The Great Glenn Beck Smackdown that Wasn't

It's not often that Media Matters, which follows the conservative media like a hawk, blogging up every untruth or journalistic misstep, is thrilled with something a conservative has written. That happy moment came for them this past Sunday, when the National Review's Bill Bennett came out swinging against Glenn Beck, who spoke at CPAC last Saturday, where he kicked off with "Hello, my name is the Republican Party, and I have a problem!" That problem, according to Beck? "I'm addicted to spending and big government." Beck carried on with the alcoholic metaphor: "It is still morning in America," said Beck. "It just happens to be kind of a head-pounding, hungover, vomiting-for-four-hours kind of morning in America." Beck added that he had yet to hear Republicans "admit that they have a problem."

"I like Glenn a lot and I think he has something to teach us," wrote Bennett. "But not what he offered last night." 

For beginners, Beck betrayed the basic tenets for Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction help group. "First, there is a good and strong tradition in alcohol and drug treatment that personal failings should not be extrapolated into the public sphere; that too often when this is done, conclusions are reached based on the wrong motives and, often, the wrong analysis."

Secondly, writes Bennett, Beck is ignoring all of the voices who have been talking about problems within the Republican Party. "These leaders, and many others, have been offering real proposals, not ill-informed muttering diatribes that can't distinguish between conservative and liberal, free enterprise and controlled markets, or night and day."

But here's the doozy: Bennett basically calls Beck an out-of-touch member of the mainstream media, about the worst insult someone could hurl at a conservative, for calling our times vomit-worthy. "The Tea Partiers know better than this. I don't think they would describe their rallies and resistance as a bilious purging but, rather, as a very positive democratic reaction aimed at correcting the wrongs of the current political leadership. The mainstream media may describe their reactions as an unhealthy expurgation. I do not."

In fact, he concludes, the right is ascendant, with the left and the Democratic Party playing defense. "To say the GOP and the Democrats are no different, to say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country's recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting." It also, concludes Bennett, "is dangerous."

And that's where Media Matters gets despondent again over the conservative media. Eric Boehlert had such high hopes at the start of Bennett's smackdown of Beck. "For the last 13 months I, along with lots of others, have been wondering when the supposed Wise Men of the GOP and the conservative movement would step forward and finally call Beck out for the kind of unhinged madness he propagates," writes Boehlert. "I've been wondering when people on the right who take politics and public policy seriously were going to summon up the courage and part ways with Beck as he spread his crazy, tinfoil hat, anti-government conspiracies, and denigrated the President of the United States as a racist, communist, socialist, Nazi dictator."

Boehlert got some of his wishes: Rush Limbaugh weighed in against Beck, but mostly to defend the Republican Party, and Mark Levin wasn't too happy himself, calling Beck's philosophy "incoherent."

But in the end Boehlert leaves disappointed. The pitchforks aimed at Beck are not sharp enough, especially Bennett's: "... alas, Bennett's effort was no profiles in courage. Instead, Bennett's central beef with Beck─the reason he's so dangerous─was that at CPAC Beck suggested Democrats and Republicans are alike and they're both to blame the country's woes. For uber-partisan Bennett, Beck finally crossed the line with that attack."

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