Newsweek/Barry Morgenstein/Dean Obeidallah

Story highlights

This week's CNN Radio podcast features CNN Opinion contributors on top three stories

Podcast offers views of John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah

Panelists exchange views on N Korea threats, N.Carolina push for a state religion

Panelists also discuss poll showing conspiracy theories run along partisan lines

CNN —  

This week on The Big Three we tackle North Korea’s nuclear threats, North Carolina’s push for an official state religion and a new poll that shows conspiracy theories proliferate along partisan lines across the USA.

North Korea: Objectively, the presence of a nuclear rogue state threatening the United States with missile attack is grave and serious news. But the fact that this is North Korea – a communist dictatorship prone to throwing tempter tantrums on the geopolitical stage solely for attention and cash infusions–cuts the solemnity with a Groundhog Day quality. We’ve seen this movie before. But this is a dangerous game for all involved – especially South Korea and the 30,000 U.S. troops in the DMZ. With the escalation ongoing, all we can say for sure right now is that Dennis Rodman’s naïve try for personal diplomacy with North Korea was an air ball.

A state religion?: In North Carolina, social conservatives seem to have set up a collision course with the U.S. Constitution, in a bid to assert that Christianity is the official state religion. This effort was inspired by an ACLU lawsuit that attempted to force county officials to stop beginning meetings with a prayer, illustrating the cycle of incitement that too often pulls our political arguments off-center. But the subsequent debate about separation of church and state is not one that will help the national Republican Party with its rebranding.

Partisan paranoia: Finally, a new poll found that absurd conspiracy theories are sadly alive and well in the USA. These range from the self-evidently absurd (an alien race of lizard people secretly run the world) to old chestnuts like the moon landing was faked.

But of more serious concerns are the partisan divides beneath the competing conspiracy theories, including majorities of Republicans believing that global warming is a hoax and majorities of Democrats believing that the Bush administration intentionally lied about WMD’s in Iraq to get the USA to invade (Margaret and Dean have a particularly lively debate on that one).

Most distressing to me is the finding that 20% of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. Not much to say about that, except to once again point out how much hyper-partisan media is corroding our country’s capacity for rational debate. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

That idea is the foundation of our debates here on The Big Three. We hope you enjoy.

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The opinions in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.