Commentary: Glenn Beck explained
"They would not listen, they're not listening still,
"Perhaps they never will." --Don McLean, "Vincent"
Radio and TV commentator Glenn Beck was mentioned three times in separate opinion columns on the same day and in an article the next day in The New York Times, possibly a record for someone who does not hold elective office.
Oh, and then there's this week's Time magazine cover. He's everywhere. Beck is also the Left's latest explanation for what is wrong with America. Many on the Left believe that if conservatives would just get out of the way, shut up and allow liberals to re-create America in their image, we would all be better off. But those loud-mouthed cable TV and radio talk show hosts keep uneducated, God-worshipping, flag-waving, NASCAR-loving, country music-fueled trailer trash riled up and prevent their brave new world from being born.
The articles, essays and columns about Beck, and so many others on the Right, drip with the condescension conservatives have come to expect from liberal elites who think because they went to the "right" schools they are better than everyone else.
I had not met Glenn Beck, so last week I visited him in his high-rise Manhattan office. His walls are decorated with black-and-white photographs of people he clearly admires. There are entertainers like Red Skelton and a young filmmaker named Walt Disney. You could watch Skelton on TV and view Disney movies along with your wife and kids, knowing you'd never hear a bad word, including a bad word about America.
Beck has an old Admiral black-and-white TV an aide says they are trying to "make work." When it did work, it carried programs worth watching, including news broadcasts by real journalists like Edward R. Murrow, whose photo hangs on a wall close to Beck's office.
Is it Beck who is stirring the pot or has the pot been stirring for some time and it is he, and a few others, giving the masses a voice? Maybe it's the leadership vacuum in the country that has thrust Beck and Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin (1 million of his latest book sold) and others to the forefront. If Republicans were behaving like Republicans, perhaps there would be less perceived need for them.
If the Left bothered to hang out where conservatives do and take seriously their concerns about a country to which they pay taxes and for which many of them, or their parents, or children have fought, maybe they would understand what has so many upset.
Pollster Frank Luntz understands. In a recent column for The New York Daily News, Luntz reports on his interview survey of 6,400 people, the results of which appear in his new book "What Americans Really Want ... Really." Luntz discovered that people are angry with the government because of the lack of accountability by our leaders and a lack of progress on anything meaningful in Washington.
The "absence of accountability," he writes, "ranks No. 1 in the hearts and guts of the average American. Washington spends billions to bail out big business and then can't explain where the money went. Washington spends $800 billion on a stimulus package filled with earmarks and pork projects. And now Washington is trying to create a trillion-dollar health-care experiment when over 85 percent of Americans are satisfied with their health care just as it is."
As Professor Harold Hill put it: "Make your blood boil? Well, I should say."
Luntz continues: "This could be forgiven, perhaps, if those elected officials from Washington exhibited even an ounce of respect for the voters who pay their salaries. But the combination of a political class that ignores those with whom they disagree and a business class that ignores the very real suffering of the working class (if they are, in fact, working) while pocketing million-dollar bonuses has convinced the public that no one cares."
Glenn Beck seems to care and that's why his ratings are now challenging the godfather of cable, Bill O'Reilly.
I ask if he fears being transformed into another "Lonesome Rhodes," the politically corrupted main character in Budd Schulberg's classic film, "A Face in the Crowd"? Beck tells me I am not the first to warn of such a possibility. He says he isn't worried about yielding to that temptation. Beck believes in God and doesn't think government is Him. And he's going to his son's ball game the next day.
That explains Glenn Beck. Any questions?
Cal Thomas' e-mail address is email@example.com.