote that Stephen Burke, a lawyer and NRA member, said:
“What do Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama have in common?”
Of course, both those Presidents were assassinated. This is what passes for humor in the world of the NRA, the Republican Party and Ted Nugent.
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