Dynamite grandstanding from a guy who’s practiced in the art. In his rush to holler at the wingnut hordes, though, he actually misses an opportunity. Instead of challenging Williams on some of the kookier things he’s said, which would have illustrated the point about occasionally blurry lines between the fringe and mainstream, Ratigan’s content to shout his way to morally righteous nirvana. Not sure why; the position of shrieking liberal on MSNBC has already been filled nicely, thank you.

Two questions that are never answered in these guilt-by-association harangues: What, precisely, does Ratigan want to see happen to condemn the racists in the group, and what does he suppose tea partiers gain politically by being linked to them? On the first point, there’s no leader or central authority to do the necessary excommunication; in fact, one of the key principles of the movement is to stay as informal and decentralized as possible. If a Klansman calls himself a tea partier, there’s not much one can do to “prove” he isn’t short of either surveying tea party organizers or self-styled tea partiers nationwide about whether they want scumbags in the ranks. I don’t doubt what the result would be (nor, in all likelihood, does James Carville), but I guess Ratigan does. On the second point, since the raison d’etre of the party is to exert pressure on politicians to shrink government, how on earth would the movement as a whole benefit from voluntarily embracing fringe characters? It would be self-discrediting and give big government proponents every reason in the world to dismiss them (which, of course, is why Ratigan, Frank Rich, etc. are so eager to talk about the fringier elements). Ratigan himself acknowledges at the beginning here that the tea party is based on some noble civic principles. In which case, what? They have a political death wish to sabotage those principles by holding keggers with Nazis? I don’t get it.

Then again, those ‘baggers do seem awfully confused lately. Why, just a few days ago, Jim Bunning’s office was the target of a bomb threat. I wonder which nefarious right-wing proto-terrorist outfit was responsible for that.